Gone Too Soon: Wrestling's Greatest Tragedies
Wrestling is a violent business that takes its toll on performers who give their bodies for our entertainment.
It is common knowledge that steroid, narcotic, and alcohol abuse is rampant throughout the history of the industry. However, there have been a handful of performers who have tragically left us far too soon or had their careers cut tragically cut.
The following is a list of wrestling's most tragic figures who either left us far too soon in non-drug related deaths, or who have suffered great tragedies in the business.
10. Darren Drozdov
Born 1969-paralyzed 1999
Cause of Injury: Broken neck (quadriplegic)
Known in WWE as "Droz", Darren Drozdov was a former college football All-American and NFL player who entered the promotion with a gimmick related to his football playing days.
Droz had a nervous condition that caused him to vomit when he was under stress and was booked as the nickname "Puke."
Aside from the puking and punk rock gimmick, Droz was a promising young wrestler readying himself for a push for the Intercontinental Championship.
However, in 1999 during a match with D-Lo Brown, Droz suffered two broken discs in his neck, leaving him a quadriplegic and ending a promising career.
9. Mike Awesome
Born 1965-Died 2007
Cause of Death: Suicide
Awesome was one of the most wasted talents in the history of the wrestling business.
After starting his career in independent promotions and ECW, Awesome was an imposing figure and one of the best power wrestlers of the 1990s.
However, when he left ECW for WCW he found himself booked with terrible gimmick after terrible gimmick and was never utilized to his abilities.
Despondent with what had become of his career, and suffering from severe clinical depression, Awesome took his life in 2007.
8. Adrian Adonis
Born 1954-Died 1988
Cause of Death: Automobile Accident (drowning)
One of the most respected mid-card wrestlers in the AWA and WWF at the time, Adonis was always a solid worker who was willing to mentor and put over younger talent.
Despite his goofy gay-cross dressing gimmick, Adonis was a solid heel who was one of the nicest men in the business.
After leaving AWA, Adonis began working independent shows in Canada and New England looking to get another shot with the WWE.
While traveling to a show in Canada, the van Adonis was riding in swerved to avoid hitting a moose and plunged into a nearby lake. All of the men riding in the van survived, except for Adonis, who drowned.
7. Andre the Giant
Born 1945-Died 1993
Cause of Death: Congestive heart failure related to a hyperactive pituitary gland.
One of the most well liked and well respected men in the history of the business, Andre the Giant was a legend in the industry who had a passion for the industry and for life.
Standing at 7-foot-4 and well over 500 pounds, the size that made Andre one of the world's most popular wrestlers also was a prison.
Andre often found himself a recluse who often told fans he would trade the fame and fortune he gained in the wrestling industry just to be a regular person who could go to the movies.
In 1993, while in France, just after attending his father's funeral, Andre the Giant passed away from heart failure related to the same pituitary disorder that gave him his great size.
6. Nancy Benoit
Born 1964-Died 2007
Cause of Death: Murdered
Often performing under the name "Woman," Nancy Benoit was one of the best heel managers and valets of the 1990s.
Woman worked with some of the industry's biggest heels, including The Sandman, Tazz, Kevin Sullivan, Ric Flair, and the Four Horsemen.
It was during her tenure in WCW where she divorced her abusive ex-husband, Kevin Sullivan, and married Chris Benoit (she met Benoit during a booked angle where she left Sullivan for Benoit only to really leave Sullivan for Benoit in real life—this led to the opinion by many smirks that "Kevin Sullivan booked his own divorce).
On the night of June 25, 2007, Nancy Benoit and her son Daniel were brutally murdered by Chris Benoit. She was 42 years old.
5. Eddie Guerrero
Born 1967-Death 2005
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
In 2004-05 there was no hotter wrestler in the WWE than Eddie Guerrero, who was getting one of the biggest pushes in the business.
Guerrero despite being booked as a heel was a fan favorite because of the obstacles he overcame in the early 2000s.
Eddie had overcame a near fatal car accident in 1999 only to become addicted to prescription pain killers. In the early 2000's Guerrero went into drug rehab and was clean and sober nearly four years at the time of his death.
In November 2005, Eddie Guerrero was found dead by his nephew Chavo in his Minneapolis hotel room. The cause of death was a heart attack caused by an undiagnosed heart ailment. At the autopsy the medical examiner found no drugs or alcohol in Eddie's system.
4. Chris Candido
Born 1972-Died 2005
Cause of Death: Surgical Complications (blood clot)
Chris Candido was a solid mid-card performer and journeyman who spent well over a decade in nearly every wrestling promotion in North America.
In April 2005 after sustaining injuries in a TNA cage match, Candido underwent leg surgery to have steel plates and screws placed in his leg.
For some reason Candido was not prescribed antibiotics and an infection developed in his leg causing a blood clot.
Two weeks later Candido had pneumonia and while doctors were performing surgery to drain his lungs, Chris Candido passed away due to the blood clot in his lungs.
3. The Von Erich Family
David Von Erich (1958-84) Cause of Death: Ruptured Intestine
Kerry Von Erich (1960-93) Cause of Death: Suicide
Mike Von Erich (1964-87) Cause of Death: Suicide
Chris Von Erich (1969-91) Cause of Death: Suicide
"Ten years ago I had four brothers, and now I'm not even a brother."
-Kevin Von Erich
The first family of Texas wrestling is also one of the most tragic stories in the history of the industry.
Terrible misfortune, substance abuse, and mental illness all caused a decade of misery for a real-life wrestling family who were at one time "bigger than the Dallas Cowboys."
The "Von Erich curse" began well before any of the brothers began in the business when oldest brother Jack died as a child in a freak accident, and continued in 1984 when David died of a ruptured intestine while on tour with Bruiser Brody in Japan.
The curse continued with Kerry suffered a motorcycle accident losing a foot and falling into drug addiction before taking his life in 1993.
Brothers Mike and Chris would also suffer from serious depression and substance abuse and take their own lives.
Kevin Von Erich is the only surviving member of the family.
2. Bruiser Brody
Born 1946-Died 1988
Cause of Death: Murdered
The man who inspired Mick Foley most, Bruiser Brody was one of wrestling's true tough guys and original hardcore legends.
However, as great a worker as Brody was, he was also a difficult man to work with, and frequently found himself moving from promotion to promotion because of his willingness to stand up for himself.
Brody was notorious for refusing to job to wrestlers he felt were inferior or who he didn't like, and this cost him his life.
After a show in Puerto Rico a booker who had problems with Brody stabbed the wrestler to death in the locker room shower. The man who took Brody's life was found not guilty of all charges.
1. Owen Hart
Born 1965-Died 1999
Cause of Death: Massive internal injuries.
Owen Hart died because he was a loyal company man.
Coming from one of wrestling's greatest families, Owen Hart was the talented younger brother of the legendary Bret Hart and son of Stu Hart, the greatest wrestling trainer to ever live.
After the Montreal Screwjob, Owen remained in the WWE wrestling as the only white member of the Nation of Domination ("The Black Hart") and later as the goofy comic book heel The Blue Blazer.
On the night of May 23, 1999, at the In Your House pay-per-view show in Kansas City's Kemper Arena, Hart as The Blue Blazer was going to enter the ring by using a harness and rappel mechanism (similar to what Sting was using in WCW) from the arena ceiling.
The mechanism malfunctioned and Hart fell nearly 80 feet into the ring where he suffered life-ending internal injuries.