The industry of wrestling has produced many greats. From Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant to The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, there are almost too many superstars to count. There is also a surprisingly long list of wrestlers, both beloved and in their primes, who have suffered sudden deaths. These deaths could be due to heart attacks or drug overdoses (there is quite a surprising number of both in the list below). We’ve lost some true greats, such as Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Curt Hennig, and Andre the Giant.
And then there are those who died while performing at wrestling events, which are the most shocking deaths of all. Several wrestlers have died while on live television. The most famous example of all is Owen Hart, who died in an unfortunate accident during a WWE pay-per-view. Then there’s Perro Aguayo Jr., who suffered cardiac arrest due to a cervical stroke during a tag team match in Mexico. There was also the ill-advised storyline with Eddie Guerrero where he faked a heart attack for a WWE storyline. It definitely seems in poor taste now considering the wrestler is dead. TheSportster has compiled a list of 20 wrestlers who have died at a relatively young age and the chilling pictures that live on in their absence.
20. Chris Benoit
During his 22 years as a professional wrestler, Chris Benoit wrestled his way to the top echelon of the sport. He worked for pretty much every big promotion, including WWE, WCW, ECW, and New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Benoit also held 22 titles in total, including the World Heavyweight Championship at both WCW and WWE. He’s one of only two men in wrestling history to win the Royal Rumble as the number one participant. In 2004, Pro Wrestling Illustrated named Benoit the Wrestler of the Year.
His career came to an abrupt when he was found dead, along with his wife and son, in a murder-suicide. Tests conducted on Benoit’s brain after the fact showed that the wrestler might have suffered from an advanced form of dementia that caused him to become violent. The chilling picture above shows a picture of a smiling Benoit with his family.
19. Owen Hart
Owen Hart, also known as The Blue Blazer, was one of the members of the Hart wrestling family that also includes his brother, Bret Hart. Owen was the one-time unified world champion of World Class Championship Wrestling and American Wrestling Association. At WWE, he also won the European Championship, the Intercontinental Championship, and was a four-time World Tag Team Champion.
His life came to an end during a WWE pay-per-view called Over the Edge in 1999. Owen’s death was due to an equipment malfunction when the harness that was lowering him into the ring during his entrance released the wrestler too soon and he fell 78 feet onto the ring during the live event. The picture above is from moments after the accident, as the WWE crew gives Owen medical attention.
18. Chris Kanyon
Chris Kanyon appeared at both WCW and WWE, being one of the wrestlers from the former promotion to join WWE during the Invasion storyline. During his time at both of these promotions, Kanyon won a couple of championships. He was a two-time WCW World Tag Team Champion with both Diamond Dallas Page and Bam Bam Bigelow. WWE, he also won the United States Championship. He also made the list of Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s top 500 singles wrestlers at 108th.
Kanyon had retired from wrestling by the time he was found in his New York apartment. The wrestler was suffering from bipolar disorder and committed suicide by overdosing on antidepressants. The picture above is a mugshot from his 2004 arrest for “disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence” after trying to break up a fight.
17. Crash Holly
Crash Holly was as hardcore as it gets. Just look at how many times the guy won the WWE Hardcore Championship. That’s right, he won the title 22 times in total during his time at the promotion. Of course, that was during that period in the title’s history when it had to be defended 24/7, meaning someone could attack you and strip you of the title at any minute. Crash apparently got a lot of mileage out of this. He was also a one-time World Tag Team Champion, a one-time European Champion, and one-time Light Heavyweight Champion.
The wrestler committed suicide in 2003, overdosing on the prescription drug Carisoprodol. He was found dead in the Florida home of fellow wrestler Stevie Richards. The chilling picture above shows Crash being escorted out of a wrestling event alongside Chyna, who would also pass away far sooner than she should have.
16. Eddie Guerrero
Latino Heat was one of the most electrifying and beloved wrestlers in the game. From his early days in Mexican promotions CMLL and AAA to his crossover to the American market at ECW, WCW, and WWE, Eddie Guerrero was always an attention grabber due to this heel presence and his charm. His was especially remembered for his triumphs in the ring, which include winning ten titles total while at WWE. He won the WWE Championship once, and was scheduled to do so again on the day that he died.
Guerrero was found dead in a hotel in Minneapolis. He died from acute heart failure. Latino Heat was only 38 years old. The cause of death makes the above picture all the more chilling since it’s from that time Guerrero faked a heart attack for a storyline in 2004, only a year prior to his actual death…
15. Miss Elizabeth
There was a time in Elizabeth Ann Hulette’s career when she was one of the most popular divas at WWE and later WCW. For most of her career, she was her real-life husband “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s manager. Even after they were divorced outside of the ring, she continued to act as a manager for the popular wrestler. In fact, these two made up one of the most beloved couples in all of wrestling. Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth were a match made in heaven in the ring.
After the divorce, Miss Elizabeth took up with Lex Luger. Their relationship was known to be tumultuous, including at least one instance of domestic violence in which Luger struck Elizabeth at their home in Georgia. Elizabeth was later found dead in 2003 after overdosing on painkillers and vodka. Her ex-husband died in 2011.
