Jeff Hardy (2003)
The toll of pro wrestling's grind had never been more visible on a young Jeff Hardy than when he faced off against his own brother at the 2003 Royal Rumble.
The two brothers had been separated by a talent exchange during one of the company's early attempts to get a Raw/SmackDown roster split off the ground, and the "Matt Hardy Version One" persona had allowed the older brother to thrive in a solo role he'd sought for years. Jeff, on the other hand, was traveling in the opposite way
The 'Charismatic Enigma' wasn't driven by numerous dangled carrots from the industry when he lost his love for wrestling in favor of drug and alcohol addictions. He'd lost weight, turned down their offer of drug rehab, and claimed that he had any issues that needed to be addressed.
All that was left was his actual star power, which had never wavered through the highs and lows of an eerily unusual career. Later that year, he was released, but the dramatic physical contrast between him and the man he used to be indicated a few more rough days ahead
Darren Drozdov's athletic career was eternally cut short by a bump gone slightly wrong in 1999, one of the more renowned wrestling injury stories that didn't have catastrophic repercussions.
The former NFL player was paralyzed after falling awkwardly from a D'Lo Brown running powerbomb during a pre-taped battle that was obviously never televised, and has required constant care as well as many different customised wheelchairs to move around ever since. The two had worked the location numerous times before, but this was the near-worst case scenario equivalent of the idiom "accidents will happen."
Drozdov had embarked on a solid midcard run alongside piercing partner Prince Albert when he was permanently shelved and his life effectively began anew. Originally appearing as Legion Of Doom's supposed former ally "Puke" upon entry into WWE (Drozdov's first meeting with Vince McMahon was memorably - and infamously - captured by cameras for Barry Blaustein's seminal Beyond The Mat movie because he'd gained
For the first time, McMahon's strange and inconsistent vanity is at least justified ("I can't be on TV if I'm dead!" was one of the first monster McMahon pops Bruce Prichard generated on the podcast that got him his WWE job back), and for the first time, his strange and inconsistent vanity is at least justified.
McMahon, who is now in his late seventies but appears and acts much older, speaks as if his mouth is full of marbles and moves around as much as the frozen features on his face. It produces an odd sensation that is both captivating and repulsive at the same time. Maybe, just maybe, his craziness isn't the best way to live?
He was never more ridiculous than when he was praising his $100 million golden egg at the 2021 Survivor Series, or when he was investigating its disappearance 24 hours later.
Raven was the first to say that he'd lived a thousand lives within the single one he'd had as a successful professional wrestler, even at the height of his career. And not simply because he tried several different gimmicks before settling on the one that finally worked.
He took breaks to try to kick his drug and alcohol addictions throughout his dominant spells in ECW and WCW, and while he didn't succeed at the time or in the years that followed, he did manage to stay working long beyond the demise of those promotions and his runs in WWE and TNA.
He succumbed to age quickly, but he remained on the fringes of the industry to this day, appearing in the audience at an AEW concert right before the pandemic for a preview of something that might have been dropped as a result of the world turning to sh*t. There may yet be a role for a unique talent formerly assumed to be lost to the pro wrestling abyss, now that it has weathered well.
Kurt Angle earned a not-so-nice moniker as a result of his particularly psychotic TNA performances in the late 2000s, but it has since taken on a strangely sentimental tone in honor of some one-of-a-kind performances from the 'Wrestling Machine.'
"Perc Angle" was likely coined in the most upvoted area of a forum someplace to characterize the former WWE Champion's frantic aura, physical look, and frenetic working style during his prime years in the Impact Zone, and was called after (?) the prescription he was purportedly addicted to.
He didn't look like practically every incarnation of his WWE self - the TNA Angle wasn't going to be drinking milk or spouting clichés about the "Three I's" - but the term trivialized a struggle he was having honestly.
Kurt's narrative has one of the nicer endings, but an otherwise fantastic run in the North American alternative in the 2000s will always be accompanied with a caveat.
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