A lot has been made over the years about the amount of wrestlers who’ve lost their lives at an earlier age, for good reason. For those of us above the age of thirty, too many of the performers we enjoyed as we grew up are tragically no longer with us. While some of those folks, like Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero, received a great deal of attention when they died, there are some wrestlers whose untimely demise went by with little to no fanfare. That is why we’re here to inform or remind you of some of the wrestlers who you don’t realize have passed away.
To qualify for this list, it isn’t important what facet of the business you worked in, including actually performing in-ring, interviewing, announcing, and managing, all that matters is that you achieved notoriety in the industry. Also, keep in mind that we can’t assure you that all of our readers will be unaware of these deaths, as everyone’s knowledge base varies, but we are willing to bet most will find some entries surprising.
16 The Wall
A standout from the final years of WCW’s existence, this talent was first introduced as a bodyguard for Berlyn, a dark and gothic rebranding of a former dancing wrestler, Das Wunderkind, Alex Wright. Striking an imposing figure while wearing dress pants, a shirt, and a tie, The Wall, as he was then known, quickly became feared because of his vicious choke slams. Remaking himself soon thereafter as a member of The Misfits in Action, he was rechristened Sgt. A.W.O.L. which shockingly (read sarcasm) wasn’t much of a boon to his career. Eventually signing a developmental deal with the WWE after they bought out the company he was working for, he requested a release to deal with personal issues.
Spending his final years wrestling as Malice in TNA and Gigantes in All Japan, he came close to winning the NWA Heavyweight title on multiple occasions. Found unconscious in his hotel room by several people who went there to check on him, he was rushed to a local hospital. Pronounced dead on arrival, his cause of death was ultimately concluded to be a heart attack.
15 Axl Rotten
Remembered best as a member of ECW’s roster, Axl Rotten was seen by many as a major cog in the success of the company. A former short-term employee of WCW, where he befriended his future boss Paul Heyman, Axl and Ian Rotten, otherwise known as The Bad Breed, joined ECW in 1993. Taking part in the company’s tag division until they started to blame one another for their failures, the two men started arguably the most violent feud in ECW history. Working in gimmick matches like a “Taipei death match” and a "barbed wire baseball bat, barbed wire chair" match to name just two, the pair shed each other’s blood for the fan’s enjoyment. Next creating a tag team with Ball Mahoney, known as The Hardcore Chair Swingin’ Freaks, the pair brought the pain where ever they went, which included a couple of WWE appearances.
Sadly found dead inside a McDonald's bathroom in February of 2016, his cause of death was ruled an accidental heroin overdose. Only ten hours prior to his demise he posted a final message to his fans on Twitter; "The way I do things may not be the way you do things but you will find out there is only 1 way. My away!
14 Crash Holly
One of the most hilarious members of the WWE’s Attitude Era roster, Crash was introduced to television as a family member of one of the sternest-seeming wrestlers ever, Hardcore Holly. Carrying an old school scale to the ring with him, Crash would proudly proclaim that he weighed in excess of four hundred pounds, something anyone with eyes knew to be false. After their run as a tag team went nowhere, Crash won the title that would define his career, the Hardcore Championship. Opening up competition to anyone accompanied by a ref, no matter the time of day or location, the audience got to see new clips each week of Crash being attacked in a variety of locales. Whether it was in an airport or anywhere else, The Houdini of Hardcore as he came to be known would usually escape with his belt in tow. Sometimes losing his championship and gaining it back in a matter of minutes, these clips resulted in Crash winning the Hardcore Championship an incredible twenty-two times.
Found dead after a night of partying at his friend Stevie Richard’s house, he had taken a number of pills and drank a great deal of alcohol. Ultimately ruled to have died by suicide, the man once known as Crash suffocated on his own vomit in a grisly death we shudder to imagine.