Chyna (real name Joan Marie Laurer) was known as the “Ninth Wonder of the World” back in her wrestling days. During her time at the WWE, Chyna separated herself from the rest of the women in the promotion by often standing toe to toe with the men. In fact, she was the first woman to compete in the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring tournament. Chyna was also the first woman to become the number one contender for the WWE Championship.
After her time at the WWE, Chyna wrestled for a couple of other promotions, but her biggest career move was as an adult film star, featuring in several adult films from 2004 to 2013. She even won two AVN Awards (think the Oscars, but for that genre) for two of her films. Chyna died of a drug overdose in 2016. In this chilling picture, Chyna is by the grave of her father, who died only months before Laurer did.
13. Curt Hennig
Curt Hennig, best known as Mr. Perfect, was one of the greats. Although he was never a world champion at the WWE or WCW, he was a four-time world champion at other, smaller promotions. Hennig was best known perhaps for his reign as WWE Intercontinental Champion in the 90s. He won the belt twice and his reigns have been credited with bringing the belt some credibility despite the fact that it wasn’t a world championship. At WCW, he was also a United States Heavyweight Champion and World Tag Team Champion.
Hennig died in 2003 at the age of 44. The cause of death was identified as a drug overdose as cocaine was found in his system. The picture above shows Hennig with Rick Rude, who also died from a drug overdose in 1999.
12. Reid Flair
The legendary Ric Flair ended up producing an entire wrestling family. His son David Flair wrestled at WCW while his daughter Charlotte Flair is currently at WWE. Then there’s Reid Flair, the youngest of Ric’s children, who died in his prime after only a few years in the business. While he never made it to the WWE, Reid spent his five-year career working his way up the ladder, from one indie promotion to the next, including Lucha Libre USA and All Japan Pro Wrestling.
Unfortunately, Reid struggled with heroin addiction, which is what eventually led to his death in 2013 at the of 25. He was found dead from a drug overdose in a hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina. Heroin and traces of the prescription drugs clonazepam and alprazolam were found in his system. The picture above shows Reid with his father.
Test (real name Andrew Martin) spent the better part of his wrestling career at the WWE. While at the promotion, he won several titles and was even briefly going to marry Stephanie McMahon in a storyline in which Triple H later stole her from him by drugging her…Uh? Test was two-time Hardcore Champion, a one-time European Champion, a one-time Intercontinental Champion, and was a World Tag Team Champion twice. He also spent a brief time at TNA before his death.
The wrestler was 33 when he was found dead in Florida home in 2009. He died from an accidental overdose of oxycodone. The picture above shows Test with former WWE diva Kelly Kelly. The two had broken up just prior to Test’s death, but Kelly Kelly revealed recently they had been discussing getting back together. Kelly Kelly (Barbie Blank) even claimed last year on the show WAGS, that she had re-connected with Test’s ghost in 2016.
10. Andre the Giant
Andre the Giant needs no introduction. Standing at over seven feet tall and weighing over 500 pounds, this French wrestler, who had a condition called gigantism, is one of the biggest men to ever enter a ring. The rest, as they say, is history. His most famous stint was at the WWE, where he was a one-time World Heavyweight Champion (defeating Hulk Hogan!) and a one-time World Tag Team Champion. He also made a crossover into movies, his most famous role in The Princess Bride.
The wrestler died in 1993 at the age of 46 from heart failure brought on by his condition. The picture above shows just how big he was, as he grabs two grown men like they’re stuffed animals. Him looking so invincible is the way we want to remember Andre.
9. Bam Bam Bigelow
The WWE once called Bam Bam Bigelow (real name Scott Charles Bigelow) “the most natural, agile and physically remarkable big man of the past quarter century.” That’s a heck of a compliment from a promotion who’s had some of the most famous big men in the business. Bigelow spent time at WWE, ECW, and WCW throughout his career. He was the ECW World Heavyweight Champion once and a one-time ECW World Television Champion. At WCW, he was a one-time Hardcore Champion and a two-time World Tag Team Champion.
In 2007, Bigelow was found lifelesss by his girlfriend Janis Remiesiewicz at his home. The death was ruled an overdose. You can see one of the last pictures Bigelow took with Remiesiewicz above. A lot of people also don’t know that shortly before his death, Bam Bam was a hero, rescuing three children from a burning home and suffered burns on 40% of his body, which ultimately ended his career. He said he didn’t regret the sacrifice: “the best move I ever made.”
8. Big Boss Man
Ray Washington Traylor Jr., better known as Big Boss Man, was always a solid competitor, although he never won any world championships at the WWE. Big Boss Man did win the Tag Team Championship once with Ken Shamrock and was a four-time Hardcore Champion. The wrestler also enjoyed being a fan favorite at WWE when he turned on his boss, Slick, in a storyline. He was even inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016, which he received posthumously.
Big Boss Man died of a heart attack in 2004. He was only 41. The wrestler spent his final days at International Wrestling Association of Japan. The picture above is pretty haunting since it shows The Undertaker hanging Big Boss Man during a storyline.
