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4 Tragic Deaths Which Shocked The Wrestling World

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While heart diseases are the leading cause of death amongst wrestlers, murders and suicides are not uncommon

 

KARACHI:The world of wrestling is unforgiving. It’s home to injuries, physical and mental torture, addiction, alcoholism and many more vices. Or at least, such was the case until WWE finally began taking the matter seriously.

 

But other than that, independent wrestling all over the world remains largely unchecked, leaving the wrestlers at their own risk. Fortunately, they are being more careful nowadays. The heavy partying culture of the 80s and 90s has almost faded. Concussions and even minor injuries are given immediate medical attention and wrestlers generally think long-term to protect their health.

According to Wrestlerdeaths.com, the number one cause of death in wrestlers is heart-related illnesses resulting from years of substance abuse. Yet, a number of them have died while in the ring or from post-match complications. Murders and suicides are also not uncommon in wrestling history. Here, we list down four wrestlers’ deaths which shook the industry at its core.

1) Chris Benoit: A double murder-suicide

 

Benoit’s death in 2007 sent shockwave through the business. It became the reason WWE started taking concussions and head injuries more seriously, strengthened its talent wellness policy and eventually, changed the programming from TV-14 (in 2008) to PG.

 

On June 22 and 23, Benoit strangled his wife Nancy and seven-year-old son Daniel. He then hung himself on June 24. Even after more than a decade, why he did is unclear but many suspect the 40-year-old wrestling veteran had had several untreated concussions throughout the year. This and one of Benoit’s signature moves, the diving head-butt (wherein he would fly from the top turnbuckle and hit the opponent’s shoulder with his forehead) had caused brain damage. An autopsy revealed the late wrestler’s brain to be similar to that of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient.

Perhaps there were internal tensions within the family. Many say Benoit was deeply affected by his close friend and fellow wrestler Eddie Guerrero’s death 19 months prior. No matter, the tragic incident changed how the wrestling business operates on a core level. WWE specifically distanced itself from the wrestler and removed all mentions of him anywhere. It also banned moves specifically targeting the head and neck region (like chair shots). Despite being one of the greatest wrestlers ever, Benoit’s memory is now tarnished

 


2) Eddie Guerrero: Heart failure

Guerrero’s unexpected passing in November 2005 was most definitely a sad turn in the wrestling industry. One of the most popular wrestlers of the era, he was found dead by his nephew Chavo in a hotel room. The autopsy revealed Guerrero had died as a result of heart failure. Steroid abuse came into play and later in 2006, WWE instituted its wellness policy to keep wrestlers from using non-medical drugs.

The 38-year-old wrestler obviously died too early. Despite that, Guerrero’s legacy is such that he has inspired countless others to join the industry and continues to do so. Legends such as Ric Flair, Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle have said he was one of the all-time best. The wrestler was not only entertaining but also had technique and was the master of his craft. While he remains alive in people’s hearts, Chavo continues to make his uncle proud by performing in the US-based promotion Lucha Underground.

 

3) Owen Hart: In-ring accident

Hart’s is one of the most unfortunate cases ever seen in the wrestling world. At WWE’s May 1999 pay-per-view Over the Edge, one of the finest technical wrestlers ever died when the equipment malfunctioned and he fell from the rafters of the arena.

The 34-year-old was set to face The Godfather for the Intercontinental Championship. He was supposed to be lowered into the ring through a harness and grapple line for a dramatic entrance. But he fell 78 feet, landing chest-first on the top rope. It was later announced he had passed away due to internal bleeding from blunt force trauma. In a controversial move, WWE decided to continue the show, although it has not been commercially distributed since then.

Hart’s wife Martha later sued WWE and the two eventually settled. But to this day, she has not forgiven the company for her husband’s death, which is why the Canadian superstar was never inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame. Martha used the $18 million she received from the settlement to establish the Owen Hart Foundation.

 

4) Bruiser Brody: Murder

On July 17, 1988, Jose Gonzalez (who performed as Invader 1) stabbed the 42-year-old Brody with a knife backstage at a wrestling show in Puerto Rico. Several others were present at the time of the incident, but most notable testimonies came from Tony Atlas and Dutch Mantell (also known as Zeb Colter).

Atlas and Brody had been in the locker room when Gonzalez approached the latter to talk business. A few minutes later, Brody’s cried out and stumbled out of the shower area with blood pouring out of his abdomen. Gonzalez had punctured his lungs. Panic ensued as it took 40 minutes for the paramedics to arrive. After two surgeries, Brody bled to death. According to Atlas, he had been holding a photo of his son at the time of passing.

 

Gonzalez was arrested but later acquitted for claiming to have acted in self-defense. Subpoenas issued to the witnesses only reached them after the trial was over. What made the situation even more controversial was that Carlos Colon (father of former WWE star Carlito) owned the promotion which had hired Brody and Gonzalez. After the incident, Colon continued promoting Gonzalez as a hero and even used it in wrestling storylines. The lack of police involvement in the case and calculated legal ignorance of Gonzalez’s actions gave rise to speculations that Colon was involved in the murder.

Rumours say Puerto Rican wrestlers would often get jealous when American performers came and took their spots. Further, Brody was known for his no-nonsensical and wild brawling wrestling style. Perhaps he had pushed Gonzalez’s buttons one too many times? The latter still walks free, at the age of 72, while Colon has been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

 

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