When a beloved person dies, society at large tends to ignore any negatives associated with that person and focus on the positives they brought to the world, especially if that person was a celebrity. In general, we respect the dead on a higher level than the living, whether or not that makes any particular sense. This typically holds true with professional wrestling as with any other entertainment medium, but it isn’t exactly a guarantee that every wrestler will suddenly become venerated once they pass on. In fact, there have been more than a few wrestling deaths that have gone completely unnoticed and unmentioned by WWE, and others still that have been outright disrespected by the company.
WWE received a great deal of criticism the multiple times they’ve turned real deaths into wrestling angles, as was the case with Eddie Guerrero and Paul Bearer. As deplorable as those storylines were, that isn’t what this list is about. Guerrero and Bearer were also inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and given lengthy tributes on WWE TV, unlike the superstars we’re about to talk about. This list focuses on the wrestlers and sports entertainment personalities who were ignored or even insulted by WWE after their deaths, never given any sort of positive tribute in the first place. In a few rare occasions, WWE had reasons that may even make a small amount of sense, but that hasn’t stopped the friends and families of the deceased from making their perceived slights known. Keep reading to learn which 15 wrestlers still receive no respect from WWE even in death.
Of all the wrestlers mentioned on this list, there should be no surprise at all if Woman’s death went unmentioned by WWE. Woman was known in her everyday life as Nancy Benoit, the wife of Chris Benoit, and thus one of the primary victims of his heinous crimes. Chris murdered Nancy and their son in June of 2007, and WWE has made it a policy to never to mention Benoit or any of his crimes on television. Only a select few fans who don’t get the point complain about Benoit being left off, but it’s a true shame that Nancy’s great career has been likewise wiped out of history as a result.
Woman started her career in wrestling with her second husband, Kevin Sullivan, acting as his valet and manager for several years while calling herself The Fallen Angel. Nancy joined WCW in 1989, first as a Rick Steiner super fan named Robin Greene. Greene revealed herself as the devious Woman when she turned on Steiner, creating a gimmick that represented the evil temptations women are capable of drawing out of weak men. The Woman gimmick was further developed in ECW and again in WCW as a manager of The Four Horsemen, which would lead to her meeting Benoit. Along with her husband, none of Nancy’s contributions to wrestling have been mentioned by WWE since her passing.
13 Matt Borne
Matt Osborne wrestled throughout the 1980s as “Maniac” Matt Borne to high territorial acclaim, but WWE fans will forever remember him as the original Doink the Clown. Not only was Borne the original Doink, he was also the best. None of the many other wrestlers who have attempted to copy his creation, including WWE veterans Steve Lombardi and Steve Keirn, have seemed to understand the basics behind the gimmick. Borne is also rather infamous for having substance abuse problems throughout the majority of his life, which caused WWE to fire him and replace him with a series of knock-offs.
Borne continued using the Doink character on the independent scene and even briefly in ECW, while WWE continued trotting out Doink’s of their own. Borne died of a morphine overdose related to heart disease in 2013, a fact WWE never mentioned on television. Borne likewise was never given any sort of tribute outside of the company’s website. Years later, Borne’s family sued WWE in a wrongful death suit, alleging wrestling culture caused his death. Fans initially assumed WWE didn’t mention Borne’s death so they could continue using the Doink character for nostalgia purposes, and with the actions of his family, it’s likely that position will never change.
Despite a very rapid rise towards the top of the company, Test didn’t last long with WWE. Test made his wrestling debut for WWE in late 1998 as the bodyguard for the band Motley Crue, after which he quickly aligned himself with Shane McMahon and The Corporation. Test’s alliance with the McMahon family would expand as he entered an extremely popular angle with Stephanie McMahon, which saw Test and Stephanie gradually fall in love and plan to wed. The wedding was broken up by Triple H, starting the real love story of Stephanie’s life, but that’s a different story entirely.
