As the biggest boy on the block, the WWE has a lot of say on what goes on in the wrestling industry. The billion dollar company has a lot of power when it comes to the legacy of wrestlers that passed. With one decision, they can hold a tribute video for a deceased wrestler but by the same token, they can refuse to show anything a deceased wrestler ever achieved.
That’s why you may hear stories about wrestlers not wanting to step on the toes of a global giant. The WWE is the biggest act in the universe and if you piss them off, millions of future fans may never know your achievements. This list is a tale of two stories. On one hand, you’re going to read about wrestlers the WWE will always acknowledge and pay tribute to. On the other, you’re going to read about wrestlers the WWE has never paid tribute to and most likely won’t.
As a private company, the WWE could do whatever they want and if they rather not make a tribute video or name a tournament in the honor of a deceased wrestler, that’s their right. However, fans can still be upset and criticize the WWE for not talking about wrestlers they think are worthy of admiration. Enjoy.
15. Do – George Steele
Known as George “The Animal” Steele, he would make his debut in 1967 and retire from a full-time schedule in 1988. The Detroit native would answer an ad in the local newspaper looking for wrestlers. His background in amateur wrestling helped him transition into the industry. Legendary Bruno Sammartino would see Steele’s potential and invited him to the WWE.
Over time, he would master his gimmick as a crazy man with few words but packed a large bite. By the 1980s, Steele was known all across the nation, with his hairy back, green tongue, and appetite for a turnbuckle pad. Sadly, this legend would pass away earlier this year at the age of 79. The WWE would show a tribute video on an episode of Raw the Monday after passing away.
14. Don’t – Nicole Bass
With several legends passing away this year, it’s easy for Bass to get put on the back burner. She would pass away at the age of 52 in February. She would sustain a stroke at her apartment and be rushed to the hospital. Sadly, she would be declared brain dead and would be taken off life support that night. She made her debut in the wrestling industry as a member of the ECW in 1998.
As a bodybuilder, she was the closest mold to Chyna the WWE Universe has ever seen. Her career with WWE would come to end after filing a lawsuit against the organization for sexual harassment, which was dismissed in 2003. She once had a bright future in the WWE but it came all crashing down and the WWE would rather not acknowledge her.
13. Do – Ivan Koloff
Although he lived in North America his entire life, Koloff was a true showman who convinced people he hailed from the mighty lands of Russia. He would make his professional wrestling debut in the Toronto area in 1961. The heel persona would become natural to him and before you knew it, he was being called “The Russian Bear.”
He would make history and most, if not all, old-timers remember where they were when they heard Koloff beat Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship. The win ended Sammartino’s seven-year reign as a champion, making it one of the biggest upsets in the history of the industry. Koloff would retire from wrestling in 1994 and passed away earlier this year at the age of 74. The WWE would have a tribute to Koloff on an episode of Smackdown Live, one night after George “The Animal” Steele’s tribute.
12. Don’t – Doink The Clown
Matt Osborne is known as the longest-running wrestler to depict Doink the Clown. The second generation would become the awkward clown in 1992 after he left WCW. He would have a major feud with Crush in the summer of 1993 which put smiles on many young fans. Jerry Lawler would then hire him as a heel to attack Bret Hart, which is arguably his biggest contribution to the WWE.
That same year, drug abuse would be the cause for WWE terminating his contract. He would bash the WWE regularly following his departure, even ripping Hogan for not working a feud with him. He passed away in 2013 at the age of 55. Osborne would be found dead in his own home. The cause of death would be an accidental overdose of morphine and hydrocondone.
11. Do – Nick Bockwinkel
Bockwinkel is arguably the greatest wrestler to come out Verne Gange’s American Wrestling Association in the Midwest. He would make his professional wrestling debut in 1955 and go on to inspire an entire generation of Superstars. He’s one of the few legends to never have a full-time contract with the WWE but he did wrestle Bob Backlund in the first ever title unification match in the WWE in 1979.
Bockwinkel put up his AWA World Heavyweight Championship against Backlund’s WWE Championship but the match ended in a double count-out. In 2007, the WWE would recognize him as one of the greats when they inducted him into the Hall of Fame. He would pass away at the age of 80 in 2015 and the WWE would give him a heartwarming tribute at the next Raw episode.
10. Don’t – Crash Holly
Holly became another sad story in the wrestling industry when he was found dead in 2003. That year he was released by the WWE after a four-year relationship and his wife was divorcing him. The pressure would lead him to overdosing on carisoprodol and alcohol at the age of 32. Officially ruled a suicide, the WWE would not give him a tribute although he was just four months removed from the roster.
He would make his debut in the industry in 1989. His big break in the business would come in 1999 as the cousin of Hardcore Holly. Over the years, Holly would win the WWE Hardcore Championship an incredible 22 times, only second to Raven’s 27 reigns. He would also win the WWE European Championship, Light Heavyweight Championship, and Tag Team Championships.
9. Do – Paul Bearer
His real name was William Alvin Moody but his character Paul Bearer and Percy Pringle is what really made him a special commodity in the wrestling industry. He would make a plunge into the wrestling industry in 1974 as a ringside photographer. Bearer would serve four years in the United States Air Force and in 1979, he would debut his Pringle character.
He would work for many promotions as a manager before coming to the WWE in 1990. Vince McMahon would pair him with The Undertaker and the ghostly looking Paul Bearer would be born. His trademark Urn would become a key prop in several storylines and you can argue there would be no Undertaker without Bearer. He would pass away in 2013 at the age of 58. The WWE will always remember Paul for the great things he achieved in his career as a manager.
