Pro wrestlers come and gone
The life of a professional wrestler has been unkind to many.
George ‘The Animal’ Steele
Professional wrestler George “The Animal” Steele died at age 79. Steele, whose real name is William James Myers was one of the WWE’s most wild and outrageous stars.
WWE star Chyna became one of the best known and most popular female professional wrestlers in history in the late 1990s. Chyna, whose real name was Joanie Laurer, died at age 45.
Jonathan Rechner, known for competing as Balls Mahoney died at age 44. The wrestler won the ECW tag titles three times with different partners.
The WWE Hall of Famer whose real name was Robert Windham died at age 73. Before he became a wrestler, he served in the Marines and later played for the New York Jets.
William Ansor, “Nature Boy” Buddy Landel died at 53 June 22, 2015. The wrestler made his in-ring debut in 1979 and defeated Terry Taylor at Starrcade 1985, winning the NWA National Championship. According to multiple reports, Ansor was involved in a car accident a day before his death but the cause of death has not been announced. “WWE extends its condolences to Landel’s family, friends and fans,” the WWE said in a statement.
Wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes died June. 9. He was 69. The pro wrestler, whose real name was Virgil Runnels was famously known as “The American Dream.” The cause of death is unknown.
The Ultimate Warrior
James Brian Hellwig died on April 8, 2014, just days after he was inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame. He reportedly collapsed on a sidewalk in Arizona and was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was 54.
Matt ‘ Doink the Clown’ Osborne
Matt Osborne died on June 28, 2003 after being found unresponsive in his home in Plano, Texas. He was 55. The death is believed to be accidental, but a homicide investigation is also being performed. Osborne was fired by the WWE for substance abuse (cocaine) problems, but continued to work professionally in other wrestling leagues.
Bill Moody played the a creepy manager Paul Bearer who announced pro wrestler The Undertaker and managed several other WWE stars including Rick Rude and Mankind. The WWE released a short statement on his death: “WWE is saddened to learn of the passing of William Moody, aka Paul Bearer.” Moody reportedly suffered from several health issues, including morbid obesity.
One of the most beloved wrestlers of all-time, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, died May 20, 2011, in a car accident in Seminole, Fla. He had a heart attack while driving and then crashed head-on into a tree. He was 58.
Captain Lou Albano
In addition to being/playing wrestling manager “Captain” Lou Albano, Louis Albano appeared in many television and film projects, including “Miami Vice” and “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!” but he’s probably best known for his cameo as Cyndi Lauper’s father in “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” He passed away in his sleep on Oct. 14, 2009, at the age of 76.
Edward Fatu began his wrestling career in 1995 and joined the WWE in 2002. He was released from his WWE contract in June for violating the company’s Wellness Policy and refusing to enter a rehabilitation clinic. Fatu was one of a number of wrestlers to have allegedly purchased human growth hormone from an online pharmacy. He passed away on Dec. 4, 2009, from a heart attack. He was 36.
Road Warrior Hawk
“Ohhhh…. What a rush.”
That was the catchphrase of Hawk, one-half of the legendary tag team the Road Warriors. Hawk and Animal achieved great success in the AWA, NWA and WWE, capturing numerous tag team championship belts.
Hawk battled through drugs and alcohol most of his career. He passed away Oct. 19, 2003, from an apparent heart attack. He was 46.
Sherri Schrull began her wrestling career in 1980. She debuted in the WWE in 1987 and quickly captured the Women’s Championship.
She later managed Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage and Ric Flair.
She passed away on June 15, 2007, from a drug overdose. She was 49.
Rodney Anoa’i began his wrestling career in 1984 with the AWA. He made his debut with the WWE in 1992 and quickly captured the WWE Championship.
He was dropped from the company in 1998 after failing a physical. He passed away from heart failure on Oct. 23, 2000. He weighed 580 pounds at the time of his death. He was 34.
Andrew Martin made his WWE debut in 1998. His most memorable moment came when he was “engaged” to Vince McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie McMahon.
He was arrested twice for driving under the influence. Test was found dead inside his Florida home on March 12, 2009, from an apparent oxycodone overdose. He was 33.
Michael Lockwood began his wrestling career in 1989. He made his WWE debut in 1999and became a modestly successful wrestler capturing the Hardcore, European, and Light Heavyweight Championships. He was found dead on Nov. 6, 2003, in a pool of his own vomit at the home of fellow wrestler Stevie Richards. He was 32.
John Tenta began his wrestling career in Japan in 1988. He made his WWE debut in 1989 and then went to WCW in 1997.
Earthquake retired from wrestling in 2004 after he revealed he had bladder cancer. The disease took his life on June 7, 2006. He was 42.
