One tragic note in the history of wrestling is the amount of performers to die at a young age. The frequency of deaths in professional is second to no other entertainment industry. Wrestlers and fans have felt the pain far too often of saying goodbye to a fixture in WWE. We have witnessed many of the deaths honored on WWE television with tribute shows or highlight video packages celebrating the accomplishments of these performers. Fans still appreciate the work of these talents by watching their matches and segments back on WWE Network, YouTube and DVDs.
We’ll take a look at fifteen of the biggest stars to die at a young age. Any death is crushing, but knowing someone died while still in their prime makes it even sadder when putting in perspective how young they were. Most wrestlers try to remain in WWE or another promotion for as long as possible to continue making a living on their passion and experience. This list will analyze each individual wrestler along with what we knew about their lives to figure out what they would be up to in the current day wrestling industry. These are fifteen wrestlers that left us way too soon and a guess as to where they would be today.
15. Eddie Guerrero: WWE Agent
The loss of Eddie Guerrero was mourned by wrestling fans for a long time. Guerrero was still on the most popular run of his career just a little over a year after his first WWE Championship reign. WWE fans fell in love with Eddie right when his time was coming to an end. Guerrero had wrestling in his blood as it was passed down in his family was generation to generation.
Everyone to work with him stated that Eddie loved the art of wrestling and often helped younger stars. CM Punk credited Guerrero for helping him during their two shows together on the independent show. WWE would have likely kept Eddie in the company forever due to the connection he formed with the fans along with his intelligence. Guerrero would possibly be working with his best Dean Malenko and a few other peers as road agents helping put together matches for current stars in WWE.
14. Davey Boy Smith: Part-Time Wrestler With Son Harry Smith
Davey Boy Smith is regarded as one of the most underrated wrestler of his generation. Known as the British Bulldog, Smith represented the British fans in the 90s. Some of the best matches of the decade featured Bulldog in matches against Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. The work of Bulldog is remembered fondly today due to his matches standing the test of time better than most of the era.
Smith would be 56 years old today and potentially able to still perform at a part-time level. Considering his son Harry Smith is an active wrestler traveling the world, Davey Boy likely would have continued working with him. The two could have easily been a convincing tag team of father and son, or they could have even been great opponents. Either way, Davey Boy likely would have tried to work with Harry if he was still around today.
13. Big Boss Man: Indie Wrestler
The Big Boss Man is a perennial favorite of wrestling fans over 30 that got to witness the high points of his career. Boss Man was a secondary character that provided entertainment in his role. WWE and WCW each employed Boss Man for many years as he went back and forth during the 90s. A return to WWE during the Attitude Era allowed Boss Man to have feuds with big names like Steve Austin and The Rock.
Boss Man wrestled a very safe style that would have allowed him to continue performing for a long time. The amount of time he spent on national television also made him a major name to the fans of time. Much like Honky Tonk Man, Greg Valentine and others of the same era, Boss Man would be able to wrestle light matches on the independent circuit for a long time. You’d likely be able to see him perform still today if he didn’t unfortunately pass away at a young age.
12. Brian Pillman: WWE Manager
One wrestler to pass away right before a major push was Brian Pillman. WWE signed Pillman away from WCW in the mid-90s and used him as a member of the Hart Foundation. Pillman had a great ability to skew the line between script and reality that made him must-see television. The plans were for him to get a big push as a singles heel when aligning with Terri Runnels but passed away in 1997 right before it could get going.
Pillman is loved more than ever today since he was well ahead of his time as a wrestler. The new age world of social media and wrestling being harder to script would have seen Pillman’s value be quite high. WWE would have made sure he stuck around in some form to pass on his gifts. A manager would be perfect in 2017 as Pillman would have helped improve a wrestler’s standing with the crowd while still taking limited bumps.