13 Mike Awesome
A highly controversial man in the wrestling industry, Mike Awesome’s career seems to have fallen victim to a single, highly-discussed decision. A veteran of All Japan and Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling at one time, Mike joined ECW and was turned into a brutal giant. Known for his Awesome Bomb, which involved power bombing someone over the ropes and onto a table at the side of the ring, he would eventually be given a run as the Champ. Then, he made the decision that would define his legacy, jumping to WCW while still holding ECW’s heavyweight belt. Forced to lose the belt to Tazz, a member of WWE’s roster at the time, it is the only time a WWE performer won an ECW title from a WCW performer. Given a series of awful gimmicks in WCW, Mike would briefly be brought in by the WWE when they bought the company but didn’t amount to much. Returning to the WWE one more time at ECW One Night Stand, he had the match of the night in many people’s eyes which resulted in the boos he came out to turning into a standing ovation.
Found by a group of his friends inside his home less than two years later, Mike committed suicide by hanging himself. Only forty-two years old at the time, his loss was acknowledged by the WWE on their version of ECW and on their website.
12 Lance Cade
A former student of Shawn Michaels, Lance Cade would eventually become best known for his work in tag teams for the WWE. Larger than fellow HBK trainees Daniel Bryan and Brian Kendrick, he seemed like the one who fit the WWE best of the three. Teaming with Mark Jindrak before being repackaging as half of a redneck team with Trevor Murdoch, Cade and Murdoch made a huge impact on the tag division. Winning the titles together three separate times, there was an undeniable chemistry between the two workers. Ending his time in the WWE as a part of an alliance with Chris Jericho, it seemed as though his bosses had confidence in him before he reportedly made a “major league mistake” and was released from his contract.
Said to have looked bad in the week before he died, he checked himself out of a hospital the day after he was admitted due to difficulty breathing. Passing away of heart failure at the far too young age of twenty-nine, many felt he may get another chance at major success, which could never come to pass.
11 Sean O’Haire
Looking like someone was born to work for Vince McMahon, Sean O’Haire fell way short of expectations. Starting out his career in the WCW training school known as the Power Plant, he was brought onto their television as part of a tag team with Mark Jindrak. Founding members of The Natural Born Thrillers faction, Sean would eventually start teaming with Chuck Palumbo instead. Placed into a feud with Kevin Nash and DDP, both of whom were confirmed main eventers, it was evident that both were being positioned to become big stars. After his contract was bought out by the WWE, Sean’s run with the company is best remembered for his association with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Grappling with alcohol addiction, it has been reported that he spent time in rehab programs multiple times on the WWE’s dime but couldn’t conquer his demons. Yet another former wrestler who committed suicide, Sean’s body was found by his father hanging from a bedpost.
10 Brian Adams
A wrestler that worked for New Japan, All Japan, and Pacific Northwest Wrestling, Brian was christened Crush in 1990 and became the third member of Demolition. Thrust into a legendary tag team he played his part until the day the team disbanded and got to be a part of their third and final run as tag team champions. After he was turned into a character that fit in with the cartoony trend of the time, a surfer, he would eventually become more serious when he joined the Nation of Domination. Breaking out on his own as the leader of the Disciples of Apocalypse, Brian would eventually be brought in by WCW. There, he and the man once known as Adam Bomb, Bryan Clark, would become the dominant tag team known as Kronik.
Found unconscious by his seven-year-old son, by the time paramedics arrived there was little to do but pronounce him dead. Succumbing to a lethal mix of prescription drugs, which the coroner determined were only used to therapeutic levels, it was the cocktail they created when combined that caused him to stop breathing and pass away.
9 Balls Mahoney
First coming to the attention of much of the wrestling world when he was brought into the WWE and wrestled as Xanta Claus, shockingly the character elicited groans and disappeared after a short run. Taking his unique talents to ECW, he would capitalize on their fan bases love of violence and created the aforementioned team known as The Hardcore Chair Swingin’ Freaks with Axl Rotten. Never seen without his signature chair in tow, typically with different words written on it, Balls never shrank from the hardcore style that made him a star and he seemed to love what he did. Brought back in by the WWE at the launch of their version of ECW, Balls outlasted several other former stars of the original brand that were brought in at the same time.
