When we hear the word athlete, the first thing that comes to mind is someone who participates in the Olympics, or who plays a sport like football, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis, or soccer, but professional wrestling also features real athletes. There are those who would disagree though, claiming that everything associated with pro wrestling is 100% fake, but in truth, the vast majority of those people would never be able to physically train and perform the way that wrestlers do. Thanks to major promotions like the WWE, professional wrestling has become a global business, which is why there are so many promotions all over the world, and it is because of wrestling's popularity, that the wrestlers themselves have become celebrities.
Like other celebrities, pro wrestlers, if they are somewhat talented, will be able to make a lot of money, which in turn allows them to live the kind of lifestyle that most people dream of. When you take away the athleticism, fame, and money, every single pro wrestler turns out to be an ordinary person just like the rest of us. With that being said, it means that these individuals cannot escape certain things, like hunger, paying taxes, getting sick, and eventually dying. Death is something we must all face, it is simply an unavoidable part of life, and it can come as a result of old age after living a long life, or it can come about via illness, or some kind of unfortunate accident. Since 2010, we have lost quite a few wrestlers, some who were very well known, and some whose names have been forgotten through the passage of time, and this article will bring attention to 20 wrestlers who people may have forgotten have passed away in the last eight years.
In 2000, Sean O'Haire made his Official debut with WCW, and in his 1 year with the promotion, he became a 3-time Tag Team Champion, and those title reigns turned out to be the high point of his career. In 2001, O'Haire joined the WWE for a run that also lasted for just 1 year, and while with the company, he fell under the tutelage of Roddy Piper, which "allowed" him to pick up wins against the likes of Rikishi, Hulk Hogan (as Mr. America), and Eddie Guerrero. After WWE released him, O'Haire competed in Japan for a few years before retiring in 2006, but he then had a short-lived career as a kickboxer and mixed martial artist. In 2014, O'Haire battled with depression and alcoholism, factors that led to his suicide in September of that same year.
Earlier we talked about Mad Dog Vachon, but what was not mentioned was the fact that his family is heavily involved with professional wrestling, as his brother, sister, and niece were all in-ring performers as well. His niece was Luna Vachon, and when she first mentioned becoming a wrestler, her family tried to stop her, but in the end, she was trained by her aunt and The Fabulous Moolah. Vachon's career started in 1985 when she competed for Moolah's all-women's promotion.
In 1993, she made it to the WWE where she debuted at WrestleMania IX as Shawn Michael's new valet, and that debut led to a vicious feud with Sensational Sherri.
She officially retired in 2007 after more than 2 decades in the business, and in the years that followed, she dealt with a pretty serious drug addiction, one that turned fatal in 2010 when she overdosed.
For a long time, one of the biggest attractions in professional wrestling has been "giants", individuals who are so tall that they tower over the rest of us, with Andre the Giant being the most iconic of these wrestlers.
Giant Gonzalez was born in Argentina, and stayed with WCW from 1989 to 1992 before joining the WWE in 1993, and at 7'6", he is still the tallest wrestler in WWE history.
He never won a major North American title, but Gonzalez did feud with The Undertaker, and although that feud was considered to be the worst feud of 93, it still left Gonzalez in the history books, as he was one of the names associated with Taker's WrestleMania undefeated streak. At just 44 years of age, Gonzalez died in 2010, due to ongoing heart issues and complications from diabetes.
Here we have Lance Cade, and when it comes to this list, his death really stands out, because he was just 29 years old when he passed away in 2010 as a result of Cardiomyopathy: a group of diseases that directly affect the heart.
Cade debuted in Japan in 1999 when he was just 18, and his abilities quickly caught the eye of the WWE who signed him and sent him to their developmental territory where he received training from Shawn Michaels.
While with the WWE, Cade had success as a tag team wrestler, as he and Mark Jindrak faced off against the likes of La Resistance, the Dudley Boyz, and Evolution; and when he partnered with Trevor Murdoch, the pair won the Tag Team Championship 3 times.
He may have made his official debut in 1992, but it was not until 1995 that Chris Kanyon decided to become a full-time professional wrestler, with his first real job coming with the WWE where he served as a jobber. Later that same year, Kanyon signed with WCW, where he again debuted as a jobber, but he was later given a mask and repackaged as Mortis, who turned out to be the last person to join The Flock stable.
Following WCW's fall, Kanyon returned to the WWE as part of the Invasion storyline, and in 2001, he won the Tag Team titles with Diamond Dallas Page.
The former United States Champion retired in 2007, and it was later revealed that he suffered from Bipolar disorder, which is believed to be the cause of his 2010 suicide.
When you think of hardcore wrestling, Mick Foley, Tommy Dreamer, and The Sandman are some of the names that come to mind, but there have been many other names associated with the most extreme style of wrestling-including Axl Rotten.
