Some wrestlers that were once wrestling on the grandest stage of them all died at relatively obscure times of their life, such as retirement. Others have passed while wrestling on the indie circuit. Yet many of these deaths are often tied to years of drug abuse that many wrestlers from the past and present struggle with. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that professional wrestlers are nearly three times as likely to die young in comparison with the general population.
When Chris Benoit passed away in 2007, his death received an overwhelming amount of news coverage. You could not turn on a TV news program for weeks and not hear his name. The circumstances of Benoit’s death were far from normal, yet there have been plenty of other tragic wrestling deaths that have received little to no attention. As a result, many fans are unaware that some of the wrestlers they watched “back in the day” are no longer with us.
While some wrestlers from the 1980s, 1990s and even the 2000s are still continuing to build their legacies, these 15 wrestlers will never have the chance to wrestle again. Many wrestlers on this list departed us unexpectedly, and many of these passings were swept under the radar. Prepare yourself to be taken down nostalgia lane as we present to you 15 wrestlers that you may not realize have left us for a better life.
15. Sensational Sherri
One of the greatest managers of all time, Sensational Sherri was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame just one year before her passing in 2007. As a matter of fact, her passing occurred just nine days before the passing of Chris Benoit. With Chris Benoit’s passing receiving an overwhelming amount of news coverage, it’s often forgotten that the Sensational, Scary Queen Sherri also departed us around a similar time.
Sherri was the first to admit that she struggled with drugs during her time as an in-ring performer. Many drugs, including oxycodone, were found in her system after she passed, and it was determined that a drug overdose was responsible for her death. Regardless, without Sherri, the careers of many (most notably Shawn Michaels and Randy Savage) would not have reached the heights that they once did.
In the late 1990s, Test was often seen as one of the WWE’s future breakout stars. Yet after his role as Stephanie McMahon’s boyfriend ended, he would be stuck hovering around the WWE’s midcard. However, that doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t have memorable programs. He would align himself with Albert and Trish Stratus to form the tag team, T&A, and would also go on to be managed by Stacy Keibler.
After being released from the WWE in 2004, Test would return to the company in 2006. However, shortly after his return, he was suspended by the WWE for violating the company’s Wellness Policy. One week after his suspension, Test was released from his contract. In 2009, Test was found dead in his apartment. Like Sherri, Test’s death was also ruled to be caused by a drug overdose related to oxycodone.
13. Crash Holly
The Hollys – Hardcore, Crash and later on, Molly – were one of the most interesting stables during the WWE’s Attitude Era. Crash would become a regular competitor for the company’s Hardcore Championship and would also introduce the 24/7 rule for the title. This rule led to many infamous title changes where the title was held among the likes of Gerald Brisco, Terri Runnels and even one of Godfather’s Hos.
Crash would wrestle in the WWE from 1999 until 2003, when he was released from his contract in June. He would show up in rival promotion TNA the following month, but he would pass away before the year was over. In November of that year, he was found with his face surrounded by a pool of vomit at Stevie Richards’ house. A bottle of prescription pills and alcohol were also found nearby. Crash’s death – caused by choking on his own vomit, was ruled a suicide.
Some may know Crush as the third member of Demolition. Other fans who became familiar with wrestling in the Attitude Era may remember him as the NWO’s Brian Adams, or as a former member of the ill-fated tag team, Kronik. Regardless, Brian Adams was not a wrestling name that faded into obscurity easily.
After Crush’s last run in the WWE didn’t work out in 2001, he returned to the indies, where he sustained a spinal injury that forced him into retirement. He lived a relatively quiet life until 2007, when his youngest son found him unconscious at home. While his son called paramedics, Crush was pronounced dead when paramedics arrived. He had a combination of sedatives, muscle relaxers and painkillers in his system when he died. It wasn’t the amount of drugs in his system that killed him, but rather the combination of drugs that compromised his respiratory system.
WWE fans were first introduced to Umaga as Jamal, one half of Eric Bischoff’s 3 Minute Warning stable. The stable was known for destroying wrestlers in squash matches that lasted for an appropriate three minutes or less. However, the former Jamal would soon be released from his contract, only to return two years later as the Samoan Bulldozer, Umaga.
Umaga would terrorize various competitors in the WWE for an additional four years, winning the Intercontinental Championship two times in that time frame. However, in 2009, Umaga sustained his second violation of the company’s Wellness Policy. It was reported that Umaga refused to go to treatment after his second violation and, as a result, had his contract terminated. Six months after his WWE release, Umaga was found unresponsive and suffered a heart attack. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at the age of 36.
Most may remember Rosey best as The Hurricane’s S.H.I.T, or Super Hero In Training. However, like Umaga, Rosey first made his debut as one half of Eric Bischoff’s 3 Minute Warning stable. After Umaga (then known as Jamal) was released from his WWE contract, Rosey was partnered up with The Hurricane. The two would eventually recruit Stacy Keibler, who would be rebranded as Super Stacy. This gimmick would continue on until 2006, when Rosey and Stacy departed the company.
After his time in the WWE ended, Rosey would continue to wrestle on the indies. Yet he was no strangers to health problems in the time that led up to his death. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and hospitalized for health conditions associated with it in 2014. Three years later, he passed away due to the condition. His death occurred only 10 days after his 47th birthday.
9. Chris Kanyon
Whether you remember him as Kanyon or Mortis, Chris Kanyon was one of the most memorable mid-carders of the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was involved in a wide range of storylines and had notable feuds with the likes of Matt Hardy and Diamond Dallas Page. Outside of wrestling, Kanyon was very vocal about his struggles with mental illness and the struggles that he faced as a closeted gay man in the world of professional wrestling. And eventually, Kanyon would commit suicide.
