WWE has always been a little odd in the way it handles the deaths of performers. Sometimes departed professional wrestlers are honored with the whole shebang; a graphic at the start of the show, a video package, and even a 10-bell salute. Other performers get little more than a passing mention on the WWE website, and that’s if they get anything at all.
There doesn’t appear to be any real logic as to which deceased wrestlers WWE chooses to remember and which deceased wrestlers it decides to ignore. It seems to hinge whether or not Vince McMahon liked the performer in question. For example, this past January Jimmy Snuka was honored numerous times on WWE television and was lauded by announcers as a sports entertainment legend, despite the fact he had spent the previous year in and out of court for the alleged 1983 murder of his mistress.
As well as making the decision to celebrate a man who most fans suspect was a murderer, the CEO of WWE has made the call to limit mentions of the deaths of more honorable professional wrestlers. Some wrestler deaths were never mentioned by WWE at all, much to the chagrin of WWE fans.
Here are 15 wrestler deaths Vince McMahon wants us to ignore.
15. Big Daddy V’s Family Unsuccessfully Sued WWE
I’m entering Nelson Frazier into this list under the name of the final character he portrayed in WWE, but he may be better known to some fans as Viscera or Mabel. As Big Daddy V, Frazier received a push as a monster heel on WWE’s ill-fated ECW revival. Many fans speculated Frazier was finally bound for a world championship in WWE, but he was released from the company in August of 2008.
Frazier passed away on the 18th of February, 2014, just four days after celebrating his 43rd birthday. The following year, his widow brought a wrongful death lawsuit against Vince McMahon and WWE, claiming neurological injuries he sustained during his time in the company contributed to his untimely death (despite the fact he died of a heart attack). Unsurprisingly, the lawsuit was dismissed and Nelson Frazier has not been mentioned on WWE television since.
14. Lance Cade Passed Away Following Substance Abuse
Lane Cade’s early success came when he was paired with Trevor Murdoch on Monday Night Raw. Together, the pair won the WWE World Tag Team Championships on three occasions. Cade also enjoyed a spell as a singles competitor and for a little while it looked as though Vince McMahon was grooming him for a potential main event spot. However, he was released from his contract in 2008 due to issues with drugs and alcohol.
Lance Cade passed away on August 13th, 2010, from what the San Antonio medical examiner described as “intoxication from mixed drugs complicating a cardiomyopathy”. While WWE acknowledged Cade’s death on the company website, it was quickly brushed under the carpet so as not to draw attention to professional wrestling’s notorious drug culture.
13. Ludvig Borga Made Anti-LGBTQ Comments And Took His Life
Tony Halme competed in what was then the World Wrestling Federation from 1993 to 1994 under the name Ludvig Borga. His run was underwhelming and he eventually left the wrestling business to pursue a political career in his home country of Finland.
Although Halme managed to capture a seat in Finnish Parliament, his time in power was marred by controversy. The day after being elected, he referred to the country’s president as a “lesbian” and it was all downhill from there. He was later found to be hiding illegal steroids in his parliamentary office and in 2006 was convicted of driving under the influence. Halme passed away from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2010. Unsurprisingly, WWE paid no attention to the death of the wrestling politician who also allegedly had a swastika tattooed on his calf.
12. Jack Tunney Possibly Used Company Money To Pay Gambling Debt
During the 1980s, Vince McMahon limited his on-screen role to that of commentator and did all he could to avoid acknowledging the fact that he owned the WWF. This made it necessary to appoint a fictitious president to make kayfabe decisions. McMahon chose veteran wrestling promoter, Jack Tunney.
Although Tunney appeared regularly during WWE’s golden years, his relationship with the company began to sour during the first half of the 1990s and he left under acrimonious circumstances in 1995. There are various unconfirmed explanations for the dissolution of Tunney’s relationship with Vince McMahon. Some claim that things went south when Tunney voiced his support of referee Mike Clark, who accused Terry Garvin of sexual assault. Others have said that Tunney used company money to pay off his personal gambling debts. Whatever the true cause of the tension between WWE and the former kayfabe figurehead, it was serious enough for Vince McMahon to ignore Tunney’s death when he passed away in 2004.
