One of the hardest things in life is saying goodbye to or leaving something you love and are truly passionate about. For most of the wrestlers on this list the choice to end their careers wasn’t theirs to make, either being forced into retirement because of health issues or a sudden cause of death. Furthermore, we the fans also grow an attachment to these wrestlers which makes saying goodbye to them all the more difficult.
Some of the entrants on this list were at the heights of their careers and had more to offer the wrestling world. Others were just getting their careers started and had superstar potential. Without further ado, here is the list of the top 10 wrestlers whose careers were unfortunately cut much too short.
10. Chris Nowinski
Fans got their first look at Nowinski through the first ever Tough Enough competition, where Nowinski was one of the three finalists. Though he didn’t win the competition, WWE officials and fans saw future potential. After Tough Enough, Nowinski wrestled on the independent circuit for a year before getting called up to WWE in 2002.
Nowinski debuted as a cocky arrogant Harvard Alumnus (he is a real life Harvard Alumnus) and did a great job with the character as the fans bought into it. Nowinski’s career was a short-lived one, and he only lasted a year in WWE before retiring because of post-concussion syndrome.
Nowinski is the youngest wrestler to ever win the Hardcore Championship, which he won twice. If it wasn’t for the injury Nowinski had the potential to have a long lasting career as a top mid-card wrestler. He had a great look and was very good on the mic.
9. Corey Graves
Just like our last entrant, Corey Graves’ career was cut short because of concussion issues. Graves spent three years in WWE’s developmental system and never got a chance to make it to the top roster.
In a span of a year Graves suffered two concussions and ultimately made the hard, yet smart decision to retire from in-ring competition. Although he retired from in-ring competition, Graves started to carve out a new career joining the commentary team for NXT.
Graves was part of the E:60 documentary WWE: Behind the Curtain which gives a first-hand look at how Graves handled his in-ring retirement.
8. Sid Vicious
Most fans will know how Sid got on this list. In 2001, during a WCW pay-per-view, Sid attempted an aerial manoeuver. Sid was going for a big boot but landed awkwardly on one foot. He severely fractured his leg breaking both his tibia and fibula, with at least one of the bones breaking through the skin. The injury was so graphic that many TV-stations refused to air it. A 17-inch rod was placed in Sid’s leg and he was out of action indefinitely. Sid later sued WCW, claiming that he was made to jump off the second turnbuckle despite his objections.
Now, before I continue, readers need to know Sid Vicious is 6 ft 9 inches tall and shouldn’t ever be jumping off turnbuckles because of the risk of injury. However, it was WCW, and common sense wasn’t part of the promotion.
Because of this injury Sid missed the entire Invasion program (when WWE purchased WCW) which he could have been a factor in. In 2012 Sid had a match on Raw’s 1000th episode which gave fans a nice nostalgic feeling. Even though it was at the backend of his career, this injury shortened whatever he had left to offer in a big promotion.
7. Brian Pillman
A fan favorite because of his “loose cannon” persona, Pillman would do a series of worked shoots that gained him popularity within the WWE for his unpredictable character. His most infamous angle “Pillman’s got a gun” was against Stone Cold Steve Austin. This angle consisted of Pillman pointing a gun at Austin, screaming profanities and saying he was going to kill him. Pillman and Vince Mcmahon took a lot of heat because of this seemingly too real angle (remember, folks, there was no internet at that time) and later apologized for airing it.
On October 5, 1997 Pillman was scheduled to wrestle Dude Love at Badd Blood: In Your House, but as the show was nearing start time Pillman was missing. Jim Cornette was tasked with finding him and after calling his hotel he was given the news that Pillman was found dead earlier that day in his room. An autopsy revealed a heart attack led to his death.
6. Darren Drozdov
When someone talks about career-ending injuries, the first person that pops up in wrestling fans’ minds is Droz. He gained popularity as a low card wrestler in WWE from 1998-1999 with his persona known as Puke – he had the natural ability to regurgitate on command. However, what wrestling fans remember most about Droz is the incident that happened at a taping of WWE Smackdown! On October 5, 1999.
D’Lo Brown was attempting his signature running powerbomb and because Droz was wearing a loose shirt, D’ Lo wasn’t able to get a proper grip, and Droz wasn’t able to properly jump to execute the powerbomb correctly. Droz landed on his head and fractured two disks in his neck. This incident left Droz a quadriplegic and abruptly ended his wrestling career. Nowadays, Droz has regained movement in his upper body and arms, however he will never wrestle again.
5. Eddie Guerrero
One of the most charismatic wrestlers of all time, “Latino Heat” was a fan favorite. Whether playing face or heel, fans always cheered for the talented Eddie Guerrero. Not only gifted on the mic, Guerrero was also technically sound in the ring. During 2005 Guerrero was one of the top superstars in WWE. However, his career would be cut short after suffering heart failure in his hotel room on November 13, 2005. Guerrero left an impressive legacy behind being only the eleventh Triple Crown champion and sixth Grand Slam champion in the world. Guerrero was taken from us too soon and he could have delivered many more great memories for wrestling fans.
4. CM Punk
I know I might take some heat for putting him on the list, because fans will say that he will eventually come back. However, to those fans out there, I’m sorry, CM Punk is done with WWE and he will not be making a return.
Punk left the business on a sour note, and he showed disrespect by badmouthing the company and the industry. As of this writing, the relationship looks unrepairable from Punk’s standpoint as he is unwilling to show any positive light on his time in WWE. This leaves many fans wondering what would be going on if Punk was still with the WWE. Maybe he would be in a program against the authority, or a program with Bray Wyatt with both of them executing their masterful mic skills, or maybe he would have been in the tittle picture facing off against Seth Rollins. It’s a shame we will never get to see all this play out.
Edge had a very successful WWE career, however it was cut short at its height. Edge went out the way any superstar would dream of retiring – as champion. However, it was not under Edge’s terms; doctors forced him to retire because of cervical spinal stenosis. The risk of neck-down paralysis or death made him unfit to compete in the ring. Again, fans can only imagine what great matches and programs Edge would have delivered us had he stayed healthy. Nonetheless, Edge has moved on from wrestling and has made himself a solid acting career, becoming a reoccurring character on the show Haven.
2. Stone Cold Steve Austin
Even if Austin returns for one final match at WrestleMania (which he won’t) his career was cut short because of injuries. Austin has major injuries to his neck and knees, and a neck injury from 1997 has plagued him his whole career.
Austin confessed to wrestling against the advice of doctors up to 2002. However, after Wrestlemania XIX Austin suddenly departed, with doctors advising that any awkward or violent move performed on him could have resulted in Austin being permanently disabled or even resulted in death. This is the main reason Austin will never wrestle again. Even with all the speculation going on, his well-being is at risk.
Austin has stated that if he would return it would be difficult to return for just one match as he would get the itch to start a program, however his body would not allow him to do so. As ever year passes, the likelihood of Austin wrestling one more match becomes less believable to those who still think it will happen.
1. Owen Hart
One of the most tragic wrestling stories of all time is the top entry on this list. On May 23 1999 while Owen was in the process of being lowered into the ring by a harness and grapple line. The device malfunctioned and Owen fell 77 feet to his tragic death. Owen Hart was taken from the wrestling world far too soon. No doubt he would have become a WWE Champion. He possessed all the skill sets that a champion should have, and it’s a shame he never got a chance to hold that gold.