Professional wrestling is one tough business – just ask anybody involved in the industry and you’ll get the same answer time and time again. Although pro-wrestling is scripted and the actual fighting is “fake” in essence, the bumps wrestlers take on a near day-to-day basis are absolutely real (and not to mention painful). As you’d probably expect, a large majority of professional wrestlers age rather terribly, and many of them suffer from all sorts of health problems later in life due to their worn-out and broken down bodies.
Perhaps pro-wrestling (especially the WWE) can be looked upon by fans as being a “glamorous” job considering the fame and fortune select talents achieve in their career, but the consequences later in life can be rough. Each year we lose wrestling legends (many of whom die relatively young), and we also have lots of “close calls” where wrestlers barely cheat death. With how many great and illustrious wrestlers we lose each year, there are bound to be a few names fans didn’t know had passed away (perhaps less “illustrious” but still monumental figures in the business), and we’re here to refresh your memory.
Stay tuned, as this list divulges 8 wrestling legends we recently almost lost, and 7 you didn’t know we did.
15. Almost Lost: Vader
When you think of talented big men, Vader has to be one of the first names that comes to mind. Though the extraordinarily talented Vader was truly misused and mishandled during his tenure with the WWE, Vader’s still a world-class performer who’s captured the IWGP Heavyweight Championship 3 times and the WCW World Championship on 3 occasions. Vader has had his fair share of scary moments throughout his life, and probably the most notable moment was back in 2007 when he had passed out on a plane trip to Japan for an autograph signing, which placed Vader into a coma for 33 days in which he lost an astonishing 112 pounds.
Although we almost lost Vader back in 2007, his recent congestive heart failure diagnosis back in mid November 2016 has left the wrestling community rather sad. Two of the doctors Vader visited told him that he has two years to live, so it’s very possible that we’ll be losing the extremely gifted Vader in the near future unfortunately. It’s about time Vader gets the respect he deserves and joins the WWE Hall Of Fame next year.
14. Didn’t Know We Did: Rosey
The world of professional wrestling lost the former WWE Superstar Rosey (real name Matt Anoa’i) on April 17th of this year at the young age of 47 due to congestive heart failure. Mainly remembered for being apart of the 3 Minute Warning team with his brother Umaga and one-half of the The Super Heroes Alliance alongside The Hurricane, Rosey was a very memorable performer who had one World Tag Team Championship reign under his belt.
If you hadn’t known, Rosey is the real-life brother of current WWE Superstar Roman Reigns, and this loss obviously hit Roman hard earlier this year hence why Reigns took a week off from television (also to sell Braun Strowman’s attack). Rosey hadn’t been in the spotlight for years leading up to his passing, thus making it a wrestler death some fans don’t know about.
13. Almost Lost: Perry Saturn
Perry Saturn has struggled greatly since his time in the squared circle came to an end. Following the time Perry heroically stopped an attack back in 2004, Saturn has been dealing with addiction due to the pain he felt from the two gunshot wounds he suffered while stopping that said rape. Though he overcame his dependence on drugs, Perry Saturn hasn’t been doing too well lately – Perry’s made it publicly known back in January that he’s still very sick and has asked for his fans to donate to his GoFundMe campaign to avoid becoming homeless once again.
Though it’s probable that Perry’s doing slightly better now considering his campaign has been relatively successful (a little over 40k has been raised thus far), the fact remains that we’re still very much on the cusp of losing Perry Saturn. Perhaps we “almost lost” Saturn years prior to due to his drug abuse, but his health has been declining, and he currently suffers from traumatic brain injury.
12. Didn’t Know We Did: Smith Hart
Smith Hart, the older brother of the legendary Bret Hart passed away on July 2nd 2017 at the age of 68 due to prostate and bone cancer. Although Smith Hart wasn’t remotely near as successful of a wrestler as his brother Bret, Smith still had a memorable career in his fathers wrestling promotion Stampede Wrestling as well as World Wrestling Council down in Puerto Rico.
However, Smith still made three appearances for the WWE – once in 1994 at the SummerSlam pay-per-view, the second time in 2010 at WrestleMania 26 to help Bret Hart defeat Vince McMahon in a No Holds Barred match-up, and the third time at his father’s 2010 Hall Of Fame induction alongside Bret Hart. Considering many fans have forgotten about Smith Hart (or they simply didn’t know who he was to begin with), Smith Hart is a wrestling legend most of you probably didn’t know we lost very recently.
