The world of wrestling has always been one whose bizarre drive of success is primarily based on shock and awe through human performance. The participants of the WWE are both large in stature, and eccentric in personality, sometimes resulting in both personal tragedy, and heartbreak post retirement. Although professional wrestling is usually accused of falsification due to the outrageous behavior and staged orchestrations of what a fight is supposed to look like, the ones behind the masks are real people who are trying to make a living in an unforgiving industry. They sacrifice their bodies night after night, and their minds with expectations to be able to fully function on both lack of sleep, and the grueling travel schedules, often resulting in distress and exhaustion, turning to any outlet they can for relief. This alone can push some to retire and spiral downward, while others are forced out due to injury sustained in the ring that just doesn’t let them be like they once were.
While wrestling might just seem like a show for most, for others it is a way of life whose reality is often overlooked by the audience. In lieu of this, here are the 15 saddest Stories of wrestlers that still hurt us today.
15 Mike Awesome
Mike Awesome was a wrestler who participated through any and all wrestling promotions from the World Championship Wrestling, to All Japan Pro Wrestling. He is best recognized for his signature damp mullet and aerodynamic moves despite his large 6’7 inch and 290 pound physique. His career peaked back in the 90s when he was in Japan wrestling under the name of “The Gladiator”, before jumping ship and crossing the seas to the WCW due to better pay, some going as far as to say he left the real Mike Awesome back in Japan. Following this, he had a brief stint in the WWE, however he described the company as horrible and the pay didn’t quite cut it for him. He went on to retire after this, and unfortunately was told by his wife she wanted a divorce. His friends found him hanging inside his Tampa Bay home at just 42 years old.
The WWE always warns viewers before every bit of programming not to try stuff at home because things can go wrong. Unfortunately during a routine match in late 1999, something went horribly wrong for Darren Drozdov. During a match with D'Lo Brown, there was a botched power bomb spot. Drozdov has said that he was wearing a loose shirt during the match and D'Lo couldn't get a proper grip on him when delivering the move. Droz was dropped right on his head on the spot. He was left paralyzed from the neck down following the match and has since lived his life as a quadriplegic.
Remarkably Drozdov has always carried himself with no resentment towards Brown, reiterating it was in fact an accident. Still, fans and wrestlers alike always have that accident in the back of their minds and it was a stark reminder how dangerous the business could be.
13 Crash Holly
Michael John Lockwood, better known as Crash Holly, was the other half of The Holly Cousins who were championship tag team winners. Lockwood’s lengthy resume includes holding the WWF/WWE Hardcore Championship on 22 occasions, as well as a WWF European Champion, and a WWF Lightweight Champion. His roller coaster story came to a close after yet another life ending following a divorce. Upon receiving divorce papers from his wife, we was found dead in 2003 at a friend and fellow wrestlers home in a pool of his own vomit. Empty bottles of both alcohol and prescription drugs were scattered around him, one of which was a muscle relaxant, officially ruling his death a suicide by authorities.
12 Magnum T.A.
Born Terry Wayne Allen, Magnum T.A. is a professional wrestler who has since retired but was member of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) competing for championships in Florida and the Pacific Northwest wrestling territories. He had many exciting feuds during his career, which was unfortunately cut short by a car accident. Magnum was driving his Porsche in the rain and lost control, wrapping the car around a telephone pole a couple of miles from his home in North Carolina. Investigators believed the cause of the accident was speeding; however reports show he was driving the speed limit and was left in his car for two hours until someone called 911.
The right side of his body was paralyzed for months and it was doubted he would ever be walking on his own two feet again. In 1987 Magnum made his first live crowd appearance after the accident and to everyone’s please he was guided onstage with the aid of a cane and two referees. Magnum T.A. looked like he was going to be one of the biggest stars the industry had ever seen and the fact that it was all taken away from him is nothing short of tragic.
11 Eddie Guerrero
Eddie Guerrero was a member of the Guerrero family who was apart of the world of wrestling for over three decades. He performed around the globe from Mexico and Japan, back to the United States and was best known for his “Latino Heat” gimmick who would do anything to win his match. During his career he experienced both substance abuse from an addiction to painkillers, and alcoholism, something he would incorporate from time to time into his acts.
