Wrestlers are human. It may not seem it sometimes, but they are. Family life is a constant for them although more than a few have suffered over the years. The wrestling landscape is littered with broken marriages and it’s damn hard for a guy to keep faithful during his time in the business. That takes its toll, especially on children. Wrestling can be rough as more than a few guys are naturally inspired to get into the business for their dads. A few can rise up higher, others fall under their dad’s shadow and it results in a lot of pressure being put on a kid living up to their parent’s legacy. Some dedicate themselves to a late father who they have lost. Dustin and Cody Rhodes clearly want to live up to the legacy of father Dusty and shine well.
But sometimes, it’s the other way around. Sometimes, fate can be downright cruel and rob a wrestler of a child before their time. Sometimes, it’s as kids, other times it’s when they’re grown. But it always hurts. Accidents, overdoses or just sheer fluke, it happens too often and it's a tragedy when it does. It takes a strong person to bury their own child and be able to move on afterward. Here are 15 wrestlers who suffered this horrible loss and amazing how many fell victim to such tragedies.
15 Gorilla Monsoon
Born Robert James Marella, Monsoon got his nickname for his burly build and harsh actions in the ring. He was a top notch heel in his time, often challenging for the WWWF title and clashing with the various heroes. After retiring, Monsoon moved into commentating and soon an icon for WWE programming. His banter with Bobby Heenan was glorious to listen to as fans loved hearing them play off each other. Monsoon even got a bit as WWE “President” to be a winner with fans.
His son, Joey, decided to be a ref instead, doing a good job calling some big matches in WWE and he and his dad got along well. Tragically, in 1994, Joey fell asleep at the wheel during a long drive and was killed in a car wreck. Monsoon faded a bit afterward, as he passed on in 1999 and many felt he was never the same after the loss of his son.
14 Paul Vachon
The Vachon name is a revered one in Canada. This clan of workers were adept playing wild men but backed it up with great in-ring action and often riveting promos. The most famous is “Mad Dog” with his long run in the AWA but Paul got them all started as “The Butcher”, a fantastic heel who would terrify fans with bloody battles. He and brother Maurice (Mad Dog) held the AWA tag titles several times while both amazing stars. Paul was the adoptive father of Gertrude who became more famous as Luna Vachon. With her half-shaven head, punk style and nutty behavior, Luna was a favorite in WWE, working programs with Bam Bam Bigelow and others.
A sadly troubled woman, Luna finally succumbed to her addictions, found dead of a drug overdose in 2010. Paul has suffered a stroke and other issues but still around yet sad to see this furious figure brought low.
13 The Iron Sheik
Unlike many “foreign” heels, Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri was actually born in Iran. A champion wrestler for his native country, he moved to America and soon a top notch heel with his act. He shocked the world in 1983 by ending Bob Backlund’s six-year run as WWE champion only to lose it to Hulk Hogan a month later. Winning the tag titles, the Sheik was famed for his strength and act. He’s since gone on to achieve fame as basically a raving lunatic whose Twitter rants are a joy to read. But he’s quiet on how he suffered a severe personal loss as his eldest daughter, Marissa, was strangled by her boyfriend in 2003. Some remark this might have helped push Sheik to his insane edge and it's a shame a man who played the hated villain suffered a true tragedy.
12 Ric Flair
One of the single greatest legends in the business, Flair in his prime was sensational. He could take anyone to a 60 minute battle and look great, always a top heel and a great champion. He was more impressive given how he could do all this despite a party lifestyle that would wear out rock stars. Ric handled things in WCW even as they pushed son David as a big star despite him clearly not able to lace his dad’s boots. Flair soon settled into the role of a beloved elder figure and icon for fans. But in 2013, he suffered a brutal loss as his son Reid died of a drug overdose.
It was a hard loss for him and many were stunned when WWE actually had it brought up in a storyline between Paige and Charlotte two years later. To throw a personal tragedy into a cheap story seemed a tasteless move as fans want to remember the Nature Boy and his son better than that.