Test’s career after his breakup with Stephanie McMahon was a long downward spiral into obscurity. He briefly feuded with Triple H over the incident, and was defeated so summarily throughout he ended up in a low card tag team with Albert only a few months later. Test went on to win the WWE European, Intercontinental, Hardcore, and World Tag Team Championships on multiple occasions, but never again caught on as a main event or even upper mid-card player. Test was suspended by WWE for violating the Wellness Policy in 2007, and chose to leave the company as a result. He died of an oxycodone overdose two years later, and despite his integral role in the Triple H-Stephanie McMahon love story, WWE continues to leave Test out of their history.
11 Sean O'Haire
Sean O’Haire was one of the last true standouts in WCW, with an aerial offensive made extra impressive due to his larger-than-average physique. O’Haire joined WWE in 2001 when Vince McMahon purchased WCW, and although he made his WWE debut as one half of the WCW World Tag Team Champions, O’Haire was quickly buried along with the rest of his WCW allies, and eventually was sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling, the NXT of its day. O’Haire returned in early 2003 as a devil’s advocate character, allying with WWE Hall of Famer “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Despite the popularity of his character and the legendary status of his manager, O’Haire never quite connected with live crowds. Making matters worse, a motorcycle accident injured him and kept him out of the ring, and WWE once again sent him to their developmental territory when he was ready. O’Haire mutually parted ways with the company in April of 2004.
After leaving WWE, O’Haire attempted to continue his wrestling career in Japan, and later tried his hand at MMA. He wasn’t particularly successful in these ventures, and personal problems and run-ins with the law started to become the most regular constants in his life. O’Haire committed suicide by hanging at his home in 2014. WWE reportedly sent O’Haire through rehab multiple times during his darkest days, but never mentioned his death on television after it occurred. Of course, if you’re a fan of O’Haire, we’re not telling you anything you don’t already know.
10 Chris Candido
There are more than a few superstars in wrestling history who found themselves inexorably linked to other performers in the industry, and said link more or less dictated their careers from that point on. Such was the case with Chris Candido, the longtime boyfriend of the original WWE diva, Sunny. Sunny has lived a highly controversial life, which included a variety of stints in the adult film industry, but somehow she has managed to get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame anyway. Candido wasn’t quite as lucky, despite the fact that without him, Sunny may not have had a career in wrestling in the first place.
In addition to introducing the world to Sunny, Candido was an incredible wrestler in his own right. He debuted for WWE in 1995 as Skip, forming The Bodydonnas with Tom Prichard and winning the WWE World Tag Team Championships. Candido also won multiple titles for ECW, NWA, and SMW, all before he even turned 30. In April of 2005, Candido died due to pneumonia at the age of 33, brought on through surgical complications. Candido was working for TNA at the time of his death, and while that promotion would honor him with a memorial tournament, his passing went unmentioned by WWE.
Nelson Frazier has one of the weirdest career trajectories in wrestling, from a fun-loving babyface, to an evil main event king, to an opening match freak show attraction, back to a fun-loving babyface, back to a freak show. Regardless of where he found himself in the wrestling industry, and whether he was calling himself Mabel, Viscera, Big Daddy V, or any other name, Frazier’s biggest asset was obviously his size. Using his nearly 600 lb. frame, Mabel managed to capture the WWE World Tag Team Championships with his partner Mo, and later became the 1995 King of the Ring. While the reigning King, Mabel main evented SummerSlam 1995 in a losing effort against the WWE World Champion, Diesel.
Frazier was released by WWE for the final time in 2008, after which he spent several years wrestling on the independent scene before he died of a heart attack in February of 2014. Frazier’s death was unreported by WWE and unmentioned on television, and one year later, his widow filed a wrongful death suit against the company. WWE attorneys instantly dismissed the claims, calling the death tragic, but saying the company had nothing to do with it.
8 Lance Cade
It helps to have important friends in the wrestling business, but sometimes having the right friends just isn’t enough to save a doomed soul. Lance Cade was trained by Shawn Michaels and was an early ally of Daniel Bryan, getting his career off to a very powerful start. After being trained by Michaels, Cade signed with WWE in 2001, and spent the next four years in their developmental territories. He was finally deemed ready for his mainstream debut in 2005, when he formed a tag team with Trevor Murdoch and started appearing on Raw.
