Wrestlers Who Have Passed Away (So Far) In 2020
Wrestling is unlike any other sport or form of entertainment and this is often reflected in the number of deaths the business experiences each year. Already in 2020, the wrestling industry has seen several high-profile deaths of current or former workers. While some of the individuals may not have been known quite as well as others, the news of their passing hit everyone in the business similarly as hard.
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La Parka II – Jan 11, 2020
La Parka II, Jesús Alfonso Huerta Escoboza, donned the gimmick in 1996 after the original La Parka began working regularly in ECW and WCW. He rose to fame using the mask and had a memorable feud with the original La Parka over the name. In October 2019, La Park II attempted a dive move during a match for Kaoz Wrestling. He missed his opponent and crashed headfirst into the concrete floor and ring barrier. It left La Parka II paralyzed and later, he passed from his injuries in the hospital.
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Rocky Johnson – Jan 15, 2020
Of the wrestlers to pass away so far in 2020, none may have had the name appeal of Rocky Johnson. The father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Rocky was a superstar in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s for various promotions including the WWE. In December 1983, Johnson famously became one half of the WWE World Tag Team Champions along with Tony Atlas. The duo was the promotion’s first-ever black world champions.
Black Demon – April 13, 2020
One of the more unknown wrestlers to pass away thus far was Black Demon, who died due to complications from Covid-19. The luchador is considered the first and only wrestler to die of the disease. Real name Roberto Munoz Carrillo, Black Demon had appeared on the independent circuit in Mexico for over a decade prior to his death. Carrillo was just 39.
Howard Finkel – April 16, 2020
For a generation of wrestling fans, Howard Finkel was one of the voices of the WWE. Finkel’s booming voice was often replicated but never duplicated by ring announcers around the globe. His iconic announcements of the “new… WWE Champion” are remembered fondly by many. Finkel had worked in the WWE’s offices after leaving his role as a ring announcer. The WWE Hall of Famer suffered a stroke in 2019 and died from its complications.
Shad Gaspard – May 17, 2020
Perhaps the saddest of the deaths this year was former WWE wrestler Shad Gaspard’s passing. The former tag team wrestler was washed out to sea attempting to save his son from drowning after he was taken out by the rip tide. Gaspard’s body washed up onto shore in Venice Beach three days after going missing.
Hana Kimura – May 23, 2020
Former Wrestle-1 and reality TV star Hana Kimura was found dead after committing suicide in May. Signed to work for World Wonder Ring Stardom, Kimura had posted images and messages of self-harm earlier in the day on social media. She had received hateful comments from fellow social media users and those comments accompanied her own pre-death posts
Danny Havoc – May 31, 2020
Former wrestler Danny Havoc retired from the ring in 2017 after just over a decade working for companies such as CZW, Big Japan, and GCW. He was known for wrestling violent death matches during his career and despite hanging up his boots three years prior to death, still worked sporadically. Havoc’s wife, Brianne Morrow died of heart failure in April 2020, just over a month prior to Havoc passing away.
Kamala – August 9, 2020
James Harris, better known to fans as Kamala passed away at age 70 following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis the week before.. He died in hospital following a heart attack. His career spanned several decades, beginning in 1978 under the name Sugar Bear. He was a mainstay in the South, and worked various promotions including Continental Wrestling Alliance, Mid-South Wrestling, WCCW, AWA, Jim Crockett Promotions, WCW, and eventually WWE.
Xavier – August 16, 2020
Former Ring Of Honor World Champion John ‘Xavier’ Bedoya passed away at age 42. Xavier was trained by Tony DeVito prior to his debut in 1995. He was a mainstay on the New York independent scene prior to joining Ring Of Honor in 2002. He won the ROH World Championship on September 21, 2002 after defeating Lo Ki. The cause of death was not revealed.
‘Bullet’ Bob Armstrong – August 27, 2020
Joseph James, better known to fans as WWE Hall Of Famer ‘Bullet’ Bob Armstrong passed away at the age of 80. He has won championships in a number of promotions including Mid-South /Georgia Championship Wrestling, NWA Mid-America, NWA Tri-State, Global Championship Wrestling, and Southeastern Championship Wrestling. Bob Armstrong was inducted in the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2011.
Joseph “Animal” Laurinaitis – September 22, 2020
Joseph Laurinatis, better known to wrestling fans as Road Warrior Animal passed away of natural causes on September 22 at the age of 60. Laurinatis died while on vacation at a resort in Osage Beach, Mo.
Tracy Smothers – October 28, 2020
Pro wrestling legend Tracey Smothers passed away at on October 28, 2020 at age 58. Smothers was diagnosed with Lymphoma cancer last year, which at the time was believed to be non fatal.
RJ ‘The Bruiser’ Meyers – November 16, 2020
Maryland independent wrestler and trainer RJ “The Bruiser” Meyers lost his battle with leukemia on November 16, 2020. Meyers was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in March 2019, and underwent a bone marrow transplant later that year. In addition to being an active wrestler until 2019, Meyers was also a trainer, credited for training Lio Rush and Velveteen Dream.
Pat Patterson – December 2, 2020
WWE Hall Of Famer Pat Patterson passed away at Miami Hospital on December 2, 2020 due to liver failure. Patterson was the first to hold the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
Danny Hodge – December 26
Professional wrestling legend Danny Hodge has passed away at the age of 88. His granddaughter, Stacy Ewy Wilson confirmed the news on social media.
Danny Hodge was a renowned amateur wrestler in the 50s, being undefeated in his collegiate career with the University of Oklahoma.He was the first amaetur wrestler to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.