In 2005 Guerrero was found unconscious in his hotel room in Minnesota by his nephew Chavo who immediately attempted CPR to revive his uncle. At 38 years old Guerrero was pronounced dead upon paramedics arriving to the scene. What's so tragic here is that Guerrero had beaten his addiction demons years earlier but it appeared the damage had already been done to his body and he passed away from an undiagnosed heart condition.
James “Jim” Harris is a retired wrestler whose ring namesake, Kamala, derives from the gimmick “wild savage”. The Mississippi native has lived a hard life with his dad being shot when he was four years old during a simple dice game, to being relocated from town to town, as he became a known burglar. Upon relocation he found the world of wrestling and had several runs in the WWE. Between his stints in the company he resorted to his job as a truck driver for two years starting in 1993 after he was called away from a tour when his sister and her stepdaughter were killed.
He only returned back dafter Hulk Hogan urged his return- retiring later on. In 2011 he had his left leg amputated below the knee due to high blood pressure and diabetes after not accepting dialysis to help treat it. As of now he relies on his disability checks to get by, and sells handmade wooden chairs.
9 Miss Elizabeth
Miss Elizabeth is considered the first lady of wrestling. There's been no valet in the history of the business that was as beloved as Elizabeth. She would accompany her real-life husband Randy Savage to the ring, but behind closed doors, Randy's jealousy and paranoia was out of control at times, as he would reportedly lock her in a dressing room whenever she was left alone. The jealousy grew to be too much and Elizabeth divorced Randy in 1992.
She would remain in the business and eventually entered a relationship with Lex Luger. Liz would soon become addicted to drugs. In April 2003, Luger was charged following a domestic dispute with Elizabeth. Just two weeks later, Liz was found unconscious. She was brought to the hospital and was pronounced dead due to a deadly mix of painkillers and vodka. Yet another victim of substance abuse had affected a beloved legend of the business.
8 Andre the Giant
Andre the Giant was a professional French wrestler and actor who famously feuded with Hulk Hogan during Wrestle Mania. His size, as hinted at by is name, had him standing at 7’4 and 520 pounds. The result of his size is from gigantism caused by excess growth hormones in his body. It’s safe to say he was a fan favorite, and gained quick success as people were intrigued by his size. He was the biggest babyface in wrestling whose career ended in 1991 where he made his last major appearance at SummerSlam.
Two years later in 1993 he was found dead by his chauffeur in a Paris hotel after suffering congestive heart failure during the night while he was in town attending his father’s funeral.
Andre had lived his life in excess, known to drink insane amounts of alcohol and partying whenever he got the chance. He had confided in his friends that due to his condition, he knew he wasn't going to live long and lived every day like it was his last.
7 Dino Bravo
Adolfo Bresciano, aka Dino Bravo was among the few Canadian’s to make a name for himself in the world of wrestling. We was active on the scene with the WWE from 1985- 1992, known for his technical style and power, and of course bleached hair. He played off his identity and wore a Quebecois Fleur-de-lis, a strong national symbol of identity for the province. Tragically, the Canadian was found shot to death at 44 years old, with 7 bullets in his head and 10 in his torso while watching a game of hockey in his Quebec home.
He apparently played a role in an illegal cigarette smuggling ring in Canada, the only indicator pointing to this unsolved murder as a short time before he was found he had confessed to friend Bret Hart that he suspected his days were numbered.
6 Junkyard Dog
Sylvester Ritter was a professional wrestler, as well as a college football player, twice being named an honorable mention All-American. His nickname was not received in the ring, but rather during his time working in a wrecking yard. His trademark was a chain attached to a dog collar around his neck and was one of the most charismatic wrestlers in the country, but was also known for his viscous head-butt you wouldn’t want to mess with. He competed in the Universal Wrestling Federation, WWE, and WCW, leaving the WCW in 1993.
Ritter passed away five years later in 1998 when he was returning home from his daughter’s graduation in North Carolina and fell asleep at the wheel. His daughter passed away in 2011 after falling down a flight of stairs at 31 years old and was unable to be revived by paramedics.
