Those who pursue careers in professional wrestling find themselves in an odd line of work. They spend life on the road, always on the go between towns, and always needing to consider their diets and invest time in the gym to keep their bodies in shape. Wrestlers tend to be consumed with the wrestling business, too, at the expense of their personal lives and connections, or paying much attention to the outside world. Wrestlers think about their gimmicks, their social media presences, and new moves, always with one foot in kayfabe and one foot planted in the real world.
Some people from the wrestling business form connections with coworkers who share all of their assorted business and their travel concerns uniquely suited to the wrestling business. Others live double lives, as a wrestling superstar on the road, and living a quieter personal life at home. In either case, though, if there’s one stereotype that the general public would apply to a professional wrestler, it’s a sense of toughness. These men and women take physical punishment as a job requirement, not to mention needing the mental toughness to take time away from their loved ones.
Of course, there’s no time away from loved ones like when someone loses a significant other. Whether it’s a wife, husband, boyfriend, or girlfriend, there’s no emotional trauma quite like the death of a romantic partner. This article takes a look at 15 individuals who worked in the professional wrestling business who lost a significant other.
20 Lex Luger
For a guy whose legacy doesn’t get a ton of respect from the wrestling community at large, Lex Luger sure as heck had a high profile career. He was a multi-time world champion in WCW in two distinct eras, and a main eventer in WWE too as a flag-waving patriot who rivaled Yokozuna and threatened to fill the void of Hulk Hogan as the face of the company. Nonetheless, its his impressive physique and timing that tend to get most of the credit for his successes, as he’s generally viewed as a limited in ring performer.
In the twilight of Luger’s career, he got together with Miss Elizabeth. The two met in WCW, and though she’s most commonly associated with Randy Savage, her real life relationship with The Macho Man was long over by that point. Luger and Elizabeth got serious, and were reportedly living together when she passed away on account of a poisonous mix of alcohol and painkillers, While Luger may not have been the most popular guy in wrestling circles, you nonetheless have to feel bad for him transitioning out of his full time career as a wrestler, losing his girlfriend, and then suffering from temporary paralysis all within a few year period.
19 Pat Patterson
Give Pat Patterson’s book, Accepted a read, and you’ll see a lot of familiar names pop up of wrestling stars from across generations who Patterson worked with in ring or, all the more so, shaped the destiny of as Vince McMahon’s right hand man when it came to planning the creative direction of his company. One name that is less familiar to fans, but surely not news to people backstage was that of Louie Dondero. Patterson wasn’t particularly secretive about being gay, particularly over the second act of his career as a backstage player, and thus people who worked for WWE largely knew Louie—Patterson’s longtime romantic partner.
Louie passed away in 1998, leaving Patterson on his own. Fortunately, Patterson had his work and his friends and seems to have still found a rich life in the absence of his partner. Still, as the book emphasizes, Louie meant the world to him and left a void when he passed.
16 Dana Brooke
💚My angel, today is the day I see you at ultimate peace rest and happiness!! It would be selfish of me to say u needed to stay we had a lifetime to live, but as I told you before -- if you love someone soo much u want the ultimate best for them!! And God called your name, it was your time, but I thank you so much for giving me the time I have had with you .. Making me the best person I will ever be!! Just promise me u will be next to me every step of the way! I am living my life for you and only you!! Guide me Dallas please !! #rip #angel #angelwings #mylife #dallasmccarver #togetherforever #todayistheday #riseabove
While most of the parties on this list are relative old timers who have retired from wrestling or even passed on themselves, Dana Brooke is still a young, active star for WWE. That makes it all the more tragic that she lost her boyfriend this summer.
Dallas McCarver was a successful bodybuilder who went by the nickname “Big Country.” He was reportedly in good health, who passed on unexpectedly on August 22 after choking on his food while he was eating dinner. Brooke posted an emotional tribute to him on her social media shortly thereafter, offering nothing but praise to her partner and calling him “the best individual I have ever met.” Early reports indicate that McCarver’s death was a fluke accident, with Brooke herself indicating it was a result of choking on food when he was at home alone.
15 Brie Bella
Today, fans known Brie Bella as the wife of Daniel Bryan, one of the best loved figures in WWE history who is still very much alive today and acting as a face authority figure on SmackDown. Earlier in life, however, Bella had a relationship with a man who tragically passed away at the young age of 18.