Watching Jeopardy with his wife, Balls was said to have been answering the trivia questions before lying down on the couch. Noticing that he’d ceased breathing his wife attempted CPR and called for help. Dying suddenly the day after his forty-fourth birthday, he was already gone before paramedics could deliver aide.
8 Dino Bravo
A part of the Rock “n” Wrestling Era, Dino played an over the top French Strongman, who was said to legitimately be able to press more than five-hundred pounds. Wrestling for managers like Mr. Fuji, Luscious Johnny Valiant, Jimmy Hart, and Frenchy Martin, Dino began to bill himself as the world’s strongest man. Extremely cocky and adept at cutting corners, he was the personification of everything fans love to hate about a lot of the most despised wrestlers.
The victim of gunfire in March of 1993, Dino was hit by seventeen bullets while watching hockey in his Quebec home. Shot seven times in the head alone, the motivation for whoever killed him has been a matter of much discussion in the years since. Alleged to have been illegally smuggling cigarettes into the country, he is said to have confided in friends that he knew his days were numbered just prior to his death.
7 “Ravishing” Rick Rude
Someone who positively deserves a place in the WWE Hall of Fame, Rick Rude was so adept at playing the cocky heel that his career is legendary despite only winning one WWE title. Coming to the ring and gyrating his hips, while demanding that the female fans swoon over his chiseled body, Rick was a perfect addition to the Heenan Family. Probably best remembered for his feud with Jake Roberts, which started when he demanded a kiss from Jake’s wife who was in the crowd, their matches had an intensity rarely seen at the time. A member of both D-Generation X and the nWo, the latter of which he joined during his run in WCW, Rick’s place in wrestling history should be celebrated.
In the midst of training for a planned return to the ring in 1999, after years of mostly working as a manager due to a back injury, we unfortunately never got to see him do his thing again. Dying from an overdose of mixed medications which caused his heart to fail at the age of forty, Rick left behind a family, including three children.
6 Doink the Clown
A character that has been portrayed by several men over the years, including Steve Keirn, The Brooklyn Brawler, and Nick Dinsmore, for this list we’ll be looking at the man who played Doink first. Matt Osborne, a second generation wrestler, was first employed by the WWE as a jobber in the mid to late eighties. Leaving for a short run in WCW, it wasn’t until he returned to the WWE that he would be given the gimmick that would define his career. Starting out as an evil clown known as Doink , he appeared in the crowd and played mean tricks on fans and wrestlers. Keep in mind, the original incarnation of the character was little like the one that most of us remember today. Let go by the company shortly after Doink became a good guy by turning on Bobby Heenan, Matt would make one final appearance as the character in the gimmick battle royal.
Dying from an accidental overdose of morphine and hydrocodone, Matt’s death resulted in both a homicide investigation and a lawsuit against the WWE.
5 Chris Kanyon
If ingenuity in the ring and ability to perform moves crisply were the only determining factors in the career of a wrestler, Kanyon would be a multiple time champion. Wrestling in WCW under a mask as the character Mortis, he would attempt to become a member of Raven’s faction, The Flock, but would be rejected. Getting involved in a feud with Raven instead, he would discard the mask and wrestle as Kanyon, which led to the most successful period of his career. Eventually forming a unit with DDP and Bam Bam Bigelow, known as the Jersey Triad, after a while the team would disband but DDP and Chris would remain close onscreen and behind the scenes. Eventually turning on his pal and turning himself into a mirror image of him, Chris would join The New Blood. Brought into the WWE as a member of The Alliance, he would once again team with DDP and the pair would win tag team gold together. Released from the company in 2003, he contended that he was released because he came out of the closet before renouncing his claims as nothing more than a publicity stunt.