He made his pro-wrestling debut in 1959 after training under Leroy McGuirk and Ed “Strangler” Lewis.We went on to win the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship seven times.Hodge made two appearances in WWE, honoring fellow Oklahoma native Jim Ross.
Brodie Lee – December 26
Jonathan Huber, best known as AEW star Brodie Lee and WWE star Luke Harper passed away after a battle non-Covid related lung issue. Lee had been absent All Elite Wrestling television for undisclosed reasons, with his wife confirming the news via social media.
Following his passing, the wrestling world shared their memories of Huber. WWE, AEW, IMPACT Wrestling, and Ring Of Honor all posted statements regarding his contribution to the wrestling business.
View Dead Before Age 50
I’ve been asked by a lot of people why a website about dead wrestlers was created. The short answer is that this is more or less a tribute website.
Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna Vachon, a popular duo in the early 90’s – both dead before age 50. photo: wwe.com
I grew up watching the WWF in the 90s, and it always blew my mind how many wrestlers seemed to die at a young age. Most of the tribute websites I found lacked information, or were sorely outdated. So I decided to make my own.
Unlike other major sports, it wasn’t until the last decade or so that wrestler deaths were even acknowledged by mainstream media. Another wrestler dies and the news would practically be swept under the rug. WWE deaths were not looked at in the same light as those in the NFL or MLB.
Like him or not, journalist Phil Mushnick hit the nail on the head in 1997 when he said “sadly, the early deaths of professional wrestlers is treated much like the deaths of cartoon characters – ‘they can’t be real people, so they can’t die real deaths’.”
Most mainstream media attention surrounding wrestler deaths was overwhelmingly negative. When a wrestler dies, the headlines too often seem to include steroids, drug abuse, early heart attacks, or worse. But are these headlines surrounding deceased wrestlers warranted?
We can’t blame the media for only reporting on the dark side of wrestling. A dark side of wrestling surely exists, or at least existed, and every year we’re seeing the aftermath with more and more WWE deaths. Many wrestlers dead before age 50.
Another wrestler dies. But wrestling is fake, right? The rough life inside and outside the ring
Someone please go tell Sid Vicious that wrestling is fake. Thankfully still with us today, here Sid suffers a compound fracture mid-match during his WCW run. photo: youtube.com
Outsiders are quick to dismiss wrestling with the ever so popular claim that makes wrestling fans everywhere cringe: “It’s fake!” Choreographed with pre-determined outcomes, sure, but “fake” tends to dismiss the unbelievable bumps that can end in real-lifeinjuries or occasionally, wrestler deaths.
What happens when you’re an injured wrestler and can’t perform? You risk “losing your spot” – industry jargon for your storyline being scrapped by the creative team. This can often be the decline, or end of a career. The end or decline of a wrestler’s livelihood. The solution?
Wrestle through injuries by numbing them with drugs and alcohol.
While this was obviously not the unfortunate formula responsible for all wrestler deaths, it’s still a pretty alarmingly consistent formula – especially for the various WWE deaths we saw in the 2000s.
It’s a deadly formula that continues to contribute to WWE deaths to this day. I’m referring to guys like Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig – dead at 44. The Big Boss Man – dead at 42. Ravishing Rick Rude – dead at 41. Substance abuse, often leading to heart issues, being a major factor in all three of those wrestler deaths alone.
In the early 90s, WWE owner Vince McMahon was under scrutiny for various steroid-related charges. Pictured here, The Ultimate Warrior in 1989. Warrior died from a heart attack at age 54. photo: wwe.com
The fact is that professional wrestlers don’t have an easy job in the ring, or a forgiving lifestyle outside of it. The NFL, NBA, MLB, and NBA have the luxury of an off-season. Wrestlers work year round. Their livelihood depends on it.
Steroid scandals and their contribution to wrestler deaths
If we take a look back to the early 90s, WWE owner Vince McMahon stood trial for various steroid-related charges. He was eventually acquitted, although many of the surviving wrestlers from the 80s and 90s eras admit to taking steroids by their own willingness, including top billed talent like Hulk Hogan.
The negative health effects of steroid use and their contribution to WWE deaths is still being studied, but today, the company seems to be cleaning up its act. As a publicly traded billion dollar conglomerate, they can’t risk the scandals of yesteryear.
More vigorous drug testing takes place thanks to a Wellness Program introduced in 2006 after the sudden death of Eddie Guerrero.
Umaga – dead at 36 from a drug overdose. His death was largely ignored by the company. photo: wwe.com
If the wellness policy was simply a PR move to cover their asses when the next wrestler dies is still up for debate. Many have pointed out loopholes in the program including part-timers like Brock Lensar not being required to partake in drug testing.
To the WWE’s credit, the freakish “larger than life” superstars we remember from the 80s and 90s no longer seems to be the norm. It no longer takes an Incredible Hulk physique for a guy to be passed the torch to main event status – guys like AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan are prime examples of this.
Whether it was steroids or other substance abuse, it’s sad to look back before the explosion of social media, when most wrestler deaths were not being reported in the mainstream media. Many WWE deaths were not even acknowledged by the company. Some of them still aren’t. Another wrestler dies and it would practically go unreported.
This website exists to acknowledge deceased professional wrestlers, many of whom died young. Pictured here: Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig and Brian “Crush” Adams – both dead before age 45. photo: wwe.com
Why a website about WWE deaths exists?
Pro wrestlers will likely never be as publicly respected as baseball and football players, yet they took even bigger physical risks (and often for a much smaller paycheck). This website is my small part to give back to those who entertained for a living and paid the ultimate price.
