Unfortunately, pro wrestling is not a profession which tends to correlate with a long life-expectancy. While the situation has improved drastically in recent years, it was all too apparent a decade ago that wrestlers, much like football players, have a lower life expectancy than those from other professions. For that reason, many of the names listed in this article could potentially leave us in 2018 due to their age and health concerns.
WWE has done a lot to reverse the premature death crisis in wrestling. Their decision to pay for all rehab of former employees has been fantastic and there has been a significant decrease in overdose-related deaths of former wrestlers since it went into effect. Granted, there have still been wrestlers, such as Chyna, who have succumbed to addiction-related deaths in recent years, but the number is considerably lower than it used to be. WWE has also instituted a Wellness Policy to catch wrestlers developing problems before they start. While it is impossible to tell for sure, it seems likely this policy has saved many lives as well.
Despite all the positive changes we have seen, however, wrestlers are not immortal and before 2018 is over, a few more will leave us.
In 2016, Vader was involved in a serious car crash. While being evaluated following the accident, doctors discovered Vader had a congestive heart failure. They only gave the big man two years to live. If those doctors are correct, Vader won’t make it out of the next calendar year.
Younger fans will only remember Vader by his later years in WWE or even WCW. Vader made his biggest mark in pro wrestling by far in Japan. In 1987, Vader defeated Antonio Inoki and nearly caused a riot to ensue. The sumo hall in which the match was held ended up banning pro wrestling for two years as a result of damage done by rioting fans. Vader would also win the WCW Championship but failed to crack the main events scene in WWE. Speculation indicates that Shawn Michaels and the Kliq prevented this from happening.
Jim Harris, aka Kamala, has endured serious health problems in recent years. In November 2017, it was reported that Harris was on life support in a Mississippi Hospital intensive care unit. He underwent emergency surgery to clear fluid from his lungs and heart. Doctors were forced to put him on life support as a result of complications due to the surgery. Thankfully, it was later reported that he was breathing on his own and while he remained in the intensive care unit, he no longer required life support. While he is currently doing better, you have to wonder how many more health scares the 67-year-old will be able to withstand.
In November 2011, complications due to high blood pressure and diabetes led to the amputation of Harris’ left leg. The same conditions would lead to the amputation of his right leg in 2012.
13. Abdullah The Butcher
Considering he has spent the majority of his 76 years on the planet being overweight, with hepatitis, and being involved in brutal hardcore wrestling matches, it’s pretty surprising that Abdullah the Butcher is still reported to being in decent health these days. Despite this, it is hard not to put him on a list of wrestlers who might pass away in 2018.
Unfortunately for those who think Abdullah’s “Madman from the Sudan” gimmick was awesome, some serious accusations have been lobbied against the performer who portrayed him, Lawrence Robert Shreve. It is said that Abdullah knowingly spread Hepatitis C to other wrestlers through sharing blades. He was sued for this by wrestler Devon Nicholson to the tune of $2.3 million for knowingly infecting him with it. Superstar Billy Graham was said to be furious at Abdullah’s Hall of Fame induction in 2011 and you can’t blame him.
12. Iron Sheik
Iron Sheik shouldn’t be alive now let alone by the time 2018 is finished. The loveable yet wildly offensive Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri is now 75 years old. That’s a hard 75 also. That is 75 years with a large percentage of them being spent on the road with other professional wrestlers. “Sheiky Baby” is one of those wrestlers from the 1980s who you hear stories about and assume they can’t possibly be true. Tales of his alcohol and drug use rival those of Ric Flair, Scott Hall or even Jake Roberts. Yet for some reason, with the Iron Sheik, it never feels like he’s at death’s door like it did for the three previously mentioned wrestlers.
Still, a 75-year-old wrestler from the 1980s which such a track record must appear on such a list, even if he does seem to be immortal.
11. Johnny Rodz
Hall of Famer, Johnny Rodz, will turn 80 in a few months, making him one of the oldest wrestling legends still alive. Vince McMahon will make sure there is mention of Rodz on WWE programming when he does pass away (assuming he is not immortal). Rodz predates Vince Jr. in WWE, having started working for Vince Sr. in 1965. He would wrestle against Bob Backlund for the WWF Championship inside the famed Madison Square Garden and was a big heel during this era.
Rodz had already been with the company for four years by the time Vince Jr. began working as a commentator. His last match in WWE was against the Great Gama Singh, who is Jinder Mahal’s uncle. Rodz also trained several wrestlers, such as Taz and Tommy Dreamer and current talents such as Enzo and Cass – who would go on to have great careers as well.
10. Billy Graham
Speaking of “Superstar” Billy Graham, he won the WWF Championship back when that was something only a couple of wrestlers would do in a decade. He’s also a 74-year-old man who had a liver transplant over 15 years ago. In 2010, Graham was back in hospital again due to further liver problems. He even purchased a burial site in the same cemetery where Eddie Guerrero is buried.
Graham just keeps on living, however. His health has been further complicated by Hepatitis C, resulting in doctors giving him only two years to live in 2012. He was back in hospital in 2013 twice, once for pneumonia and another time because of liver problems again. Yet Graham keeps on living. He had surgery in 2016 to clear internal bleeding but again continues to out-live doctors expectations.
9. J.J. Dillon
J.J. Dillon is 75-years-old and spent a lot of time on the road with Ric Flair. Those two things combined means Dillon might not have a lot of time left on this planet.
Although he is perhaps best remembered for his time as the manager of the Four Horsemen, Dillon was an accomplished wrestler himself during his day. In fact, Dillon is a former NWA Florida Heavyweight Champion and a former NWA Macon Heavyweight Champion in Georgia. It was his ability on the microphone that separated him from the rest, however. Even after the glory days of the Four Horsemen had faded, Dillon still had a major role in WCW as Commissioner.