11. Mass Transit Incident Involves Untrained Wrestler Being Beaten
WWE likes to present Extreme Championship Wrestling as a small promotion which used bold storylines and gory matches to revolutionize professional wrestling. However, a number of those gory matches could reflect rather poorly of WWE if viewed today.
“The Mass Transit incident”, for example, saw an untrained teenager by the name of Eric Kulas beaten and bloodied by New Jack (pictured above) and Mustafa Saed. According to ECW owner Paul Heyman, he was moved to employ Kulas after the juvenile assured him he was 23 and had been trained by Killer Kowalski. Of course, Kulas – who performed as Mass Transit – was telling tales as tall as himself and was unable to take his heavy beating from The Gangstas without passing out.
In the end, an unconscious Kulas was carried out of the arena by medical professionals and he never wrestled again. The former Mass Transit passed away in 2002 at just 22 years of age due to complications from gastric bypass surgery. The wrestling world was just starting to forget about that infamous beatdown at the time of his death and Vince McMahon opted to ignore Kulas’ passing so as not to draw negative attention to the company whose assets he was in the process of purchasing.
10. Chris Kanyon Was Bullied Over His Orientation
In 2001, after years of hiding his sexuality, Chris Kanyon came out as gay to his friends and colleagues. A member of the WWE roster at the time, Kanyon pitched a gimmick to Vince McMahon which would have seen him acknowledge his sexuality on-screen but continue to perform as a serious competitor. McMahon squashed the idea and instead booked Kanyon to be decimated by a chair-wielding Undertaker while dressed as Boy George.
In April of 2010, Chris Kanyon took his own life inside his Queens apartment. He was just 40 years of age. A couple of years prior, he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and his condition was not helped by the incessant bullying he had endured at the hands of his WWE colleagues. Although WWE made reference to Kanyon’s death, you’ve got to believe Vince McMahon would like to keep the role played by certain WWE Superstars in the deterioration of the departed wrestler’s mental health under wraps.
9. Chavo Classic Drew Heat Following Anti-LGBTQ Comments
As long as we’re on the subject of homophobia in professional wrestling, let’s take a look at the case of deceased bigot Chavo Guerrero, Sr.
Although Chavo Guerrero, Sr. spent the majority of his wrestling career working for promotions such as the Universal Wrestling Federation and the American Wrestling Association, he enjoyed a brief run in WWE in 2004, during which he competed as Chavo Classic and captured the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
In July of 2015, Chavo Classic ruffled more than a few feathers in the LGBTQ community when he announced he would no longer be reading or replying to tweets sent by users with rainbow flags in their Twitter profile pictures as they were “making a mockery of God”. Although WWE acknowledged the elder Chavo’s February 2017 passing, the company quickly ceased discussing his career when multiple outraged fans brought up the departed Cruiserweight Champion’s homophobic beliefs.
8. Sean O’Haire Arrested Several Times Before Took His Life
There was a lot of buzz about Sean O’Haire during the early 00s. In 2004, fans were captivated by his gimmick as an advocate of evil who encouraged fellow WWE superstars to perform indecent acts. For whatever reason, Vince McMahon decided to pair O’Haire with returning legend Roddy Piper, a move which robbed him of his individuality. He was released from WWE in April of 2004.
O’Haire’s post-WWE life was plagued by legal struggles. In 2006, he was tried for the assault of a woman at a nightclub, though the charges were eventually dropped. The following year he was involved in a brutal altercation which left him with impaired vision in his left eye. In 2009, he was arrested again, this time after an altercation with his girlfriend.
7. Brian Ong Was Killed By The Great Khali
The vast majority of wrestling fans will be unfamiliar with Brian Ong. This unfamiliarity is perfectly understandable as Ong never actually made it to WWE. In fact, he never made it beyond basic in-ring training.
While training with All Pro Wrestling in 2001, Ong passed away after receiving a flapjack from future WWE Superstar The Great Khali. Ong had already suffered a concussion during the training session and the impact of hitting the mat after being tossed into the air by a giant proved too much for his body to handle.
While being directly linked to the death of another wrestler is usually a surefire way to ensure WWE never hires you, The Great Khali’s size was just too damn impressive for Vince McMahon to pass up. And so Khali made his WWE debut in 2006 and McMahon spent a lot of money making sure the name Brian Ong remained relatively unknown.
