Mickey Rourke may win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as the past-his-prime Randy "The Ram" Robinson in The Wrestler, but what became of all the real-life wrestlers who entertained you as a kid? A depressingly high number of former stars have passed away, and many more continue on in wrestling in some capacity. Others, though, have drifted away from the business and started new lives free of choreographed violence. Here are a few of our favorites.
1. Nikolai Volkoff
Talk about life not imitating art. Volkoff, the WWF's premier Russian boogeyman throughout the 80s, spent his wrestling career decrying democracy. Then he became a Republican. The Yugoslavian-born Volkoff became a code inspector for Baltimore County following his retirement, and he even ran unsuccessfully in a Republican primary for Maryland's State House of Delegates in 2006. Perhaps voters didn't latch onto his anger at the cost of living; in a 2006 interview with Fox News he complained about once being able to spend "$2 for 20 cans of sardines, and now $5 will get you only six cans."
2. Abdullah the Butcher
The Madman from Sudan, who was actually a Canadian-born fellow named Larry Shreve, has had some success as a restaurateur since his retirement. If you're ever in Atlanta, you can stop by Abdullah the Butcher's House of Ribs and Chinese Food. If you're lucky, he won't even stab you in the forehead with his trademark fork!
3. Hillbilly Jim
If you've got a Sirius satellite radio, you can still hear Hillbilly Jim every Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm ET when the company's Outlaw Country station airs "Hillbilly Jim's Moonshine Matinee," a program where Jim spins country and Southern rock and chats about his life in the ring.
4. King Kong Bundy
Andre the Giant's former rival isn't totally retired from wrestling, and he's got another way into the limelight: standup comedy. Yes, really. His MySpace page says he's still available for bookings as either a wrestler or a comic. See for yourself.
5. Mr. Fuji
Mr. Fuji, the villainous manager of wrestlers like Yokozuna, was never afraid to toss salt in an opponent's eyes. He's a bit more subdued these days. Apparently he works as an usher and ticket taker for a movie theater near Knoxville, and also reviews movies for the WWE's magazine.
6. Lanny Poffo
Leaping Lanny Poffo, "Macho Man" Randy Savage's poet brother, wasn't just playing to his gimmick when he recited verse in the ring. He really likes poetry that much. He's released two books of poetry, including 2004's Limericks from the Heart (and Lungs!), a collection of 335 anti-smoking limericks.
7. Papa Shango/The Godfather
Charles Wright's WWF gimmick changed a few times, from witch doctor Papa Shango to ho-escorted "˜70s pimp The Godfather. That second gimmick may have helped him in his post-wrestling gig: strip club manager. After retiring from wrestling in 2002, Wright took over managing Cheetah's, a Las Vegas gentleman's club best known for providing shooting locations for the film Showgirls.
8. Tully Blanchard
Blanchard, a founding member of the NWA and WCW's Four Horsemen stable, became a born-again Christian in 1989. Although he's worked for the WWE as a road agent, he's now spending most of his time on his evangelical prison ministry.
9. Koko B. Ware
The WWF's resident Birdman now lives in Memphis with his family. His beloved macaw, Frankie, died in a house fire in 2001, but Koko bounced back with a new bird, Frankie Jr., that accompanies him to the ring when he makes appearances.
10. Rick Steiner
The Dog-Faced Gremlin can sell you a house! After his semi-retirement from the ring, Steiner became a realtor. His website promises that he's "Wrestling Real Estate for YOU" and everything. If I'm looking for a house in Cherokee, Cobb, or Pickens County, Georgia, I know who I'm calling. I'm also refusing to close until he lets me assist him in landing a Steinerizer.
11. The Ultimate Warrior
Remember how the Ultimate Warrior seemed just a little unhinged in the ring? It might have been more than just a stellar acting job. Although he was born Jim Hellwig, the wrestler realized in 1993 that he was in danger of losing his ring name if he left the WWF. His solution? Legally changing his name to "Warrior." That's it. He's just "Warrior" on his driver's license.
Although he largely retired from wrestling in 1999, Warrior has remained in the public eye as a virulently right-wing commentator who until last year frequently updated his blog, "Warrior's Machete," with all manner of ultra-conservative opinions.
12. The Iron Sheik
The venerable Iranian heel has found a new niche for himself, courtesy of Howard Stern. After the Sheik became a topic of conversation on Stern's show, he started making regular appearances on the radio program in 2007. He's made comedy show appearances as part of Stern's entourage, and has supposedly developed an hour-long radio show for Sirius Satellite Radio's Howard 101.