5 Dynamite Kid
Thomas “Tom” Billington, or the Dynamite Kid, was born in the UK and a competitor in the WWE, Stampede Wrestling, and Japan Pro Wrestling. He is considered to be a big influence on wrestling as his style involved heightened athleticism and art being incorporated from Britain, Mexico, Canada, and Japan. Billington suffered lots of back and leg injury during his career and in 1997 after he was having lots of complications walking, he lost the use of his left leg and is now paralyzed and was told he would never be able to walk again.
The culprit is said to possibly be the popular diving head-butt in which lots of spinal injuries occur, and in addition to his disabled mobility, he suffered heart problems, which lead to a st6roke in 2013. In 2015 he filed a lawsuit with the WWE with intent to sue them for his concussion-based injuries.
4 Owen Hart
Owen Hart is a Canadian born professional and amateur wrestler who was the youngest of twelve in the iconic Hart family of wresting. He worked for several promotions including the WCW and the WWE, where he also performed under the ring name The Blue Blazer. One of the most tragic and renowned deaths in the world of wrestling included this young man and the malfunction of a dramatic entrance. On May 23rd, 1999 Hart fell to his death from a height of 78 feet, landing on the top rope bouncing off his chest into the ring.
Owen passing away at the young age of 34, despite not having drug problems or the usual vices of a wrestler back in the 90s. The fact that Owen was so beloved and straightlaced made it all the more tragic that his life ended so early. To this day he is not in the WWE Hall of Fame due to ongoing tension between the WWE and Owen's widow Martha.
3 Bruiser Brody
Bruiser Brody was one of the more unique characters in the history of the business. His death left a black mark on the business but not only because he died young, but because he was allegedly murdered in the locker room. At a show in Puerto Rico, Brody was called to the shower area by Jose Gonzalez, a wrestler and booker of the promotion in Puerto Rico. A scuffle enused and witnesses heard loud screams from the bathroom. Tony Atlas claims that when he went there, he saw Brody hunched over, and clutching his stomach. He saw Gonzalez with a bloody knife in his hand.
After paramedics arrived, Brody died of his stab wounds and the homicide was not deemed to be murder and Puerto Rican courts believed Gonzalez's story that he acted in self defense.
2 Von Erich Family
This professional wrestling family is one of the saddest cases to date. The Von Erich family consisted of five boys, only one of which is alive today. The tragic tale of the family begins with the first-born son being electrocuted at the age of seven in a household accident. After that, the other boys took to wrestling as an outlet and followed in their father Fritz Von Erich's footsteps.
Kevin Von Erich spent his time in the World Class Championship Wrestling where he popularized maneuvers like body scissors and wrestling barefoot who is the only brother alive today.
David Von Erich worked in the World Class Championship Wrestling promotion where he was teamed with his brothers Kevin and Kerry. There are several theories surrounding David's death all these years later. David died while in Japan on tour. Some claimed it was from a drug overdose, while others say it was a heart attack, caused by ruptured intestines resulting from acute enteritis.
Mike Von Erich retired from wrestling following a shoulder injury while on tour and was forced to have surgery. He commit suicide by overdosing on a tranquilizer. Chris Von Erich, the youngest of the family suffered from asthma and brittle bones- not ever being able to reach the success of his brothers. He became depressed and just before he turned 22 years old he commit suicide from a bullet to the head.
Kerry Von Erich, the fourth son known as “The Texas Tornado”, commited suicide after shooting himself in the heart after his marriage was falling apart and he wanted to 'join his brothers in heaven'.
That an entire family could experience so much tragedy and a family so beloved could all go so soon is beyond tragic.
1 The Benoit Family
Chris Benoit endured a 22-year career, working for multiple promotions, and holding 22 championships. He was only the second of five men in history to achieve both the WWE and WCW Triple Crown Championships. As far as an in-ring performer, he was an all-time great. Unfortunately, underneath the success Benoit suffered severe trauma to his brain during his career to the point a neurosurgeon at West Virginia University revealed that “his brain was so severely damaged, it resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient”, only news to come after he killed his wife, his son, and then himself.
He committed the murders over a three day period before he hung himself off a weight machine. Toxicology reports showed that both his wife and son had been drugged presumably before he took their lives, while his father blames the tragic murder-suicide on the side effects of the industry.
Either way, this was the most tragic event in wrestling history and its left the biggest dark cloud over the business to this day.