11. Test: TNA/GFW
The potential of Andrew “Test” Martin in the late 90s was as high as any other mid-carder. WWE even placed him in the first storyline of Stephanie McMahon due to believing he could be a future main eventer. Instead, Test spent the majority of his WWE career in the mid-card. TNA hired Test for a very short run towards the end of his life.
While he did leave TNA before passing away, the relationship between Test and the company seemed to be good. The decision to leave was just due to what they agreed on. If he was still with us today, Test likely would still be wrestling. TNA/GFW seems like the best fit for Test as they like both familiar names from WWE’s past and don’t mind the wrestler having limited in-ring skills.
10. Umaga: WWE Wrestler
Umaga is another very sad tale of a wrestler dying while still in his prime. The age of Umaga at his death was just 35 years old. As a member of the Samoan dynasty in WWE, Umaga was one of the most successful wrestlers of storied family. The fans of the time will remember the classic Royal Rumble Last Man Standing match between Umaga and John Cena. Umaga was over enough to get a title shot against Cena on a major PPV.
WWE released Umaga shortly before his death due to his issues with substance abuse. If Umaga was able to clean his life and return to the WWE, he would likely still be on the roster today. He would have been just two years older than the recently re-signed Shelton Benjamin. The presence of Umaga on the current roster would have seen him feud with cousin Roman Reigns, or maybe they would have gone the other route, which would see Roman and The Usos in a stable with the Samoan Bulldozer.
9. Crash Holly: Indie Wrestler
The legacy of Crash Holly will always be for the entertainment he provided during the Attitude Era. Crash was one of the smaller wrestlers on the roster but found success due to providing humor in the hardcore division. WWE’s Hardcore Championship featured a rule that had the title on the line 24/7. Holly defended the title in his segments depicting the wrestlers attacking him in everyday life.
A sudden death of Crash shortly after leaving WWE shocked the wrestling world. It is still depressing to realize he’s no longer with us when watching his matches back on WWE Network. Holly would likely still be wrestling today on the independent circuit. We would have seen the reunion of Crash and Hardcore Holly at some point. Crash would also still be playing the 24/7 title gimmick for humorous results in the world of social media.
8. Mr. Perfect: WWE Broadcaster
“Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig is one of the greatest in-ring performers of all time. Despite never winning a World Title in WWE or WCW, Hennig often stole the show with outstanding matches lower in the card. Perfect achieved his highest level of fame in WWE for having great performances against Bret Hart. The personality added to his amazing wrestling for a perfect overall package.
There’s no doubt Hennig would still be in the wrestling business if alive today. WWE would benefit from having him as an agent or trainer, but the position of broadcaster would be the best fit. Perfect commentated towards the end of the mid-90s WWE run. The presence at the commentary table was impressive for someone with that little experience. Perfect would be one of the top color commentators for WWE today and would have been able to call his son Curtis Axel’s matches.
7. Lance Cade: New Japan
A forgotten wrestler death that saw a Superstar pass away too early was Lance Cade at the age of 29. Cade was viewed as the biggest name trained by Shawn Michaels at one point before Daniel Bryan and Brian Kendrick had strong runs. The talent and look of Cade each made him valued by WWE for small pushes during his various stints in the company.
WWE even placed Cade as Chris Jericho’s apprentice to play a role in the feud with Shawn Michaels. Unfortunately, Cade never fulfilled his potential and passed away at a young age. Cade would have kept wrestling and likely could have found success sooner than later. The size and athleticism of Cade would have earned him a spot in New Japan and he could have still been in the company today given he’d only be 36 years old.
6. Chris Candido: WWE Trainer At Performance Center
The wrestling genius of Chris Candido is discussed in stories from anyone that had a close relationship. Candido never was able to find major success in WWE due to him being a smaller wrestler. During his era, you needed size or a larger than life charisma to get to the next level in WWE. Candido had a short run as Skip with his girlfriend Tammy Sytch being his manager as Sunny.
