Pro wrestling has, unfortunately, has a long history with Superstars dying prematurely. In the past, this has been due to a combination of factors. Life on the road, enhancement use, human growth hormone and pain killers have all been accused of leading towards this trend.
As a result, many of the wrestlers we grew up watching are no longer with us. Wrestler deaths used to be so common that they were no longer newsworthy unless it was a big star who had passed away. So not only did some mid-card talent die before their middle-age, but their names were scantily mentioned afterward.
Thankfully, WWE has gone to great lengths to ensure the longevity of their performers in recent years. The WWE Wellness Policy is able to spot drug problems before they spiral, and their policy of paying for rehab for current and former stars has probably saved several lives. Diamond Dallas Page and his yoga program (which is actually a good workout) have played a role as well.
Reading through some of the names on this list can be difficult. There is something about a premature death the public forgets about that seems much sadder. In an effort to better remember those who died with little fanfare, here are 15 lesser known wrestlers you may have forgotten passed away.
We lost Matthew Anoa’i in April of this year. The 47-year-old father of three died of congestive heart failure. He had been diagnosed with heart problems years earlier and was even hospitalized for it in 2014. Rosey was Roman Reigns’ older brother, although there is a 15-year difference between their ages.
As with many from the legendary Anoa’i family, Rosey started his career as a tag team wrestler. He made his WWE debut alongside Edward Smith Fatu (Umaga- also deceased) as the team 3 Minute Warning. Rosey then became a Superhero in Training with a new partner, The Hurricane. He was released in 2006 and opened a wrestling school in Florida.
In 2007, Rosey was on a TV show Fat March. Contestants were overweight individuals who wanted to shed pounds. Rosey stated he needed to lose weight to return to wrestling, but knee problems forced him to quit the show.
14. Lance Cade
Lance Cade, along with Daniel Bryan and Brian Kendrick, was an original member of Shawn Michaels’ wrestling academy. Not only that, he was HBK’s prized student. WWE signed him in 2001 as a 20-year-old.
He’d spent several years in developmental before debuting as part of a tag team with Trevor Murdoch. The pair would win the Tag Team Titles on three occasions. He was released under somewhat suspicious circumstances in 2008, with Jim Ross stating it had to do with a personal decision Cade made which may have led to him having a seizure on a plane. WWE re-signed him in 2008 but he was never able to crack the main roster again.
In 2010, Lance Cade died of heart failure at only 29 years of age. After an autopsy, it was determined that drugs in his system had complicated an existing heart condition.
13. Mike Awesome
At one time Mike Awesome was on top of the world. He’d been the FMW and ECW champ and had just signed a lucrative deal to wrestle for WCW. Unfortunately, his life would become so tainted just seven years later that he would commit suicide.
After WCW’s demise, Awesome was brought into WWE but failed to make an impact. He was released from his contract the following year. After spending a month in TNA, he decided it was better to hit the independent scene.
At the time of his death in 2007, he was planning on getting into the real estate business, but his marriage was falling apart. It is believed that Mike’s wife had him arrested for domestic assault shortly before his suicide. He was found hanging inside his home on February 17th, 2007.
12. Doink the Clown
Matt Borne was the first and the longest-running performer to portray Doink the Clown. His initial run as the character in WWE would last from 1992 to 1993. The villainous clown character has left an indelible image in the minds of many wrestling fans who grew up during this period. After leaving WWE, Borne would take a version of the character to ECW in 1994, though fans didn’t really get into it.
Borne died in 2013 at the age of 55. The cause of his death was determined to be a combination of morphine and other pain killers in his system. Doctors also concluded that heart disease may have played a role in his death. In 2015, Borne’s family unsuccessfully attempted to sue WWE, believing that concussions he sustained while employed by the company contributed to his death.
11. Sean O’Haire
Sean O’Haire was 43 years old when he committed suicide in September of 2014. He had been out of the wrestling game for several years at the time of his death, and as such it received little coverage by the wrestling media.
In fact, Sean O’Haire’s wrestling career was relatively short. He made his debut in the late-stage WCW, as part of a class of WCW Power Plant trainees who would eventually become known as the Natural Born Thrillers. After WCW went under, O’Haire’s contract was purchased by WWE. While the company initially got behind him, the two sides would mutually part ways in 2004.
He would have several run-ins with the law on assault charges the years before his death. It was also said he went to rehab several times to deal with alcohol issues. His father found him hanging from a bedpost.
10. Hector Garza
While Hector Garza was largely a star in Mexico, he made an impression whenever he wrestled in the United States as well. He wrestled briefly in WCW, even joining the Latino World Order at one point. Garza really made a name for himself in 2004 for TNA Wrestling, however.
At the time he debuted in TNA, they were running their America’s X-Cup, and Garza was a popular member of the Mexican team. He would end up re-signing with CMLL and would become the company’s World Champion.
Sadly, Garza was diagnosed in with lung cancer in the fall of 2012 and retired from wrestling in order to undergo treatment. Unfortunately, the disease would take his life in May of 2013. Garza was still the Mexican National Heavyweight Champion at the time of his death.
Garza’s nephew, Garza Jr, currently wrestles for AAA and GFW, borrowing many of his uncle’s old moves.
9. Luna Vachon
Luna Vachon died in August of 2010 as a result of a drug overdose. An autopsy revealed her death was as a result of ingesting a combination of pain medication and anti-anxiety pills. She was 48 at the time.
Luna’s character was created in Florida during the mid-80s. She was playing the role of a reporter when Kevin Sullivan slapped her across the face. The act made Luna go insane and she wound up joining Sullivan’s stable of dark characters.
She is perhaps best known for the time she spent managing Goldust during WWE’s Attitude Era. Goldust left his wife Marlena in the storyline and joined Luna, becoming the Artist Formerly Known as Goldust in the process.
