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An unfortunate side effect of the pro wrestling business is that sometimes the constant grind of the schedule leads to unforeseen and unexpected deaths.
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A lot of the times in the past, wrestlers have relied on either painkillers or drugs to help them cope with injuries. While overdoses have contributed to a lot of deaths by professional wrestlers, some of the most unexpected pro wrestlers' deaths have not involved drugs.
Sometimes the effect of taking steroids over the years finally takes its toll on a wrestler. Years spent trying to keep up with the rest of the business have everlasting effects beyond the initial use of the drug.
But since most deaths are shocking and sad regardless of the circumstances, the following deaths in the world of professional wrestling were unexpected and heartbreaking for various reasons.
#8. Brian Pillman
Brian Pillman was one of the first wrestlers I saw in WCW who was both a high-flying artist as well as a technician. He wasn't a big, jacked up wrestler in the moulds of Hulk Hogan or Rick Rude.
But being a former NFL player, he was extremely agile and athletic. His matches with Jushin Thunder Liger showcased that. Since he was so athletic, he was able to have matches with the normal-sized guys and the giants like Psycho Sid. It's usually the little guys who make the big guys look better.
Pillman's probably more remembered for his 'Loose Cannon' persona and his run with the Hart Foundation in the mid-1990s. I often wondered why he was a part of the group, but upon further research, he wrestled in Stampede Wrestling and was considered 'a brother' by a lot of the Harts.
He was starting to help give the WWF an edge at the time of his unexpected death. He was in the middle of a storyline with Bret Hart and former tag partner Stone Cold Steve Austin at the time.
The details surrounding his death noted that he was supposed to wrestle Mick Foley at In Your House 18: Bad Blood. He didn't show up an hour before the show, prompting bookers and other wrestlers to wonder where he was.
Jim Cornette called the hotel he had been staying at, and it was they who informed Cornette and the WWF that they had found him dead in his room.
His official cause of death was revealed to be a heart attack caused by atherosclerotic heart disease. Austin revealed that the heart disease was the same thing that had killed Pillman's father.
#7. Bruiser Brody
As his name suggests, Bruiser Brody was a predecessor to some of the hardcore wrestlers who would come to follow him in the 1990s.
He wrestled all over the world, including Mexico, the United States, and Japan. His final days took place in Puerto Rico before he was scheduled to face Dan Spivey in a match.
Brody was engaged in an argument with Jose Huertas Gonzalez, who was a fellow wrestler and booker at the time. No one technically saw the act, but wrestler Tony Atlas claimed to hear screams from the nearby shower where Gonzalez and Brody were arguing.
Atlas ran to the shower and saw Brody clutching his abdomen while Gonzalez was holding a knife. Brody died hours later while Gonzalez was acquitted of the alleged murder claiming self-defence.
While it may not have blown up like it would have today with the dominance of social media, it was still a shocking death in the business. Wrestlers and bookers always have disputes, and unfortunately, this one literally turned deadly.
#6. Mr. Perfect
Mr. Perfect was a guy who many thought should have had a run as a top champion in WWF at the time. He was hot in the early to mid-1990s but always seemed to be right below the main event.
His heel gimmick of executing several sports acts perfectly is one of the best of all time. It was mainly because Hennig was able to bowl perfect games, hit three-pointers from half-court or consistently hit the bullseye in darts.
Hennig was also so convincing as the arrogant braggart so much so that it would lead to pairings with both Bobby 'the Brain' Heenan and Ric Flair.
After his time in WWF, he moved to WCW where he was a mid-carder at best. He did return to the WWE in 2002 to a positive response. He was one of the final three participants along with Triple H, who won, and Kurt Angle in the Royal Rumble that year.
He was later released due to the infamous 'Plane Ride from Hell' but quickly signed with TNA which was just starting out at the time.
It was during this run that Mr. Perfect would meet his unfortunate fate. He was found dead in his hotel room in Tampa, Florida. He was 44. The coroner said the cause of death was due to a cocaine overdose.
Hennig's death was such a shock because he had just triumphantly returned to WWE and put himself back in the minds of wrestling fans. He was still able to go in the ring well into his 40s but his demons ultimately won out.
#5. Eddie Guerrero
Eddie Guerrero's story played out almost like a Hollywood movie. He came from humble beginnings and a huge family but managed to branch out on his own. He wrestled all over the world and wrestled for the three biggest wrestling promotions in the world at the time in WCW, ECW and WWF.
Guerrero truly was treated as a main eventer when he joined WWE in the early 2000s, engaging in feuds with the Big Show, Rey Mysterio, Edge, Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar. He also had feuds with JBL, Batista and most of the other top wrestlers at the time.
One of the sad facts around his death was that he was having what could be considered the best run of his life in pro wrestling. He was having great matches with everyone and was one of the top stars in the business at the time.
