Brian 'Axl Rotten' Knighton, Former ECW Superstar, Dies at the Age of 44

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist

Former professional wrestler Brian Knighton, who is recognized for his work as Axl Rotten in ECW during the 1990s, died Thursday of unknown causes. He was 44.

"WWE extends its condolences to Knighton’s family, friends and fans," WWE said in a statement.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore announced on Tuesday Rotten died from an "accidental overdose," per Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun.  

Knighton's wrestling career spanned more than two decades and featured stints in every major promotion in the United States. He had a stint with WCW to begin his career and latter-day runs with WWE and TNA—all short-lived—but was famous for being one of the original stars of ECW.

Competing as half of The Bad Breed, Knighton and Ian Rotten (Jason Williams) were part of ECW's tag team division before splitting up. Knighton and Rotten then engaged in one of the most brutal rivalries in ECW history, fighting each other throughout the 1995 calendar year. After a run as a singles competitor, Knighton then formed a tag team with Balls Mahoney, which lasted through the remainder of his run in ECW.

Knighton left the company in 1999, having been there for more than six years. He continued to compete on the independent circuit throughout the 2000s, notably with Xtreme Pro Wrestling. He also competed in the Hardcore Homecoming and Extreme Reunion events, which brought together old ECWers for one-night stints.

In 2015, Knighton was the subject of a documentary in which he revealed injuries from the ring confined him to a wheelchair. He spoke openly about the damage his hardcore career inflicted and said he would need spinal surgery to walk again.


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