The wrestling industry has been rocked by the premature deaths of many high profile people over the years. We could list so many different important performers, like Umaga, Curt Henning, Sherri Martel Paul Bearer, Crash Holly, Mike Awesome and Bam Bam Bigelow, who’ve died too soon. Unfortunately, the high numbers of wrestler funerals at times have led to a level of indifference.
Nelson Frazier Jr. died after working for the WWE off and on between 1993 and 2008, as Mabel, King Mabel, Viscera and Big Daddy V, and few people batted an eye. Even the lawsuit his widow hit the company with has resulted in little fanfare or attention. That isn’t always the case, however. Some deaths seemed to rock the WWE and its employees to their core.
10 Owen Hart
A storied prankster who loved his family more than anything in the world, memories of Owen brings smiles to the faces of nearly anyone who knew or watched him. A member of the Hart Family, alongside The British Bulldog who we also considered including on our list, Owen’s feud with his brother Bret was one of the best ever, let alone the early nineties. If his career in the WWE took place before your time, all you have to do is go back and watch his antics after he won two Slammy Awards to understand what made him so delightful.
9 Miss Elizabeth
The former wife of a WWF main eventer, in our minds Elizabeth, is the classiest person to ever grace the WWF with her presence. Accompanying her husband to the ring, she eventually served as the catalyst for the implosion of the Mega-Powers and made everyone’s hearts swell when she got back together with Randy Savage.
8 Brian Pillman
Popular current WWE performer, Dean Ambrose, may be known as the lunatic fringe but his off-kilter persona seems positively pedestrian in comparison to that of Brian Pillman. At one time arguably the most talked about person in the wrestling world, he seemed poised to have a run for the ages. Then tragedy hit and after a car accident, he shattered his ankle, was in a coma for a week and once he came to, his in ring work was never the same.
7 Dusty Rhodes
Known as “The American Dream”, Dusty’s unorthodox charisma won the love of audiences wherever he went. Whether he was saddled with goofy polka dot ring gear or allowed to revel in his everyman persona, nothing could tarnish his sincere connection with the audience. A multiple time world champion and Hall of Famer, among many more accolades, his behind the scenes role was nearly as important as his time on camera.
6 The Ultimate Warrior
An imposing figure who truly embraced his so-called Warrior lifestyle, the man once known as James Hellwig is inarguably memorable. Massively muscled and balls to the wall from the moment his music hit, Warrior became one of the biggest stars in the company before disappearing again and again. Whatever the reason for his many departures from the WWF, his fans never forget him for a moment.
5 Chris Benoit
An incredibly talented wrestler, who won 22 different championships in the WWE, WCW, ECW and NJPW combined, Chris isn’t remembered by most, for any of it. Killing his wife and child in the final days of his life before doing himself in, he reduced himself into a monster in a weekend. If you can enjoy his work despite his horrific actions, we are very happy for you but there are many people, including WWE’s hierarchy, who’d rather not.
4 “Macho Man” Randy Savage
One of the most entertaining men to ever grace the wrestling world with his presence, Randy Savage had an amazing career. Snapping into Slim Jims for years, he was also a six-time world champion in a time when the belt didn’t change hands often. Magnificent on the mic and dazzling in the ring, there has simply never been anyone else like Randy in this or any other industry.
Despite portraying a Sumo wrestler, Yokozuna was in actuality of Samoan origin, who to this day is arguably the most successful blood member of the famed Anoaʻi wrestling family. A big man wrestler, by the time of his death, his weight had ballooned to the estimated weight of 760 lbs. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, had Yoko managed to stay healthy and most importantly alive, the impact he could have made on the company is daunting to consider. Amazing at playing the bad guy during his tenure, even as a racist caricature, he only left the WWE because his weight worried officials. An awful lot was left on the table.
2 Andre The Giant
Everyone knows that Vince McMahon likes to promote large men and no man has ever fit that bill better than the man known as a giant. Memories and stories of Andre reached far past the world of wrestling fans and the world mourned his passing. If you haven’t heard stories of his legendary drinking prowess, for instance, we suggest you seek them out.
1 Eddie Guerrero
Eddie had all of the tools. The fact that he’d been in the ring since he was a toddler and had wrestled all over the world made his matches great, but that was just a fragment of what made him so outstanding. The mischievous smirk that became one of Eddie’s trademarks in the final part of his life and career made fans so fond of him that when he was gone it hit us hard. Seeing the reaction of his peers, men like Batista, Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit, made it clear he wasn’t only a good wrestler, he was a good man.
His demise and the attention it elicited inspired a massive change in WWE policy, which made the company adopt the wellness policy. The lack of suspensions in the last several years may be evidence of how good a job it has done or how little they adhere to it, depending on your point of view, but the company isn’t the same. Daniel Bryan, for instance, a huge fan favorite and WrestleMania headliner hasn’t wrestled in months due to the concussion protocols that are a part of the policy. No death changed the way the WWE does business more.
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