There are two constants in the professional wrestling business. One is that people seldom actually ever leave the business, and the other is that at times, wrestlers tend to die young. When a wrestler dies at the height of his or her career, wrestling fans are left to wonder what might have been for years after seeing the wrestler’s last match. Today, WWE is the established leader in the professional wrestling business, but there are several second-tier companies that can offer talent healthy contracts. In addition, the independent scene is in better shape than it has been for some time, so talent would have a lot of options for work if they were still alive and looking for employment.
Putting together a list like this one creates the opportunity to look back at where a certain wrestler was in their life and career, and to use that information to guess how that person’s life and career might have progressed. Therefore, here is a look at wrestlers who passed away during their prime wrestling years. The number in parenthesis represents their ages as of the beginning of 2017, and next to that is where that person or those persons might be if they were still alive today.
20 Owen Hart (51) – Retired
Owen Hart passed away at the age of 34 due to a tragic accident from a stunt that went wrong. Owen had carried every title that the WWE had to offer aside from the World title, and at the time of Owen’s death, he was scheduled to win the Intercontinental Championship, though his character was played for laughs. Owen was arguably one of the most talented performers in the business, but the story on Owen was that he was frugal with his spending, and his plan was to retire from professional wrestling at a young age, and spend his remaining years with his family.
19 Brian Pillman (54) – NJPW
Brian Pillman was considered one of the greatest Cruiserweights in the history of the business, but he was also talented enough to carry a company as its champion, though he was never given the opportunity. An ankle injury from an automobile accident changed Pillman’s wrestling style from being a high-flyer to a more mat-based style, but his ability to get over on the mic was what made him a star. Just before entering the WWE, Pillman was the most talked about performer in the business, but the WWE failed to truly capitalize on his talent.
18 Crash Holly (45) – 205 Live
Crash Holly was the little guy who thought that he was a Super Heavyweight. He was the guy who created the 24/7 rule with the WWE Hardcore Championship, and he was one of the stars of that division. Holly had already been released from WWE, and was working independents at the time of his death, but with the way that WWE is re-signing talent, Holly would have been brought back by the company at some point.
17 Yokozuna (50) – Indies
The Yokozuna gimmick was created in an attempt to separate Rodney Anoa’i from his Samoan heritage, while also cashing in on the notoriety of Akebono, the Samoan-born sumo wrestler who became the first non-Japanese-born competitor to ever reach yokozuna, the highest achievable rank in sumo wrestling. As he began to age, it is unlikely that he would have continued to use the Yokozuna gimmick, and he might have returned to a more Samoan gimmick. Also, if he was still struggling with his weight, he would have been dismissed by WWE, possibly after dominating during the Attitude Era.
16 Umaga (43) – Bullet Club in Ring of Honor
Eddie Fatu is another member of the Anoa’i family and is the first cousin of Yokozuna. Eddie, as of the start of 2017, would only have been 43 years old, so he would still be in his peak professional wrestling years, as long as his weight was under control. Eddie was booked as a monster in his final stint in WWE, and more than likely, he would still be a monster, as opposed to the hip-hop gimmick that he used at the beginning of his career.
15 Viscera (45) – Indies
Big Daddy V, the last name used by Nelson Frazier when he left WWE, is the name that would be used by Frazier if he were still alive. Like the Samoan cousins, Frazier struggled with his weight, and probably would have continued to suffer from this problem, which would determine where he would be able to work as he got older. If he had been able to keep his weight in check, his name value would have made him a commodity on the independent scene.
14 Randy Savage (64) – Filming Shoot Videos
At the point when Randy Savage passed, he was past his professional wrestling prime, though many professional wrestlers perform well into their 50s or 60s. However, Randy Savage’s career saw him perform at the top of the card in WWE, WCW and TNA, so it is unlikely that he would have been willing work in front of about 200 people in a small facility for a few hundred dollars. At the same time, the major companies would only have wanted Savage to be an attraction that was used to bolster ticket sales and television ratings, and he might not have been in favor of that. Therefore, predicting what Savage might be doing is slightly more difficult than some of the others.
13 Louie Spicolli (45) – Trainer in NXT
Louie Spicolli was lauded during his career for his innovation inside of the ring, and for his quick wit and intelligence when he was asked to provide commentary during a match. Spicolli died five days after his 27th birthday, but he had already logged ten years in the business, so if he had been able to stay drug free, he would have been in demand by all of the top companies in America, Japan and Mexico, especially since he had gained experience in all of these areas.
12 Perro Aguayo Jr. (37) – Lucha Underground/AAA
Perro Aguayo Jr. passed away as the result of a freak accident during a tag match where Rey Mysterio Jr. was one of the opponents. During the match, Rey set Aguayo up for the 619 finisher, but in the course of setting up for the move, Aguayo suffered a whiplash, severed his spine and died during the match. Though young, Aguayo was a 20-year veteran of the business, and was one of the top stars in Mexico.