Guerrero's life would come to an end on November 13, 2005. Chavo Guerrero, Jr. would find his uncle unconscious in his hotel room in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The autopsy would later reveal that the cause of death was heart failure due to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
His death came at a time when many reports on steroids and its users were coming out and one from Sports Illustrated that came out in 2007 listing Guerrero as one of the many athletes who had used HGH or versions of steroids.
#4. The Von Erichs
Even though the Von Erichs ruled WCCW wrestling in Texas in the early 1980s, the way their lives would play out almost makes it seem like a deal with the devil was the reason for the family's success.
Family patriarch Fritz Von Erich had six sons. Five of them have already passed away. His first son died at age six in 1959 after drowning after being shocked unconscious.
After that, the Von Erichs would have a few decades of peace. The peace was shattered when David Von Erich, the third oldest son, allegedly died of enteritis on February 10, 1984, while in Tokyo, Japan. He was 25 years old.
The second youngest of the Von Erich sons, Mike, didn't originally want to get in the ring but was forced to do so by his father after David's death.
Mike would be diagnosed with Toxic Shock Syndrome, forcing him to retire from in-ring competition. He committed suicide on April 12, 1987, after an overdose of tranquillizers, dying at the age of 23.
Depressed due to the death of his brother Mike, Chris Von Erich continued the family curse when he shot himself in 1991. He was only 21. He was not as physically gifted as his brothers Mike, Kerry or Kevin, so he was frustrated that he was unable to make a mark in the business.
Kerry Von Erich, perhaps the most famous of the brothers, was also the most popular. He had a run in the WWF in the early 1990s but followed the fate of his brothers.
Kerry committed suicide by gunshot on February 18, 1993, on his family's ranch in Texas. He was 33 years old.
Since five of the six sons met their fates before father Fritz did, an urban legend exists that says that the family was cursed. It's hard to argue against that since so many of the members passed away before living long, fruitful lives.
#3. 'Macho Man' Randy Savage
'Macho Man' Randy Savage was truly someone who was a gifted wrestler and sports entertainer. He would could some of the most unique promos and would also meticulously plan out every move in his matches.
If you are in your 30s or older, you probably remember him first for his time in WWF as one of the Mega Powers and later in WCW as a member of the NWO.
He wrestled well into his 50s, having his last match in TNA in 2005. Savage was living quietly in Florida in his retirement until he died in a car accident on May 20, 2011. It was said that he had a heart attack that ultimately caused him to lose control of his car.
Savage wasn't known to be an addict or live a dangerous lifestyle. He simply had a heart attack, lost control of his car and crashed it.
An article from ESPN.com recounting Savage's final days mentions that he had an enlarged heart and advanced coronary disease, but never had issues with heart disease.
For someone who never had issues with heart disease to die from it was shocking in and of itself. I guess its a lesson to go to your doctor yearly and sometimes twice a year for checkups. They could save your life.
#2. Chris Benoit
Like his friend Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit was starting to receive the recognition as a professional wrestler in the WWE that he was not getting in WCW.
He held numerous mid-card titles and finally reached the top of the WWE when he won the World Heavyweight Championship against Shawn Michaels and Triple H at Wrestlemania 20.
Fans of the sport know the controversial and tragic circumstances following Benoit's final days alive. He allegedly killed both his wife and seven-year-old son at the time of his death.
WWE officials sent police officers to his home in Georgia because Benoit had no-showed a few weekend events. Upon arrival, the police found the bodies of Benoit, his wife and his young son.
It was truly a scandal that rocked both the world of professional wrestling as well as mainstream society due to the savage nature of the deaths.
Benoit's mark on the industry was erased in WWE's history books but he isn't forgotten by fans everywhere. Reasons for his actions have been widely speculated about ever since the incident. One thing regarding it is certain - it was truly a vicious and shocking event in the annals of history.
#1. Owen Hart
One of the most shocking deaths in the history of the business has to be that of Owen Hart. Hart was an important member of the roster who did whatever was asked of him. He was also integral in the development of future stars like Triple H and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Without such a talented adversary in Hart and his family, both guys would have had a lot of trouble making a mark.
While Owen's death is shocking, all of us fans know why it was so shocking and different than the rest of the deaths on this list. During a live WWE PPV, Over the Edge in 1999, Hart was set to compete in an Intercontinental Title match against the Godfather.
When he was making his entrance for the match, Hart was set to enter via a harness and grapple line. His release malfunctioned and he fell 78 feet before hitting a ring cable and falling into the ring.
It was an unprecedented moment in WWE, but the show went on. Owen was 33 years old and it was grim reminder to fans and non-fans alike that it is a dangerous sport and no one should try to recreate the things they see.
What other deaths in the wrestling world were shocking? Comment below.