With average life expectancy at 84 years of age for men and 86 for women, professional wrestlers seem to die rather early at a fairly alarming rate. The leading cause of death among professional wrestlers is the heart attack, which isn’t too surprising since it’s one of the leading causes of death among the regular population as well. However, professional wrestlers are very much more likely to die earlier than your average human. A pro-wrestler’s average life expectancy is 20 years less than that of a normal person. Wrestlers are more likely to commit suicide, die in an automobile accident, and much more likely to die of heart disease than the average person. This is mainly attributed to the myriad of health issues that stem from the rampant steroid use, alcohol, pain killers, and recreational drugs used to cope with the pain of persistent and sustained performances, as well as a coping mechanism to mentally deal with a life that is constantly on the road.
Now, none of this is to say that all pro-wrestlers that have died were involved in heavy drug use. Like anyone else, accidents do happen, and many have fallen victim to a number of other unfortunate events. Regardless of their circumstances, all of these seventeen wrestlers left this life before their times were truly up.
17. Dean Hart
Died: November 21, 1990
Many people know about the tragic end of Owen Hart, but some may not know that another Hart brother, Dean Hart, had passed away as well. Dean was an aspiring wrestler like his brothers and also served as a referee for wrestling events. This career was cut short after a bus accident. Hart survived the accident, but ended up dying of kidney disease a number of years later, just a day before his brother Bret wrestled in the WWF Survivor Series. He was 36 years old.
16. Sylvester Ritter aka “Junkyard Dog”
Died: June 2, 1998
Sylvester Ritter was better known as the wrestler Junkyard Dog. He was known for wearing a large chain around his neck like a leash. Ritter was also known for his massive upper body and his ability to body-slam some of the biggest wrestlers of his time.
Junkyard Dog passed away in a car accident, apparently due to falling asleep at the wheel. He was still wrestling up until his untimely death. He was 45 years old.
15. Owen Hart aka The Blue Blazer
Died: May 23, 1999
Owen was easily one of the biggest members of the Hart family wrestling dynasty, only surpassed by his brother Bret Hart.
The shocking thing about Owen’s death is it happened in the ring during a pay-per-view event. Owen was wrestling under his Blue Blazer name, a character that was acted out as a klutzy and dim superhero. Owen was to be lowered to the ring via a harness and become stuck at just above ring level, then fall out and land on his face. To accomplish this, the harness had a quick release mechanism built in. While Hart was being lowered, something triggered the quick release mechanism too soon, and Hart fell 78 feet to his death.
14. Richard Erwin Rood aka “Ravishing Rick Rude”
Died: April 20, 1999
Rood wrestled for a number of different promotions including the three biggest of his time – the ECW, the WWF, and the WCW. Rood won a number of championships throughout his career. He also ran a gimmick of being the self-proclaimed “sexiest man alive.”
Rood died at the age 40 as a result of heart failure brought on by mixed medications.
13. Jerry Tuite aka “Malice” aka “The Wall”
Died: December 6, 2003
Jerry Tuite wrestled for notable promotions WCW and TNA through his career. One of his matches in the WCW was against Jerry Only of horror-punk band Misfits.
Tuite was found unconscious in a hotel room by a number of friends and wrestlers. He was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival as a result of heart failure.
12. Curtis Michael Hennig aka “Mr. Perfect”
Died: February 10, 2003
Curtis “Mr. Perfect” Hennig is part of a wrestling family dynasty. Curtis was the son of professional wrestler Larry “The Axe” Hennig, and he was the father of wrestler Curtis Axel. Hennig wrestled for all the big promotors, including WCW, WWF, WWE, and TNA.
Hennig was found dead at 44 due to a cocaine overdose. Hennig’s father claimed he also had complications resulting from steroid use and pain killers.
11. Michael Lockwood aka “Crash Holly”
Died: November 6, 2003
Crash Holly spent ten years wrestling in independent promotions before making it into the WWF/WWE. While with these major wrestling promoters, Holly became a 22 time Hardcore Champion.
Holly was found dead at the age of 32 with a partially consumed bottle of alcohol and empty bottles of the drug Carisoprodol. The death was ruled a suicide.
10. Marianna Komlos aka “Marianna” aka “Mrs. Cleavage”
Died: September 26, 2004
Marianna Komolos was an award winning body-builder, best known for her portrayal of Mrs. Cleavage, mother of the WWF character Beaver Cleavage. After the gimmick ran its course, Beaver took the name Charles Warrington, with Marianna portraying his girlfriend instead of his mother.
Marianna sadly passed away in 2004 from breast cancer at the age of 35.