Although he had very brief stints with WCW, WWE, and TNA, Rotten is best known for the years he spent with ECW, where he was part of The Bad Breed tag team; and when he and his partner Ian Rotten split, their feud was recognized as 1995's "Feud of the Year".
After nearly 30 years in the business, Rotten decided to officially retire in 2014, but he was never able to enjoy his retirement due to a neurodegenerative disease and drug use, and in 2016, he died from a heroin overdose.
At one point in time, major promotions like ECW and WWE allowed women to actively compete against men in the ring, but that time has come and gone, which means that we will probably never get to see someone like Nicole Bass again. Prior to joining the wrestling business, Bass had an extensive career as a bodybuilder, and when she debuted in 1998 with ECW, her size allowed her to feud with the likes of Tommy Dreamer and Mikey Whipwreck. The following year, Bass joined the WWE, where she debuted at WrestleMania 15 as Sable's bodyguard, and following that debut, she would have a feud with Debra which led to her becoming allies with Ivory. Bass left the company shortly after her new team-up due to sexual harassment, and following the ensuing lawsuit, she did not really make any real news until word broke in 2016 that she suffered a fatal heart attack.
Jim Ross is considered to be a legend in the wrestling industry, so if he gives a wrestler high praise, it means that that individual was in fact very good at their craft, even if they never became a superstar.
Brad Armstrong, the brother of Road Dogg, was a second generation wrestler who spent the majority of his career working for WCW, where he became the last man to win the promotion's Light Heavyweight Championship.
Armstrong also spent 6 years with the WWE (2006-2012), where he mainly performed in ECW house shows before becoming a producer and trainer. In 2012, Armstrong died as a result of a heart attack, and during the eulogy, Jim Ross said that Armstrong was "one of the more talented in ring performers I've ever worked with... one of the most underrated all-time greats ever in the business."
Over the course of his career, Balls Mahoney spent a lot of time on the Independent circuit, and even though he worked with the WWE on 2 separate occasions, he is best known for his ECW days. While with ECW, Mahoney was almost never seen without his signature steel chair, which would always have some kind of sign or writing on it, and when he was teamed up with the aforementioned Axl Rotten, they were informally known as "The Hardcore Chair Swingin' Freaks". In 2016, just 1 day after celebrating his 44th birthday, Mahoney suddenly died in his New Jersey home while watching an episode of Jeopardy, with the autopsy determining that he suffered a fatal heart attack. His final match was a Flaming Tables Match, and the victory occurred just 4 months before his untimely death.
There have been several families who have left their mark on the world of professional wrestling, with the Hart family being one of the more iconic ones, but when it comes to the WWE, there is another family that is just as well known. That family would be the Anoaʻi family, and it has produced some of the most recognizable names in the company's history, like Yokozuna, Rikishi, The Usos, The Rock, and Roman Reigns. The family has also produced other wrestlers, such as Matthew Tapunu'u Anoaʻi, who went by the name Rosey, and who became a 1-time Tag Team Champion while partnering with The Hurricane. Rosey is Roman Reigns' older brother, and last year he died as a result of congestive heart failure, a condition he had been dealing with for several years.
A lot of people like clowns, but there are also a ton of people who hate them, so it is not all that surprising that professional wrestling has made some wrestlers compete while being dressed as one. Matt Osbourne was a second generation wrestler who spent time in the WWE, WCW, and ECW, and although he did not win a major title with any of those promotions, he is best known for being the first wrestler to portray Doink the Clown. Doink started out by playing tricks on fans and wrestlers at ringside, but when he officially debuted, he became a heel who played cruel jokes on wrestlers in order to amuse himself and put them off guard, and seeing as the character competed at WrestleMania and SummerSlam, the gimmick worked. In 2013, Osbourne was found dead in his apartment as a result of a morphine and hydrocodone overdose, with a contributing factor being that he suffered from heart disease.
The world of professional wrestling is filled with men and women who entered the business with some form of prior athletic background, and when it comes to North American promotions, many wrestlers turn out to be former powerlifters. Doug Furnas was one such wrestler, as he was once a National and World Powerlifting Champion who managed to set multiple records in the 275 pound weight class. As a wrestler, Furnas competed in ECW, WCW, All Japan Pro Wrestling, and WWE, and he is best known for being one half of the Can-Am Express tag team, a team that won championships in ECW and AJPW. Following his retirement in 2000, Furnas was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, but it was due to Hypertensive heart disease that he lost his life in 2012 at the age of 52.
Wrestling does have a history of using "giants", but the business has also utilized individuals who are fairly big-boned, and that would be because they can use their weight to overpower opponents.
Nelson Frazier Jr.'s career began in 1993 and ended in 2013, and over the course of those 2 decades, he went by several names, including Big Daddy V, Mabel, and Viscera.