11. Almost Lost: Tyson Kidd
Like a couple other entries on this list, perhaps “legend” would be a strong word to describe Tyson Kidd, but the fact remains that if he had continued to wrestle, there’s a very good possibility that Kidd would’ve went down in the history books as being a legend – at least a tag team legend. If you’re unaware or have since forgotten, we nearly lost Tyson Kidd back in 2015 due to a severe neck/spinal injury he received from a botched Muscle Buster finisher from Samoa Joe during a dark match on Monday Night Raw.
Following his horrendous injury, Tyson tweeted out stating that only 5% of people survive his type of injury, and that he had received 16 staples, 4 screws and and a rod inserted into his neck. Though his time in the squared circle is almost guaranteed to be over, Tyson Kidd has been hired by the WWE as a full-time producer as of late June 2017. It’s truly a miracle that Tyson survived his injury and recovered so well from it.
10. Didn’t Know We Did: Chavo Guerrero Sr.
Though some of you may be aware, for those of you who aren’t, the wrestling community lost Chavo Guerrero Sr. back in February of this year (the 11th to be exact). Known for his tenures in promotions such as the AWA and NWA throughout the 80’s, Chavo Sr. burst onto the WWE scene in 2004 to partake in a feud alongside his real-life son Chavo Guerrero Jr. against Eddie Guerrero (Chavo Sr.’s brother) and Chavo Jr.’s uncle.
However most notably, Chavo Guerrero Sr. won the WWE Cruiserweight Championship after defeating his son and Spike Dudley. Though most fans would probably argue that Chavo Sr. had no business performing inside the squared circle in 2004 (not to mention winning the CW Title), that doesn’t take away from the fact that he was a great performer back in his day.
9. Almost Lost: Jerry Lawler
Although this wasn’t exactly “recent” as in this year, the fact remains that we nearly lost one of the greatest commentators of all time, Jerry “The King” Lawler on an episode of Monday Night Raw which aired in September 2012. Following his tag team match-up alongside Randy Orton against Dolph Ziggler and CM Punk, Jerry Lawler would go on to have a heart attack shortly after he returned to commentary with Michael Cole.
This was obviously a terrifying moment for Cole considering Jerry is one of his good friends, and it was also terrifying for every single member of the WWE Universe. Luckily for Jerry’s family, his friends, and fans, he managed to pull through and fully recover from his scary heart attack. I for one am truly glad we still have the legendary Jerry Lawler with us.
8. Didn’t Know We Did: “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff
“The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff is best known for his tenure with the WWE (WWWF at the time) where he captured the WWE Championship once, though he’s also recognized for his tenures in various promotions including the IWA, NWA and ECW. Ivan was widely regarded as being a legend of the sport, and he was the man responsible for ending Bruno Sammartino’s incredibly long 2,803 day WWE Title reign.
However, Koloff had a very short run with the belt, as he would go onto drop the gold to Pedro Morales just three weeks later. Despite having a great and long wrestling career, Ivan Koloff hasn’t been in the spotlight for years, and the WWE had done a fine job of “forgetting” him (he was one of the performers who sued the company over concussion lawsuits). Sadly, Ivan Koloff died earlier this year at the age of 74 back on February 18th due to liver cancer. This is bound to be one of those wrestler passings some of you didn’t know.
7. Almost Lost: X-Pac
Former DX member and wrestling legend X-Pac has had a fairly troublesome past filled with substance abuse – though his substance abuse was not the root cause of his near-death experience at an Independent wrestling show back in 2013. In a match-up against Indy wrestler Horace the Psychopath, X-Pac would go on to attempt to perform his signature move, the Bronco Buster, and though it was planned for Horace to move out of the way, X-Pac’s landing wasn’t planned whatsoever.
Instead of landing on the turnbuckle pad, X-Pac would instead land on the metal turnbuckle – thus tearing his private area and causing a potentially fatal situation. However, luckily for everyone involved, X-Pac would go on to fully recover from what could have been a tragic accident, and he still performs on the Indies to this day.
6. Didn’t Know We Did: George “The Animal” Steele
George “The Animal” Steele is a legendary figure in professional wrestling history who is mainly remembered for his tenure with WWE throughout the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s performing as a crazy wild man with incredible strength (remember how George would bite the turnbuckles and use the stuffing as a weapon against his opponents?) George Steele was definitely one of the most popular and widely loved wrestlers in the 80’s, and though he never won championship gold in the WWE, he’s still very much a legend – and his 1995 Hall Of Fame induction is a reflection of that notion.
