There are many tragedies that have happened in the world of professional wrestling, from career-ending botches to unscripted screwjobs. Yet while we get caught up in the mostly fictional storylines on wrestling programming, we often forget how wrestlers can face tragedies in real life.
Many wrestlers struggle with real-life issues, such as drug addiction, nagging pain from their in-ring careers or even diabetes. While the WWE's Wellness Policy and strict medical guidelines are working to reduce the number of health issues its performers face during and after their in-ring careers, that doesn't mean that tragedies don't happen. Wrestlers who were once at the top of their game have faced some of the most heartbreaking scenarios life could ever put in front of them. We at TheSportster would not wish for anyone to go through what some of these wrestlers have gone through.
These tragedies are mostly unexpected or the result of pure accident. A wrestler doesn't plan to battle a health condition, only to lose their lives in the struggle. Many wrestlers have struggled with both physical and mental health conditions that ultimately have cost them their lives. These losses have tugged the heartstrings of many fans around the world who will never make sense of these tragic situations.
It's genuinely difficult to rank some losses as more tragic and heartbreaking than others. Some incidents, however, just left a greater emotional impact. This could be due to a wrestler being at their peak when the incident occurred, a wrestler being an irreplaceable legend or due to the shocking circumstances behind the incident. Whatever the cases may be, here are 15 horrific tragedies that wrestlers encountered outside of the ring.
17 Kamala Suffering With Diabetes
One of the most infamous wrestlers of the 80s and 90s, Kamala was truly recognizable for his gimmick. While his gimmick may not necessarily be as socially acceptable in today's era, he was very popular during his career peak. After his time in the big leagues ended, Kamala would encounter a series of health problems that would eventually force him out of the ring. The culprit? His diabetes.
Kamala's diabetes proved to be much more severe than most cases. Due to his diabetes, he had to have his left leg amputated below the knee in 2011, effectively ending his in-ring career. The following year, his right leg was amputated. He's currently collecting disabilities, and fundraisers have been held to help raise money for his medical costs. However, one notable fundraising effort led by former ECW star Dawn Marie was controversial, as Kamala claimed he never received a check from Marie's organization. Marie claims Kamala returned it.
16 Kharma Suffering A Miscarriage While In WWE
When Kia Stevens, formerly known in TNA as Awesome Kong, finally introduced Kharma to the WWE Universe, fans were stoked. We were finally going to see a woman who helped bring women's wrestling to the next level make an impact on the biggest stage of them all.
Or so we thought.
Weeks after her WWE debut - before she even had an official match - she came out to the ring and announced her pregnancy. Kharma's emotion was genuine; she mentioned that her biggest goal in life was to be a mom. The Bella Twins would eventually come out and taunt her (in pretty disgraceful fashion, I may add). Before Kharma would have her baby, she would have a miscarriage. While she returned to the WWE for the following year's Royal Rumble, she would not get a chance to be pushed like she truly deserved. She would be released to her contract, and rumors suggested she was released due to her struggle to lose weight. Regardless of her weight, she remains one of the most influential female in-ring performers of the last decade.
15 Miss Elizabeth Suffers From An Overdose
There will never be another lady who will carry themselves as gracefully and elegantly as Miss Elizabeth. Most known as the manager of Randy Savage, Elizabeth had the ability to get a crowd behind her by doing so little. She proved that less can easily be more. When she went to WCW, she still managed to keep her character fresh - despite playing a heel throughout a decent portion of her time with the company.
In 2003, she was drinking alcohol and taking pills with Lex Luger. Luger admitted that Elizabeth started to tune out as the night went on. Elizabeth then stopped breathing, and Luger called 911. Elizabeth would be rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. When she passed, the hearts of wrestling fans dropped everywhere. The wrestling world had lost one of its true greats.
14 Junkyard Dog Dies After Leaving His Daughter's Graduation
It's hard to debate that The Junkyard Dog was one of the most popular wrestlers of his generation. He had a gimmick that resonated with the times and was plenty over with the crowd. While he wasn't wrestling as frequently in the late 1990s, he never got some of the opportunities that his peers did. And due to his tragic death in 1998, he will never get those chances.
