It's not exactly a secret that wrestlers tend to die young, but given the lack of content and air time dedicated to some of WWE's deceased stars, one might think the company would like it to be that way. Quite often, especially in recent years, WWE has chosen to simply ignore the deaths of former employees who had either fallen out of favor with the company or had struggled with drug and painkiller addiction. It's a strategy that makes sense if you're trying to maintain a squeaky-clean image in response to numerous tragedies, but at the same time, it's a slap in the face to the wrestlers and their families - at least in most cases.
Other times, WWE has acknowledged deaths but did so in quite poor taste that perhaps the company adopted the less is more strategy; or better yet, nothing is more. When Brian Pillman died of a heart attack fueled by drug use in his hotel room in 1997, Vince McMahon conducted a somewhat tasteless, awkward, and bizarre interview with his widow Melanie Pillman the following night. Then there's Chyna, who legitimatized the WWE women's division, but fell out of the company's good graces (to put it lightly) in recent years. She was essentially ignored up until her death in 2016, when a tribute video was shown on Raw.
It's a case-by-case basis in regard to who the WWE is going to honor through death. And as much as the company has come around in recent years, there are still several deceased alumnus it pretends never existed.
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15 Chris Benoit
We'll get the obvious ones out of the way early, even if Benoit's inclusion here isn't exactly 100 percent accurate. The WWE did honor the uber-talented Superstar during a Monday Night Raw tribute show following news of his untimely death in 2007. The tribute videos were an incredible homage to a wrestling legend which inspired some real emotion from Superstars such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, Stephanie McMahon, and a grief-stricken Vince McMahon standing alone in the ring in the middle of an empty arena.
The WWE had known Benoit, his wife, and child were all pronounced dead, but didn't have the details of how or why - then they came out. Benoit killed both his wife and son before hanging himself in one of the most shocking wrestler-related incidents ever. Vince later went on The Today Show to discuss the incident, but that was the last time the chairman would speak publicly about Benoit. The Raw tribute show was replaced by a best-of episode on the WWE Network.
14 Nancy Benoit
When Chris Benoit murdered his wife and son, he took away another member of the wrestling circle in Nancy Benoit, who worked in both the WCW and ECW as Woman and Fallen Angel. Originally married to Kevin Sullivan, Benoit first appeared on WCW TV as a fan of Rick Steiner who would always interact with him during his matches, but later turned on him to align with Sullivan and eventually Ric Flair and The Four Horseman. She also managed Sandman in the ECW before returning to WCW where she struck an on- and off-screen relationship with Chris Benoit.
No, she was never a major player in the WWE world, but with the company essentially washing itself clean of the Chris Benoit double murder-suicide, it has made no mention of Nancy's death, other than throughout the original tribute show.
13 Jack Tunney
If you grew up watching WWE in the 1980s, you likely thought Jack Tunney was the company's president and Vince McMahon was no more than an announcer. Not so. Tunney, a Canadian wrestling promoter, was the company's figurehead on-screen President and would often be shown in his office announcing new titles or championship matches. He passed away from heart disease in 2004, but no official mention was made during WWE programming. He has, however, been brought up on occasion by JBL and CM Punk.
But when he died, the WWE made no mention whatsoever on either of its platforms. In fact, it has been reported that none of his wrestling companions attended his funeral. He apparently fell out of favor during his time with the WWE because of his heavy drinking and gambling debts and was let go in 1995.
12 Chris Kanyon
Chris Kanyon was a mediocre wrestler in WCW when the WWE bought his contract along with the purchase of WCW. He achieved moderate success in the WWE, winning the WCW United States Championship and the WWE Tag Team Championship with DDP for a brief 12-day stint. He was also an openly gay wrestler (at least, following his release from WWE) and sued the company, accusing it of denying him health care benefits following a leg injury that hurt his career.
He pushed the idea in the media that the WWE fired him because he was gay, but eventually conceded that it was all a publicity stunt. Though Kanyon battled with depression and bipolar disorder throughout his life ending in a 2010 suicide, the WWE hasn't exactly been proactive in honoring his life. The best he got was a two-sentence press release on the WWE website.