However, after years of declining health following his retirement from pro-wrestling, George Steel would pass away on February 16th of this year in a hospital due to kidney failure at the age of 79. Though this was a very sad day for the wrestling community, George lived a fairly long life for a larger-built professional wrestler.
5. Almost Lost: Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Following his retirement from professional wrestling, Jake “The Snake” Roberts has had a tough and grueling battle with another kind of opponent – addiction. Jake Roberts had hit rock bottom not too long ago (roughly around 2011), as he claims that he was simply “waiting to die” due to his intense drug and alcohol abuse. It looked as if there was no hope for Roberts, though there was one man who would come to Jake’s rescue – DDP aka Diamond Dallas Page.
DDP and his infamous yoga program was the saving grace for Roberts, and bit by bit Jake began to regain his life. Shortly after that experience however, some of you may be unaware he had cancer. He overcame it though, and is now sober and much healthier than he was just years prior. Jake Roberts is enjoying his life and has reconnected with his children. Perhaps some fans realize that Jake Roberts had some serious struggles in his later life, though I’m sure most of you didn’t know that he was on the brink of death.
4. Didn’t Know We Did: Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka
Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was a legendary professional wrestler, and the term “was” may come as a shock to some of you. Very sadly, we lost Snuka on January 15th of this year due to a terminal illness. Jimmy has suffered from multiple health related issues since his time inside the ring came to an end, including stomach cancer and dementia. As I’m sure a majority of you are well aware, Jimmy Snuka had long been suspected of killing his girlfriend Nancy Argentino back in the early 80’s – though it was never proven.
However, despite being plagued by that controversy, fans (and the WWE) have still managed to move past it and have instead looked at Jimmy Snuka in a positive light for his time spent as one of the WWE’s most popular (and not to mention talented) performers. Throughout his illustrious career, Jimmy Snuka captured many championships including the ECW Title on two occasions.
3. Almost Lost: Scott Hall aka Razor Ramon
Among the professional wrestlers who have had a tough life following their retirement from the squared circle, Scott Hall aka Razor Ramon has definitely had one of the toughest, no doubt. Following his retirement, Scott Hall had been dealing with intense addiction problems. Hall failed to recover after many stints in rehab (some were quite pricey rehabilitations) and it wasn’t until DDP reached out to Hall that he would start to change his ways through DDP’s yoga program.
Thankfully for Scott and the WWE Universe, Hall managed to “pick up the pieces” so to speak and has regained his life, much like his buddy Jake Roberts did. Scott Hall was rightfully inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame back in 2014, and he has been leading a much more positive and productive life since then. Things could’ve turned out really bad for Hall, as he claims to have been “drinking himself to death” not too long ago.
2. Didn’t Know We Did: Nicole Bass
Perhaps “legend” is a bit of a strong word to describe Nicole Bass, but the fact remains that we lost Nicole back in February of this year (February 17th) at the young age of 52 a day after she had been declared brain dead following a stroke. Nicole Bass started out her career as a bodybuilder back in the early 90’s (just take a look at her size back in the day and you’ll realize why she pursued bodybuilding), and she eventually made her way to the world of professional wrestling in ’98 by joining ECW and aligning herself with Justin Credible.
Bass would then go on to sign with the WWE debuting as Sable’s bodyguard at the WrestleMania XV pay-per-view back in late March ’99. Though Nicole Bass only spent a couple of months performing for WWE, her presence was definitely felt by the WWE Universe thus making her a memorable name. Nicole had filed a lawsuit against WWE for harassment, stating that she’d been assaulted by the Brooklyn Brawler – though the charges would later be dismissed.
1. Almost Lost: Ric Flair
Undoubtedly the most notable wrestling legend we recently almost lost is none other than “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Back in August, it was widely reported that Ric Flair had been hospitalized – though Legacy Talent Agency had insisted that it was “routine monitoring” and that there was no reason to panic. However, things quickly changed and things became far more serious hence why the reps posted “We need your prayers, positive energy, and well wishes for our Living Legend as he is dealing with some tough medical conditions“.
Thankfully, Ric Flair managed to pull through as he underwent successful surgery removing part of his bowel due to an intestinal blockage after being placed in a medically induced coma. It’s clear that Ric Flair’s excessive drinking is catching up with him, as his alcohol consumption has exasperated his health issues. That being said, the entire wrestling community was relieved to know that Ric’s recovering from this ordeal, as it would have been a terribly sad day had we lost one of the all-time greatest.
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