Bella has spoken about her boyfriend on occasion, and referenced that the experience helped her find spirituality. Fans may notice that she has a tattoo of a bear claw on her lower stomach, and that is in tribute to that boyfriend.
At that time Bella was still six years from starting with WWE, and would go on to relationship with former guitarist of Poison, Richie Kotzen, before ultimately settling down with Bryan.
13 Vickie Guerrero
Vickie Guerrero wasn’t all that famous before her husband, Eddie Guerrero passed away. She had only had one meaningful stint on WWE TV prior to that point, trying to talk sense to her husband when he kayfabe tried to take custody of his kayfabe biological son Dominick, who was (both in reality and kayfabe) being raised by Rey Mysterio.
Little could anyone have guessed that Vickie would wind up a key player in WWE for years to follow. After Eddie passed unexpectedly because of a heart issue, WWE offered her employment. Rumors indicate that she had a job for as long as she wanted it, and was cast as a heel manager and authority figure, who grew into the role and came a pretty terrific character in her own right. Vickie would ultimately leave wrestling to study medical administration and get remarried. After the success of her nearly decade-long run, though, it seems entirely feasible she could one day show up on the WWE landscape again.
11 Kelly Kelly
Kelly Kelly emerged as the face of WWE’s women’s divisions, and the embodiment of a style of booking talent as a beautiful woman with little to no wrestling acumen coming into the business. While she wouldn’t ever be a favorite of hardcore fans, she nonetheless goes down as one of the most attractive women to grace WWE TV and rumors still pop up now and again that she might return to the fold.
Early in her WWE tenure, Kelly was romantically involved with Test, when the two of them worked the ECW brand. By most accounts, their relationship was an off and on one, Kelly spoke emotionally about him after his sudden passing. Years later she would state in interviews that she nearly got back together with him before he passed, and implied that she thought that was the direction they were eventually headed in.
9 Jim Ross
There may be no wrestling broadcaster better loved than Jim Ross, who went from popular WCW play by play man to the voice of WWE’s Attitude Era, and the most credible commentator the company had to offer for years to follow. There are very, very few people who can get the rumor mill going, and legitimately bolster fan excitement from a broadcast position, and Ross is the most obvious of those few still living today.
Unfortunately, Ross’s wife is no longer with him, after she died in a motorcycle accident this spring. The news was all the sadder for coming in shortly after news had leaked that Ross was coming back to call a match at WrestleMania. Fans were pleased that they still did get to hear him. Ross has spoken since about the importance of keeping busy since his wife passed, and that WrestleMania weekend was precisely the kind of opportunity he needed to take his mind off of his late wife.
8 Jim Duggan
Today, Jim Duggan is remembered as a fun loving face who wielded a two by four, and, in the later stages of his career, leaned heavily into a patriotic gimmick, that saw him waving the American flag and acting as a gatekeeper for heel foreigners en route to the main event.
Duggan’s career stretched much earlier than the 1980s and 1990s WWE work he’s best remembered for, though. He started wrestling in the late 1970s, and had a solid run with Bill Watts’s Mid-South territory in the 1980s. During that time, tragedy befell when he got into a car accident that he’s only spoken about on occasion. The accident involved a woman he was reportedly dating at the time in Louisiana and tragically resulted in her death. Fortunately, Duggan emerged from the accident OK and would not only have a long career ahead of him, but go on to marry and have children.
7 Jimmy Snuka
Jimmy Snuka was a unique attraction in his era. He had a spectacular look as a jacked up wild man, but he was also a skilled worker and an impressive athlete with his Superfly Splash—especially impressive when he unleashed it from the top of a steel cage opposite Bob Backlund, and later Don Muraco.
Snuka may well have been a top star when WWE underwent its national expansion, but it makes sense enough that WWE cooled on him. In 1983, his girlfriend Nancy Argentino was found dead in Snuka’s hotel room. At the time, the death was deemed accidental, but suspicions persisted over time that Snuka was responsible for her death, until the case was reopened in 2013. In the end, Snuka was deemed unfit to stand trial and passed away before the matter was fully resolved.