11 Bill DeMott
Better known as Hugh Morrus in WCW, DeMott had a decent career as a tough guy worker. He got his time in WWE and did okay as a hard guy in the ring but able to take bumps. Moving into a backstage role, DeMott was soon a trainer, including NXT. But DeMott was soon in hot water with reports of his tactics in training including hazing guys, encouraging fights, bullying and using a variety of terrible slurs. It got to be too much with various complaints until he was finally fired. So DeMott’s standing amid these charges is hard to back up.
Yet you do need to feel sympathy as in 2015, his daughter, Keri, was killed in a car accident because of a drunk driver. While you can yell a lot about what DeMott did, losing his daughter isn’t something he deserved, no matter his actions.
10 Jimmy Hart
Jimmy Hart hasn't discussed this much on a public forum, but he did speak about it briefly during the WWE Network show Legends' House. While confiding in Tony Atlas, Hart revealed that his daughter had passed away about a year prior to the show filming and that he hadn't even told many of his close friends. Throughout the show, Jimmy Hart got teased in the house, partly due to being the smallest guy, but in light of the news he shared, Atlas praised Hart for staying so brave and so strong in such a bad time, saying "the smallest guy in the house is the toughest."
There was no doubt that in that moment, the wrestlers showed their human side, as they all consoled Hart immediately after learning of his daughter's passing.
9 Stu Hart
A fantastic wrestler, Stu Hart is better known for being one of the best trainers in all of wrestling. His Dungeon is infamous for its brutal methods but it worked out as he turned out some of the best guys in the business. Also a top-notch promoter, Stu put Stampede on the map big time and boosted the entire Canadian business up majorly. He also had several top stars in his own family, the biggest being Bret. However, Owen was also a terrific star and amazing worker who was beloved for his personality as well as his talent. Which was why it was so shocking when he died in a freak accident in 1999. Stu never blamed Vince for it as he was a promoter himself and knew the risks of an accident.
But it weighed heavily as well as the loss of son Dean to cancer in 1990. When Stu himself passed, his family noted it was for the best to finally be with his son and leave so much pain behind.
James Harris should be credited for making a seemingly nutty act work for so long. Kamala was a huge star in his time, his large belly and painted face making him look perfect as an “African savage.” He backed it up by being better in the ring than one would think, even able to take off the ropes. Kamala worked great in Texas and other areas and runs in WWE as well where he fit in with their cartoonish antics. Sadly, he has been hit by severe health issues over the years and had to have a leg amputated for blood loss.
Just to make things more tragic, his WWE run in 1993 was cut short when his sister and her stepdaughter were murdered. Then in 2005, Harris was at his son’s bedside when the 35-year old passed on from AIDS. For a man who acted the savage, this is a noble soul not deserving of any of this.
7 Bob Armstrong
“Bullet Bob” is better known for his children than his own work in the ring. He was a top notch promoter, especially in the Continental area, a big star with a great promo style and terrific as a face holding fans high. He earned the “Bullet” name wearing a mask to cover up a bad facial injury from weightlifting. Armstrong soon had his sons in the business in various ways. The most famous was James who became better known as Road Dogg in WWE and TNA as a huge star and multiple tag team champion. Brad had some good runs in WCW as a light heavyweight champion but his small size worked against him along with some bad booking. He eventually settled into a backstage role in WWE, training workers while handling himself. In 2012, he was found dead of an apparent heart attack. Bob mourned him and while it was just one son gone, it still ranks as a hard loss for the Bullet.
6 Larry The Axe Hennig
Most second-generation wrestlers are in the shadow of their fathers but Curt Hennig surpassed his. Larry Hennig was a long-running star in the AWA as “the Axe,” known for his hard work in the ring and great elbow smash finisher. He even enjoyed a year-long reign as AWA champion. Curt started off as a clean-cut babyface, often teaming with his father to face heels. But Curt turned heel himself as AWA champion to become much better. He then moved to WWE as Mr. Perfect to be a two-time IC champion and a huge star. While hampered by back issues, Curt continued his run in WCW as US champ and various other places, loved for his great style and promo work.