Although he was billed as a legendary Japanese sumo wrestler, Yokozuna (real name Rodney Agatupu Anoaʻi) was actually Samoan American. Still, he would enter the ring with a Japanese flag held high. (WWE has always really liked to make some rash generalizations, it seems.) Yokozuna was a two-time World Heavyweight Champion and a two-time Tag Team Champion (with the deceased Owen Hart). He also won the 1993 Royal Rumble. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012.
Yokozuna died in 2000 from pulmonary edema while in Liverpool for a wrestling event. His weight at the time of death was reported to be 580 pounds. In the creepy picture above, the Undertaker is trying to shove Yokozuna in a coffin, which is chilling considering he would pass away just six years later.
6. Roddy Piper
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper was an absolute legend, best known for his time at WWE and WCW, spending 42 years total in the business. While he was never a world champion, Roddy did win 34 titles throughout his career. We won’t even try to list them all, but here are some of the highlights: at WWE, he was a one-time Intercontinental Champion, a one-time Tag Team Champion, and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. He also won TONS of NWA championships at different promotions.
He died in 2015 from cardiopulmonary arrest caused by hypertension. The picture above shows him with Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton, stars of Always Sunny in Philadelphia, in which Roddy appeared as wrestler down on his luck Da’ Maniac. Here, Piper is shown looking very ghostly, showing wide eyes and pale skin, with some blood on his lips.
5. Ultimate Warrior
We all know The Ultimate Warrior (real name James Brian Hellwig). He’s the man who defeated Hulk Hogan at the height of his fame at WrestleMania VI to win the World Heavyweight Championship. If you’ve never watched that match, it’s truly a classic. Ultimate Warrior was a one-time World Heavyweight Champion and a two-time Intercontinental Champion. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014.
He died that same year after a final appearance on Raw. In fact, he died the day after he appeared on the April 8, 2014 edition of Raw. Ultimate Warrior died of a heart attack caused by atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. The picture above is from the day before he died. It’s touching that he at least got to be with his fans one last time before passing.
4. Chris Candido
Chris Candido pretty much wrestled everywhere throughout his 19-year career. He had stints at World Wrestling Entertainment, World Championship Wrestling, Extreme Championship Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling just to name a few. He was a NWA World Heavyweight Champion as well as a one-time WCW Cruiserweight Champion, a one-time World Tag Team Champion, and a three-time ECW Tag Team Champion. Pro Wrestling Illustrated even named him the Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year in 2005.
Unfortunately, Candido died that same year of acute pneumonia. He was only 33. Candido spent most of his career with his real-life partner Tammy Lynn Sytch, better known as Sunny, who is often credited as the WWE’s first diva. She’s since become an adult actress. Above you can see a picture of Candido and Sunny together in the later stages of Candido’s life.
3. Perro Aguayo Jr.
Perro Aguayo Jr. (real name Pedro Aguayo Ramírez) had quite the legacy to live up to, being the real-life son of one of Mexico’s most famous wrestlers. Aguayo spent most of his career in Mexico, with long stints at both CMLL and AAA, the two biggest promotions in the country. He was a three-time National Tag Team Champion and a one-time Light Heavyweight Champion at AAA, as well as the winner of the Rey de Reyes (think King of the Ring) tournament in 2012. At CMLL, he was a World Trios Champion.
Aguayo died in the ring during a tag team match with Manik against Rey Mysterio Jr. and Xtreme Tiger. He went into cardiac arrest, due to a cervical stroke caused by three fractured vertebrae. The picture above shows Aguayo being escorted out of the ring by medics. He was 35 years old.
2. Road Warrior Hawk
Hawk (real name Michael Hegstrand) was one half of the legendary tag team The Road Warriors (along with Animal), which wrestled at pretty much every big promotion in the business, including the NWA, WCW, ECW, and WWE (where they actually wrestled as the Legion of Doom). It’s quite obvious that there gimmick was inspired by the Mad Max movies. At WWE, Hawk won the Tag Team Championship twice and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011. Pro Wrestling Illustrated named the Road Warriors the best tag team of the year from 1983 to 1985 and then in 1988.
The wrestler died in 2003 of a heart attack at his home in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. The picture above is particularly haunting because it’s from a storyline in which Hawk tried to commit suicide by jumping off the Raw TitanTron.
1. Randy Savage
There are few wrestlers as legendary as “Macho Man” Randy Savage, who shined at both WWE and WCW as one of the most electrifying athletes and performers to ever enter the wrestling ring. At WWE, he was a two-time World Heavyweight Champion, a one-time Intercontinental Champion, and he won the 1987 King of the Ring tournament. At WCW, he was a four-time World Heavyweight Champion and also won the World War 3 sixty-man battle royale (think Royal Rumble) in 1995. Savage was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015.
Savage died in 2011 from a sudden heart attack while driving in Florida at the age of 58 – too soon, if you ask us. This caused him and his wife Barbara Lynn Payne to crash into a tree. Above is one of the last known pictures of Savage before his death.
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