I couldn’t find any other sites that we’re strictly profiling deceased wrestlers (well I found one, but there was little, if any, information about their careers) so I decided to start my own. When a wrestler dies it will be added to the archive and I often feature full obituaries with highlights from their career, photos, and videos.
Have any suggestions or corrections? Feel free shoot me an email.
10 Wrestlers who tragically died In the ring
Even though it has become a public knowledge that wrestling is a scripted affair, with every possible outcome being streamlined, it was and continues to be a very serious business. The wrestlers put in a lot of sacrifices to get to the level of creating a modern-day fighter for the joy and awe of their fans.
During a wrestling match, a lot of things happen. For instance, what might appear like just an ordinary bump to the fans could have a heavier impact on the wrestler in the ring. In fact, just a few minutes in a wrestling ring will drive the fear of God into most critics of the superstars.
That being said, all these wrestling stars put a lot of effort in to entertain the fans, including putting their bodies through hell and brimstone to be in shape for the fans. In the ring proper too, they go through a lot to keep the fans entertained, including escaping deaths by the whiskers. But there are times when their bodies refuse to go along with these and just give up on them, in fact during the spur of the moments too – in the ring during a match.
Even though measures such as the introduction of the WWE Wellness Program is trying to curb the occurrence of high death rate caused by cardiovascular issues, studies still show that wrestlers tend to die faster than their other sports counterparts.
This piece will highlight 10 of the wrestling stars who died during action due to some, well, avoidable circumstances, or just the trouble of being a wrestler:
#10. Malcolm Kirk
There are many death accounts recorded in the wrestling ring. Obviously, not even all can be accurately counted as a result of the extremity of the sport. Nevertheless, we can point to certain ones that shocked the world and it’d be nice, to begin with, Malcolm Kirk.
Kirk was nicknamed “King Kong Kirk” because of his weight. He weighed about 350 pounds and was a very skillful wrestler during the 70s and 80s. Shortly before his 51st birthday, precisely on August 24, 1987, he was involved in a match in Norfolk against another gigantic wrestler, Big Daddy.
After King Kong fell to Big Daddy’s finishing skill, “The Big Splash”, he remained on the mat and began turning blue, seemingly from lack of oxygen. He was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. It was learned after that King Kong had a pre-existing heart condition, and had suffered six minor heart attacks before his demise.
Oro died in the ring in 1993
Jesus Javier Hernandez Silva was a second-generation Lucha libre star who worked under the name “Oro”. He began his career in 1990 only to have it cut short three years later. He was involved in a tag team match on October 26, 1993. He was to take a bump to the head in the match. The bump was designed to make him looked as if he’d broken his neck.
It appears that was what actually happened to him because, after the bump, he collapsed. Before he was loaded into the ambulance, he had already died. Although his family asked that his autopsy should not be performed, there was speculation that he died from an aneurysm.
Oro’s death is one that terrified the wrestling universe. He was a talented superstar that many believed would climb the ladder to the of the business but he couldn’t live long enough to fulfill his potential.
#8. Plum Mariko
Mariko was a female wrestler who had suffered multiple brain traumas during her career during the time when head injuries were not taken seriously. She was a fan favorite, especially from Japanese audiences. She made her fighting debut in 1986.
On August 15, 1997, she had another head trauma that appeared to be her last. She was involved in a tag team match with Command Bolshoi against Mayumi Ozaki and Reiko Amano. Mariko was legitimately knocked unconscious when Ozaki hit a Liger bomb to pin her for the win.
But, Mariko remained on the mat, snoring (possibly from brain hemorrhage). Several days later, she became the first pro wrestler in Japan to die due to injuries sustained in wrestling. Her father requested that a post-mortem was not performed but it was believed that her pre-existing head injuries and a brain swelling were what led to her death.
#7. Larry Cameron
Another wrestler who lost his life in the squared circle, not many will remember Larry Cameron, the man who was a sojourner across many sports before eventually ending his journey in the wrestling ring.
Nicknamed “Lethal Larry” or “Butcher”, he had attempted to make a head-start in the Canadian Football League. He eventually left football to train at the well-known “Hart Dungeon”, and competed in a series of North American Pro Wrestling organizations before moving abroad.
On December 13, 1993, he was involved in a match against Tony St. Clair in Bremen, Germany when he suffered what would end up being a fatal heart attack. The referee stopped the contest and tried to resuscitate him but it was too late.
#6. Gary Albright
Albright was a colossal man weighing about 350 pounds during his fighting days. He was poised for success because of his build and been trained by wrestling masters, Lou Thesz and Billy Robinson. He had previously fought in Japan and North America, and for his father-in-law, Afa Anoa’i’s WXV promotions.
In a match at the WXV show in Allentown, Pennsylvania on January 7, 2000, Lucifer Grimm hit Albright with an Ace Cutter which saw him collapse. Grimm, realizing that something was wrong, quickly rolled Albright on himself for the pinfall to end the match. Medics and wrestlers rushed into the ring to try to revive Albright, but all proved abortive.
It was determined that Albright died due to a heart attack caused by an enlarged heart, coronary artery blockages, and undiagnosed diabetes. He is one of the few wrestlers who gave up their lives in the early 2000s.
#5. Luther Lindsay
He may appear like a totally unknown person, but he was a trailblazer in the 1950s and 60s, after breaking the racial barriers in wrestling, being the first African-American wrestler to fight against white wrestlers in the south and becoming a fan favorite.