He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012 along with other members of the famous Four Horsemen stable.
8. Mil Máscaras
75-year-old Mil Mascaras is one of the oldest living members of the WWE Hall of Fame. For that reason, he has to be included in any list of wrestling legends who might pass away in 2018.
The legendary luchador has made some enemies throughout his lengthy career. He has received criticism from wrestlers such as Mick Foley, Chris Jericho, Billy Graham, and John Bradshaw Layfield for his perceived ego. Most notably, wrestlers who have worked with him claim he is unwilling to sell moves for other wrestlers to make them look strong. He’s also said to be completely unwilling to do jobs.
Despite his unpopularity in the business, fans have loved him throughout his career. His nephew, Alberto El Patron, is currently wrestling for Impact Wrestling.
7. Bushwhacker Butch
When the Bushwhackers were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015, it was touch and go if Butch would be on hand to accept his induction in person. According to his longtime tag-team partner, Butch has had numerous health problems over the years. Now 73-years-old, it’s possible we lose Butch sometime in 2018.
Bushwacker Luke has told a story of Butch being in really bad health around 2002 and having to have a long stay in the ICU. Luke neglected to go into detail about what caused his partner’s long hospital stay but whatever it was it happened again in 2010. Anything which requires a long stay in the ICU could be fatal for someone who is now 73 years old. The popular New Zealander team was a big hit on WWF’s tag-team scene in the 1980s.
6. Bob Armstrong
The patriarch of the Armstrong family is 78-year-old “Bullet” Bob Armstrong and he could be a legend fans say goodbye to in 2018. While there is nothing to say the father of Road Dogg Jesse James is in ill-health, however, he’ll be close to 80 by the time 2018 is up. For wrestlers of his era, living until 80 is like living to be 100.
All four of Armstrong’s sons would grow up to be professional wrestlers. Aside from the Road Dogg, Armstrong’s sons often wrestled as jobbers, leading to fans referring to an “Armstrong Family Curse”. His oldest son, Scott, worked as a referee for WWE. Scott Armstrong also works backstage for the company in a producer’s role nowadays. “Bullet” Bob Armstrong was inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
5. Bill Watts
Cowboy Bill Watts is both one of the most respected and hated bookers in the history of professional wrestling. The 78-year-old was given the booking reigns in both WWE and WCW – though he ultimately clashed heads with both Vince McMahon and Ted Turner as a result. Watts will also be almost 80 by the time 2018 is up.
Watts gets credit for having an old-school mentality when it comes to pro wrestling. This has earned him praise by many in the business. It has also earned him an arguably greater amount of criticism. Many have criticized him over the years for pushing his son, Eric Watts, over more talented and deserving stars. To be fair, however, nearly ever promoter from his era is guilty of doing something similar. Even Vince McMahon gets criticized for doing this today with Shane and Stephanie today.
4. Harley Race
An NWA legend, Race grew a reputation for being as big a bad ass in the ring than he was outside of it, just ask Hulk Hogan about that said statement. He was a legend inside of the squared circle and many question why we haven’t seen him as much in the last couple of years, sadly, health concerns and a recent injury is the main motive for his recent absence.
Sports Illustrated recent ran an article discussing his current health status. Race recently broke two of his legs, which is absolutely terrible given his age. Despite the terrible injury, Race remained positive that he would be able to fully recover soon enough. However, like Flair and some of his other NWA alums, he lived quite the life outside of the ring, making his age of 74 a lot older than an average 74 year old.
3. Pedro Morales
Former Champion Pedro Morales is 75-years-old and is said to be suffering from an advanced case of Parkinson’s Disease.
Morales was a huge star in the 1970s and the first ever winner of WWE’s prestigious Triple Crown. Much like Bruno Sammartino had appealed to the Italian fans during his day, Morales did the same with Puerto Rican fans, who would often wave Puerto Rican flags while their favorite wrestler made his way to the ring.
After retiring from in-ring competition in 1987, he worked various jobs in the wrestling business including as a Spanish commentator in WCW. It wasn’t long after WWE created their Hall of Fame in 1993 that Morales would be inducted. Morales, along with the Fabulous Moolah and George “the Animal” Steele, were part of the second ever full class of inductees in 1995.
2. Dynamite Kid
When you assess the current state of elder wrestlers, Dynamite Kid might be one of the absolute worse. He’s undergone several health complications in the last couple of decades starting way back in the late 90s when both leg and back issues became nagging concerns. He was eventually forced into a state of paralysis, unable to walk and if that wasn’t bad enough, suffering from a serious spine issue as well later. His family filed a lawsuit against the WWE joining the class action suit against the company.
Not even in his 60s yet, Kid appears as though he’s in his late 80s nowadays which is truly terrible. We wouldn’t be shocked if he doesn’t live past 2018 given his poor health that seems to be getting worse.
1. Ric Flair
At only 68 years of age, Ric Flair is the youngest person to appear on this list but as recent history suggests, there is only so much any human body can withstand. It’s not that 68 is old, it’s that Flair has lived a very hard 68 years.
In 2017, Flair was hospitalized and in a medically induced coma. Much of the wrestling community assumed it would be the last we would see of Ric. Kicking out from a near-fall with death is such a Ric Flair thing to do and seemingly he could do it a hundred more times before we really do lose him.
If something happens and 2018 is Ric Flair’s last year on the planet, what a career and life he has led. Now, with Charlotte Flair carrying on his legacy in truly epic fashion, Flair’s influence on the business is felt more now than ever.
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