Cade and Murdoch were a moderately successful tag team, winning the WWE World Tag Team Championships on three separate occasions. Once the team split, it seemed like Cade was on his way up the card, as he began teaming with Chris Jericho and feuding with names like Shawn Michaels and John Cena. Cade was fired in 2008 following what Jim Ross caused “a major league mistake while utilizing bad judgment,” assumed by many to be a reference to drug use. Cade later died of heart failure in 2010, with drugs having played a contributing factor in his death. Cade’s death was in fact mentioned on television, but his legacy was never referred to again afterward.
7 Chris Kanyon
The world may never quite know what prevented Kanyon from becoming the type of star in WWE that he was in WCW. Kanyon was never a main event talent, but he steadily rose the ranks of the wrestling world throughout the late 90s, forming alliances with Raven and “Diamond” Dallas Page to bolster his reputation as soon as his career began. Kanyon won the WCW World Tag Team Championships with Page twice, and once held the United States Championship as a singles competitor. Unfortunately, Kanyon and Page were also the biggest WCW victims of the Invasion, as both men were routinely squashed by Kane and The Undertaker until their star power was completely taken away from them.
Once Kane and The Undertaker killed their careers, DDP did alright for himself thanks to his positivity and friendships in the business, but Kanyon wasn’t quite as lucky. A series of injuries kept Kanyon out of action for several years, and he remained highly underutilized upon his return. Kanyon left WWE in 2004, wrestling in several indy promotions until he retired in 2007. Kanyon’s personal life was a source of heavy controversy around this time, as he would claim he was fired by WWE due to his homosexuality, which he later admitted was a publicity stunt. Kanyon committed suicide in 2010, and his death was unreported by WWE, no doubt in part due to his earlier actions.
6 Perro Aguayo Jr.
This entry may be a tad controversial, as Perro Aguayo Jr. never worked for WWE, and thus it may be fair to claim the company had no particular impetus for acknowledging his death. However, rumors claimed the company actually did consider airing a tribute graphic for Aguayo they ultimately decided against, which means they were at least aware of the death. Still, it might be okay had they chosen to do nothing, since again, Aguayo never wrestled for the company. Of course, this is WWE we’re talking about, so maybe it isn’t too surprising his death came up in a far more offensive manner than anyone ever could have imagined.
While it isn’t unusual for wrestlers to fake an injury, a small amount of discretion should be considered when deciding what exactly it is they’re faking. Case in point, Michael Cole taking a week off his duties hosting Monday Night Raw due to a pretend spinal injury, specifically a cervical fracture, the exact same spinal injury that killed Aguayo in the ring not one week earlier. Frankly, we think the tribute graphic would have been a little bit classier.
5 Brian Pillman
Out of everyone on this list, Brian Pillman came the closest to receiving respect from WWE after his death, but only in a warped way that only actually constituted respect to Vince McMahon. To most of Pillman’s fans, what McMahon did may have actually been one of his all-time least respectful business decisions, and he made it only one day after Pillman died. Pillman had been a successful wrestler for WCW, ECW, and WWE throughout the 90s, and passed away due to heart failure on October 5, 1997. That same night, Pillman was scheduled to wrestle Dude Love at Badd Blood, but the match obviously never took place.
Unlike the many wrestler deaths that disrespectfully went unreported by WWE, Pillman’s death was immediately brought up. The night after his death, live on Monday Night Raw, Vince McMahon himself interviewed Brian’s widow, Melanie Pillman, about the circumstances of her husband’s death. McMahon callously asked Melanie if she thought drugs were involved, and pondered what was going to happen to the Pillman’s children, while Melanie could only shake her head and cry in response. As bad as it is to completely ignore the death, this example proves that the McMahon’s are capable of much worse when they actually acknowledge the deceased.
Professional wrestling is a unique and unpredictable world, as evidenced by the brief success of Eddie Fatu. Fatu is better known amongst WWE fans as Umaga, and prior to that, he was a member of 3 Minute Warning with his cousin, Rosey. 3 Minute Warning were presented as Samoan street thugs, which was perhaps a little derivative, but at least it represented their true lifestyles, and definitely was adaptable to a wrestling audience. The strange thing about Fatu’s career is that he achieved much greater heights when repackaged as Umaga, a decidedly racist portrayal of a “Samoan savage,” which wouldn’t have flown anywhere other than WWE. In wrestling, however, tropes never grow old, and the Samoan savage character was a huge hit.