But Curt was affected by drug addictions that took their toll and in 2003, passed on of heart failure brought about by them. Larry had to be the one paying tribute to his son on DVDs and it’s not right Curt had to outdo his father in who went to the grave first.
5 Ricky Romero
Ricky Steamboat is well regarded as one of the greatest wrestling stars ever with multiple championships as a singles star. But Steamboat has long claimed the best part of his career with his partnership with Jay Youngblood. They worked together great, holding the NWA tag titles several times and fantastic feuds with the Briscoes and others. Youngblood was the son of Ricky Romero, a top draw in Texas, loved by ethnic fans for his fun style and terrific charisma. He was called the biggest star in the Rocky Mountains to shine more. Retiring, he didn’t mind his son taking on a Native American act as it led to huge stardom. However, Youngblood died in 1984 of heart attack brought about by drug use. Ricky himself would live until 2006 and always proud of his son’s stardom.
4 Tommy Gilbert
This is a case where the second generation was clearly better than the first. Tommy Gilbert was an okay wrestler, not a huge star but still a good guy to follow in the old territory days. Much bigger was son Eddie, one of the best heels of his time. A fantastic talker who backed it up with top notch work, Gilbert was a star for Mid-South/UWF where his Hot Stuff Inc group ran roughshod over the faces. In Memphis, he had a long feud with Jerry Lawler from fireballs to running Lawler over with a car.
Gilbert was also a top-notch booker, coming up with great angles for the territory and always a hot star. However, Eddie was hit by drug issues which harmed things, such as his issues stemming from a 1983 car accident that damaged his chest. Eddie Gilbert passed on from a heart attack in 1995.
3 Perro Aguayo Sr.
Coming out in the 1970s, Perro soon rose high as one of the hottest workers in Mexico. A tough guy, he could do some great technical work and held himself well in various matches. The last major rival to the iconic El Santo, Perro clashed with various men and a huge box office attraction. It was natural his son, Perro Jr., would follow in his footsteps. In many ways, he outdid his father with gripping stuff like leading an “invasion” of CMLL that was one of the hottest stories in all of Mexico.
But on March 20, 2015, Perro Jr suffered a bad kick during a tag team match. He was knocked out with wrestlers realizing he wasn’t faking. He was raced to the hospital but found dead of a broken neck which led to cardiac arrest. It was a shocking loss as even rival AAA paid tribute to Perro Jr. Thus, his father’s legacy is shadowed by such a brutal loss.
2 Jimmy Valiant
“The Boogie Woogie Man” was a major winner for fans in the 1970s and ‘80s. He started off as a heel in the Northeast, often harsh and brutal but fans still took to him. So, he switched to a babyface and that got him much bigger fame. With his long beard and fun antics, Valiant got fans going with kids loving cheering him on. He was good in the ring but better with his dancing and nutty style that never failed to fire a crowd up. Valiant loved bits like if “suspended,” he would come out as a masked worker despite his one-of-a-kind beard. Even into the 1990s, Valiant was out there performing and still hits the convention circuit to talk to fans, still boasting that elaborate beard.
He has been married several times with a total of three children and six grandchildren. Rhonda, from his second marriage, passed on in 2016 at the age of 50. So while he played the laughing guy, the Boogie Woogie Man has known pain.
1 Fritz Von Erich
There’s a lot to be said about Fritz Von Erich, a lot of it bad. The man was hard-edged and brutal with talent. Many have argued that he didn’t help his family out with covering for his sons’ obvious addictions and making sure to push them so hard. It’s even felt that his actions are what led to so many tragedies. But in no way should a man have to bury five sons before himself. He lost young Jack when the boy was only five in a freak accident. Fritz pushed his sons to make World Class a success but it cost them. The worst had to be Mike, who was never right for the business and nearly died of toxic shock syndrome but Fritz pushed him back to the ring hard.
Yet the tragedies are high: David of a probable drug overdose while Mike, Kerry and Chris were suicides. To have lost all that before his own death is a horrible thing and even as bad as Fritz might have been, you have to feel for him enduring so much heartache.