After her death, Luna was cremated. Her ashes were scattered across the ranch of her close friend, Andre the Giant. There really has never been anyone like Luna since.
8. Giant Gonzalez
Billed at eight-feet tall, Giant Gonzalez was a giant among giants. Unfortunately, his size also contributed to his premature death at the age of 44. He had been in ill-health for some time when he died in September of 2010 due to complications from diabetes. Heart issues may have also played a role in his death.
It is unclear if Gonzalez suffered from any tumors which may have been increasing his growth. Such has traditionally been the case with giant wrestlers over the years, such as the Big Show and the Great Khali.
Gonzalez signed with WCW after his professional basketball career didn’t pan out. He was cast as El Gigante and would feud with many top stars. When brought into WWE he was immediately put into a program with The Undertaker, which flopped pretty badly.
Viscera died of a heart attack in February 2014. He was only 42 years old at the time. His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the WWE, believing that concussions contributed to his death. The lawsuit was dismissed.
His large size often drew comparisons to Yokozuna. Brutal looking leg drops, splashes and similar moves were part of both wrestlers’ arsenals. Much like with Yokozuna it seems obesity contributed to Viscera’s death.
While he’s perhaps best known for his time in the Ministry of Darkness during the Monday Night Wars, Viscera was previously known as Mabel. While wrestling as Mabel, he won the King of the Ring tournament and was billed as a top title contender. He was fired in 1996 after a poorly received angle with the Undertaker but was hired back two years later.
6. Crash Holly
Nobody wanted to talk about Crash Holly’s death in 2003, probably because it summed up what was wrong with the wrestling industry at the time.
After spending ten years trying to break into WWE, he finally did in 1999. He had a four-year stint with the company as a member of the fictional Holly family. He met and married his wife while in WWE as well.
Then in 2003, it all crumbled for him. He was released by WWE, and with no WCW or ECW to go to, he ended up in early-stage TNA. He wrestled on nine of TNA’s weekly PPV shows but failed to catch on with the promotion. Then his wife filed for divorce.
He was found dead on November 6th, 2003. His death was ruled a suicide.
5. “Iron” Mike Sharpe
If you grew up on wrestling in the 1980s you know who “Iron” Mike Sharpe was, even if you never saw him win a match. Often billed as “Canada’s Greatest Athlete”, Sharpe did little to prove this moniker. The career jobber was rarely allotted any offense in his matches, let alone victories.
While ever the ironic sign at a live wrestling show would honor this great jobber, little was made of his death in 2016. Sharpe had been living a reclusive life for the last ten years of his life. A bad infection had resulted in an extended hospital stay and a multitude of health problems. Nurses would come to check on him every day, but he finally died of complications from his various illnesses on January 17th, 2016 at the age of 64. He was found in his Hamilton, ON apartment.
4. Crush (Brian Adams)
In 1990, Crush became the 3rd member of Demolition. Up until the New Day recently defeated the team’s record, Demolition had been the longest reigning Tag Team Champions of all-time. It was a big opportunity for Brian Adams, the performer behind the character.
Following Demolition, he would start a single’s push as Kona Crush, and then later as the leader of the DOA biker gang. By 1998 he was in WCW, only returning to WWE as a member of the tag team Kronik in 2001. While Kronik would win the WCW Titles on two occasions, their match against the Undertaker and Kane was named “Worst Worked Match of the Year” in 2001 by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Adams was found dead on August 13th, 2007. Medical Examiners determined that he had multiple painkillers and muscle relaxants in his system, the combination of which was enough to end his life sadly.
“Earthquake” John Tenta died of bladder cancer in 2006. He was 42 years old at the time of his death.
He made a memorable WWE debut in 1989, immediately launching into a program with the Ultimate Warrior. On an episode of Superstars, Dino Bravo had challenged the Ultimate Warrior to a unique test of strength. The idea was they would pick an audience member at random to sit on Bravo’s back and Warrior’s back while they did push-ups. Only the audience member wasn’t picked at random, but rather Earthquake had been planted there by Bravo’s devious manager, Jimmy Hart. When Warrior attempted to do push-ups with Earthquake on his back, Earthquake attacked him.
He would leave for WCW in 1996 and be renamed the Shark. By 1998 he was back in WWE however, wrestling under a mask as Golga, a member of the Parade of Human Oddities.
2. Chris Candido
Chris Candido was only 33 years old when he died in 2005. He had suffered a horrible leg injury at the TNA Lockdown event on April 24th, 2005, breaking his tibia and fibula in a steel cage match. He would pass away four days after the injury.
There are some conflicting reports as to the exact cause of his death, and how much his leg injury from days earlier played a role. Candido had surgery the day after his injury to have plates and screws inserted into his leg, but then collapsed and was rushed back to the hospital a few days later, where he would later die.
Doctors stated that Chris had contracted pneumonia and that attempts to drain his lungs were unsuccessful at saving his life. The family would later state that a blood clot and complications from the surgery he’d had days earlier were to blame.
1. Bam Bam Bigelow
Scott “Bam Bam” Bigelow died on January 19th, 2007 of a drug overdose at the age of 45. At the time he was a divorced father of four.
The highlight of Bigelow’s career might have been the time he main evented WrestleMania against pro-football legend, Lawrence Taylor. Being put in such a high profile match with an inexperienced wrestler showed what kind of confidence Vince McMahon had in him. He was a big man who was surprisingly agile, and could even do a moonsault from the top.
Paul Heyman was also a huge fan of Bigelow’s, even giving him a run with the ECW Championship in 1998. Bigelow would make the rounds to all the major promotions during his career. He won the WCW Tag Team Titles on two occasions along with DDP and Chris Kanyon, and he also won the promotion’s Hardcore Championship once as well.
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