Ravishing Rick Rude
Richard Rood began his wrestling career in 1983. He joined the WWE in 1987 and had one of his most memorable feuds with Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
He testified in 1994 that he used anabolic steroids. The “ravishing” one was found dead on April 20, 1999, after suffering from heart failure. He was 40.
Owen Hart began his career in 1986 working for his father’s company, Stampede Wrestling. Owen came over to the WWE in 1988 as The Blue Blazer. He has memorable feuds with Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, and his own brother, Bret Hart.
Owen died on May 23, 1999, falling to his death during a pay-per-view event. He was 34.
Curt Hennig began his career in 1980 for the AWA. He made his WWE debut in 1982. He had classic feuds with Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart.
The man known as Mr. Perfect passed away on Feb. 10, 2003, from an acute cocaine intoxication. His father says steroids and pain killers also contritubed to his death. He was 44.
Elizabeth Ann Hulette began her career in 1985 as the beautiful manager of “Macho Man” Randy Savage. She died of a drug overdose on May 1, 2003, at the home of Lex Luger. She was 42.
Junk Yard Dog
One of the most popular wrestlers of all-time made his WWE debut in 1984. Sylvester Ritter had notable feuds with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and King Harley Race. He was even drafted by the Green Bay Packers after earning honorable mention All-American status twice playing for Fayetteville State University.
The Junkyard Dog died on June 2, 1998, driving back from his daughter’s high school graduation. It is believed he fell asleep at the wheel. He was 45.
Raymond Fernandez began his wrestling career in 1981. He debuted in the WWE in 1985 and had memorable matches with Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. He passed away on March 6, 2004, from heart disease. He was 47.
One of the most popular and charismatic wrestlers began his career in 1987. Eddie Guerrero wrestled for ECW and WCW before coming over to the WWE in 2000.
Eddie not only battled in the ring, but also fought with drug and alcohol addiction. He eventually became WWE Champion in 2004. On Nov. 13, 2005, Eddie was found unconscious inside his hotel room. He died of acute heart failure.
Davey Boy Smith
Davey Boy Smith jumped into the WWE scene in 1985, teaming with The Dynamite Kid to form The Bulldogs. In 1992, he was released from the company for receiving shipments of human growth hormone, but returned in 1994.
In 2000, Smith entered a drug rehabilitation due to his problem with painkillers. He died on May 18, 2002, after suffering a heart attack. An autopsy revealed steroids may have played a part in his death. He was 39.
Brian Adams began his wrestling career in 1986 and debuted with the WWE in 1990 as part of the tag-team Demolition. In March 1995, Adams was arrested for purchasing steroids. He died August 13, 2007, at the age of 44. Authorities believe nandrolone, testosterone, and HGH played a part in his death.
Chris Benoit began his wrestling career in 1985. He wrestled for ECW and for WCW, before leaving for WWE in 2000.
In 2004, while headlining Wrestlemania XX, Benoit defeated Triple H to capture the World Heavyweight Championship.
In 2007, Benoit missed weekend shows and a pay-per-view special for what he called a “family emergency.” On June 24, 2007, the bodies of Benoit, his wife and his son were found. Benoit killed them before killing himself. An investigation into his death found his doctor prescribed him steroids.
Brian Pillman played in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals in 1984 before beginning his wrestling career. He made his debut in 1986 with Stampede Wrestling. After that, he bounced around between WCW, ECW, and the WWE.
Pillman passed away on Oct. 5, 1997, from an undetected heart condition. He was 35.
Big Boss Man
Ray Traylor, a former prison guard, made his wrestling debut in 1985. He joined the WWE in 1988 as the Big Boss Man. He died on Sept. 22, 2004, after suffering a massive heart attack. He was 41.
Bam Bam Bigelow
Scott Bigelow began his wrestling career in 1987 with the WWE. Bigelow’s biggest match was taking on NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor in Wrestlemania XI, a match he lost.
In July 2000, Bigelow received second-degree burns on 40 percent of his body rescuing three children from a burning house.
He was found dead on Jan. 19, 2007, inside his Florida home at the age of 45. Cocaine was found in his system at the time of his death.
Andre the Giant
Andre Roussimoff was one of the most popular and beloved wrestlers of all time. He began his wrestling career in France in 1964. He went to the WWE in 1973.
His most famous match was with Hulk Hogan in Wrestlemania III before nearly 100,000 people at Detroit’s Silverdome.
Andre also branched into film and television, appearing in the critically acclaimed film “The Princess Bride.”
Andre passed away on Jan. 27, 1993, after suffering a heart attack. He was 46.
Jorge Gonzalez was originally drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 1988. Despite not making it professionally for Ted Turner’s basketball team, he had a place for him in WCW. Gonzalez debuted in WCW in 1990 and went over to the WWE in 1993, where he feuded with The Undertaker. Gonzalez died from complications of diabetes at the age of 44.