By Mike Mooneyham

Feb. 6, 2005

A growing number of former wrestling stars have been finding their way back into the news lately. Unfortunately, though, it’s the type of news that rears its ugly head from the pages of a police blotter.

For some, it’s a wake-up call, a chance to put distance between themselves and their demons; for others, it’s simply more of the same, another step closer to a fateful finality.

The latest to fall from grace, Lex Luger, was arrested last week alongside a Georgia interstate highway and charged with DUI, with additional counts of driving on an expired tag, alteration of a tag, no proof of insurance and an open container in his car.

The former WCW heavyweight champion, whose real name is Lawrence Pfohl, was spotted Monday morning stopped on the side of Interstate 575 near Woodstock, Ga. A Cobb County officer found the 46-year-old wrestler passed out and slumped over the steering wheel of his 1998 Ford Expedition. When he woke up, Luger drove away, prompting the officer to call for assistance. Before he could be stopped, however, the suspect struck another vehicle. Fortunately no one was badly injured.

Lex Lugar

Lex Lugar

Luger, who was on his way home from a wrestling convention held over the weekend in Tampa, told authorities that his last drink had been about seven hours earlier, but authorities found a partially consumed bottle of vodka in his sports utility vehicle before taking him to jail.

The incident is just the latest in a series for the man whose chiseled physique and “Total Package” gimmick propelled him to fame and fortune in the wrestling world. His once lofty position, though, has been relegated to small-time shows on the independent circuit and shoot interviews to augment his income. A recent gig with the Nashville-based TNA promotion flopped when he was deemed unsuitable for a public appearance.

Luger’s life took a dramatic turn when his live-in girlfriend and wrestling personality, Liz “Miss Elizabeth” Hulette, was stricken in his house during the early morning hours of May 1, 2003, as a result of an accidental overdose of pills and alcohol. Although no charges were filed in connection with the 42-year-old’s death, police later searched the three-story townhouse and found more than 1,000 illegal pills, mostly steroid and synthetic human growth hormone pills, with amounts of painkillers, muscle relaxants and anxiety drugs in the lot. Luger, who was taken in on drug charges, had been arrested twice in the weeks leading up to the incident – once in connection with an alleged domestic dispute and two days later on a DUI charge in which his Porsche struck another car in the rear.

On Thursday, nearly 21 months after Miss Elizabeth’s death and the subsequent drug charges, an Atlanta judge gave Luger five years probation after the wrestler pleaded guilty to possession of three kinds of steroids. He also was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and submit to drug tests. The judge warned Luger, who was allowed to enter his plea as a first offender, that another similar arrest could affect his parole status on the drug charges, which carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

Luger broke into the wrestling business in 1985 following a brief collegiate football career at Miami, where he was kicked off the team for a pair of off-field incidents, and pro stints with the CFL’s Montreal Alhouettes and the Steve Spurrier-coached Tampa Bandits of the defunct USFL. Pushed because of his powerhouse physique, Luger was one of the highest-paid performers in the industry for a number of years, but never reached the level of acclaim accorded the profession’s elite.

Luger held the WCW world title on two different occasions and was given one of the greatest promotional pushes in the history of the then-WWF, but could never attain the popularity needed to headline the promotion. The company had even taped an interview with Luger as champion before scrapping a nine-month plan to give him the title, going instead with the smaller but more talented Bret Hart.

Vince McMahon, who once saw Luger as the next Hulk Hogan, had turned the wrestler from his “Narcissst” heel role, in which he played a pompous, egotistical character that mirrored his real-life persona, into a xenophobic American patriot draped in red, white and blue, and sent him on a nationwide bus tour dubbed the “Lex Express.” The Express was designed to generate mainstream publicity for Luger and tape him doing charity work for telecast on WWF programming. Despite well-produced videos and exposure in a number of mainstream outlets, Luger failed to spark media interest and the Lex Express derailed.

Luger, who bolted the WWF in 1995 and appeared on the first-ever Nitro for WCW on Sept. 18 of that year, saw his big-league career come to a halt when WCW closed its doors in 2001. Luger was rumored to have been preparing for a return to wrestling, this time going back to work for McMahon, prior to Hulette’s death in 2003. It was widely known, however, that the WWE boss had little interest in the fading performer.

– Yet another fallen wrestling star, Jake “The Snake” Roberts (Aurelian Smith Jr.), recently was arrested in Commerce, Ga., and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia after a search of his hotel room turned up a crack pipe and crack cocaine residue.

According to reports, an officer made the search after a woman claiming to be Roberts’ girlfriend was stopped by authorities and allegedly had drugs in her possession. She told police that Roberts was at a nearby hotel and “probably” had more narcotics there. No actual drugs were found.

