> Almanac > Wrestler's Obituaries
Date Who How Age
12/16/17 Frank Gotch Uremic Poisoning 39
08/25/50 Earl Caddock Dies at home 62
05/??/71 Curtis "Spike" Peterson Fractured neck in a bout with Sam Abraham, dies in Richland Center, WI. ??
07/??/51 Jeanette Wolf Dies following tag match. 18
06/??/58 David Von Erich Dies on operating table while being treated for brain tumor. ??
??/??/59 Jack Von Erich Jr. Electrocution 7
12/26/63 "Gorgeous" George Wagner Heart Attack 48
01/16/65 Yukon Eric Suicide with a .22 calibur pistol after a match in GA. 41
08/07/66 Ed "Strangler" Lewis Dies at home in Muskogee, OK. ??
09/23/67 Stanislaus Zybysko Dies at home in Missouri. 88
07/02/69 "Iron" Mike DiBiase Heart Attack in ring following match with Man Mountain Mike in Lubbock, TX. ??
06/16/71 Alberto Torres Dies at Immanuel Hospital in Omaha, NE, as a result of injuries suffered six days earlier. ??
Hercules Cortez Car accident in Minnesota ??
06/03/73 Dory Funk Sr. Dies at home in Amarillo, TX. 54
02/20/75 Bobby Shane Plane Crash ??
08/19/75 Jim Londos Heart Attack 78
??/??/78 ?? David Von Erich's infant daughter dies. ??
06/30/79 Chris Taylor Dies at home in Story City, Iowa. 29
06/13/82 High Chief Peter Maivia Dies of cancer in Hawaii. 47
10/12/83 The Grand Wizard Dies in sleep from Heart Attack at home in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. 54
02/10/84 David Von Erich Dies in sleep from acute enteritis in Tokyo, Japan. 25
05/??/84 Vince McMahon Sr. no cause known ??
08/02/84 Argentina Apollo no cause known ??
01/21/85 Eddie Graham Self-inflicted gunshot wound 55
03/08/85 Bull Curry no cause known 70
05/04/85 Dan Shocket Cancer 35
09/01/85 Jay Youngblood Ruptured spleen and 3 Heart Attacks. 30
11/01/85 Rick McGraw injuries sustained in the ring? 30
02/04/86 Gino Hernandez Cocaine overdose athome in North Dallas, TX. 29
03/24/86 Warren Bockwinkel Alzheimer's disease 74
04/06/86 El Solitario Heart Attack suffered two weeks prior. 40
??/??/87 Ann Gunkel Cancer 50
04/12/87 Mike Von Erich Suicide by overdosing on Placidyl 23
08/24/87 Malcolm "King Kong" Dirk Dies during a match with Shirley Crabtree. ??
07/04/88 Adrian Adonis, Pat Kelly, and Dave McKigney Mini-van goes over a cliff killing the 3 of them, Mike Kelly survived. ??
07/17/88 Bruiser Brody Stabbed to death in dressing room prior to match. ??
09/06/88 Leroy Browm no cause known 38
09/09/88 Leroy McGuirk Dies at home. 78
02/18/89 Midred Burke no cause known 73
03/07/89 Paul Boesch Dies at home in Texas. 76
09/07/89 "Argentinian Bull" Eduardo Perez Dies at home in Tampa, FL. 61
12/07/89 "Haystacks" Calhoun Dies from bout with Diabetes. 55
01/07/90 Bronko Nagurski Dies at nursing home in MN. 81
02/04/90 "Whipper" Billy Watson Dies at home in Orlando, FL. 74
02/15/90 Mark Tendler Dies two days after being shot outside a bar he owns in Wading River, NY. 55
04/18/90 Gorry Guerrero Dies in El Paso, TX. ??
08/16/90 Pay O'Conner Cancer 65
12/31/90 Ed "The Bull" Gantner Kidney disease, first thought as suicide. 31
06/30/91 Heart Failure 70
08/25/91 Vivian Vachon and her daughter, Julie Head-on collision in Montreal. 40
09/12/91 Chris Von Erich Suicide with 9mm pistol. 21
10/31/91 Gene Anderson Heart Attack 58
11/10/91 Dick the Bruiser Afflis Dies while lifting weights 62
12/27/91 Wilbur Snyder Heart Failure 62
02/07/92 "Mad Dog" Buzz Sawyer Dies at home in Sacramento, CA. 32
02/19/92 Tojo Yamamoto Suicide with .25 calibur automatic pistol 65
04/20/92 Jimmy Lennon Sr. Heart Failure 79
06/26/92 Buddy Rogers Dies four days after suffering two strokes in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. ??
06/30/92 Stan Frazier, a.k.a. Uncle Elmer Diabetic Complications 54
09/24/92 Roy Heffernan Heart Atack in Sydney, Australia 67
01/27/93 Andre Rousimoff, a.k.a. Andre the Giant Heart Attack while at his father's funeral in France. 46
02/18/93 Kerry Von Erich Suicide with a .44 calibur handgun, one day after being indicted for cocaine possession 33
03/11/93 Dino Bravo Murdered Gangland style while sitting at home in Laval, Quebec. 44
03/25/93 Wally Karbo Heart Attack 77
06/14/93 Don Kent Leukemia 61
10/26/93 Oro Dies in ring from brain anuerism ??