6 Stu Hart
Stu Hart is a legend of Canadian wrestling and, for a younger generation, best known as a trainer of champions and the patriarch of the great Hart wrestling family. For WWE fans of the 1990s, he may be most memorable for his recurring on screen role with WWE to cheer on his son Bret. In those days, Stu always had his wife Helen by his side, and the two looked like nothing short of wrestling royalty.
The pair’s marriage stood the test of time and they reached old age together. Sadly, it would be Helen who passed on before her husband, leaving the tough old man all by his lonesome. Bret has written about his father and how the death of Helen really seemed to take the last of his spirit out of him. He’d live on for two more years, a shell of his former self, before following his wife in passing on himself.
5 Harley Race
Harley Race is remembered as a tough as nails legend of the wrestling business, and one of the most iconic NWA World Champions of all time. He followed that up with a run as The King in WWE—a not as celebrated period in his career, but nonetheless a time when he got additional exposure at a national level. He’d follow up with a memorable run as a manager in WCW, most notably backing Vader as a world champ in the early 1990s.
Fans wouldn’t necessarily think of Race as a ladies man, but he was married three times.
Sadly, he's lost two of his three wives to death. He married his first wife Vivian in 1960, but she died five weeks later in a car crash, where Race himself almost lost a leg.
After divorcing his second wife, Race got married for a third time in 1995 to B.J. Race, who was a VP of the Commerce Bank in Kansas City. She sadly passed away because of complications related to pneumonia.
Race is still alive today. Though his time having an active role in the wrestling business has passed, he still makes occasional appearances at autograph signings and the like.
Sunny broke into the world of professional wrestling alongside her high school sweetheart Chris Candido. A number of wrestling love stories may have started in similar fashion, but few would go like this one—with the twosome making it to the bright lights of WWE and later WCW, and with them staying together through their well over a decade spent in the business. Of course, there’s also the tragic ending to consider.
To be fair, Sunny and Candido probably helped one another in more or less equal measure. Were Candido not a special talent who earned opportunities in high profile indies en route to WWE, Sunny may not have amounted to more than a regional pretty face on the wrestling landscape. And were it not for Sunny’s emergence as a charismatic sex symbol, it’s questionable whether Candido would have continued to get opportunities and enjoy his current level of notoriety. Sadly, Candido passed at the age of 33, facing complications related to a surgery and acute pneumonia. While Sunny would remain something of a sports entertainment icon and continue to make appearances, she’d never again have a sustained role on the national stage after her long-time partner passed.
3 Brian McGhee
Brian McGhee may not be a household name, but there was a time when he looked to be a young star on the rise. As DT Porter, he was signed to a developmental contract with WWE for a period of years, though he never did wind up making it to the main roster.
While most of the people on this list lost their partners to old age, illness, or accident, and we can have sympathy for them, McGhee’s case is different. McGhee purportedly punched his then-girlfriend Bianca McGaughey in the stomach in front of witnesses, and was then accused of stabbing her to death. There were no eye witness accounts of the actual stabbing, but McGhee reportedly confessed to it, making the murder an open and shut case.
2 Verne Gagne
For a certain generation of fans, particularly based in the Midwest, Verne Gagne was wrestling, as the top star and promoter of the AWA who broke from the National Wrestling Alliance and gave WWE a run for its money for a brief spell. The much celebrated wrestler won world championships and was faithfully married for over 50 years to his wife Mary.
Sadly, Mary’s death would predate Verne’s by six years, when she passed, reportedly due to complications related to colon cancer surgery. Verne’s own health—in particular his mental capacities would deteriorate, highlighted by a much publicized incident in which he was responsible for another man’s death in the nursing home. No charges were filed on account that he was deemed mentally unfit to be charged for the crime at hand.
1 Jeff Jarrett
After a rock solid career in the Memphis territory, followed by strong mid-card runs with WWE and WCW, Jeff Jarrett would emerge as a main event talent in the dying days of WCW. From there, he’d launch what was in some senses his second career as a promoter, launching and heading up TNA before he’d eventually leave and found GFW, only to merge his two enterprises and preside over all of it.
Jarrett met his wife Jill when they were still in high school, and the two would end up having three children together before she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a nearly decade long struggle, she passed in 2007. In the aftermath, Jarrett would wind up connecting with Kurt Angle’s ex-wife Karen, and married her in 2010.