He may have spent some time in Japan, in TNA, and on the Independent circuit, but the majority of his career was spent with the WWE, where he became a 1-time Hardcore and Tag Team champion, and in 1996, he won the King of the Ring tournament. In 2014, just 4 days after his 43rd birthday, Viscera died in the shower after suffering a fatal heart attack.
It is true that the WWE calls the U.S. its home, and that the majority of its superstars are American, but the promotion has always had a connection with Canada, especially the French-speaking province of Quebec. Over the decades we have seen several French-Canadians appear in a WWE ring, and one of those individuals was Frenchy Martin, who mainly served as an enhancement talent during his in-ring days in the 80s. When he was done competing, Martin became a manager for fellow Canadian wrestler Dino Bravo, until he decided to officially retire in 1990; but retirement did not stop him from becoming the head booker for a Puerto Rican promotion. In 2016, Martin died at the age of 66 after battling both bone and bladder cancer.
There are many young wrestling fans who do not even know that WCW even existed, which is why those same people will probably not recognize certain wrestlers who spent practically their entire career with the promotion. Al Green wrestled all over the world, but he is mainly known for the extensive time he spent with WCW, where he went on to become one half of both The Master Blasters and Wrecking Crew tag teams. Green officially debuted in 1990, and towards the end of his run with WCW, he was known as The Dog, with the gimmick being that he was an attack dog, who would even drink out of the toilet. In 2013, at the age of 57, Green died from Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which causes long-term breathing problems and poor airflow.
Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon started out as an amateur wrestler who competed in the 1948 Summer Olympics, and two years later, he decided to bring his talents to the world of professional wrestling. There is no doubt whatsoever that there is an entire generation that has no idea who Vachon is, which is quite disappointing, as he is considered to be one of the best grapplers in the history of the business. Vachon faced off against the likes of Jesse Ventura, Rick Martel, and Pat Patterson, and when he joined the WWE in 1983, he was mainly used in house shows, primarily those that took place in the Midwest and Quebec. The Montreal native retired in 1986, and in 2010 his lengthy career was recognized by the WWE when he was inducted into their Hall of Fame; and when he died in his sleep in 2013, the wrestling world lost a true legend.
1965 saw the official debut of Buddy Roberts, who at the time went by the name Dale Valentine, and in a career that lasted 23 years, he became part of 2 well known tag teams: The Hollywood Blonds and The Fabulous Freebirds. As far as The Hollywood Blonds are concerned, Roberts and his partner only competed in well known independent promotions and Japan, but everything changed for him when the Freebirds were formed in 1979. The team included Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, and Jimmy Garvin, and it is because of them that the Freebird Rule exists, which allows any two of the three members of a team to defend a title. In 2016, Roberts and his fellow Freebirds were inducted into WWE's Hall of Fame, but his induction was done posthumously as he died in 2012 due to pneumonia.
Jim Cornette has managed dozens of wrestlers, as well as dozens of tag teams, and many of those individuals have found themselves in WWE's Hall of Fame, and although he has not been inducted, Jimmy Del Ray was one of his clients. Del Ray officially came onto the wrestling scene in 1985, and after years on the Independent circuit, he found his way to the WWE in 1993, where he earned a name for himself as one half of the Heavenly Bodies tag team. In 1997, Del Ray was forced to retire from in-ring competition because of a knee injury, but he stayed in the business for another decade as a trainer. In 2014, while driving his truck on a Florida highway, Del Ray suffered a heart attack, and later died in hospital.
Robert Deroy Windham was a former football player and marine, but he is best known by the name Blackjack Mulligan. Mulligan may have not intended to become a professional wrestler, but the job worked out pretty well for him and his family, as his sons later went on to join the business, followed by his grandsons who fans know as Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas. He will be remembered for his black trunks, black hat, and black fingerless glove, and for his iron-claw submission hold, and when he was done competing in the ring, he became a promoter and booker in the Southern U.S., becoming a co-owner of an Indie promotion along the way. For all his contributions to professional wrestling, Mulligan was inducted to WWE's Hall of Fame in 2006, and in 2016, he passed away after suffering from a heart attack and other health issues.
Over the decades, there have been many icons who have emerged from the world of professional wrestling, and there is doubt that Randy Mario Poffo, otherwise known as "Macho Man" Randy Savage, is one of them. Savage is considered to be one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, with many of his peers claiming that he is one of the best performers to have ever lived, best known for his raspy voice and flamboyant ring attire, as well as the intensity he showed in and out of the ring. Over his Hall of Fame career, Savage performed in WWE and WCW, winning the Intercontinental and World Heavyweight Championships along the way. It feels as though the Macho Man's death happened ages ago, but many people forget that it has only been 7 years since we lost the icon to a fatal heart attack.