11 Test (41) – TNA
Test was never a top talent in professional wrestling. He was one of many who had the look that Vince McMahon liked, but did not have talent enough to become a star, at least by WWE standards. He won a few titles in WWE, but it was during an era when titles switched frequently, and because he found himself in storylines with Triple H and Stephanie, he was bound to gain some gold. However, if he had still been alive, he would not have been desired by WWE.
10 Bam Bam Bigelow (55) – Filming Shoot Videos
Following the sale of WCW to WWE, Bam Bam Bigelow was not picked up by WWE, and was left to pursue employment on the independent circuit. For several years following the sale, Bigelow’s whereabouts were a mystery, except in instances when his name would be mentioned in a news story. As Bigelow began to make more frequent appearances, wrestling fans got to see and hear from “The Beats from the East” more regularly, and because of this, Bigelow would have been a natural for what might have been his future in the business.
9 The Public Enemy (Grunge, 50/Rock, 63) – Running a Wrestling School
At the time of their passing, Rocco Rock was a very young 49 while Johnny Grunge was an older than his age 39, so seemingly, both of these men would have been out of the business within a few years. The team’s time in WWE and WCW could be considered failures, but the two men had gained a lot of experience in professional wrestling. That experience would have served them well in later years.
8 Roddy Piper (62) – Hosting a Podcast or a Show on WWE Network
Roddy Piper was a very talented professional wrestler. Inside of the ring, he was one of the best, but his true talent was on the microphone. Whether he was conducting an interview or just spouting his opinion, Piper had few peers in the wrestling business when it came to expressing his opinion, and that ability, plus his acting resume, would have been Piper’s claim to fame in his later years.
7 Eddie Gilbert (55) – Running His Own Wrestling Company
Eddie Gilbert was one of the better professional wrestlers in his day. Eddie was also one of the better bookers in his day, as he was often hired to wear the dual hats of wrestler and booker in many of the companies where he worked. Eddie was the booker for ECW before turning the reigns over to Paul Heyman, and was booking in Carlos Colon’s World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico when he died.
6 Junkyard Dog (64) – WWE Ambassador
The Junkyard Dog was never the best wrestler. He was more of an attraction, but he was able to get fans to their feet whenever he came into an arena. At the time of his death, JYD was struggling with his weight, and was past his wrestling prime, though he was still having matches. Eventually, he would no longer have been able to book dates as a wrestler, but WWE would have recognized his value to the company and to the business.
5 Earthquake (53) – WWE Legends Contract/Surprise Royal Rumble Entrant
Some wrestlers are too old to work in their fifties, while others are still able to perform in the ring because they were never asked things that they would not be able to do as they grew older. Earthquake was one of those guys whose move set would not have had to have been altered because he never performed feats of extreme agility or speed. Therefore, as he aged, his move set would be the same and he would be able to continue performing in the ring.
4 Davey Boy Smith (54) – Color Commentator for WWE UK Tournament
If Davey Boy Smith had still been alive, in good terms with WWE, and drug free, he would still have be involved with WWE in some form. He might have been a frequent contributor to WWE DVDs as Bret Hart currently is, or he might have taken a more active role, such as Jim Neidhart’s frequent appearances on Total Divas.
3 Chyna (47) – Starring in Reality Show
One of the main reasons why Chyna was unable to hold a job in professional wrestling after leaving WWE was because of her substance use. Her appearance on the reality show The Surreal Life, where she appeared intoxicated much of the time, did not endear her with promoters who probably saw her as unreliable. However, she did appear on Celebrity Rehab in an effort to repair her life and her image.
2 Chris Benoit (49) – NJPW or TNA
Chris Benoit would have been 49 years old at the beginning of 2017, and based on the way that he kept himself in shape throughout his career, Benoit would still have been in wrestling shape, and would till have been competing at a high level. However, there is also the possibility that he would no longer have been working for WWE, as the company is in the midst of a youth movement, so to speak, and Benoit might have been pushed aside for younger talent.
1 Eddie Guerrero (49) – Co-Owner/ Executive Producer for Lucha Underground
Eddie Guerrero, like Benoit, would have been 49 at the start of 2017, and like Benoit, Eddie would also have been in top shape, and still performing at a high level. Guerrero would still have been in demand by WWE, as the company would have wanted Eddie to be the WWE Ambassador to Mexico, a role that the company had planned for Rey Mysterio after Eddie’s death. However, Eddie would have wanted to continue wrestling, and he might have sought the opportunity to continue performing outside of WWE.
Eddie’s nephew Chavo is one of the Producers for Lucha Underground, and Eddie would have held a similar position. It is also possible that Eddie would have been involved with Konnan in the creation of the company, and would probably have instrumental in the operations of the company. Eddie’s roots are in Lucha Libre, and this would have been an opportunity for him to work with the new generation of Lucha Libre stars, along with veterans from his past such as Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Dr. Wagner, Jr.
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