8. Don’t – Dino Bravo
For some reason or another, the name Dino Bravo is never talked about in the WWE. His death may be one of the reasons for it. In 1993, the Canadian native was found shot dead in his home at the age of 44. The autopsy reported Bravo being hit by 17 bullets and it’s still officially an unsolved murder. Several wrestlers, including Bret Hart and Rick Martel, fueled theories that it was a mafia hit due to his illegal cigarette smuggling business.
Whatever the reason was, Bravo never is acknowledged by the WWE. He would make his debut in the business in 1970 and work for the WWE on and off until becoming a regular from 1985 to 1992. His accomplishments include becoming the inaugural and final WWE Canadian Champion and one-time WWE World Tag Team Champion with Dominic DeNucci.
7. Do – Roddy Piper
Roddy Piper was one tough cookie, so tough, he didn’t mind wrestling a real bear in a ring. He would make his professional wrestling debut in 1969 and had the privilege of training under legendary coach Stu Hart. Although he hailed from Canada, Piper would use his Scottish heritage to transform his gimmick into an international name. The trademark kilt and “Hotrod” nickname made Piper one of the most popular wrestlers of his generation.
The Hall of Famer would pass away at the young age of 61 in 2015, shocking the wrestling industry. Like many others on this list, he would inspire a generation of wrestlers to become “rowdy” in the ring. As one of the greats, the WWE will always acknowledge Piper’s history and contribution to the industry.
6. Don’t – Umaga
The warning signs were there but Umaga decided to walk his own path the way he wanted to. The WWE would plead with Umaga to go to rehab after failing his second Wellness Policy test in 2009. The rising star refused to get help and the WWE would have to release him. In December of 2009, he would be pronounced dead after suffering from a heart attack linked to a drug overdose at the age of 39.
As a member of the famous Anoa’i family, it’s a bit surprising the WWE doesn’t acknowledge Umaga or his death. There is definitely more to the story between Umaga and the top brass at WWE that we don’t know about. As a two-time Intercontinental Champion, Umaga could have been something special but his vices got the best of him.
5. Do – Bobby Heenan
The Brain, The Weasel, Pretty Boy, are just some of the nicknames Bobby Heenan acquired over the years. The legendary personality talent is arguably the greatest manager in the history of the industry. He would make his debut in the professional wrestling in the 1960s. He pretty much worked for every promotion that mattered including American Wrestling Association, National Wrestling Alliance, World Championship Wrestling, and of course, the WWE.
Not only did he manage countless legends such as Andre the Giant, Ric Flair, and Mr. Perfect, but even CM Punk in Ring of Honor. He would also wrestle, work color commentary, and every backstage job you can think of. He would pass away in September at the age of 72 and would have a great tribute video be seen on Raw.
4. Don’t – Jack Tunney
Jack who? If you couldn’t count to ten by 1995 or weren’t even thought of yet, you would have no idea who Tunney was if all you did was watch WWE. He would spearhead the wrestling scene in Canada when he started working for his uncle, Frank, and Maple Leaf Wrestling in 1952. Through the decades, Tunney and his uncle would set up events in Canada with different promotions, such as NWA and WWE, and even hosted events in Buffalo, New York, in 1980.
Tunney’s uncle would pass away in 1983 and Jack would take over. When the regional territory wars began, Tunney would align himself with Vince McMahon. The two would make Toronto, WWE territory only, helping Vince win the war. Tunney would appear on WWE as the promotions kayfabe President from 1982 to 1995. There would be a falling out between McMahon and Tunney. When he passed away in 2004 at the age of 69, the WWE didn’t acknowledge any of his contributions.
3. Do – The Ultimate Warrior
This wrestler almost made the “don’t” side of this list but thankfully Vince McMahon and The Warrior would patch things up before his untimely death. After inspiring to be a bodybuilder, he would be invited to participate in wrestling events with Sting in the mid-1980s. The two would eventually form The Blade Runners and be seen on Mid-South Wrestling.
His powerful frame and high energy made him a top prospect in the industry. Vince McMahon would sign him in 1987 and strap a rocket to his back. Fans instantly loved Warrior and although he lacked in-ring wrestling skills, his charisma would make him a champion. Sadly, the Warrior would pass away from a heart attack, a day after giving a speech on an episode of Raw in 2014.
2. Don’t – Chris Benoit
We all know the WWE paid a tribute to Benoit a day after police discovered a double-murder suicide but ever since that one night, Benoit has never been heard of again in the WWE. His name can never be spoken of, his legacy will forever be washed away, and we don’t blame the WWE for doing this. Benoit would become one of the greatest wrestlers of his generation, however, when you end the lives of your wife and child, any accomplishments you have get thrown right out the window.
The WWE is still trying to recover from Benoit’s evil crime a decade later. You can’t find him on the WWE Network and all his matches have been scrubbed of markers. The WWE even got 2K Sports to ban users who upload Chris Benoit CAWs. The world would end before the name Benoit was said in the WWE again.
1. Do – Dusty Rhodes
The son of a plumber will forever be acknowledged by the WWE regardless if Brandi Rhodes keeps tweeting out how bad the company has treated the Rhodes family. He would make his debut in 1967 and become the original “People’s Champion” by the time the 1980s rolled around. His feud with Ric Flair is arguably the greatest of all time. His accomplishments, titles, and accolades are just too many to list on here.
However, one accomplishment that you won’t ever see written on paper is his contribution to NXT. He has inspired thousands of wrestlers, spanning several generations, and the WWE Universe lost a loved one when he passed away at the age of 69 in 2015. With WWE bringing back Starccade at the end of the year, prepare to see a lot of Dusty Rhodes in the vignettes.
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