The toxic relationship between Sunny and Candido negatively impacted his career as Sunny’s locker room affairs hurt his standing in WWE. Time likely would have seen him finally ditch the horrible Sytch and it would have only improved his life. Candido’s wrestling intelligence would have earned him a job as a trainer in the WWE Performance Center. The names training are guys that had great careers traveling the world rather than former major stars. Candido would have fit in perfectly.
5. Andre The Giant: WWE Brand Ambassador
Vince McMahon viewed Andre the Giant as one of his first true Superstars. The size of Andre made him stand out in a way unlike anyone else in the industry. WWE’s popularity took off to new levels when Andre became the giant heel for Hulk Hogan to defeat at WrestleMania III. Andre’s role in the 80s is why McMahon ensures the big man is celebrated for all he did in wrestling before passing away.
The current role of Andre if alive would have been working for WWE as a brand ambassador. Andre likely would make occasional appearances promoting the company and they’d work together for outside projects such as what Ric Flair does today. There’s no doubt he’d have been a part of the annual WWE festivities at WrestleMania weekend as something he helped them grow into.
4. Chyna: Podcast Host
The death of Chyna in 2016 shocked the wrestling world when she passed away at the age of 46. Chyna did a few interviews in the final year of her life including appearances on Vince Russo’s podcast. The numbers were some of his best that helped him get a daily podcast. Chyna likely would have followed suit if she didn’t pass away.
Many of Chyna’s comments created stories due to her controversial ending in WWE when Triple H left her for Stephanie McMahon. The WWE blacklisting of Chyna would still be going if Chyna was still around. Still, she would have found a place in the industry with everyone and their mother now having a wrestling podcast. Between the women’s revolution on screen and her stories from her time in the company, there would be a market to hear about her opinion.
3. Ultimate Warrior: WWE Personality
One of the more shocking ends to a wrestler’s life featured the Ultimate Warrior making peace with WWE days before passing away. The hostility between Warrior and WWE lasted for years when he left them in a negative manner. WWE then buried him in a DVD all about how much of a tool he was to deal with.
Warrior came back to the company after Triple H reached out. The induction into the WWE Hall of Fame came at WrestleMania XXX weekend and Warrior appeared on the following Raw. No one expected him to pass away the following night. Warrior was setting up a future to return to the WWE family. The widow and children of Warrior are now taking his place as an ambassador appearing at the big shows as well as making appearances.
2. Owen Hart: Happily Retired/Firefighter
The heartbreak of Owen Hart’s death came in a higher profile than the others. Owen was the first and only wrestler to die in a WWE ring after a stunt went wrong and he fell from the rafters to the mat. Hart passed away after a short but successful career in WWE. Many fans of the time considered him their favorite due to his heel antics being so entertaining.
One sadder facet about his death was the rumor of Owen planning to retire a few years after it happened. The hopes of Hart were to find a new career path as a firefighter and spending more time with his family. If Owen’s entrance never went wrong on that night, he could have stuck with his plans to leave the wrestling industry and set up a family life that would have still existed today, or he could have continued his wrestling career, possibly winning the WWE title and earning himself a spot in the WWE Hall Of Fame.
1. Randy Savage: WWE Hall of Famer
Randy Savage’s death was one of the bigger wrestling stories when it happened. Everyone at least knew what Savage looked like due to his visibility in society in the 80s and early 90s with WWE. Savage was one of those larger than life personalities to capture the attention of an audience. The death of Savage saw him finally get embraced back into the world of WWE with DVD productions and a Hall of Fame induction.
Vince McMahon reportedly blacklisted Savage for many years. History has shown us that McMahon will go back on his word if it is good for business. Triple H would have convinced Vince to bring Savage back for the Hall of Fame similar to the stories of Ultimate Warrior and Bruno Sammartino. Savage may not have been a performer on WWE television again, but the potential of a HOF moment and DVD productions would have happened thanks to Triple H’s presence.
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