Worst Tragedies in Wrestling History

Pro Wrestlings' Sad Top-10 List

Wrestlers participate in a very demanding sport, and many have died too young. While some of their stories are known only in the wrestling community, others have hit the mainstream media due to the names involved or the circumstances of the events, such as the Benoit family double murder-suicide. But, there have been many other fatal and debilitating tragedies in pro wrestling history, as this sad top-10 list illustrates.

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The Von Erich Family

Wrestler Owen Hart Dies In Freak Accident
Russell Turiak / Getty Images

At one time, the Von Erichs were the biggest stars in wrestling but things went bad for the family rather quickly. Of five brothers who wrestled, only one lived to see 35. David Von Erich died in 1984 due to gastroenteritis. Mike suffered an injury and during surgery contacted a virus that nearly killed him. He was never the same again and killed himself. Kerry was a former world champion who lost his foot in a motorcycle accident. He wrestled for a few more years but drug charges led him to kill himself. Youngest brother Chris killed himself because he felt he could never be as good as his brothers.

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Magnum T.A. Car Crash

Mangnum TA
Mike Kalasnik/Flickr/cc 2.0

In 1986, Magnum T.A., whose real name is Terry Wayne Allen, was one of the most popular stars in the National Wrestling Alliance. His feuds for the U.S. title with Tully Blanchard and Nikita Koloff almost overshadowed the main feud of the area, Dusty Rhodes vs. Ric Flair. There is no doubt that Allen was soon going to be a world champion. However, he was involved in a near-fatal car crash that year. In one of the most emotional moments ever, at the Crockett Cup 1987, he made a surprise appearance and walked to the ring, but he never wrestled again.

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Bruiser Brody Fatal Stabbing

Hand holding knife
Laurent Hammels / Getty Images

In 1988, Bruiser Brody—whose real name was Frank Donald Goodish—was stabbed to death during a scuffle with fellow wrestler José Huertas González during an event in Puerto Rico. Due to heavy crowds at the stadium, it took paramedics about 45 minutes to reach Goodish, and they were unable to revive him. Gonzalez was tried in the case but argued that he was acting in self-defense, according to Wikipedia. A jury agreed and found him not guilty. 

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The Death of Andre the Giant

Andre the gisnt
B Bennett / Getty Images

Andre the Giant is the most famous wrestler to have passed away. Ironically, the medical condition that caused him to become famous was also partially responsible for his death. Andre the Giant—whose real name was André René Roussimoff—suffered from a condition called gigantism, which is often associated with heart disease. In 1993, he died of a heart attack shortly after attending the funeral of his father. In honor of Roussimoff, the WWE created a Hall of Fame and made him the first inductee.

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The Death of Dino Bravo

Jake 'The Snake' Roberts puts his snake on Dino Bravo after their WWF match on November 6, 1987.
Jake 'The Snake' Roberts puts his snake on Dino Bravo after their WWF match on November 6, 1987. B Bennett / Getty Images

While dying young is all too common an event in the wrestling world, the death of Dino Bravo—whose real name was Adolfo Bresciano—is the only one that looks like a plot on "The Sopranos." It was rumored that Bresciano was allegedly involved with an organized criminal group in Montreal that dealt in illegal cigarettes. On March 11, 1993, Bresciano was found dead in his apartment. He had been shot seven times, including twice in the head. Since there were no signs of forced entry, police believe that he knew his killers.

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The Death of Brian Pillman

USA Professional Wrestler: Brian Pillman
Russell Turiak / Getty Images

Wrestling fans are not surprised when they hear that a retired wrestler has died. However, everyone was surprised when ​Vince McMahon announced on the pre-show to the pay-per-view event, "In Your House: Bad Blood 1997," that Pillman, who was scheduled to compete that night, had been found dead in his hotel room a few hours earlier.

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Owen Hart's Fatal Accident

Professional wrestler Owen Hart
Wikimedia Commons / Mandy Coombes

At the "Over the Edge '99 PPV" event, Owen Hart, dressed as the Blue Blazer, was supposed to descend from the ceiling to the ring. Something terrible happened and he plummeted from the rafters onto a turnbuckle chest-first. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The event went on as scheduled and fans in attendance did not find out what happened to Hart, but television viewers watching from home were told.

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D-Lo Brown vs. Droz

silhouette of boxing ring
oat_Phawat / Getty Images

The results of a wrestling match may be predetermined but the wrestlers put their well-being on the line every time they step in the ring. During a "1999 SmackDown" TV taping, Accie Julius Connor—aka D-Lo—fought Darren A. Drozdov—aka Droz—in what was supposed to be an ordinary match. Connor slipped on a wet spot on the mat while performing a move on Drozdov called a running powerbomb. As a result, Drozdov fell on his head and fractured two discs in his neck. The accident left the former Denver Broncos football player paralyzed from the neck down.

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The Death of Miss Elizabeth

Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth
Rob DiCaterino/Flickr/cc 2.0

In the brutal world of wrestling, Miss Elizabeth provided something that no one else did for the sport, a sense of class. In 2003, fans were shocked to find out that she had passed away from an overdose of a combination of pain pills and alcohol. She was at the home of her boyfriend, former WCW Champion, Lex Luger. Fans were enraged when they found out that just two weeks earlier, Luger had been arrested for allegedly striking her in a domestic dispute. After a police search of the premises, Luger was charged with multiple drug possession charges.

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The Death of Eddie Guerrero

Eddie Guerrero and Ray Mysterio
J. Shearer / Getty Images

Eddie Guerrero had a well-documented battle with substance abuse that almost cost him his life, career, and family. However, Guerrero appeared to win his battle with addiction when he reached the top of the wrestling world. On the night of Nov. 13, 2005, he was scheduled to wrestle for the championship. However, earlier that morning he was found dead due to heart failure. The moral of the story is that even if you can kick drugs, the damage they do to your body may be irreversible.