He also accomplished a legendary feat when he defeated Stu Hart in the Hart Dungeon. In February 1972, Lindsay was involved in a match in Charlotte, North Carolina when he pinned his opponent after a diving splash to the mat. But when the referee counted to three, he did not respond.
His limp body was removed from on top of his opponent and rushed to the dressing room, where it was learned that Lindsay was dead. He died from a sudden heart attack and it was one that really drew sympathy from the audience.
#4. Jeanette Wolfe
As wrestling started to become a popular sport in the 1950s, women started stamping their feet on the sands of time, or better put, sands of wrestling. Women like Mildred Burke were already household names in the industry at the time. By 1951, she began looking for a replacement. This led her to start grooming 18-year-old Janet Boyer as her successor.
She began working under the name of Jeanette Wolfe, but six months into her career, she was dead. She was involved in a tag team match, which included WWE star, Mae Young in Liverpool, England.
She had previously complained of a headache earlier. After tagging out in the match, she stood on the apron looking dazed and confused and suddenly fell. She never got back up and was soon pronounced dead. The cause of her death was ruled as brain hemorrhage.
#3. Mike Dibiase
He was the adoptive father of “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and was more famously known as “Iron” Mike DiBiase. He was one of the most prolific wrestlers and won a lot of titles during his days.
However, on July 2, 1969, he was involved in a match against Mountain Man Mike in Lubbock, Texas. Halfway through the fight though, DiBiase suffered a heart attack and despite several attempts by WWE and WCW legend, Harley Race, to revive him, he still capitulated to death at the hospital.
It was gathered later that his death does not have anything to do with any move in the fight but due to a build-up of cholesterol. His adopted son, Ted Dibiase would later go on to enjoy a successful stint in the company and upheld his legacy.
#2. Perro Aguayo Jr.
Our list continues with the account of Perro Aguayo Jr’s death. This was one of the modern pro wrestling tragedies. Perro made himself a household name fighting as a skilled wrestler in Lucha libre promotions, Triple-A and CMLL.
On March 25, 2015, he was involved in a tag team match with Manik against Rey Mysterio Jr and Extreme Tiger in Tijuana, Mexico. The match appeared like a routine match until the later stages of the duel when Mysterio performed a dropkick on Perro.
This sent him neck-first into the ropes so Mysterio could perform his legendary move, 6-1-9, but things turned sour when Perro’s body went limp. Attempts to revive him proved abortive and he was confirmed dead at the hospital. He was said to have suffered a cervical stroke due to multiple vertebrae injuries.
#1. Owen Hart
This was one of the most heart-wrenching, tragic events in the history of WWE. Hart was one of the most beloved figures in the industry. He was the brother of WWE legend, Bret Hart and was a graduate of his father’s “Hart Dungeon”.
He made himself fans’ favorite by fighting a host of household names in the industry, including Stone Cold Steve Austin. His rivalry with his brother, Bret was iconic and his work with The Rock was praised by the entire WWE fan base.
Unfortunately, his most recent stunt ended in disaster. He was to be lowered onto the ring by a harness at the 1999 Over the Edge pay-per-view event. He was to be dressed as the Blue Blazer and supposed to turn the dramatic entrance into a comedic one by falling flat on his face.
But tragedy struck when Hart was released too soon due to the cable snapping halfway and he plummeted down from almost 80 feet, whiplashed on the top rope before crashing into the ring.
Although he was not pronounced dead immediately and was rushed to a local health facility, it was widely believed that he had died upon impact. He died from internal bleeding.
Wrestlers Who Died In The Ring
By Pauli Poisuo/Jan. 16, 2019 12:38 pm EDT/Updated: Dec. 14, 2020 5:42 pm EDT
Professional wrestling is a dangerous job, and it's not uncommon for wrestlers to pass away before their time. For some of them, the end comes before they even leave the ring — sometimes literally. Wrestlers tend to accumulate injuries, and some moves require them to trust their lives in their opponent's hands. All this means a great many things can go wrong during a match. A botched move, a previously undiscovered medical condition, or even a piece of faulty equipment can all turn a cool, scripted performance into a deadly serious situation. For instance, Cage Side Seats describes an incident from 2014 in which WWE wrestler Seth Rollins almost impaled himself on a nasty metal spike during a match.
Rollins escaped his potentially lethal incident with a scare and an unpunctured torso, but sadly, many of his colleagues have been less fortunate. Here are the stories of the wrestlers who left everything they had in the ring, including their lives.
Sometimes, one wrong move is all it takes to turn a normal sparring match into a tragedy. Brian Ong and Dalip "The Great Khali" Singh found this out the hard way in 2001, when Singh accidentally killed Ong in a dramatic training ring mishap.
However, RVCJ writes that the incident wasn't a case where the massive Singh was clumsily manhandling his fellow wrestler. Instead, it was Ong who botched the move: A flapjack is executed by lifting the opponent up and pushing them in the air, so they land on their face and chest when they hit the mat. Instead of going along with this, Ong held on to Singh's shirt and came down hard, severely hurting his head and spine. As such, Singh never faced any repercussions for the dramatic accident. The APW, on the other hand, found itself in seriously hot legal waters. According to Ringside Report, the fact that APW allowed Ong to keep working despite his many injuries ended up costing the promotion around $1.5 million in settlement money.