On the way home from his daughter's high school graduation, Junkyard Dog fell asleep at the wheel and was involved in a single-vehicle collision that killed him. Only in his mid-40s, he still had the potential for one last run, especially during the WWE's Attitude Era. His daughter would die unexpectedly in 2011, making this story even more tragic.
13 The Dynamite Kid's Deterioration
Many say that The Dynamite Kid is one of the best wrestlers of all time. It's hard to debate that, especially since he has been part of many of wrestling's greatest matches. Yet his more athletic style took a toll on his body, and his injuries would prove to haunt him once he was forced into retirement.
Kid was no stranger to injuries during his wrestling career. In the late 90s, he lost the use of his left leg. To this day, he remains in a wheelchair, and he will never be able to walk again. Kid has suffered multiple strokes, and in 2016, his wife launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his medical costs. It's a tragedy for anyone, especially for a performer who is considered to be one of the most influential in the sport's history.
12 Brian Pillman's Undetected Heart Condition
The last year of Brian Pillman's life proved to be an extremely controversial one. Controversy would enter his life in November 1996 with the infamous "Pillman's Got a Gun" segment. Pillman would shout some obscenities on live television that were not edited out, and the WWF ended up apologizing for the entire angle. It was (and remains to this day) a frightening thing to watch unfold.
This controversy would continue with his feud with Goldust, and after his death. Pillman was found dead in his hotel room just outside of Minneapolis hours before the bell time of the WWF's Bad Blood event. The next night, his wife was interviewed on Monday Night Raw. This interview was something that happened way too soon and left many fans uncomfortable.
11 Eddie Guerrero's Unexpected Passing
Perhaps the Minneapolis area is cursed with wrestling deaths, as Pillman was not the only wrestler to pass away near the area. Eight years after Pillman's passing, Eddie Guerrero was found unconscious in his Minneapolis hotel room by his nephew, Chavo. While Chavo tried to perform CPR, paramedics pronounced Eddie to be dead at the scene.
It appeared that Eddie Guerrero was finally getting the recognition that he long deserved. He finally became the WWE's World Champion the year before his passing. Rumors indicate that he was set to win SmackDown's World Championship the evening of his death, too. While Guerrero never got that opportunity, he was inducted into the WWE's Hall of Fame the following year. He would also inspire multiple wrestlers, including Sasha Banks, who was at Smackdown's Minneapolis show the night of his passing.
10 Chris Adams Dies After Altercation With A Friend
Chris Adams may not be the most well-known name among modern wrestling fans. However, it should be noted that he trained both Scott Hall and Stone Cold Steve Austin. He is also credited by many as the inventor of the Super Kick.
In 2001, Adams was in a drunken brawl with a friend. The brawl would eventually escalate into his friend shooting Adams in the chest. The gun shot would contribute to his death, but his friend claimed self-defense. His friend would later be acquitted of all charges related to the death. Around the time of his death, Adams was semi-retired, but he was considering getting more involved with wrestling. It's unfortunate that his life had to end the way that it did, regardless of the circumstances.
9 Chris Candido Passes Away After Leg Injury
When Sunny was inducted into the WWE's Hall of Fame, she made it clear that she got her start in the wrestling business alongside her "underrated" boyfriend, Chris Candido. Sunny's opinions have been controversial over the years, but there was no denying that she was right about her longtime love.
While wrestling for TNA, he suffered a fractured fibula and tibia and had surgery to repair the damage. Despite working the next set of tapings, Candido would fall ill a few days later. Diagnosed with acute pneumonia, doctors drained his lungs, but Candido didn't make it. It was initially reported that his death was the result of a blood clot associated with surgery, but it would be clarified years later that is was from acute pneumonia.