11 Ludvig Borga
Finnish Superstar Ludvig Borga's stint in the WWE was short, but he had some memorable achievements during his time with the company. He is best known for ending Tatanka's undefeated streak in the early 90s and scoring a win over Marty Jannetty at SummerSlam, but his wrestling career ended abruptly after he suffered an ankle injury in a match against Rick Steiner in 1994.
He didn't do much following his wrestling career, other than fighting briefly in the UFC, entering Finland's Parliament in 2007 and calling the country's president a lesbian. Minor things, you know. His 2010 suicide followed years of alcohol-related offenses and a stint in psychiatric care. No mention has been made of his death by the WWE, other than Jim Ross commenting: "Perhaps others have a different view of this man but I personally found him to be somewhat obnoxious and he could be a bully if allowed to be such."
10 Chris Candido
Chris Candido competed in the WWE as one half of The Bodydonnas tag team during the 1990s and won a Tag Team Championship. He was managed by his real-life girlfriend at the time, Tammy Lynn Sytch, and the two were known as Sunny and Skip. He had competed in the ECW and WCW following his brief run in the WWE and then went on to wrestle for TNA, which was where he suffered a leg injury that ultimately led to an untimely death.
After undergoing surgery for a broken tibia and fibula in his leg, Candido fell ill months later and died shortly after as a result of blood clots. Sytch has lashed out in regard to a Candido documentary produced by his brother Johnny, while the WWE has steered clear of remembering the talented athlete. TNA, meanwhile, honored him with the Chris Candido Memorial Tag Team Tournament in August of 2005.
9 Dino Bravo
Of all the ill-timed deaths on this list, that of Dino Bravo has to be the most bizarre and strange. An Italian-Canadian big man, Bravo, born Adolfo Bresciano, was a former WWE World Tag Team Champion who was let go by the company in 1991. Two years later, he was shot 17 times while - of course - watching a hockey game. The reason for his murder? He was related by marriage to Montreal mobster Vic Cotroni and used his power to smuggle illegal cigarettes in Canada.
The still-unsolved murder is believed to be over a deal that angered the mafia, but whatever it was, it was incredibly personal given the 17 shots. His wife and daughter discovered him later that evening. His legend had been carried on by fellow Canadian wrestlers Bret Hart (in his autobiography) and close friend Rick Martel, but the WWE opted not to memorialize the Italian Strong Man.
8 Crash Holly
Michael Lockwood was best known in the WWE as the younger cousin, Crash Holly, to Hardcore Holly. In his first appearances he would bring a scale to the ring to try and prove his 400-pound status despite the fact he was 5-foot-11 and 212 pounds. And though he never reached the heavyweight status he desired, he did have great success in his short career, winning the WWE Hardcore Championship 22 times, albeit most of which were extremely short stints given the 24/7 rule.
He wrestled briefly for TNA following his eventual release from WWE and, in 2003, died of an overdose. He was found in the home of good friend and fellow wrestler Stevie Richards, lying near empty alcohol and pill bottles, as well as a pool of his own vomit. The WWE made no mention of his death, though he was part of a video tribute during ECW One Night Stand in 2005.
Viscera was a loyal and longtime wrestler in the WWE, debuting as Mabel in the early 90s and then being re-packaged as Viscera, part of The Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness, before finally wrestling as Big Daddy V. He was a dominant force as both opposing characters, often entering the Royal Rumble and clearing house as larger than life wrestlers are apt to do. He was released by the company in 2008 and passed away in February 2014 from a heart attack.
The presence of drugs and alcohol were found in his bloodstream, but his death certificate noted morbid obesity was a main cause of death, as well as type 2 diabetes heart damage. His widow, Cassandra Frazier, filed a lawsuit against the WWE in which she claimed they were partially responsible for his death. After not mentioning his death on Raw, WWE gave him a short video tribute the following week, but that was the extent of their efforts to remember the man.