Hijo del Perro Aguayo
On March 21, 2015, a Mexican wrestling legend called Hijo del Perro Aguayo died. Syracuse.com describes the strange way the popular luchador, whose real name was Pedro Aguayo Ramirez, met his fate in a match where he faced another lucha libre superstar, Rey Mysterio Jr. The tag team brawl pitted Aguayo and his partner Manik against Mysterio and Extreme Tiger. Unfortunately, the match ended in a tragedy when a flying kick from Mysterio connected with Aguayo. The impact threw Aguayo into the ropes, where he was left unconscious and kneeling. The match went on for two minutes before the other wrestlers and the referee realized the man dangling in the ropes was actually seriously hurt and stopped the match. However, nothing could be done to save Aguayo: His vertebrae had snapped when his head hit the ropes. The Los Angeles Times reports that his ultimate cause of death was a heart attack, brought on by a cervical stroke from his broken neck.
Unsurprisingly, the incident deeply shocked the apologetic Mysterio, who had unwittingly caused his friend and colleague's untimely demise. However, Aguayo's family understood the situation, and asked Mysterio to act as Aguayo's pallbearer.
Mitsuharu "Tiger Mask" Misawa
According to ESPN, Mitsuharu Misawa is to Japanese pro wrestling what The Rock and Hulk Hogan are to the American version. Misawa rose to fame in the 1980s as Tiger Mask, a character who ... wore a tiger-themed mask. He was so popular that when he unmasked in 1990, his fame only increased. In 2009, Misawa was a 46-year-old veteran who had been named professional wrestler of the year three times, and was the owner and founder of the Pro Wrestling NOAH federation. He also still competed in the ring himself.
Cage Side Seats describes the tragic match that cut Misawa's stellar career short. He and Go Shiozaki were teaming against Saito and Bison Smith at an event in Hiroshima on June 13, 2009. Saito gave Misawa a back suplex — a fairly common move that both men must have been extremely familiar with. However, what happened next shows that nothing in wrestling is truly routine, and even the most basic moves can turn into tragedies. Misawa didn't move after the impact.
Misawa was declared dead at a hospital, though he was likely already lifeless before he was moved away from the ring. According to Cage Side Seats, his cause of death was heart failure.
Owen Hart is known as the brother of Bret "The Hitman" Hart and a scion of the legendary Hart wrestling family. He's also known for one of the most dramatic in-ring deaths in the history of professional wrestling.
In 1999, Hart's gimmick was a masked superhero character known as Blue Blazer. The WWF decided to give him a fitting entrance for his appearance on the "Over the Edge" pay-per-view show on May 23: Because he was a superhero, the company would make him fly. They set up an elaborate system of wires that would lower the Blue Blazer to the ring from the rafters above, creating a truly magnificent effect. CNN describes just how badly this went wrong. The system malfunctioned while Hart was 78 feet above the ring and sent the helpless wrestler plunging down, where he hit the top rope and then bounced into the ring.
Though the incident never made it to television, the 16,000 people at the Kemper Arena witnessed the futile attempts by the medical staff to revive Hart, who died of internal bleeding. At first, some of the audience members thought the whole thing was a stunt and that the falling figure had been a doll. However, this impression wouldn't last long. The ring announcer soon informed the audience that what had just happened was completely unscripted. Before the event was over, the WWF commentator Jim Ross announced to the world that Hart was dead.
King Kong Kirk
Mal "King Kong" Kirk was a well-known British monster heel, and a frequent tag team partner of the even more massive Giant Haystacks. According to the BBC, the former rugby player did not use a gimmick: His 350-pound frame was more than enough to intimidate his opponents.
On August 23, 1987, Kirk worked with Shirley "Big Daddy" Crabtree, who said Kirk had the strength of three people. Kirk and Big Daddy faced each other at the Hippodrome of Great Yarmouth. The match proceeded exactly as planned right up until the end, when Big Daddy gave Kirk his finishing move — a big splash that saw him jumping on his prone opponent. Kirk never kicked out from that finisher. The 50-year-old powerhouse was left lying in the ring, but it wasn't the finishing move that killed him. An inquest of the incident discovered that Kirk died of a pre-existing heart condition. Big Daddy was cleared of all responsibility, and even King Kong Kirk's widow said she held no bad feelings against her deceased husband's final opponent.
Wayne "Richard Delicious" Van Dyke
Wayne Van Dyke, aka Richard Delicious, was an independent wrestler working Florida's small promotions. According to Wrestling News, he was just 29 years old when he suffered a series of heart attacks that started during a tag team match at an event arranged by the Ronin Pro Wrestling promotion. Sportskeeda reports that Van Dyke complained to his tag partner that he wasn't feeling well and suffered the first heart attack right after tagging himself out.
After that, things went from bad to worse. The attempts to give him CPR on the scene left Van Dyke with at least one broken rib and a punctured lung. He then suffered a second heart attack on his way to the hospital. When he finally reached the facility, he had a third one. At that point, hospital staff had to put him in a medically induced coma. Unfortunately, the damage was too much for his system, and Van Dyke's family soon confirmed the wrestler's passing on Facebook.
According to the New York Times, Japanese wrestler Plum Mariko died in the ring after her opponent power bombed her in 1997. Quebrada recounts that the match in question was a tag team event where Mariko and Command Bolshoi faced Mayami Ozaki and Rieko Amano. The match ended when Mariko took a punishing Ligerbomb from Ozaki and was knocked out cold. It wasn't until after the match that Ozaki and the others realized Mariko still hadn't moved, and was now snoring — which was a sign that her brain was bleeding. Quebrada reports that Mariko was rushed to hospital but even surgery couldn't save her. The 29-year-old died of brain damage.