A sufferer of bipolar disorder, Chris revealed that he’d taken fifty sleeping pills in an unsuccessful suicide attempt during a CNN special. Killing himself by ingesting a large amount of antidepressants several years later, his body was found by his brother accompanied by an apology note for his family.
Billed at six foot six and two hundred eighty-five pounds, Andrew Martin, the man known as Test seemed to have everything Vince McMahon looks for in a wrestler. Deemed a big enough star that he became romantically involved with Stephanie McMahon onscreen, he was about to marry her on an episode RAW when their nuptials were interrupted by Triple H. Never able to rise to that stature again, he still played a part in memorable storylines with real-life girlfriend Stacy Keibler and Scott Steiner on top of becoming a part of The Un-Americans.
Found dead in his home by police after his neighbor noticed they could see his body and it hadn’t moved for several hours, his body was retrieved four days before his thirty-fourth birthday. Ruled to have died of an accidental overdose of oxycodone, it would later be determined that his brain had been damaged into an Alzheimer’s-like form, similar to Chris Benoit.
3 Bam Bam Bigelow
One of the most distinctive wrestlers ever, it seems impossible that anyone could forget this massive wrestler with flames tattooed on his head. That doesn’t mean his passing is remembered as well, though. A big deal wherever he went, which includes the WWE, WCW, ECW, and New Japan, Bam Bam could be trusted to make feuds or matches against main eventers, midcarders and jobbers interesting. A former Heavyweight Champion in ECW, his feud with Taz is remembered amongst the best series the promotion ever put together. Bam Bam was also a real-life hero who received second-degree burns over forty percent of his body while saving three children from a burning home. If his career and the three people he selflessly sacrificed his body for aren’t enough to warrant inclusion in the WWE Hall of Fame we don’t know what is.
Found dead in his home at the age of forty-five, an autopsy showed that he died because of toxic levels of cocaine and an anti-anxiety drug. Also a sufferer of heart problems who had severe back problems, his body seems to have been a wreck by the time he passed away.
2 3 & 2. Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge - Public Enemy
A pair of wrestlers, Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge, who’d feuded with one another on the indies, Public Enemy is seen as one of the most popular tandems in ECW history. Embracing a brawling style which included the use of tables and other weapons, they would win the ECW World Tag Team Championship four times over the years. Involved in several infamous moments, including the Funk and Cactus Jack match where the fans launched chairs into the ring and the time the ring collapsed under the weight of their fans, they are ECW classics. Leaving the company to try to find the same success in WCW and WWE, they were never able to recreate the same magic outside the watchful eye of Paul Heyman and their short tenure in WWE is a thing of legend.
Rocco, the first of the two to pass, suffered a heart attack after attending a wrestling event in 2002. Less than four years later, Johnny would also pass away in his sleep due to complications from sleep apnea brought on by obesity and heart disease. Johnny’s medical examiner also cited an “acute toxicity of carisoprodol and hydrocodone" in his report which led to his wife becoming an advocate against drug abuse in wrestling.
1 Big Daddy V/Viscera/Mabel
A massive man who managed to have three separate runs in the WWE, all of which can be argued as impactful, no matter what they called him there is no question that Nelson Frazier, Jr. was respected. First introduced as a member of the tag team Men on a Mission, they were popular enough that entire crowds could be seen waving their hands along with them. Later breaking out on his own and winning the King of the Ring tournament, Mabel would wrestle men like The Undertaker and Kevin Nash, who was known as Diesel at the time. Returning to the company several years after his previous gimmick ran its course, he would be kidnapped and by The Undertaker and his servants and turned into Viscera. A gothic character complete with a Mohawk, leather bodysuit, and white contact lenses, his look was unforgettable. Undergoing two other transformations in his career, as the valour loving love machine and shirtless monster Big Daddy V, he was a valuable member of whatever roster he joined.
A morbidly obese man who was billed as wrestling at four hundred eighty-seven pounds, his heart eventually gave out. Dying after a heart attack, his ashes were turned into five-hundred pendants which were given out as gifts to loved ones.
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