Grappling With Death
Since 1997, these sixty-four wrestlers under the age of 50 have died, including eight who made the world take notice.
Died November 13, 2005, at age 38
After years of alcohol and painkiller abuse, Guerrero died of heart failure in a Minneapolis hotel room. This year it was revealed that Guerrero was a client of Signature Pharmacy, an Orlando-based company under investigation for allegedly delivering steroids to athletes.
Died May 23, 1999, at age 33
In one of the few non-drug-related deaths, Hart fell 50 feet to his demise at Kansas City’s Kemper Arena when a cable system suspending him above the ring failed or released prematurely. Some in the crowd of 16,000 assumed that the fall was staged as part of the show.
Died October 5, 1997, at age 35
A former linebacker for the Bengals who turned pro wrestler, Flyin’ Brian Pillman was found dead in a motel room in Bloomington, Minnesota. His autopsy revealed that a previously undetected heart condition led to his death; empty vials of painkillers were also found at the scene.
Died April 20, 1999, at age 40
In 1994 “Ravishing” Rick Rude testified that he used anabolic steroids. Five years later he was found unconscious on the bed of his Alpharetta, Georgia home after a drug overdose that medical officials said included Valium and the steroid gamma hydroxybutyrate. He died later.
Big Boss Man
Died September 22, 2004, at age 42
Ray Traylor—whose real-life experiences as a prison guard helped him hone his Big Boss Man character—died of a heart attack at his house in Acworth, Georgia. In 2003, after the death of Curt Hennig, Traylor had noted the mounting number of wrestling deaths, only to die himself a year later.
Bobby Duncum Jr.
Died January 24, 2000, at age 34
A former college football star at the University of Texas, Duncum died in his Austin-area home after an accidental drug overdose that, according to Travis County medical examiners, included alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, Valium, and the painkiller fentanyl.
Davey Boy Smith
Died May 18, 2002, at age 39
The wrestler better known as the British Bulldog died of an enlarged heart—with evidence of microscopic scar tissue, possibly from past steroid abuse—while vacationing in British Columbia. Smith had also been a longtime user of morphine to counter the pain of a punishing back injury.
Died August 13, 2007, at age 44
Less than two months after Benoit’s death, Brian Adams’ wife found him dead in bed. He had overdosed on a combination of painkillers, muscle relaxants, and antianxiety meds. An investigation later determined he had received steroids and HGH from the same pharmacy as Chris Benoit.
Other Wrestler Deaths:
Chris Adams 46, murdered, 2001
Brady Boone 40, car accident, 1998
Dave DiMeglio 35, heart attack, 2002
Shinya Hashimoto 40, brain aneurysm, 2005
Trae Keller 36, heart attack, 2005
Jeff Raitz 38, heart attack, 2002
John Tenta a.k.a. Earthquake 42, cancer, 2006
Rodney Anoai a.k.a. Yokozuna 34, heart attack, 2000
Elizabeth Chase 45, heart attack, 2000
Johnny Grunge 39, heart attack, 2006
Brian Hildebrand 38, stomach cancer, 1999
John Kronus 38, heart failure, 2007
Sherri Russell 49, painkiller overdose, 2007
Jerry “the Wall” Tuite 36, heart attack, 2003
Gary Albright 36, heart attack, 2000
Basil Bozinis 26, drug overdose, 2002
Anthony Durante 36, painkiller overdose, 2003
Michael Hegstrand 46, heart attack, 2003
Tiger Khan 33, heart attack, 2006
Sylvester “JYD” Ritter 45, car accident, 1998
Troy Thompson 47, heart attack, 2002
Chris Benoit40, suicide, 2007
Brian Cox 33, heart attack, 2003
Russell Haas 27, heart attack, 2001
Crash Holly 32, painkiller overdose, 2003
Michael Lozanski 35, heart attack, 2003
Rhonda Singh 40, painkiller overdose, 2001
Biff Wellington 42, heart attack, 2007
Mike “Awesome” Alfonso 42, suicide, 2007
Herb Calvert 45, heart attack, 2002
Sean Evans 36, lung cancer, 2007
Curt Hennig a.k.a. Mr. Perfect 44, cocaine overdose, 2003
Steve King 46, heart attack, 1998
Alex Rizzo 34, kidney failure, 2002
Billy Joe Travis 40, heart attack, 2002
Nancy Benoit 43, murdered, 2007
Michael Davis 45, heart attack, 2001
Audie Hager 44, cancer, 2003
Elizabeth Hulette 42, drug overdose, 2003
Joey Maggs 37, possible overdose, 2007
Louie Spicolli 27, painkiller overdose, 1998
Scotty Williams 44, drug overdose, 2007
Randy Anderson 42, painkiller overdose, 2002
Chris Candido 33, blood clot to the heart, 2005
Terry Gordy 40, heart attack, 2001
Hercules Hernandez 47, heart attack, 2004
Marianna Komlos 35, breast cancer, 2004
Rocco Rock 49, heart attack, 2002
Tomomi “Jumbo” Tsuruta 49, cancer, 2000
Scott “Bam Bam” Bigelow 45, heart attack, 2007
Robbie Dicks 32, possible suicide, 2002
Emory Hail 36, kidney failure, 2006
Dan Johnson 49, liver failure, 2003
Victor Quiñones 46, heart attack, 2006
Jeep Swenson 40, heart attack, 1997
Richard Wilson 33, suicide, 1999