Mariko had accumulated a collection of nasty injuries over the years, including multiple concussions and an undiagnosed brain abscess. Doctors believe she died because of the combined effects of these injuries, rather than a single one from the Ligerbomb. They also said that if she had been examined earlier she likely would have lived because no doctor would have let her wrestle in her condition.
Plum Mariko's was the first in-ring wrestling death in Japan. What makes her fate even more tragic is that the signs of brain damage were there. She had complained to her fellow wrestlers about headaches and had become forgetful in the ring. Instead of reacting appropriately to the problem, the promoters had just refused to push her to a higher status due to her sloppy work.
Matt "Riot" Lowry
Like everyone else on this list, Matt "Riot" Lowry died in the ring. However, poor Lowry didn't even get much of an audience. According to Wrestling News Source, Lowry was participating in a routine training session when a bump went awry. Bob Magee of Online World of Wrestling has some more details about the incident: On September 15, 2009, the Ohio-based indy wrestler was training at ECW Arena with some other wrestlers who were working with the CZW promotion. After a ring workout, Lowry suddenly became dizzy and collapsed. He was immediately taken to hospital, but it was too late: The wrestler was declared dead just 14 hours later. He had suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage.
To make a tragic story even worse, Lowry was only 21 years old. At the time of his death, he was trying to get his beloved wrestling career back on track after losing his mother the previous year.
Dan "Spider" Quirk
Dan "Spider" Quirk was a kid that seemingly everyone liked. Adam Dolan of Pro Wrestling Insider describes him as a talented, passionate up-and-coming indy wrestler who worked with various promotions and was part of the close-knit Coastal Championship Wrestling community. Apart from wrestling, he did a ton of work behind the scenes and even ran the CCW website. He had a number of close friends in the industry. And then, on May 28, 2005, tragedy struck. According to Mandatory, Quirk had a match at a Universal Championship Wrestling event in Taunton, Massachusetts, when he missed a moonsault and crashed head-first onto the floor outside the ring. Quirk was only 22 when he died.
Later that year, the CCW promotion gave Quirk the indy wrestler's equivalent of a Viking funeral when they dedicated their WrestleJam 2 event to his memory. Before the show, they held a ceremony where the entire CCW roster came out to the ring and remembered their fallen friend, sharing their favorite stories with the audience. They even had some serious star power among them: Wrestling superstar Matt Hardy was a guest at the event, and respectfully stood by Quirk's friends and comrades for the entire ceremony. After some speeches and a highlight reel, the lights went back up. The promoter told the audience that the show would start soon, and it would be all right to laugh and have fun. After all, Spider would have wanted the show to go on.
The in-ring death of Canadian wrestler Eric Denis in October 2017 was so unfair that it almost seemed like a bad joke. He was a fit, 40-year-old Canadian who had six children. He was an experienced pro wrestler who, according to the Independent, had been involved in the business for more than two decades. There were no big, botched moves or failed spots in his final match: Instead, his heart just suddenly gave out. Although qualified medical staff were present at the scene, they could not resuscitate Denis from the heart attack, and he was pronounced dead upon his arrival at the hospital.
What makes this incident particularly awful is the specific event Denis was participating in that day. He wasn't just wrestling to pad his own pockets — instead, he was wrestling for charity. The fight gala during which he died was organized by Insane Championship Wrestling with the goal to raise money for Crohn's disease patients.
According to Wrestling Scout, Luther Lindsay died while performing his finisher ... and still won the match. However, that's just a small sliver of the man's story. Last Word on Pro Wrestling describes Lindsay as a notorious trailblazer for African-American wrestlers. A college athlete in the heavily segregated 1940s, he knew what to expect when he started working the National Wrestling Alliance territories in the 1950s. Of course, it didn't hurt that Lindsay was a strong and highly technical grappler who was trained by the legendary Stu Hart. Hart's granddaughter, WWE Superstar Natalya, says Hart always carried a photo of Lindsay in his wallet ... because Lindsay was the only man who had ever made him tap out.
In the late 1950s, Lindsay became the first African-American to face a white man in the wrestling ring in the South. A riot seemed imminent, but Lindsay was so awesome that the crowd in Tennessee was on his side. Industry legend Lou Thesz openly admired Lindsay, and Hart continued to push him well after other African-American wrestlers started emerging and hogging his limelight. And although Lindsay did eventually die in the ring, he went like he had lived: as a winner. On February 21, 1972, Lindsay won his match against Bobby Paul by pinning the man with a diving belly flop. A quick three-count later, it was discovered that Lindsay was dead of a massive heart attack.
Lindsay has since been posthumously inducted into the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and the WWE Hall of Fame.
Larry "Moondog Spot" Booker had one of the most glorious ring names in all of pro wrestling, with the possible exception of his final tag team partner, Moondog Puppy Love. As Ten Bell Salutetells us, Booker was a pioneer of the ruthless and hard-core wrestling, working as Larry Latham in Memphis Wrestling until he was picked up by the WWF/E as a replacement for a departing member of the Moondogs tag team, Moondog King. Initially partnered with Moondog Rex and working a "rabid dog" gimmick, Booker had a solid tag career in both the WWF/E and Memphis and even found some solo success.
On November 29, 2003, the most recent iteration of the Moondogs faced three other tag teams in a Concession Stand Brawl match in a Memphis event that celebrated wrestling legend Jerry "The King" Lawler. According to Slam Sports, the match ended in tragedy when Booker had a sudden heart attack. "Things were going fine in the ring," the Moondogs' manager April Pennington described the events. "He asked me for the belt [to use as a weapon]. The next thing I knew he was down." Initially, everyone thought that Booker was simply working the match. However, as soon as Moondog Puppy Love noticed that something wasn't right, the match was hastily finished, and the audience was informed of the situation. Sadly, CPR wasn't able to revive Booker, and the 51-year-old wrestler was pronounced dead in the hospital.
