Every sport has its own risks, and for professional wrestling, where athletes are expected to perform different stunts in order to entertain the fans, a lot of things can go wrong. Footballers suffer from head and brain injuries that have been identified to because of death. Every sport, regardless of how fun and harmless it might look, possesses a form of danger that places the life of each athlete at risk every time they step out to perform.
In wrestling, routines that have been practiced multiple times has gone bad due to a slip or a mistimed action at the implementation stage and has left us with dead wrestlers. Many wrestlers have lost their lives during their active careers and while some were due to routines performed on stage, some have been down to their bad health choices like drugs and alcohol.
It is important to keep track of the deaths of sportsmen and women and to identify common factors that might be responsible for them. It is also important to do so, so the audience and fans can better appreciate the dedication and hard work sportsmen and women put into making the fans get their money’s worth.
10 Dead Wrestlers Who Died In Their Active Career
1. Eddie Guerrero: 1967 – 2005
Born Eddie Gory Guerrero Llanes, Eddie was a beloved WWE wrestler at the time of his death. Born into a wrestling family – the Guerrero family, he performed at various major wrestling promotion companies, including the biggest and most popular – World Wrestling Entertainment. In a competitive roster like the WWE, Eddie Guerrero was one of the faces of the SmackDown brand between 2003 and 2005. During his career, he won titles like the WWF European Championship, WWF Tag Team Championship, WWE Championship. He was ranked 11th on the list of the greatest professional wrestler of all time and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame after his death.
Eddie suffered from acute heart failure on November 13, 2005. It is believed that the condition that led to heart failure, an atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, was a result of his former addiction to alcohol and painkillers. He was survived by three children and a wife, Vickie Guerrero.
2. Owen Hart: 1965 – 1999
Owen Hart was a member of the notable Hart Wrestling family. Born on the 7th of May 1965 in Calgary, Alberta, Owen won many accolades during his career that began in high school. For Owen, wrestling was not an initial interest. He tried many times to get an alternative to the profession but he was unable to find a lucrative alternative and so he stuck with the sport.
Despite not being his initial interest, Owen was successful at it while he was in it. He was a one-time USWA Unified World Heavyweight Champion, a four-time WWF World Tag Team Champion and was named the WWF King of the Ring in 1994. He was one of the WWF’s best in-ring performers until the unfortunate happened.
During his walk-in routine, Owen Hart fell from the rafters due to an equipment malfunction during a performance at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City. The injuries he sustained from the fall eventually led to his death on the 23rd of May, 1999. He is inducted into the Canadian Wrestling Hall of Fame, among other recognitions.
3. Chris Benoit: 1967 – 2007
One of the deaths on this list that is a tragedy not because of what happened, but how it happened. The Canadian professional wrestler, Chris Benoit, was one of the most celebrated wrestlers during his career. He was considered in the top 5 wrestlers of all time by many across the industry. His resume spanned fights across different promotion companies like the most notable World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment, Extreme Championship Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling, and the popular eastern New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
Between all the promotion companies he fought for, he won a total of 22 championships, including the coveted World Heavyweight Champion in WWE, and was a Royal Rumble champion. On the night of his tragic end, he was scheduled to win the second Heavyweight Championship of his career.
In what was posthumously diagnosed to have been a result of depression and brain damage, Chris Benoit murdered his wife and son on the 22nd and 23rd of June respectively before killing himself on the 24th.
4. Mitsuharu Misawa: 1962 – 2009
Mitsuharu Misawa is widely regarded as the greatest professional wrestler of all time and a look through his career, it isn’t hard to see why. A Japanese who spent his entire career in the country’s wrestling industry but his skills, professionalism drew accolades across continents. He started his career with the All Japan Pro Wrestling. He was with the promotion company from 1981 to 2000 where he became the company’s president in 1999.
After leaving All Japan Pro Wrestling, Mitsuharu Misawa decided to start his own wrestling company, Pro Wrestling Noah. He won the GHC Heavyweight Championship three times and the Tag Team Championship two times. He was ranked number two in the Pro Wrestling Illustrated top 500 wrestlers in 1997. During his career, his skill and ability to entertain won him a lot match of the year awards from Wrestling Observer Newsletter and was named Wrestler of the Year by the organization three times.
