Professional wrestling is an interesting form of entertainment. While it is generally perceived as fake, that doesn’t trivialize the toll that the sport takes on the human body. While punches and kicks and scenarios can be faked, the impact of gravity cannot.
Every thud in the ring, every slam out of the ring, and the unanticipated injuries, are all real. There is a level of reality when it comes to professional wrestling despite the characters and costumes. Wrestlers are built for a reason, and they constantly have to train their bodies in order to prevent injury or, at worst, death.
Sadly enough, there have been numerous wrestlers that have met their untimely end in the ring, and often the death will be broadcast on live television. Luckily in the last twenty years, there have been massive developments in the physical education and health and safety standards in professional wrestling. However, many more wrestlers have met their end in smaller rings that don’t have standards quite so tight. Every injury and death that has occurred in the ring is a testament to how physically and emotionally demanding the sport really is, whether choreographed or not.
The following are ten wrestlers who have met their end in the ring, sorted by date. These wrestlers made the ultimate sacrifice when it came to their sport. In many cases, their deaths led to important changes in safety standards in professional wrestling, in an effort to avoid these tragic disasters repeating themselves in the future of the sport.
10. Luther Lindsay – 1972
Luther Lindsay was a major star in the world of professional wrestling. He died at the age of 48 on February 21, 1972 while pinning his opponent, Bobby Paul, down after performing a diving belly flop to bring him down.
When the referee tried to tap Lindsay so he could get off of his opponent, it was realized that Lindsay’s dead body was doing the pinning. The police were called and Lindsay’s body was kept in the dressing room of the venue until he was officially declared dead.
His funeral took place after his body spent a week at the Hampton Institute (his alma mater). Several well known wrestlers attended his funeral and even acted as pallbearers.
9. Malcom “King Kong” Kirk – 1987
Malcom Kirk was best known as “King Kong Kirk” during the wrestling boom in England in the 1980’s. He was originally a coal miner, then a professional rugby player. Noted for his 6′ 1″ stature and weight over 300 pounds, Kirk was a force to be reckon with.
But in August of 1987, during a wrestling match at the Hippodrome circus in Norfolk, Kirk met his untimely end. While in a tag team wrestling match against Shirley Crabtree and his nephew, Crabtree delivered a move called the “Big Splash” where he landed stomach first on top of Kirk.
Crabtree was declared the winner, and when Kirk got up, he turned a weird color and collapsed. Kirk was dead by the time he arrived at the hospital, from a pre-existing heart condition.
8. Kevin Cawley – 1992
Kevin Cawley passed away at the young age of 46 in October of 1992. He was a well known British wrestler who performed under many identities, and his most famous persona was called the Black Baron.
During the last wrestling match at the Lewisham Theater in a battle royale showdown, Cawley suffered a heart attack and collapsed in the corner of the ring. Officials managed to sweep him away from the chaos to try to revive him, without the knowledge of his fellow wrestlers or audience members.
Despite attempts to revive him in the dressing rooms, Cawley never regained consciousness and passed away backstage.
7. Larry Cameron – 1993
Larry Cameron was not only a professional wrestler, but he was also a professional football player who stood at six feet tall and weighed about 225 pounds. He was known for his intimidating stature, as well as being one of the first African American wrestlers to achieve international fame. He died in the ring on December 13, 1993 at the age of 41 years old.
He was wrestling against Tony St. Clair in a match in Bremen, Germany. It was during this match that Cameron suffered a heart attack and collapsed. The referee stopped the fight and tried to revive Cameron in the ring, even after declaring St. Clair the winner. By the time medical personnel arrived, Cameron was already dead.
6. Oro – 1993
Jesús Javier Hernández Silva, also known as Oro, died on October 26, 1993 at the young age of 21. His death rocked the Lucha Libre community. During the team match, Oro was clotheslined by a wrestler named Kahoz, and as rehearsed, spun and landed on his head.
However, soon after, while his opponent tried to pick him up, Oro’s pulse became weak and he collapsed. Medical help was called, and as Oro was being put onto the stretcher, he was losing consciousness and died before he could be placed in the ambulance.
It was theorized that Oro died from a brain aneurysm, but his family requested that an autopsy not be performed.
5. Owen Hart – 1999
The death of Canadian wrestler Owen Hart ignited controversy on the ethics of the WWF, when he fell from a suspended harness in Kansas City, Missouri on May 23, 1999.
Hart fell 78 feet to the ground, where he landed on his chest and caused internal bleeding. The event was called, “Over the Edge” and was a pay-per-view event. Hart’s entrance was supposed to include him messing up his entrance for a comedic effect, but it is believed that Hart accidentally triggered the release when adjusting his cape.
Television viewers didn’t witness the accident, but officials had to explain to the live audience that this wasn’t a part of the act, and Hart was administered CPR. He later died in the hospital.
4. Gary Albright – 2000
Gary Albright died on January 7, 2000 during the World Xtreme Wrestling Show in Pennsylvania. He was in a match against wrestler Lucifer Grimm, who gave him a three-quarter facelock bulldog move, and unfortunately never got up.
Grimm became concerned with Albright, and actually moved his body on top of himself so the match could end. Officials tried to revive Albright, but unfortunately he was declared dead shortly after he was moved from the ring.
An autopsy determined that he died from natural causes that ignited a heart attack, and that the cause of death wasn’t related to the events that happened in the ring.
3. Moondog Spot – 2003
Larry Booker, also known as Moondog Spot, was a professional wrestler that was a member of the Moondogs. He met his end in 2003 when he had a heart attack in the middle of a match.
The match took place on November 29, 2003 in Memphis, Tennessee in honor of wrestler Jerry Lawler’s birthday. He was just 51 years old, and his death rocked the wrestling world and made all professional wrestlers question their quality of life.
When Moondog went down, it was immediately recognized that it wasn’t a part of the act, and the referees informed the crowd what had happened while CPR was being administered.
2. Mitsuharu Misawa – 2009
Mitsuharu Misawa was a professional Japanese wrestler, whose death inspired more regulated matches in the country of Japan. Misawa was participating in a tag team title match when he was given a back suplex.
The move ended up knocking Misawa unconscious, and the match was stopped after 27 minutes. The crowd grew silent, before eventually starting to chant his name in hopes of reviving him.
Misawa was declared dead at the hospital, but many speculate he died in the ring. At the request of his family, his official cause of death was never released.
1. Pedro Aguayo, Jr. – 2015
Pedro Aguayo, Jr. was the son of “Lucha Libre” star Pedro (Perro) Aguayo who died on March 21st, 2015 in the middle of a four person wrestling match.
He received a flying kick to the shoulder and neck from famous wrestler, “Mysterio”, and laid motionless on the rope for several minutes before referees and others started to notice something was wrong. Pedro was taken to the nearest hospital where doctors spent 90 minutes trying to revive him before declaring him dead at the young age of 35.
An autopsy concluded that Pedro had three broken vertebrae, which caused a stroke, and led to cardiac arrest.
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