As David Shoemaker's The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling tells us, wrestler Gary Albright died in the ring during a wrestling show in Pennsylvania. Reportedly, Albright was on the receiving end of a bulldog, a move that involves a wrestler grabbing his opponent's head and jumping forward, thus slamming their head into the mat.
While that's certainly true, it should be mentioned that the full story is significantly more complicated. According to Brian D'Ambrosio's book Montana Entertainers: Famous and Almost Forgotten, Albright was a former amateur wrestling state champion who transitioned to pro wrestling in 1988. He largely plied his trade in Japan, where his wrestling accolades allowed him to specialize in unscripted, realistic shoot wrestling. Unfortunately, life took a toll on his health.
On January 7, 2000, Albright was making a rare US appearance in a match against Lucifer Grimm and was left lying in the ring after a bulldog maneuver. However, it was not the move that killed Albright. The wrestler's heart was in a pretty awful shape — it was enlarged, and he had multiple blocked coronary arteries. He also suffered from diabetes. As a result, Albright suffered a fatal heart attack as he took the move, and officials could do little more than pronounce him dead after removing him from the ring. The wrestler was only 38.
Alberto Torres and Ray Gunkel
Alberto Torres (pictured on the left) met his fate in an extremely unfortunate way in June 1971, according to The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestlingby David Shoemaker. Torres died after wrestling Ox Baker, a well-known "monster heel" whose terrifying look and showman antics made him a very popular villain. Unfortunately, people blamed Baker for the death. After all, he was the bad guy, and his finisher was a brutal-looking (but actually pulled) punch to the heart region.
In reality, Baker was quite devastated. He was also entirely innocent, seeing as Torres had died of a ruptured appendix. However, he became infamous as a lethal wrestler, and this reputation led to bigger paychecks even before he "killed" a second wrestler.
As the book Chokehold: Pro Wrestling's Real Mayhem Outside the Ring tells us, a mere year after Torres' death, Baker had the misfortune of being associated withanotherwrestling death when a promoter-wrestler called Ray Gunkel had a fatal heart attack after their match. Once again, Baker didn't actually kill the man. Still, due to his image and association with these tragic events, he made his fame and fortune as a scowling, deadly monster who was promoted as a ruthless killer.
Jesús Javier Hernández Silva, who was better known as Oro, was only 21 years old when he died. As Kyle Dunning of E Wrestling News tells us, the wrestler met his fate in 1993, when he took part in a six-man tag team match in Mexico City. It's said that he had told the other wrestlers that he was planning a "Kobashi bump," a complicated way of taking a move and hitting the mat headfirst.
Exactly how Oro died is subject to some controversy. Reportedly, he oversold a clothesline move with an enthusiastic spin that landed him on his head. His opponent, a wrestler called Kazoz, immediately tried to pick him up, but Oro collapsed on the mat and died on a stretcher before they could get him in an ambulance. The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling also tells this version of the story. However, Dunning states that the footage of the event doesn't seem to support this. Instead, he says that while Oro did land hard on his head, he managed to stay on his feet for some time, though he wasn't able to land any offensive moves anymore. He eventually collapsed outside the ring.
Still, regardless of the precise course of events, everyone can probably agree that Oro's death was extremely tragic and that he left us far too young.
2015 deaths wwe recent
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Luke Harper, Hana Kimura, Pat Patterson, Shad Gaspard, Rocky Johnson - Professional Wrestlers Who Died In 2020
2020 has been a tough year and the Pro-wrestling community lost many beloved pro-wrestlers including the tragic passing of legendary La Parka II, Hana Kimura, Shad Gaspard, Jon Huber, and legends like Rocky Johnson, Pat Patterson, Road Warrior Animal, and Kamala to name a few.
Here’s a list of the most notable professional wrestlers who died in 2020:
Jon Huber, popularly known as Luke Harper in the WWE, and Brodie Lee has died aged 41 of non-COVID-19 related lung issue on December 27, an AEW official statement on social media said on Sunday. Huber was most recently wrestling under the name Brodie Lee for AEW. Huber made his name in the independent wrestling scene, wrestling for promotions like Dragon Gate and Combat Zone Wrestling before making a big splash in NXT and WWE main roster as Luke Harper part of the ultra-popular Wyatt Family.
Japanese professional wrestler Hana Kimura passed away at the age of 22 in May this year, after posting images of self harm and a suicide note on social media. Kimura had posted images of self mutilation on Twitter along with the message: “Nearly 100 frank opinions every day. I couldn’t deny that I was hurt. I’m dead. Thank you for giving me a mother. It was a life I wanted to be loved. Thank you to everyone who supported me. I love it. I’m weak, ‘m sorry. I don’t want to be a human anymore. It was a life I wanted to be loved. Thank you everyone, I love you. Bye."
The body of former World Wrestling Entertainment star Shad Gaspard, who was last seen swimming off Los Angeles’ Venice Beach, was found along the shore days later in May. Lifeguards had told police that Gaspard, 39, was swept out by a rip current at the weekend, when rescue workers were able to pull his 10-year-old son from the water. A search by lifeguards and divers for Gaspard proved fruitless and he had been listed as a missing person by the Los Angeles Police Department.