Umaga was aligned with Vince and Shane McMahon, and managed to earn victories over the members of D-Generation X and even then-WWE World Champion John Cena. He won the WWE Intercontinental Championship twice and was a regular contender for Cena’s title, and through his association with McMahon, was involved in one of the highest profile WrestleMania matches in history, facing Donald Trump representative Bobby Lashley in “The Battle of the Billionaires.” Umaga left WWE in 2009 after his second violation of the Wellness Policy, at which point he quit rather than attend rehab. In December of that year, Fatu died of a drug overdose, which went unmentioned on WWE television.
3 Eddie Gilbert
“Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert was a special figure in wrestling history, only mildly famous for his actions in the ring, but legendary nonetheless due to his contributions to the sport outside of the ring and as a booker. Gilbert first became famous as a wrestler in the early 80s, when he worked for WWE. Gilbert primarily wrestled as enhancement talent when a car accident nearly ended his life, but also had the side effect of highly raising his profile. He nonetheless left WWE to work for Mid South Wrestling and Memphis Wrestling, the latter of which being where he started to build his reputation as a booker.
Gilbert’s time as a booker in Memphis was highly praised by wrestling critics, but he rarely stuck around anywhere long enough to make an impact. Gilbert soon jumped to the NWA, which he left in under one year, hoping to return to booking on the independent scene. Eddie was one of the first bookers for NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling, which would later turn into the infamous ECW wrestling fans know and love. While Eddie was booking for Memphis and later the nascent ECW, he hired Paul Heyman as his assistant, letting Heyman take over as head booker in 1993. Eddie Gilbert died of a heart attack in 1995 when he was only 33 years old. WWE has never mentioned his death in any form, despite his father complaining about the company using Eddie’s likeness on the WWE Network.
2 Ludvig Borga
They say if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, but occasionally the news needs to be reported as it is. WWE Hall of Famer and long time announcer Jim Ross gave this lesson to the wrestling world upon the passing of Tony Halme, better known as Ludvig Borga, one of the strangest evil foreigners in WWE history. Borga was portrayed as a Finnish environmentalist who was angry the US was polluting the world, which doesn’t make a whole lot of wrestling sense. His environmentalism was far more appropriate in his second career, in which he was a member of the Finnish Parliament for four years from 2003-2007.
Borga spent less than one year in WWE, from July of 1993 to January of 1994, at which point an ankle injury led to him leaving the company. Halme attempted careers in independent wrestling and MMA to no avail, once losing to Randy Couture in only 56-seconds. His political career was rife with controversy, as alcoholism was concurrently destroying his personal life. Borga committed suicide via gunshot in 2010. The only public mention of Borga’s death by WWE came as mentioned from JR, who wrote on his blog, “Tony obviously had issues and was not a great guy to be around,” amongst other negative comments.
1 Toots Mondt
They say history has been written by the winners, and thus Toots Mondt may never get his full due from the WWE Universe. Mondt was one of the co-founders of what is now known as WWE along with Vince McMahon, Sr., despite the fact most company history books paint the wrestling empire as having been solely and completely McMahon owned from its inception. In fact, Mondt and Vince, Sr. formed the company together in 1963 after splitting from the NWA, and it was Mondt’s understanding of the wrestling business that led to the company’s early success.
In addition to co-founding WWE, Mondt is also responsible for the success of WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino, who claims Vince, Sr. was against Sammartino’s rise to the top, while Mondt hand-picked him as the man to make WWE famous. Mondt was ousted from WWE in the mid-1960’s, with Sammartino further claiming relations between Mondt and McMahon had long been deteriorating, with McMahon winning most of the battles. Mondt died in 1976, and by the time McMahon’s son purchased his company in the early 1980s, he had already been all but erased from history. Mondt’s omission from history is no doubt the worst of all, as not only did Mondt co-found WWE, but many experts claim he was the inventor of “sports entertainment” as it is known today.
Sources: WWE, Washington Post, TMZ, Wrestle Zone
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