This is the 376th installment of the ‘Wrestling with Sin‘ series. A group of stories that delves into the darker, underbelly of pro wrestling. Many of the stories involve such subjects as sex, drugs, greed and in some cases even murder! As with every single story in the Sin series, I do not condone or condemn the alleged participants. We simply retell their stories by researching interviews, newspapers, magazines and various other sources of media.
In 1981, a wrestling event was held in Houston, Texas celebrating the career of wrestler/promoter Paul Boesch’s 50 years in professional wrestling. One match on that card that gained some considerable notoriety, was between ‘Dirty’ Dick Slater and an Olympic amateur wrestler turned pro in Evan Johnson. Johnson wrestled for the University of Minnesota and competed in the 1976 Olympic games held in Montreal. After his amateur career ended, Johnson was trained by AWA legend Verne Gagne turning pro in the process.
Both Johnson and Slater were booked for a one on one match at the Paul Boesch event on October 30th, 1981. The match was very awkward and awful as neither wrestler seemed to want to sell anything for the other. Dick Slater won the match, but it was after the two got backstage that things really fell apart. According to witnesses, Evan Johnson got in to the locker room first and began yelling and screaming “Where’s Dick at?” When Slater got to the locker room, the two confronted each other about how bad their match was with each putting the blame on the other. Slater apparently sucker punched Johnson and then began pummeling the former Olympic wrestler until guys like Chavo Guerrero Sr, Manny Fernandez and Dr. Tom Prichard pulled Slater off a bloodied and battered Evan Johnson.
Love and Lust
Former TNA and Ring of Honor champion Angelina Love recalled the price for her rise in fame as a pro wrestler. She said a fan of hers who lived in the United Kingdom turned into a stalker. She had to deal with this person on a number of occasions including the stalker flying from England to Las Vegas where she was competing in a fitness competition. She claimed that the person followed her all over the Vegas strip, sat at her table one morning while she was eating breakfast, left a pair of diamond earrings for her at the hotel’s front desk, filmed her wearing a bikini and waited for her at the front doors of the hotel she was staying at at around 4am to ambush her with hugs.
Love also said that the stalker would constantly harass her on social media by asking her personal questions about herself and her family members. She said she was forced to make all of her social media platforms private because of the stalker’s persistence and invasion of her privacy.
Former NXT star Jake Atlas was released by WWE in August of 2021. As it turned out, it was Atlas who asked to be released from the company. A month later, the openly gay wrestler confessed that he had become suicidal and battled mental health issues. He revealed that WWE “saved his life.” Atlas said, “I certainly don’t want to make this about me but this is important to speak up about. WWE paid for 6 months of my therapy & quite literally saved my life. Not everything is what it seems. People who are truly suffering from mental illness learn how to hide it well. Reach out.”
After his WWE release, Atlas resumed his career by signing with Ring of Honor. He had one match and after it…announced that at 26 years old, he was retiring from the wrestling business. Atlas posted this on social media….
“I’m not concussed or ‘banged up.’ I simply just can’t keep going anymore. Take your mental health seriously, both for yourselves & for each other, because we only have one life to live. Thank you to anyone who did support me for 5 years. I didn’t do much, but what I did was fun.”
“I’m stepping away from wrestling completely right now so please don’t ask me to do interviews/appearances. I’d like my privacy to be respected. At 26 years old, I’ve got my entire life ahead of me & I’m choosing to explore completely different industries to find my passion again.”
“Unfortunately, it was unhealthy for me the entire time. I just learned how to hide it really well. I hope that friends & fans I’ve made alike continue to support me no matter what.”
Til Death Do Us Part
Mike Spugnardi was a professional wrestler who competed from 1927 until 1932. He mainly wrestled in the southern region of the country in places like Kentucky and Tennessee. In February of 1932, Mike Spugnardi was spotted by his wife Mary, walking down the street with two young women. Mary pulled over and demanded that Mike get into the car and return home with her, but Mike told her no. Mary then exited her vehicle and shot Mike twice with a small pistol. Spugnardi was shot once in the leg and once near the collar bone.
Mary Spugnardi drove away from the scene as Mike tried to walk away, but eventually collapsed and died on the sidewalk. His wife Mary went to her grandparents home which was nearby. She walked into their backyard with her 5 year old son Billy, turned the gun on herself and shot herself in the chest. Mary was rushed to a nearby hospital. She spent over a year in the hospital, but ultimately died from her wound completing the murder/suicide. Lawrence Michael Spugnardi was just 25 years old and his wife Mary Cosby Spugnardi was just 28 years old at the time of their deaths.
You can read all previous ‘Wrestling with Sin’ pieces here.