9. Eddie Guerrero aka Latino Heat
Died: November 13, 2005
Eddie Guerrero was easily the most popular of the Guerrero wrestling family. He was found dead from heart disease by his nephew, Chavo, who was also a professional wrestler. Guerrero’s wife claimed he had been unwell in the week leading up to his death, but Chavo claimed he was in great health as Guerrero was training hard for a big event.
Guerrero had battles with alcohol and painkiller medications which may have played a hand in the heart disease that took his life.
8. Scott Bigelow aka “Bam Bam Bigelow”
Died: January 19, 2007
Bigelow had participated in a number of top tier wrestling promotions, notably the WWF, WCW, and ECW. Outside of his wrestling career, Bigelow was known for rescuing three children from a burning building, a feat that resulted in second degree burns on 40% of his body.
In 2007, Bigelow was found dead at the age of 45. An autopsy revealed severe back problems, a heart condition, and toxic amounts of cocaine and anti-anxiety medications.
7. Chris Benoit
Died: June 24, 2007
The story of Chris Benoit might be the most tragic in professional wrestling. Over a period of three days, Benoit murdered his wife and son, and then hung himself with a weight machine. A toxicology report suggested that nothing in Benoit’s body led to such violent and drastic behavior. Finally, a concerned friend suggested that continuous head trauma may have led to the unexpected murder-suicide. According to neurosurgeon Julian Bailes, Benoit’s brain “was so severely damaged, it resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient.” This resulted in an advanced form of a dementia that has been attributed to drastic behavior and deep depressions. The same condition has been found in NFL players that have suffered severe and continuous head injuries.
6. Michael Verdi aka “Trent Acid”
Died: June 18, 2010
Trent Acid was mainly a wrestler in the independent promotions; his most notable circuits were with the ICP owned Juggalo Championship Wrestling and a newer promotion known as the Pro Wrestling Syndicate.
Trent had many run-ins with the law due to his drug use, and was found dead of an overdose at the age of 29.
5. Mike Shaw aka “Norman the Lunatic” aka “Bastion Booger”
Died: September 11, 2010
Mike Shaw, otherwise known as Bastion Booger, was one of the more colorful characters in the world of pro-wrestling. After a number of different names in different wrestling circuits, Shaw settled on the Bastion Booger character. The character wasn’t known for wins or titles so much as his comedic effect. He usually wore a filthy wrestling singlet and played up his slovenly appearance.
After his career in the WWF had ended, Shaw had made some appearances in character on WWE, and also went on to open his own wrestling school in his home state of Michigan. Shaw died of a heart attack at the age of 53 in 2010.
4. Christopher Klucsarits aka “Chris Kanyon”
Died: April 2, 2010
Chris Klucsarits was a professional wrestler for both the WCW and WWF through most of the 1990s. Klucsaritis was best known by the names Chris Kanyon and Mortis, but wrestled under a few other names and re-branded himself a number of times throughout his professional career. Before his retirement, Klucsaritis did a number of benefit shows for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Klucsaritis was a known sufferer of depression, and he tragically committed suicide as a result in 2010. He was found by his brother with an apology note to his family.
3. Shawn McGrath aka “Shawn Osborne”
Died: January 26, 2011
Shawn Osborne is best known for his short stint with the WWE as a developmental talent. He debuted in the WWE under the name “The Bad Seed” Shawn Osborne. Before and after his stint with the WWE, Osborne wrestled in several small professional wrestling promotions.
At the young age of 34, Osborne died of an apparent suicide. He stated a number of different reasons and sited being dropped from the WWE as one of them.
2. Richard Reid Fliehr aka “Reid Flair”
Died: March 29, 2013
Reid Flair was the son of legendary wrestler Ric Flair, a relation that definitely helped Reid sow the beginnings of a career in wrestling. Reid’s first match was with the WCW promotion at the age of 10.
Unfortunately, Reid had some issues with heroin that caught him some trouble with the law. Reid was found dead due to an overdose of the drug at the age of 25. His career had barely started.
1. Matt Osborne aka “Doink the Clown”
Died: June 28, 2013
Doink the Clown is both literally and figuratively the most colorful character in the entire history of pro-wrestling. The character was first donned by Matt Osborne but the gimmick was used by a number of other wrestlers, both as a gimmick after Osborne and by other wrestlers for story-line purposes. Not only was Osborne the first to use the Doink gimmick, but he also used the title longer than any of his successors.
Osborne was found dead as a result of a hydrocodone and morphine overdose. A history of heart disease is also said to have played a factor in his death.