Roberts was later arrested on a warrant that was pending since 1999 for non-payment of child support. The bail, which was set at more than $10,000, reportedly was paid by his girlfriend.

The 49-year-old Roberts, whose home was listed as Pompano Beach, Fla., was convicted last November of animal cruelty for starving his pet python to death while living in England. Roberts, who didn’t appear in court for the three-day trial, was facing a sentence involving a fine, community service, as well as a ban on owning any reptiles when he left the country.

– Perhaps no star’s fall from grace has been more public in recent weeks than that of pro wrestling celebrity-turned-actress, model and singer Joanie “Chyna” Laurer. Just days after stripping naked and playing guitar in an inebriated state on the Howard Stern show, Laurer resumed her downward spiral at a New York City strip club.

The New York Post reported that Laurer and her “Surreal Life” co-star supermodel Marcus Schenkenberg were making out at Scores West when she decided to jump on stage and do an impromptu striptease. Management stopped the display once Laurer went bottomless. Laurer had jumped into the fish tank at the Coral Room with Schenkenberg filming her with a video phone earlier in the evening.

“It’s like ‘Beauty and the Beast,'” remarked one of Schenkenberg’s stripper acquaintances.

Laurer had been arrested Jan. 1 for assaulting ex-boyfriend Sean “X-Pac” Waltman. Waltman claims Laurer beat him up in front of his kids – before he called the police. Laurer, who denied assaulting Waltman but boasted that she slapped him around, insists she has since apologized to Waltman’s two children and now wants her ex “out of my life for good.”

Stern said he received several letters from concerned family members urging her to get help after viewing her meltdown on his show. Laurer confided on a recent edition of “Surreal Life” that she tried to commit suicide last year by taking pills, and told cast members that she had no friends. Waltman revealed Laurer had checked herself into a hotel and attempted to drug herself to death.

Waltman, who has had his own share of drug problems, later accused producers of the VH1 reality show of taking advantage of Laurer and sending her out for publicity in an obviously unstable state, pleading with them to get her help.

“I do not believe for one moment that you and your staff do not realize that this woman is so far on the losing end of a life-or-death battle with drugs and alcohol along with severe mental illness. At the moment she is away from anyone who can or will enable her to continue to destroy herself. She has agreed to check into a rehab facility only to back out as we got her to the hospital. She knows she’s out of control. This is a crucial time for you and anyone else who has profited from doing business with her to step up and help in any way possible to save this woman’s life.”

“Her only excuse right now for not doing it is that she doesn’t have the money,” continued Waltman. “If I did, that would not be an issue. You and I both know what she was paid to do your show. That amount of money is nominal compared to what you are making by exploiting her making a spectacle of herself for 13 days and giving her the platform to become an even bigger joke than Anna Nicole Smith. How she was allowed to go on further representing your show after the Howard Stern appearance is mind-boggling. If it was not obvious at that point that she was in no shape to go and do another media appearance, then I question the common sense of everyone involved.”

Waltman has since issued a statement thanking the show’s producers for getting her help.

The odd couple, who were once engaged, have been embroiled in a war of words since breaking up last year, while also promoting an “accidentally released” sex tape. The tape also virtually guarantees that the two will never again see the light of day on WWE television.

Triple H (Paul Levesque), who is now married to Stephanie McMahon, recently confirmed in an interview that the sexually explicit video ensures Laurer will never be rehired by WWE. Although the WWE champion has remained in contact with former Clique cohort Waltman, the door may have closed for him as well.

“She was a much different person when I met her, she was selling beepers and the nicest person in the world. The more success she got the more miserable she was,” Triple H said of his former flame during a recent appearance on the Stern show.

Their relationship turned sour when Laurer allegedly discovered love letters that her former beau had written to the daughter of WWE owner Vince McMahon. The two split after Laurer accused Triple H of going behind her back.

Laurer said on the Stern show that she wouldn’t work with McMahon again for a million dollars and claimed she was still owed a considerable amount in royalties.

Prior to her softer, surgically enhanced look, the Wonder Woman-like character was part of the Degeneration X clique in the late ’90s with Triple H, Waltman and Shawn Michaels. She left WWE in 2001 when she was denied a pay raise and was forced to sell her dream house in New Hampshire just weeks after construction was finished, and moved to Los Angeles. She subsequently was barred from appearing as Chyna (a trademark of the WWE) when she posed for the January 2002 issue of Playboy.

Since Laurer and Waltman announced their engagement in November 2002 in Las Vegas, their relationship has been tailor-made for the tabloids. Laurer filed a restraining order against Waltman in August 2003 after claiming he “choked, beat and pulled her hair.” Waltman has denied being physically abusive.