In Memory: Professional Wrestlers Who Died Under 40
As many of us know, professional wrestling is a very tough sport. Both physically and mentally, everyone involved in sports entertainment should prepare to endure a career of pain and constant tiring hard work. Unfortunately, sometimes the nature of this business can have such an effect on a wrestler that it can cause him/her to fall into a mental abyss, and make decisions accordingly, leading to an untimely death. Others, only God knows why they have left us so soon.
This article pays tribute to wrestlers that died under 40. Although many wrestlers are compiled on this list (sadly), 10 will be featured on slides in no particular order.
Other than the wrestlers on the slides, here are some other wrestlers that have experienced an untimely death under the age of 40:
- Frank Gotch (39)
- Chris Von Erich (21)
- Gino Hernandez (28)
- Mike Von Erich (23)
- Adrian Adonis (33)
- Buzz Sawyer (32)
- Eddie Gilbert (33)
- Louie Spicolli (27)
- Art Barr (28)
- Renegade (33)
- Bobby Duncum, Jr. (34)
- "Pitbull #2" Anthony Durante (36)
- "The Wall" Jerry Tuite (35)
- Johnny Grunge (39)
- Joey Maggs (37)
- John Kronus (38)
- Test (33)
- Lance Cade (29)
"British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith
The "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith gave wrestling fans so many memorable moments in his years as a professional wrestler.
Starting his wrestling career at only 15, Smith was focused on being a household name throughout the business. As a tag team wrestler, he is most recognized as a member of the "British Bulldogs" tag team with his partner the Dynamite Kid, capturing the tag team title once during their tenure. He also captured a tag team title with Owen Hart as a member of Camp Cornette.
Bulldog's most memorable moment as a singles wrestler is SummerSlam 1992 when he defeated Bret Hart to have his first and only reign as the Intercontinental champion, in one of the best matches in the history of the WWE.
Sadly, he passed away in May of 2002 at the age of 39. The weekend before his death, he teamed with his then-16 year old son Harry Smith.
In 1999, Crash Holly debuted as Hardcore Holly's onscreen "cousin." He quickly gained fame of being a very tough wrestler despite his small 5'10" and 210 lb. stature. In fact, he would often carry around a weight scale, billing himself as weighing over 400 lbs.
Along with being a former European, Light Heavyweight, and Tag Team Champion, Crash Holly will be mostly remembered as being the one who started the "24/7" rule after defeating Test in February of 2000. He became the Hardcore Champion a total of 22 times.
On November 6, 2003, Crash Holly died of what was later ruled as a suicide by choking on his own vomit after consuming a combination of Carisoprodol (muscle relaxer pills) and alcohol.
He was only 32.
From the long-tenured career of Chris Candido, many were surprised to know how old he was when he died.
He gained popularity in Smokey Mountain Wrestling, having one reign as the Heavyweight Champion, and in ECW, being one third of the infamous "Triple Threat" stable with Shane Douglas and Bam Bam Bigelow. He also had one ECW Tag Team Title reign with Lance Storm during his involvement with the stable (although Lance Storm was not an official member).
In 1994, he became the NWA World Heavyweight Champion at only 21 years old.
In the WWE, he teamed with "Zip" (better known as Dr. Tom Pritchard) as the Body Donnas. Their greatest success in the WWE was capturing the WWE Tag Team Championship in a tournament finals match against the Godwinns.
At the TNA Lockdown pay-per-view event in 2005, Candido competed in a tag match with Lance Hoyt vs. Apolo and Sonny Siaki. He suffered an ankle injury during the match as well as fracturing his tibia and fibula.
He underwent surgery for these injuries, but unfortunately, died from a blood clot, a complication from the surgery. He was only 33.
In 1992, Yokozuna debuted in the WWE, and attained a meteoric rise due to his combination of size and agility. In 1993, he won the Royal Rumble match to compete at Wrestlemania.
At Wrestlemania IX in Caesar's Palace, he defeated Bret Hart to become the WWE Champion for the first time. This run was short lived, as Hulk Hogan won the title minutes later.
Only two months later, at the King of the Ring pay-per-view, Yokozuna defeated Hulk Hogan two start his second reign as champion.
During his WWE career, he gained further popularity by being in a heated feud against the Undertaker, defeating him in a Casket Match at the 1994 Royal Rumble, and also becoming tag team champions with Owen Hart in 1995.
In October of 2000, Yokozuna died at the age of 34 due to fluid blockage in his lungs. At this time, he was nearly 600 lbs.