He died in 2009 during a match at the Hiroshima Green Arena as a result of a belly to back suplex that broke his spinal cord and caused him to lose consciousness. He was rushed to the hospital immediately but all attempts to revive him proved abortive as the autopsy revealed the injury put him into cardiac arrest.
5. Bruiser Brody: 1946 – 1988
One of the more violent deaths on our list. Bruiser Brody died as a result of a stabbing. Born Frank Donald Goodish, he developed his popularity among wrestling fans due to his brawling style and uncooperative wrestling personality. He began his career freelancing for several promotion companies including the World Wide Wrestling Federation. He also fought for the New Japan Pro Wrestling.
His uncooperative nature led to several conflicts with other wrestlers and it ultimately cost him his life on the 16th of July 1988 when he was stabbed by Jose Huertas Gonzalez who claimed to have done it out of self-defense and was acquitted of all charges.
6. Chris Candido: 1972 – 2005
Chris Candido was on his way to enjoying the peak of his career when he lost his life. He was at the precipice of the height of a career he had been training for since the age of 14.
He became a professional wrestler as a teenager and became a fighter for a couple of promotion companies, the Eastern Championship Wrestling, and Smoky Mountain Wrestling. He also fought for the World Championship Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling and was on the roster of the National Wrestling Alliance when he died.
During his career, he held several titles, including the LWE World Heavyweight Championship, WWF Tag Team Championship, and a few others.
After sustaining a tibia and fibula fracture after the NWA Lockdown event in 2005, he underwent surgery and after a couple of days, he fell ill and was diagnosed with pneumonia. Despite all medical efforts to save him, including draining his lungs, he died on the 28th of April, 2005 as a result of a blood clot which developed as a result of the surgery.
7. Perro Aguayo Jr.: 1979 – 2015
One of the most recent deaths on our list, Perro’s death received wide coverage global news outlets. Perro’s death was a timely reminder of the dangerous nature of Wrestling as a sport.
Perro Aguayo Jr. was a big name in the Mexican Professional Wrestling circuit. His career rose from the Antonio Pena Promotions in Mexico when he was 15 to the World Wrestling Association. He won a few titles during his career like the Mexican National Tag Team Championship three times and the Light Heavyweight Championship one time.
He died during a tag team match that involved Rey Mysterio on 20 March 2015. During a sequence set up for Rey Mysterio to do his famous 619 kick, Perro snapped his neck and died. Despite an hour’s attempt to revive him when he was eventually taken to the hospital, he was pronounced dead. His death spurred the Law for the Safety of Sport in Mexico.
8. Umaga: 1973 – 2009
Popularly known as Umaga but was born Edward Smith Fatu. His unfortunate death could be seen as a warning for athletes who fail to follow the guided rules of the sport.
He was a member of the Anoa’I Wrestling Family and was mostly on the roster of the World Wrestling Entertainment. He also fought for other promotion companies like Total Nonstop Action Wrestling and All Japan Pro Wrestling. He won the WWE Intercontinental Championship two times and the World Tag Team Championship at AJPW.
After he was discovered to violated the WWE Wellness policy, he was released by the promotion company. A few months after his release, he was found dead with blood running from his nose on December 4, 2009. An autopsy revealed to have been a result of some of the drugs that got him kicked off his WWE contract.
9. Brian Pillman: 1962 – 1997
Before his death, Brian Pillman was an influential wrestler who helped create a new gimmick in the industry called the Loose Cannon. He fought under different wrestling companies, Stampede Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling, Extreme Championship Wrestling and the WWF where he earned his fame.
During his career, he won a few titles. On the day of his death, he supposed to fight Dude Love in a WWF pay per view fight. He was found dead in his hotel room after suffering from a heart attack.
10. David Von Erich: 1958 – 1984
David belonged to the famous wrestling family, the Von Erich family. He was a wrestler for the World Class Championship Wrestling. David won a few championships in his career before he died during a tour of his United National Championship belt in All Japan Pro Wrestling in 1984. He is believed to have died from painkiller overdose. David was inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2009.