Professional wrestling, or sports entertainment, as Vincent Kennedy McMahon thinks we should call it, is something that has permeated mainstream pop culture for much of the past seventy years, and was a part of our culture for decades, even centuries before that. Pro wrestlers work hard, travel the world, and leave it all out there for the fans because it's something they love to do, but that doesn't mean that every moment of their lives are wonderful. Just like everyone else, they have their ups and downs, their boring times, and times that they just need to be alone without the fans breathing down their throats. While the behind the scenes culture has changed dramatically over the past forty years, many things have stayed the same. Professional wrestlers have a lot of downtime between shows, and it's how that downtime has changed may, or may not, be how the world has changed as a whole.
The 80s and 90s were laden with drug and alcohol issues because that was the mentality of the time. They worked hard and played harder. It was of the time, and we all know how so many pro wrestlers destroyed their bodies outside the ring more than they did inside the ring. It was very much a boys club, and they stuck together in their partying. Not everyone did it, but many of those who did it seemed to do it to excess. Through the years we have watched many of the greatest pro wrestlers as their lives have crumbled due to drugs and alcohol. Jake 'The Snake' Roberts, Scott Hall, X-Pac, Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, have all had issues through the years, some more than others. While quite a few still struggle with their demons, quite a few lives have been taken due to their inability to gain control over their issues, such as Bam Bam, Chyna, Luna Vachon, Curt Hennig, Miss Elizabeth, Andrew Martin (Test), to name just a few. Even a number of pro wrestlers who have passed away due to heart attacks and strokes that were proven to have happened because of previous alcohol and drug use. Eddie Guerrero's enlarged heart was caused by his drug and alcohol use, even though he stopped. The same for Ravishing Rick Rude, Road Warrior Hawk, Nicole Bass, British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith, who all had serious health issues that manifested due to their demons. And, then there's the steroid use, which is drug use of a different sort, has taken numerous lives, such as Chris Benoit, Brian Adams (Crush), Johnny Grunge, and Matt Borne (Doink the Clown), to name just a few.
While on the road many pro wrestlers spent their time going from bar to bar, not taking care of their bodies, and hurting themselves more than helping themselves. I think that many younger wrestlers have learned from those before them, and have tried to avoid the trappings of partying hard on the road. They have seen what condition guys like Hall and Roberts are in, and they want to avoid ending up broke and broken down. Now, I'm sure there is still a lot of drinking, and some drugs, that are still prevalent in the wrestling industry, but nothing to the extent of Ric Flair and his wild party days. A number of bigger named wrestlers don't drink much, if at all. The most open of them was CM Punk, but guys like Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, Kenny Omega, Ultra Mantis Black, Colt Cabana, Kofi Kingston, Mick Foley, and Triple H barely drink, if at all. Even Rollins has stated that he's never drunk enough to get drunk during an episode of Open Road. Between WWE's Wellness Policy, and the WWE Superstars living cleaner lives, showing healthier bodies, and working so hard to be the absolute best they can, the partying of 80s and 90s has become quite passe.
The thing that hasn't changed is the time these wrestlers have on their hands while on the road. The pastimes have changed quite a bit, but are they really that much healthier? Many wrestlers spend a lot of their time looking at screens – whether online, especially social media – or playing video games. There's been a huge explosion of a gaming community backstage, that has started trickling through to characters and storylines, which is timely, but not always healthy. Video games are great for hand-eye coordination, entertainment, and fun, but not if the majority of your time is spent playing video games, which many do. Those with addictive personalities can latch onto almost anything and become addicted to it, and sitting on your butt isn't extremely healthy when it's the way most of your time is spent. That they don't even have to leave their hotel room for entertainment means that many won't leave their hotel rooms other than to travel and be at shows, and many bring their gaming systems with them so they can play backstage. Not saying it's the worst thing for them to be doing with their time, but still, all things in moderation.
Then there's the amount of time many wrestlers spend on their phones, usually on social media. It's great to post comments and pictures now and then, but when so much time is spent on social media, real life relationships suffer, as does mental health. It's hard to look online for any pro wrestler without coming across something really nasty being said about, or to them. That's extremely difficult on the mental health of the person being attacked all the time, mostly for things such as their looks, how the made a mistake on mic, or in the ring, or even something much more personal. Renee and Ambrose have both talked about the death threats they've received since they've been dating, and there's been more than a few. The more time spent on reading all this negativity, the more the mental state can be at risk. There's only so much negativity anyone should have to endure, but a lot of wrestlers read a lot about themselves, and it's that negativity that can truly wreak havoc on one's mental state – short, and long-term.
And then there's the other thing that's becoming more and more prevalent with professional wrestlers, filming themselves having sexual encounters. Yes, this has been in the media more and more lately, and, like the drinking and drugs, it seems to be of the time. It's definitely much easier to film oneself having sex with the glut of cell phones and laptops around these days. We know a lot of sex isn't a new thing for wrestlers, as all you have to do it listen to any of Ric Flair promos, as he mentions women and Space Mountain more often than not, but at least he wasn't (hopefully) filming all of his conquests. This phenomenon isn't strictly contained to the younger wrestlers, but it is of a time, as even Hulk Hogan has been involved in a sex tape scandal. The problem isn't in doing what they're doing, it's not protecting themselves and those in the videos with them who could easily be hurt if something private gets out. Cell phones, laptops, desktops, tablets, and every other device can be hacked, or stolen, at any time. These things they might think are private, can never completely be 100% private.
The problems appear when what they're doing gets out to mainstream media. The wrestlers are ridiculed that much more, even though it's something many outside of pop culture do on a regular basis. They should be afforded some privacy, because not everything they do is for our consumption. Times have changed in the professional wrestling industry, as they have in the entire world, but certain things will never change, and that's addictive ways to kill time.