6 Lance Cade
Lance Cade was a rising star in the WWE prior to being released in 2008 in what many have referred to as a big mistake by the company. He was a three-time Tag Team Champion with Trevor Murdoch and was building on a promising singles career prior to the abrupt release. According to Jim Ross, Cade had a seizure on a plane as a result of prescription pill abuse and was subsequently released. Less than two years later, he died from an drug overdose after a failed WWE comeback attempt. He was just 29-years-old.
Wrestlers like Murdoch and Shawn Michaels, who trained Cade throughout his career, spoke about the deceased young man, but nothing officially came from the WWE, despite his one-time rising star status.
5 Doink the Clown
Matt Osborne was best known for portraying Doink the Clown, the evil clown who tormented his rivals such as Bret Hart, Randy Savage, and, most famously, Crush. He was fired for drug-related problems in 1993, but the Doink gimmick transferred over to Ray Apollo, who played him as more of a happy-go-lucky face prankster. Osborne's battle with drug addiction came to a halt in 2013 when he was found dead of a drug overdose.
His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the WWE in 2015, blaming the company for his death by promoting violence and not making Osborne aware of the dangers of repeated blows to the head. The case was since picked up by Kyros Law, a firm representing numerous retired wrestlers in a head injury lawsuits against the WWE.
Part of the famed Anoa'i family, Umaga debuted on-screen in the WWE as Jamal, part of Eric Bischoff's 3-Minute Warning, which were brought out to put an end to matches Bischoff deemed boring. His second go-around with the WWE, as Umaga, was a far more successful venture, with the big man taking main event status and even scoring a PPV win over Ric Flair and winning the Intercontinental Championship twice.
Like many of the wrestlers on this list, he was released after failing consecutive drug tests. The second came in 2009 and, just a few short months later, he was found dead as a result of a lethal mix of painkillers, muscle relaxers, and anti-anxiety medication. WWE released a statement in response to his death, wishing his family and friends well, but made sure to distance themselves from the troubled star.
3 Hercules Hernandez
A big and powerful bodybuilder, Raymond "Hercules" Hernandez never had much success during his run with the WWE in the 1980s, though he did frequently square off against some of the company's best talent such as Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. However, he became a full-time jobber by the early 1990s and eventually left for WCW, where he only lasted a year.
He died at just 47-years-old in 2004. He was found by his wife, and while his family has limited the information made public in regard to his death, it's believed his heart failure was caused by his regular use of enhancement drugs. The WWE did little to memorialize the early WrestleMania fixture, though a Facebook tribute page for Hernandez currently has 7,264 likes.
2 Sean O'Haire
A prominent WCW wrestler who was one-half of the tag team Natural Born Thrillers, Sean O'Haire came to the WWE after the company purchased WCW in 2001. Partnered with Chuck Palumbo in the WWE, the tag team feuded with The Hardy Boys and The APA, but never really rose to prominence. He was released by the company in 2004 and faced numerous personal obstacles, including various arrests for violent altercations.
It's well known that O'Haire battled with depression and alcoholism following his release. His problems became worse in 2009 when he was arrested for choking his girlfriend; two years later he was arrested on battery charges. He entered WWE-sponsored rehab on six separate occasions before committing suicide in 2014. The talented, but troubled athlete was never honored by WWE.
Andrew "Test" Martin was a contentious figure during his time in the WWE. The on-screen boyfriend and fiancé of Stephanie McMahon, Test won numerous titles during his WWE career, but remained primarily a mid-card wrestler. Again, like others before him on this list, he failed a drug test which led to his release in 2007. He was subsequently fired from TNA a year later for the same problem.
He was found motionless by a neighbor in 2009, just four days before his 34th birthday. The cause of death was accidental overdose. Dr. Bennet Omalu, who was portrayed by Will Smith in the film Concussion, found extensive brain damage as a result of repeated blows to the head, noting similarities between Martin and Chris Benoit. Originally, WWE didn't make any mention of Test's death, it did add him to its alumni section on WWE.com in 2013.
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