Professional wrestlers serve as an emblem of strength, courage and resilience for young and older people who admire the somewhat bullish manner in which they carry themselves inside the ring. However, it is ironic that in a sport associated with strength, most of its athletes are likely to die before they reach the age of 55. This can be because of natural death, use of steroids, abuse of their bodies, poor lifestyles, drug use, exhaustion and accidents. The list of wrestlers who died is a long one.
The death of a celebrity leaves a dark cloud hanging over their fans for a very long time, as with the wrestling heroes who have fallen. Some of the WWE wrestlers who died left at the prime of their careers while others passed away long after retiring, but they will never be forgotten either way. They will always be celebrated for their contribution to the sport and their lives.
Black Sherif, Afena Gyan & other less-than-25 Ghanaians who came out of nowhere to become superstars in last 2 years
15 great professional wrestlers who died
Wresting is the sport with the highest death rates before the age of 55, and this means that the world has lost many of the greatest wrestlers of all time. It does not matter whether they are wrestlers who died recently or those who have been long gone for decades because such talents will always be missed. They include:
1. Mike Von Erich – 23
Mike Von Erich was a young and upcoming wrestler who passed away at 23. The wrestler was born on the 2nd of March 1964 in Dallas, Texas, USA. Apart from wrestling, he was also an actor known for The Von Erichs: Front Row Ringside (1987) and World Pro Wrestling TV (1984). On the 12th of April, 1987, Mike Von Erich committed suicide in Lake Dallas, Texas and left behind a widow named Shani Garza.
2. Road Warrior Animal – 60
What WWE wrestlers died in 2020? Road Warrior Animal was a professional wrestler who gained fame as one of the tag team Road Warriors in WCW and Legion of Doom in WWE, but he died recently. His partner was Hawk. Together they won a tag team title in both Legion of Doom and WCW and became popular with fans as heels.
Animal was seen for the last time in WWE at the RAW 1000, after which he retired. In 2011, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame with his long-term partner Hawk and their manager Paul Ellering. He died on the 22nd of September, 2020, at 60.
3. Tracy Smothers – 58
Tracy Smothers rose quickly to wrestle in the top companies of the sport during his career, but sadly he joined the pro wrestlers who died. He appeared in franchises like WCW, WWE, ECW, and Smoky Mountain Wrestling. In the WWE, he competed using the name Freddy Joe Floyd, but he failed in the other promotions.
While his WWE career was relatively short, he wrestled for other promotions even as he was still part of WWE. Unfortunately, Smothers died on the 28th of October, 2020, from Lymphoma. He was only 58 at the time, leaving fans and other wrestlers saddened by his demise.
4. Jack Lanza – 86
Jack Lanza, also known as Blackjack Lanza, was a legendary professional wrestler who died at 86 in 2021. He wrestled for several wrestling promotions such as NWA, WWE, and AWA in his active days.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006. Upon his death, he was celebrated by WWE chairman Vince McMahon as a man’s man who was respected and beloved by all.
5. Danny Hodge – 88
Danny Hodge established himself as a wrestling icon with a reputation as one of the best pure wrestlers to compete in the ring. He hailed from Oklahoma and succeeded in holding national titles not only in wrestling but also in boxing. He was a three-time NCAA Champion and bagged a silver medal at the Olympics.
As a professional wrestler, Danny won several NWA titles. He is remembered for holding the World Junior Heavyweight Championship seven times. He passed away on the 24th of December, 2020, at 88. He became known for his immense strength during his wrestling career because he could crush an apple with just one hand.
6. Butch Reed – 66
Butch Reed was a decorated professional wrestler before his death. He is a former WCW World Tag Team Champion, a title he held together with Ron Simmons, a WWE Hall of Fame star. He was an active wrestler in the '80s when he competed in popular promotions like Jim Crockett Promotion (WCW), WWE, and Mid-South Wrestling.
Reed was a contestant in the first Survivor Series main event in 1987 and the first Royal Rumble match in January of 1988. He died on the 5th of February, 2021, at 66.
7. Masakazu Fukuda – 27
Masakazu Fukuda was one of the famous wrestlers who died at the young age of 27 years. He is best known for his appearances in NJPW and WAR. He also wrestled in a short-lived stable known as Fighting Club G-EGGS alongside Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, Yutaka Yoshie and Brian Johnston.
He is a WAR International Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship titleholder. Fukuda suffered a fatal head injury on the 14th of April, 2000, during a match with Katsuyori Shibata. Shibata had launched a flying elbow drop on him, and he was rushed to the hospital but died five days later from a brain haemorrhage.
