Ever since its start in 1982, the WWE has been steadily attracting wrestling enthusiasts from the world over. From the time that Vince McMahon took over the family business, it seemed that there was no going back. WWE was meant to become an epic showcase of might inside the ring.
Over the years, WWE has managed to establish itself as an organization where you find the best wrestlers in the business. You’ve got legends like Triple H, John Cena, The Undertaker, Dwayne Johnson, Hulk Hogan and Edge along with the current stars like Seth Rollins, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, The Miz, Roman Reigns and so many more.
However, amidst all this fame and success, it’s no secret that several tragic stories surrounding some of WWE’s biggest talents have taken place. Here’s what we found out:
20 Darren A. Drozdov
Darren A. Drozdov was a former football player who went by the name Droz and Puke inside the ring. During a match in 1999, wrestler D’Lo Brown delivered a powerbomb to Droz. This is supposed to be a basic pro wrestling move. However, the stunt went horribly wrong and Droz was left paralyzed.
Nonetheless, 15 years later, during a phone interview, Droz told Fox Sports, “I have no hard feelings toward D’Lo because sh*t happens and everyone who gets involved in athletics, including WWE, knows the risks that exist.”
Earthquake’s real name was John Anthony Tenta, Jr. Before he entered the world of professional wrestling, Tenta also established a reputation as a champion sumo wrestler. And when he finally joined WWE and took on his Earth-shattering nickname, he made sure he laid every opponent to waste.
According to the WWE, Earthquake made his final appearance in 2001. Just five years later, he passed away after a long battle with bladder cancer.
18 Eddie Guerrero
Eddie Guerrero was certainly a professional wrestler unlike any other. As the WWE recalled, “Lying, cheating, stealing – it was all fair play in the ring for the unpredictable WWE Hall of Famer.”
Sadly, his life would be tragically cut short. According to a report by the Associated Press, Guerrero was found dead in his hotel room on November 14, 2005. Cause of death was later determined to be heart failure.
17 Lance Cade
Beginning March 2003, Lance McNaught had been under contract with the WWE to perform under the nickname Lance Cade. According to the WWE, he was released in 2008, but the pro wrestler decided to return in 2009. He was subsequently released in 2010. That same year, tragedy struck as McNaught was found dead in August.
According to a report from Wrestling Inc, a staffer from Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office in Texas said, “The cause was ruled mixed drug intoxication, complicating a cardiomyopathy.”
16 The Ultimate Warrior
WWE best remembers Jim Hellwig a.k.a. The Ultimate Warrior as possibly “the most enigmatic man to ever hold the WWE Championship.” When he’s in the ring, he wore a painted mask and typically spoke in “cryptic puzzles.” And more importantly, he liked to finish his matches quickly.
On April 2014, The Ultimate Warrior made his way to the WWE for his Hall of Fame Induction. Just three days later, he passed away after he collapsed in a parking lot, according to NJ.com.
15 Andre the Giant
Throughout his career, it was clear to everyone that WWE star Andre the Giant was larger than life. Born Andre Rene Roussimoff in Grenoble France, this pro wrestler suffered from a disorder known as acromegaly. This caused his bones to grow at such an accelerated rate that he already weighed 200 pounds and stood 6’3 by the time he reached 12 years old.
In 1993, however, his condition finally caught up with him. After attending his father’s funeral, the beloved giant passed away in his sleep.
14 Brian Pillman
WWE remembers Brian Pillman in four words, “Gifted. Agile. Competitive. Unpredictable.” In 1996, Pillman had reportedly been eager to start a bidding war between World Championship Wrestling and WWF when he injured his leg in a vehicle crash. Despite this, Pillman rushed his return. Unfortunately, this proved to be a fatal move.
In 1997, Pillman’s body was discovered inside a hotel room. He died of coronary artery disease. However, according to the Los Angeles Times, there was also drugs in his system.
13 Curt Hennig
As a pro wrestler in the WWE, Curt Hennig went by the nickname, Mr. Perfect. In fact, the WWE described him as “a flawless technician with a flair for the dramatic.” Coming from wrestling legacy, Hennig impressed everyone by going undefeated during his entire debut year in 1988.
Later on, injuries forced him to take a break and serve as an executive consultant and commentator. In 2002, Hennig returned to the WWE one final time. In 2003, he was discovered dead in his hotel room. Cause of death was a drug overdose.
12 Sherri Martel
In the WWE, fans referred to her as the “Sensational” Sherri Martel. Martel was known for her distinct voice and her very own rendition of “Sexy Boy,” Shawn Michael’s entrance theme. Aside from this, WWE said that she “was skilled and accomplished inside the ring and a force when managing from outside of it.”
Tragically, on June 5, 2007, Martel was found dead in her mother’s home by her husband. Later on, the toxicology reports revealed that she had multiple drugs in her system, which caused an overdose.
