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6 years sober, former WWE star counsels people with addiction in Tampa

Shannon Moore works at Riverside Recovery of Tampa and stars in a docuseries on addiction.
 
“A lot of wrestlers are scared to ask for help,” Shannon Moore says. “They think it will label them as black sheep. I’m proof it won’t.”
“A lot of wrestlers are scared to ask for help,” Shannon Moore says. “They think it will label them as black sheep. I’m proof it won’t.” [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Dec. 18, 2023|Updated Dec. 19, 2023

TAMPA — Just a few years removed from being a global celebrity with the WWE, Shannon Moore packed guns and heroin into a truck with the intent of driving from his North Carolina home to Florida to kill his ex-wife. He planned to then either kill himself or spend life in prison.

“Then I had one last desperate cry for help,” said Moore, 44.

He reached out to a friend at the WWE.

Within 24 hours, the promotion had him in a Tampa drug rehabilitation treatment center and footed the bill.

“The WWE saved my life,” Moore said.

Now, he looks to do the same for other people suffering from addiction.

Six years sober, Moore works as a client relations manager at Riverside Recovery of Tampa, a 68-bed privately-owned substance abuse center where he counsels people from all backgrounds but specializes in professional athletes, wrestlers and military veterans.

He’s also featured in the “Night of Recovery” docuseries, which has Moore and other professional wrestlers tell their stories of addiction and recovery to an audience whose lives have been touched by the issue.

Related: After 5 suicides in famed pro wrestling family, Tampa woman finds peace

“The value Shannon Moore brings to the ‘Night of Recovery’ series is colossal,” said Chris Dreisbach, host of the series. “His deep struggle with substance use disorder is compelling to say the least and his rapid ascent out of the mire of addiction is inspiring beyond measure.”

The first episode, filmed at the Moravian Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is now streaming on Prime Video. Three more taped in other venues will stream in 2024 and Moore hopes the show will then go back out on tour.

“We share our experience, strength and hope,” Moore said.

Once a star for the global wrestling promotions, Shannon Moore, seen here with Atomic Legacy Wrestling, still performs, but he does so part time so that he can dedicate himself to counseling addicts at Riverside Recovery of Tampa.
Once a star for the global wrestling promotions, Shannon Moore, seen here with Atomic Legacy Wrestling, still performs, but he does so part time so that he can dedicate himself to counseling addicts at Riverside Recovery of Tampa. [ Courtesy of Atomic Legacy Wrestling ]

Wrestling

When Moore was 9, his father was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down and took away his ability to talk.

“He was my superhero,” Moore said. “He had all these things he wanted to teach me. I felt robbed.”

Soon after the accident, Moore found solace in learning to become a professional wrestler alongside his friends Matt and Jeff Hardy. They all grew up in Cameron, North Carolina.

“They had a trampoline in their backyard that they turned into a wrestling ring,” Moore said. “We put poles in four corners, garden rope around it, and had a skateboard ramp for the entrance.”

They befriended adult professional wrestlers who gave them pointers, but Moore said the trio was largely self-taught. The brothers eventually bought a real ring and held shows for audiences.

At 13, Moore used that experience to land paying gigs throughout the Carolinas. Sometimes he lied about his age. Sometimes the promoters didn’t care.

“It was an outlaw thing,” he said.

On occasion, a show would be held in a strip club. Moore, too young to hang out inside, waited outside until his match and then immediately left when it ended.

At 18, he signed with Ted Turner’s now defunct World Championship Wrestling, where from 1999 to 2001 he was on television as part of the preppy three-man wrestling boy band called 3 Count. They opened each match with a song.

“It’s timeless,” he said with a laugh. “I think people are going to chant 3 Count until I’m 70 years old.”

Next it was on to WWE for seven years. There, he worked with his childhood friends Matt and Jeff Hardy, known as the Hardy Boyz, and developed the tattooed, spiked haired “Prince of Punk” character that is closer to his real persona.

In 2012, after a two-year stint with the Impact Wrestling promotion, Moore took a hiatus.

“That was the worst thing I ever did,” he said. “I was just sitting at home. I had time. I had money. And what do you do? You just party. I think that’s the point where physical addiction really set in.”

Shannon Moore flies through the air during a recent match for an Atomic Legacy Wrestling.
Shannon Moore flies through the air during a recent match for an Atomic Legacy Wrestling. [ Courtesy of Atomic Legacy Wrestling ]

Addiction

Moore had been exposed to drugs since he got into professional wrestling.

“I was 13, 14, 15, 16, pretty much partying with these pro wrestlers,” he said. Once he was an adult touring the world with major promotions, “it was sex, drugs and rock and roll for me.”

Painkillers were Moore’s initial go-to, one that he rationalized by telling himself that he needed the drugs to recover from wrestling injuries. He feared taking time away to heal would cost him work.

“I thought, in order to keep going at the caliber of an athlete that I am, I’m going to take this stuff,” Moore said. “That’s all that mattered. Wrestling came first. Everything else was second.”

By the time he was on hiatus, Moore had turned to heroin. That addiction led to money issues and divorce.

“The first thing an addict does is start blaming people,” he said. “So, for me, there was a lot of resentment and blame, putting everything on my ex-wife. It was all my fault. I just wasn’t taking ownership.”

Client relations manager Shannon Moore poses for a picture where he works at Riverside Recovery of Tampa.
Client relations manager Shannon Moore poses for a picture where he works at Riverside Recovery of Tampa. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Recovery

While on his way to Florida to confront his ex-wife, Moore messaged his friend Brian James, the professional wrestler known as Road Dogg, who had become a producer for WWE. More importantly, Moore said, James had recovered from addiction.

“I said, ‘Hey, dude, you’re probably going to hear about me on the news. Something bad is going to happen,’” Moore said. “He reached back out, and the rest is history.”

Two months ago, while recounting that day on his “Oh...You Didn’t Know” podcast, James said that he was able to talk Moore into getting help because, “I had some experience, some strength and some hope to share.”

With one phone call to higher-ups in WWE, James said, he convinced them to sponsor Moore’s rehab at a facility in Tampa. Once sober, Moore began volunteering there as a counselor and was hired.

“I never had any interest in working in this industry‚” Moore said. “When I went in treatment, I’m like, ‘Man, this is pretty amazing. People are getting a second chance.’”

When that center closed four years ago, he joined Riverside Recovery of Tampa.

“When clients first begin their journey of recovery, Shannon has a natural ability to put clients at ease and make them feel comfortable in an environment that might initially feel unfamiliar,” said Christian Sicignano, the facility’s vice president of client care. “He uses his personal experiences in overcoming difficulties in recovery and infectious charisma to build rapport with clients.”

A few years ago, Moore was a guest coach training future WWE stars at the promotion’s Performance Center in Orlando.

“A lot of wrestlers are scared to ask for help,” he said. “They think it will label them as black sheep. I’m proof it won’t.”

While Moore still wrestles, he does so primarily for Florida promotions when it fits his schedule. He’s not interested in going back to it full time.

“There have been plenty of offers,” Moore said. “But Riverside has an amazing team. I believe in what we are doing. I’ve got a taste of being in service. My whole thing now is just trying to do my part and hopefully use my platform and use my career to hopefully help somebody.”

If you need help

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text the 24-hour 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, by dialing 988 or chat by visiting 988lifeline.org; contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741; or chat with someone online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay can help those contemplating suicide or with substance abuse by dialing 211 or by visiting crisiscenter.com.