8. Paul Orndorff – 71
Another WWE Hall of Fame member who has passed away is Paul Orndorff. He debuted as a professional wrestler in 1976 and had a long successful career. Often referred to as Mr Wonderful, he participated in WWE, WCW, NJPW, and Smoky Mountain Wrestling.
The World Television Champion and WCW World Tag Team Champion is remembered for its feud with Hulk Hogan in 1986. His last appearance in WWE was in August. He died on the 12th of July, 2021, of dementia.
9. Malcolm Kirk – 51
Malcolm Kirk was an English professional wrestler who used the ring name "King Kong" Kirk. Kojak Kirk, "Mucky" Mal Kirk, and Killer Kirk. Before becoming a wrestler, Kirk used to be a professional rugby league player and a coal miner. He wrestled in Germany, England and Canada.
Kirk died on the 23rd of August, 1987, at 51 years. After collapsing in the ring during a tag team match in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, he died of a heart attack. The company running the wrestling event was called Joint Promotions and had Kirk among the wrestlers in its main event.
10. Oro – 21
The star's real name was Jesus Javier Hernandez Silva and he was a Mexican professional wrestler who died in 1993. He is one of the wrestlers who died in the ring. He wrestled as a Luchador enmascarado, which means masked wrestler.
He was a second-generation wrestler, and also several of his siblings and cousins were wrestlers as well. He had teamed up with Brazo de Plata and La Fiera in a match against Jaque Mate, Kahoz, and Dr Wagner in Mexico City.
As they were preparing for the match, he suggested that he would perform a move that would make him appear like he had broken his neck. Unfortunately, as he made a move, he landed on his head but soon after, he collapsed and died.
11. Larry Cameron – 41
What 90s wrestler died? Larry Cameron was an American professional football player who transitioned into wrestling before death. He played college football before being drafted by the Denver Broncos in 1973.
He also played in the Canadian Football League but retired early due to injuries. After becoming Mr Minnesota and Northern States Bodybuilding champion, he was discovered by Ed Sharkey, who introduced him to wrestling.
Larry trained in Calgary with Stu Hart in the Dungeon. He debuted with Stampede Wrestling in 1985, known as "Lethal" Larry Cameron. He died on the 13th of December, 1993, while fighting with Tony St. Clair in Bremen, Germany, after suffering a heart attack.
12. Eddie Guerrero – 38
Eddie was an American professional wrestler hailed from the prominent Guerrero wrestling family. He performed in Mexico, Japan, and the United States for ECW, WCW, and WWE promotions. He encountered various challenges, such as substance abuse and alcoholism.
How did Eddie Guerrero die? He was found unconscious in his hotel room by his nephew. A year before, he had passed out in the bathroom and was hardly alive when he was found. His death was a result of acute heart failure.
13. Pat Patterson – 79
Pat was an accomplished wrestler who had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame long before his death. He is remembered as the father and creator of the Royal Rumble. He distinguished himself by being the first person to hold the WWE Intercontinental Championship. He was also a member of The Three Stooges, Mr McMahon, and Gerald Brisco.
At 78, Pat became the oldest person ever to win a championship in the history of WWE. He won the 24/7 Title at Raw Reunion. On the 2nd of December, 2020, he died from liver failure caused by a blood clot. He left behind a legacy both in the ring and behind the scenes.
14. Owen Hart
Which 90s wrestler died? Owen James Hart is one of the wrestlers who died. He was a Canadian professional wrestler born on 7th May 1975 in Calgary, Alberta. He worked for various promotions such as Stampede Wrestling, New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
How did Owen Hart die? He died of blunt force trauma. He died on 23rd May 1999 when he fell from the rafter before a match in Kansas City, Missouri, during the Over the Edge pay-per-view event. He had performed the stunt only a few times before.
15. Daffney – 46
What WWE wrestler just died? Daffney (Shannon Claire Spruill) is one of the female professional wrestlers who have died. She died on the 2nd of September, 2021, at 46, after committing suicide. She was popularly known as "The Scream Queen" and is a former TNA and WCW star. Apart from wrestling, she was also a wrestling manager and an actress.
The list of wrestlers who died can go on and on without end because there are many. There may not be as many WWE wrestlers who died in the ring, but the true picture starts showing when those who passed away outside the ring are added. They have to be celebrated because they sacrificed their lives to entertain the world.
Yen.com.gh shared an interesting article about the dead Ghanaian actors and actresses. Actors and actresses in Ghana ooze raw talent, skills and have all the energy ready when on set. That is why it is usually agonizing when people talk of dead Ghanaian actors.