His career did not go unnoticed to the WWE, as he became a member of the Hall of Fame class of 2012.
Eddie Fatu first became popular in the WWE in 2002 as Jamal, teaming with his cousin Matt "Rosey" Anoa'i, better known as 3-Minute Warning.
They were the henchmen of Eric Bischoff, and quickly gained success as a dominant tag team. Fatu was released in 2003, forcing the team to disband.
In 2006, he returned to the WWE with a completely different look, now known as Umaga. He later became the Intercontinental Champion in February of 2007 by defeating Jeff Hardy. He became IC Champion for a second time in July of the same year by defeating Santino Marella.
On December 4, 2009, Umaga died after having two heart attacks, which was later found out to be a cause of an overdose of medication. He was 36.
In the mid-1980s, Brian Pillman became popular in Canada, wrestling for the Stampede Wrestling promotion and becoming tag team champions with Bruce Hart shortly after his debut.
In the US, he became popular in the early 1990s in WCW, becoming US Tag Team Champions with Tom Zenk, and becoming Light Heavyweight Champion as a singles competitor.
His career as a wrestler took a drastic change when he turned heel during a Light Heavyweight Title feud with Brad Armstrong. After the turn, Pillman really began to hone his craft as a wrestler, and gain a distinctive personality.
The height of his career in WCW was becoming one-half of the WCW World Tag Team Champions with "Stunning" Steve Austin, known as the Hollywood Blondes.
In ECW, he gained his "Loose Cannon" gimmick, transporting it to both WCW and WWE becoming a member of both the Four Horseman and the Hart Foundation, respectively.
Shortly before the Badd Blood pay-per-view, Vince McMahon announced that Brian Pillman was found dead in his hotel room earlier that day. It was later determined to be a heart disease. He was 35 years old.
As a member of the legendary Hart family, Owen Hart was destined to be a star.
He became popular in the WWE after turning heel on Bret Hart at the 1993 Survivor Series. After supposedly "patching things up," Owen became frustrated at the 1994 Royal Rumble, and officially turned on Bret, never to look back. Later in that year, he defeated Bret Hart at Wrestlemania X, and won the King of the Ring tournament at the pay-per-view.
Owen became WWE Tag Team Champions with Yokozuna in 1995, British Bulldog in 1996, and Jeff Jarrett in 1999, as well as winning the Intercontinental Championship twice in 1997.
On May 23, 1999, while portraying the "Blue Blazer" character, his stunt to come down from the rafters was botched, and he fell nearly eighty feet onto the top rope of the ring near a turnbuckle. He died shortly after the fall. He was 34 years old.
David Von Erich
Known as the "Yellow Rose of Texas," David Von Erich was one of the most popular members of the legendary Von Erich family, and arguably was on the path to become the most successful.
He achieved great success in World Class Championship Wrestling, acquiring many championships during his short career.
His most memorable moment was his DQ victory against Ric Flair in a match for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, and many believed that he was on deck to eventually become champion.
Sadly, we were not able to see his wrestling career grow and blossom, as he died in February of 1984 in what was ruled to be a heart attack. He was only 25 years old.
Kerry Von Erich
Kerry Von Erich was arguably the most popular wrestler that ever competed in WCCW.
As a member of the legendary Von Erich family, and with his father Fritz being the owner of the promotion, Kerry obtained significant success in WCCW, winning the World Heavyweight Title on multiple occasions.
In May of 1984 at the David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions event, he defeated Ric Flair to become NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
In 1990, he debuted in the WWE, and his nickname went from the "Modern Day Warrior" as he was known in WCCW, to the "Texas Tornado." At Summerslam of the same year, he defeated "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig to become the Intercontinental Champion.
In 1993, going deeper into depression due to a number of factors, he committed suicide at the age of 33. In 2009, he along with his brothers David, Kevin, Mike, and Chris, and his father Fritz, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Coming from a successful wrestling family, Eddie Guerrero had some big shoes to fill in order to continue the success of the family name.
He competed all over the world for many years, and finally got his break in the US in ECW, winning the TV title in his debut match against 2 Cold Scorpio. Eddie would later achieve success in the WCW, becoming both the Cruiserweight and US Champion.
The height of his career was in the WWE.
He won nearly every major title in the company, including the Intercontinental, US, European, and Tag Team titles. On February, 15, 2004 at the No Way Out pay-per-view, Guerrero finally achieved his dream of becoming WWE Champion by defeating Brock Lesnar.
Sadly, on November 13, 2005, he was found dead in his hotel room.The cause of death was ruled to be heart failure.
Deservedly, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2006.
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