8 Adrian Adonis' Car Crash
"Adorable" Adrian Adonis has an interesting gimmick near the end of his career that would go on to inspire many. The rising star never really got to hit his full stride, however. In 1988, he was in a car with three other wrestlers when the driver of the car swerved to avoid hitting a moose. Blinded by the sun, the car went off the road into a creek.
Adonis, along with the two other passengers in the car, would die from their injuries. Weeks before the fatal crash, Adonis had finished up a tour in Japan. He left behind a wife and two daughters in the United States. His death would proceed the next superstar on this list by two weeks.
7 The Stabbing Of Bruiser Brody Puerto Rico
One of wrestling's first true brawlers, Bruiser Brody is an icon in the sport. He was not afraid to be brutal in the ring. His death, however, would be much more brutal than he would ever get in the ring.
Before Brody was set to have a match, another wrestler, José Gonzalez, called Brody to the shower to have a conversation. After a series of noises were heard throughout the locker room, Tony Atlas found Brody on the ground, covering his stomach. Atlas would look up and see a knife in Gonzalez's hand. Paramedics took nearly an hour to arrive at the scene, and although Atlas helped carry Brody for the paramedics, Brody would pass away hours after the stabbing. Gonzalez was ruled by a jury to be acting in self-defense.
5 The Ultimate Warrior's Last Stand
For years, The Ultimate Warrior's relationship with the WWE was strained. The two parties simply struggled to find a common ground on a wide variety of issues. This would eventually begin to change in the mid-2010s when he began to do public appearances for the WWE for the first time in more than a decade. In 2014, The Ultimate Warrior was the headliner for that year's Hall of Fame class.
On the episode of Raw after WrestleMania XXX, he would cut a promo in front of the crowd. It was his first time appearing on the show since 1996. What no one expected was for that promo - or his appearance on Raw - to be his last. The next day, Warrior passed away as a result of a heart attack. It was so unfortunate to see a long-strained relationship finally be fixed, only for one of the parties to pass away quickly after things were patched up.
4 The Tragic Departure of Randy Savage
Some wrestlers have the chance to patch things up with the WWE during their lifetime (and to have that publicly acknowledged). However, Randy Savage's relationship with the WWE would be strained until his passing. While driving with his wife, Savage had an unexpected heart attack and crashed the vehicle he was driving. The injuries from the crash were minor, yet his heart attack would be the main factor in his passing.
The WWE ended up paying tribute to Savage later in the year, making him a DLC character in its WWE '12 video game. After years of not being included in the WWE's Hall of Fame, Savage would serve as one of the biggest names inducted into the WWE's Hall of Fame in 2015 alongside Kevin Nash. His death, however, is arguably not as tragic as that of his former manager and wife, which we will cover next.
2 The Never-Ending Tragedy Of The Von Erich Family
It's no secret that the Von Erichs are recognized as wrestling royalty. There are very few families that can match up to the greatness produced in that bloodline. Yet the tragedy within the Von Erich family tree is also seen as some of the most heartbreaking in any sport.
The family's matriarch, Fritz Von Erich, out-survived five of his six sons. Three of his sons - Mike, Chris, and Kerry - committed suicide. The other two sons, Jack and David, died from drowning and the inflammation of the small intestine respectively. While the Von Erich bloodline continues to this day, the third generation of competitors has not had the success that their predecessors have. Out of the six sons from the second generation, only one - Kevin Von Erich - remains alive.
1 The Chris Benoit Saga
No one likes talking about this or admitting that it even happened. Not only is it the most tragic real-life incident involving wrestlers, it's also one of the most disturbing.
For those who don't know, Chris Benoit killed his wife, Nancy, and son, Daniel, before eventually killing himself. Benoit had missed the WWE's weekend house shows, stating that Nancy and Daniel were sick. On June 25, 2017, the WWE asked for law enforcement to check in on Benoit and his family. The day prior, Chavo Guerrero and WWE referee Scott Armstrong received a series of mysterious texts from Benoit. Law enforcement then found the bodies of Benoit, Nancy, and Daniel. The WWE has since distanced itself from Benoit in almost any way possible. We can't blame them.