Kanyon was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and reportedly threatened suicide just weeks before his passing in 2010. A bottle of antidepressants was found near his body after his passing. It’s sad that Kanyon couldn’t beat his demons, as he could have been a strong advocate for the gay community in regards to breaking into wrestling had he been around today.
8. Mike Awesome
One of the most well-known names of ECW, Mike Awesome would defect to WCW in 2000, exposing him to a much larger audience. His initial appearances on WCW would cause much controversy, as he was still the ECW World Heavyweight Champion at the time. Awesome allegedly refused to re-sign with ECW until Paul Heyman paid him overdue wages.
Awesome would eventually make his way over the WWE as a part of the Invasion storyline. He wouldn’t stay with the company gone and he was released from the company the following year. However, he would return as a part of the company’s One Night Stand pay-per-view event that would plant the seeds for WWE’s ECW revival. Yet despite the crowd’s positive reception to his performance, Awesome felt underpaid for his participation in the event and soon retired from wrestling in 2006. In 2007, Awesome’s friends found him hanging inside his Tampa home.
7. Luna Vachon
Without Luna Vachon, it’s very likely that the stars of Alundra Blayze and Sable would not have shined as brightly as they did. Many fans strongly believe that Luna Vachon is the best women’s wrestler in the WWE’s history that never had the opportunity to hold the Women’s Title. Considering how strong of a wrestler and in-ring storyteller Luna was, it’s hard to dispute those claims.
After many high-profile tenures in WCW, ECW and the WWE, Luna Vachon would return to the indies in 2000 before retiring from the sport in 2007. Luna would have a documented battle with drug addiction, and she completed WWE-sponsored rehab in 2009. The following year, however, Luna was found dead by her mother. It was determined that Luna’s death was caused by a drug overdose.
Viscera was a man known under many names during his time in the WWE. In his earlier career, he was best known as Mabel, and he won the 1995 King of the Ring in the process. He would eventually be rebranded as Viscera and would join the Ministry of Darkness that was led by Undertaker. Viscera would eventually be released from his contract in 2000, but he would rejoin the company four years later. He would portray himself as the Love Machine, having a storyline romance with Lilian Garcia in the process, before evolving into Big Daddy V.
When Viscera died in 2014, his wife heavily criticized WWE for not paying tribute to him on the company’s flagship program, RAW. A brief memorial graphic was aired on the company’s following SmackDown episode, yet emotions were still high. His wife has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company, which has since been dismissed.
5. Louie Spicolli
The youngest passing on this list, Louie Spicolli passed away at the tender age of 27. Yet during that time, Spicolli would wrestle for the WWE, WCW and ECW, where he made the biggest name for himself. Spicolli was sometimes credited for being the inventor of the Death Valley Driver, although that title is held by Japanese wrestler Etsuko Mita.
Yet Spicolli’s career was filled with a history of drug addiction. In 1996, he had a drug overdose after using Soma and would soon be released from his WWE contract. Although he reportedly quit using drugs due to fears for his health, drug use (Soma, in particular) contributed to his death. At the time of his death, Spicolli was in a storyline feud with WCW wrestler Larry Zbysko.
4. Bertha Faye
In the mid-1990s, very few women were capable of stopping the force that was Alundra Blayze. Bertha Faye, managed by Harvey Wippleman, was one of them. Bertha was one of the first larger women in wrestling who proved themselves to be an athletic force to Western audiences. She was strong, she was fast and she was worthy of being the WWE’s Women’s Champion, a title she held on one occasion.
After the WWE dissolved its Women’s division, Faye left the company. She would go on to work in Japan and WCW, where she became known as the Monster Ripper. In 2000, she would leave WCW and take a leave of absence from the ring. The following year, she died of a heart attack at just 40 years old.
3. Bam Bam Bigelow
Like Bertha Faye, Bam Bam Bigelow had a level of athleticism that was unexpected for a performer of his size. At 6’4″ and nearly 400 pounds, Bigelow regularly performed sentons, enziguris and other moves that men of his size weren’t supposed to be capable of. His athleticism allowed him to rise to the top in multiple promotions across the country, the most notable of them being ECW.
A former ECW World Heavyweight Champion, Bigelow would also find success in both the WCW and the WWE. The WWE has gone on to call him “the most natural, agile and physically remarkable big man of the past quarter-century.” In 2007, Bigelow was found dead in his home. Multiple drugs were found in his system after his passing, including cocaine. He also had various heart issues.
2. Dr. Death
Once unpinned in North America for a decade, Dr. Death was extremely hyped up when he made his WWE debut back in 1998. Entering the company as a part of its ill-fated Brawl for All tournament, Death was picked by many as the favorite to win it all. However, he would sustain a torn hamstring and lose the tournament in the second round to eventual winner Bart Gunn. With the loss in the tournament, his run in WWE was all but over. He would later wrestle for WCW.
In this final years, Dr. Death would have multiple cancer diagnoses. After being diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004, Dr. Death underwent surgery and would eventually be declared cancer free. Eventually, the cancer came back and Dr. Death passed away in December of 2009.
1. Doink The Clown
Over the years, multiple people have portrayed the iconic (or infamous, depending on your perspective) character of Doink The Clown. The first person to portray the character, Matt Osborne, initially played the role for about a year before being let go from the WWE due to various drug-related issues. Osborne would return to play the character on occasion and would also reprise the role during his time on the indies.
In 2013, the original Doink The Clown was found dead inside of his apartment. His death was ruled to be caused by an accidental overdose of morphine and hydrocodone. In addition to the overdose, Osborne also had heart-related health issues. Other people who have portrayed Doink over the years, including The Brooklyn Brawler, remain alive today.
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