11 Chris Kanyon
Chris Kanyon was an openly gay professional wrestler who sometimes went by the nickname Mortis. He first wrestled with World Championship Wrestling before moving on to WWE in 2001. That same year, Kanyon became WWE’s reigning United States Champion. Moreover, he also became a part of WWE’s World Tag Champion.
Things were looking good for him, but that wasn’t exactly true. Kanyon had been battling bipolar disorder. He also had suicidal thoughts and in 2010, Kayon decided to take his own life.
In 1998, Andrew Martin decided he would make his WWF debut with the nickname Test. Throughout his career, he had some pretty memorable storylines, one of which was an engagement to Stephanie McMahon. Despite his career success, Martin suffered greatly from substance abuse.
In February 2009, he announced that he was retiring from wrestling. Just a month later, he was found dead due to an accidental drug overdose. When tragedy struck, Test was just four days short of his 34th birthday.
When Umaga joined WWE, he also ended up with the moniker “The Samoan Bulldozer.” As WWE recalled, “From the opening bell, he relentlessly attacked every Superstar that dared step in the ring with him, quickly earning him a reputation as one of the most vicious Superstars in the squared circle.”
In 2010, Umaga passed away. According to the Bleacher Report, the cause of death was identified as “a combination of acute toxicity, heart disease, and a failed liver.”
WWE Women’s Champion Chyna earned the nickname “The Ninth Wonder of the World.” According to WWE, this was because she proved to have “Amazonian power.” And aside from putting on a good fight, Cyna was also known as an “intimidating bodyguard” to Shawn Michaels and Triple H.
In 2016, the pro wrestler was found dead inside her Redondo Beach, California home. According to E! News, the cause of death was identified to be alcohol consumption and a mix of prescription drugs.
7 Luna Vachon
Luna Vachon came to WWE in 1993 and replaced “Sensational” Sherri as Shawn Michaels’ manager. Hailing from a family of wrestling stars, Vachon wasted no time making her presence felt. Throughout her career, she also got into a serious rivalry with Sable.
In 2010, Vachon was found dead inside her home by her mother. Reports later said that the cause of death was a drug overdose.
6 Mike Awesome
In real life, Mike Awesome had been Mike Alfonso and he was a wrestler who enjoyed much fame and success in Japan. Nonetheless, Alfonso eventually decided to pursue a wrestling career in America and appeared in Extreme Championship Wrestling, WCW and WWE before deciding to retire in his native Tampa, Florida. Unfortunately, Alfonso committed suicide in 2007.
According to the Bleacher Report, this was after his wife told him that she wanted a divorce.
5 Owen Hart
Owen Hart a.k.a. Blue Blazer was a WWE star who died way too soon. According to Sports Illustrated, Hart was supposed to make a descent on a cable from a catwalk to the ring for his match when tragedy struck. It was the “Over the Edge” night and Hart was supposed to make a grand entrance. However, his quick-release harness suddenly released and sent him plummeting 78 feet to his death. He landed on the mat while on his back.
Following the incident, announcer Jim Ross announced that “something went terribly wrong.” Later on, Hart’s death was confirmed.
4 Bruiser Brody
In the ring, Bruiser Brody was truly ruthless. As the WWE recalled, “Adopting a wild, freewheeling, brawling style long before the dawn of hardcore wrestling, Brody attacked opponents, referees and fans with equal disregard.”
Throughout his career, he won several championships and even toured around the world. But then, on July 17, 1988, Brody was viciously stabbed to death in a dressing room by Puerto Rican wrestler Jose Gonzalez.
3 Miss Elizabeth
Back in the 80s, Miss Elizabeth was a mainstay in the WWE who eventually became “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s manager. And in the end, she proved to be a good influence, even guiding “Macho Man” himself to a WWE Championship at WrestleMania IV.
Sadly, Miss Elizabeth tragically died from a drug overdose in May 2003.
2 Ashley Massaro
Ashely Massaro is a former WWE Superstar who made her debut back in 2005 after winning the WWE Diva Search. She spent two years in the ring after joining CBS’ Survivor during its 15th season.
According to a report from TMZ, Massaro was rushed to the hospital and was later pronounced dead. At the time of her death, Massaro was only 39 years old.
1 The Von Erich Family
In the world of wrestling, the Von Erichs were legends who were also rumored to be cursed. The patriarch, Fritz Von Erich, was a top performer known as “The Iron Claw.” Meanwhile, five of his six sons also followed in his footsteps. These were Kevin, David, Kerry, Mike, and Chris. Things were looking good, but the tragedies started.
In 1984, David was found dead in a hotel room. Three years later, Mike committed suicide. Chris followed suit in 1999 while Kerry also took his life in 1993. Meanwhile, Fritz succumbed to lung and brain cancer in 1997.
Sources - WWE, Fox Sports, Associated Press, Wrestling Inc. & Los Angeles Times