La Parka II
Popular Mexican wrestler La Parka died in Januray this year, months after a traumatic injury suffered during an in-ring stunt that left him paralyzed. The stunt reportedly occurred in Monterrey, Mexico, and involved La Parka — real name Jesus Alfonso Huerta Escoboza — leaping through the ropes at an opponent outside the ring. La Parka missed and hit his head on a guard rail, then the floor. Life-saving surgery was soon performed, but still left the wrestler paralyzed.
WWE Hall of Famer and first-ever Intercontinental Champion Pat Patterson has passed away at age 79 in December. A true trailblazer of the industry, Patterson was linked to many “firsts” in sports-entertainment throughout his storied career, including the first-ever Intercontinental Title reign and the creation of the Royal Rumble Match. In a career spanning six decades, the renaissance man left an indelible mark on the industry in the ring, on the microphone and behind the scenes.
Road Warrior Animal
WWE wrestler Joe Laurinaitis, more popularly known as the Road Warrior Animal, breathed his last on September 22 at the age of 60. The cause of his death till now has not been released. The news was confirmed on the official Twitter handle of Animal. It read, “At this time, we would like to confirm the passing of Joseph Laurinaitis aka Road Warrior Animal at the age of 60. The family is planning to release a statement later today. At this time we ask for you to keep everyone in your thoughts and prayers.”
James Harris, known to WWE fans as Kamala, has passed away at age 70. Under the frightening face paint of Kamala, the 6-foot-7, 380-pound Harris battled big stars of pro-wrestling including the Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, and Andre the Giant in the early 1980s. He terrorized opponents and thrilled audiences in Mid-South, World Class Championship Wrestling, WCW and WWE until 2006. Harris had made his debut in World Wrestling Federation in July 1984 managed by the iconic Freddie Blassie and went on to challenge Hogan for the World Heavyweight Championship the same year after a series of victories since his debut, including Chief Jay Strongbow.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s father, Rocky Johnson has passed away aged 75 in January. Rocky was also a WWE wrestler and Hall of Famer and the sports-entertainment network confirmed the news on social media. Rocky Johnson’s sports-entertainment career began in the mid-1960s. He spent the bulk of his career in the National Wrestling Alliance and later joined the then-World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s. He formed a tag team with Atlas known as ‘Soul Patrol’ and became of one the popular teams of the era. Rocky retired in the early 1990s, but helped introduce his son Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to officials at WWE. Rocky’s son Dwayne adopted the Rocky moniker from him. Rocky came to his son’s aid after a match at WrestleMania in 1997. The Rock inducted his father into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
“Bullet” Bob Armstrong, a WWE Hall of Famer and patriarch of the legendary Armstrong wrestling family, has passed away at age 80 in August. Equal parts strongman and showman, Armstrong, who was born Joseph James in Marietta, Ga., on Oct. 3, 1939, proved himself as one of the most tenacious grapplers on the planet during the territorial days of sports-entertainment. He secured his toughman reputation long before he ever set foot in the ring, thanks to his tour of duty in the U.S. Marine Corps and his seven-year tenure as a member of the Fair Oaks (later Cobb County) Fire Department.
Tom “Tiny" Lister, known as Zeus to the WWE Universe, passed away today at age 62 in December. Lister had showed symptoms of COVID-19 for a few days and was eventually found unresponsive in his apartment in Marina del Rey, California. Zeus first entered the squared circle opposite Hulk Hogan in the 1989 film “No Holds Barred." The rivalry extended beyond the big screen, as The Human Wrecking Machine quickly formed a common bond with “Macho Man” Randy Savage in their shared quest to take down The Immortal One. Zeus & Savage battled Hogan & Brutus “The Barber" Beefcake in the main event of SummerSlam 1989. One of Zeus’ most memorable moments came at Survivor Series 1989 as part of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Team, when The Human Wrecking Machine got the better of The Hulkster in an impressive display of strength.
Wrestling star Grant ‘Danny Havoc’ Berkland died at the age of 45 on June 1. The American professional wrestled for over a dozen years and was also known as the “The Deathmatch Drunkard”. Havoc’s retirement match was against SHLAK in 2017.Just a month earlier, Danny Havoc’s wife had passed away on April 4 due to heart failure. Havoc’s death news comes days after the demise of former WWE superstar Shad Gaspard.
Veteran American announcer and WWE Hall of Famer Howard Finkel died at the age of 69 in April. Known as ‘the Fink’ affectionately, Finkel belonged to Newark, New Jersey and served as “indispensable resource” to the WWE offices for his “vast knowledge of sports-entertainment history”. He was recognized for his catchphrases like, “and NNNEEEWWW World Champion!” which he used to present to the world wrestling heroes for decades. Finkel also had his stint in the in-ring battles. As the release said, Finkel battled it out with Harvey Wippleman in 1995 in WWE RAW.
Other notable personalities from the pro-wrestling community who died in 2020:
Adam Bueller, Pampero Firpo, Alex Trebek, Ares el Guerrero, Principe Aereo, Puppet, Bobby Lee, Regis Philbin, Rip Oliver, Ryan Smile, Danny Hodge, Dick Steinborn, Herodes, Steve Casey, Steve Gillespie, Supreme, Sy Sperling, Sylvano Sousa, Johnny Walker, Justice Pain, The Bruiser, Timothy Brooks, Tony Russo, Tracy Smothers, Karsten Beck, Kat LeRoux, Kazuo Sakurada, Kevin Greene, Wayne Bridges, Winona Littleheart, Little Richard, Xavier, Z-Barr, Mike Somaini, Mark Rocco, Mitch Ryder
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