6. Chyna Entered The “Other Film” Industry
The strained relationship between Chyna and WWE has been well-documented. The Ninth Wonder of the World was outspoken about her disdain for her ex-boyfriend Triple H and his wife, Stephanie McMahon. As a result, she was rarely mentioned on WWE television. Trips, for his part, stated on multiple occasions that Chyna’s career in the adult film industry had ruined any chances she had of being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
When Chyna passed away in the spring of 2016, WWE aired numerous tributes to her, leading fans to speculate that the McMahon family had finally lifted their long-standing ban on the former Intercontinental Champion’s image. However, when the 2017 Hall of Fame rolled around and no mention of Chyna was made, it became clear that Vince McMahon and his family had returned to their prior belief that she had disqualified herself from such an honor.
5. Umaga Died From A Heart Attack Following Prolonged Substance Abuse
For a period of time towards the end of the 00s, Vince McMahon seemed set on turning Eddie Fatu into a future main event star. After a long winning streak as Umaga, Fatu was placed into a feud with John Cena for the WWE Championship. Of course, Cena came out on the winning end and Fatu fell down the card. During this period of his WWE career, Fatu developed a drug habit for which he refused to seek help. His continued drug use led to him being released from the company in the summer of 2009.
On the 4th of December, 2009, Eddie Fatu died from a heart attack caused by his incessant drug use. While WWE announcers have referenced Fatu as “the late Umaga” from time to time, the cause of his death has always been ignored so as not to remind the media that drug use is still a major problem in professional wrestling.
4. Test Died Following Substance Abuse And Concussion Complications
Another untimely death which has been largely ignored by Vince McMahon and WWE is that of Andrew Martin.
Martin achieved his greatest fame under the name Test and spent several years performing on WWE television before being released from his contract in 2004. He returned to the company two years later and was assigned to the recently introduced ECW brand. Unfortunately, Martin had developed some pretty serious substance abuse issues during his time away from WWE and they eventually led to him leaving the company for good in 2007.
Martin passed away in March of 2009 from an overdose of oxycodone and it was later discovered that he had been suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, brought on by multiple concussions. Vince McMahon avoided bringing attention to Test’s death in order to avoid being held responsible by the mainstream media.
3. Chris Candido Acknowledged In TNA, Not WWE
Chris Candido is best known to WWE fans as Skip of The Bodydonnas. Some may also recognize him as the guy who brought Tammy “Sunny” Sytch into the company only to have her cheat on him with the literal Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels.
In 2005, Candido began appearing for Total Nonstop Action, which had not yet experienced the fatal addition of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bishoff. At that year’s Lockdown pay-per-view, he suffered a broken leg, for which he underwent successful surgery. Shortly after, however, a weakened Candido passed away from acute pneumonia. TNA would honor the fallen star for his contributions to the industry later in the year with The Chris Candido Memorial Tag Team Tournament. Little reference has been made to Candido’s career on WWE television, however, with even less attention being paid to his death.
2. Owen Hart Fell To His Death During A PPV
Vince McMahon doesn’t have a lot of problems with acknowledging the career of former WWE Intercontinental Champion and King of the Ring Owen Hart. WWE announcers frequently drop his name on television and a DVD collection of his greatest matches was released by the company in late 2015. However, McMahon would very much like us all to forget the manner in which Owen Hart died.
Hart was booked to make an elaborate entrance during the 1999 Over The Edge pay-per-view, which would have seen him descend from the ceiling of the packed Kemper Arena. However, a problem with Hart’s harness saw him plummet 78 feet to the ring below, where he died. The tragedy resulted in a whirlwind of negative publicity for WWE from which the company has never fully recovered.
1. Chris Benoit Murdered His Family
If there was ever a death Vince McMahon and WWE would like us all to ignore, it is the death of former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Chris Benoit.
For those who don’t know – where have you been for the past decade? – Chris Benoit brutally murdered his wife and child over a weekend in the summer of 2007 before taking his own life. The murders and subsequent suicide shined a harsh light on steroid abuse in professional wrestling and revealed, for the first time, the possible consequences of improper treatment of concussions.
Vince McMahon appeared on a number of television talk shows in an attempt to distance himself and his company from “Mr. Benoit”, but it looks as though The Rabid Wolverine and the crimes he committed will forever be associated with WWE.