11/13/93 Rufus R. Jones Heart Attack while hunting 60
12/13/93 Larry Cameron Heart Attack during a bout in Germany. 41
01/14/94 Sam Menacker Dies in Illinois 79
03/??/94 Ronnie Etchinson Natural causes ??
03/09/94 Eddie Creatchman Heart Attack in Montreal 66
05/23/94 Ray Candy Heart Attack in Decatur, GA. 43
07/04/94 Joey Marella Automobile accident in Burlington, NJ. 30
09/01/94 Boris Malenko Cancer 61
11/23/94 Art Barr Drug-related causes 28
01/22/95 Jerry "Crusher" Blackwell Complications from pneumonia 45
02/18/95 Eddie Gilbert Heart Attack 33
03/20/95 John Studd Liver cancer after 17-month battle with Hodgekin's disease. 46
05/10/95 Ilio DePaulo Struck by a car 68
10/02/95 John Ayres Liver Cancer 42
12/04/95 Little Beaver Emphysema 61
05/05/96 Ray Stevens Heart Attack 60
06/15/96 Dick Murdoch Massive Heart Attack 49
07/23/96 Herb Abrams Drug Overdose ??
08/23/96 Neil Superior Altercation with Police 33
09/10/96 Juanita Wright, a.k.a. Sapphire Heart Attack 61
01/03/97 Rick Martello not known 38
02/07/97 "Bulldog" Bob Brown not known ??
03/01/97 Frank "Gorilla" Marconi not known ??
03/24/97 Dr. Bill Miller not known ??
06/30/97 Larry O'Day not known 53
06/??/97 Stan Stasiak Heart Attack 60
08/15/97 Plum Mariko Head Trauma diring a match 29
08/31/97 Dale Lewis Leukemia ??
09/11/97 Fritz Von Erich Cancer and a Brain tumor 68
10/05/97 Brian Pillman Heart Attack from Medicine Reaction 36
01/??/98 Juanita McMahon no cause known ??
01/25/98 Bobo Brazil no cause revealed yet 73
02/15/98 Louie Spicolli Asphyxiation due to painkillers and alcohol 27
06/02/98 Junk Yard Doga Car Accident 45
06/29/98 Jose Rivera Lukemia 45
08/17/98 Brian Hauser Shot by Cops 23
01/31/99 Giant Baba Liver Failure 61
02/25/99 Rick Wilson Suicide 33
04/20/99 Rick Rude Heart Attack 39
5/23/99 Owen Hart Fell from Rafters 34
9/8/99 Brian Hildebrand Cancer ??
9/9/99 Naoko "Jackie" Satoh Stomach Cancer 41
10/6/99 Robert "Gorilla Monsoon" Marella Complications from a recent heart attack. He was also suffering from complications from diabetes. 62
11/27/99 Hiro Matsuda Cancer ??
Wrestlers who died short of 40
(ED. NOTE: The following comes from the website erected by the people who
brought you "The Ultimate Professional Wrestling Book of Lists," $15,
including shipping & handling, from DragonKing Press, P.O. Box 781,
Haleyville AL 35565. Also available: The DragonKing Update Report
Newsletter, regularly updating lists in the book. Go to
www.angelfire.com/al/dragonking for further details.)
By Karl E. Stern
It's alarming and sobering. Professnal wrestling almost certainly has the
highest pre-forty death rate of any professional sport. The problems and
situations that have lead to such a high mortality rate are many. Frequent
travel over long distances increase the risk for automobile wrecks and plane
crashes. No off season leads to cumulative injuries. Cumulative injuries
sometimes lead to dependence on medication and prescription pain relievers,
and so on. Neither professional football, nor professional basketball can
touch to pre-forty mortality rate of wrestling. While deaths inside the
boxing ring far out number deaths inside the wrestling ring, the death rate
for wrestlers in general seems to be much higher (there is no hard data on
the subject.) Here is a list of all the pre-forty year of age deaths of
professional wrestlers we could verify, I'm sure there are more, especially
considering the proliferation of tiny independent groups that have little
news coverage. Also listed is their cause of death, as best as could be
determined. They are listed in alphabetical order.
Key: Ring Name: (Real Name if known: Age).
Adonis, Adrian: (Keith Franke: Age of 34): Veteran of the NWA, AWA, and WWF
was killed on July 4, 1988 in a car accident in Canada (see "Curse of the
Forth of July list.). Adonis had left the WWF several months earlier and had
been competing in the AWA.
Baker, Eddie: (Eddie Baker: Age of 36): Southern journeyman wrestler dies on
May 14, 1937 in Corinth, MS, following a match with Ray Welch (of the Welch-
Fuller wrestling family). Baker is believed to have suffered a heart attack.
Barr, Art: (Art Barr: Age of 28): Dies while wrestling in Mexico as The
American Love Machine. Was gaining a lot of attention before his unexpected
death. The exact cause of death was never officially determined, though some
drugs were found in his system, though they were not initially thought to be
the cause. He died in his sleep on November 23, 1994.
Beale, Jimmy: (Age 25?): South African wrestler who died in the dressing
room following a match in South Africa of unknown causes on August 1, 1993.
Brown, Leroy: (Ronald Daniels: Age of 38): Former tag team partner of Ray
Candy, known as the Zambuie Express Elijah Akeem. Brown wrestled through out
the south. Died of a heart attack on September 6, 1988 in a Georgia
hospital. Ironically his tag team partner Ray Candy, known as Zambuie
Express Kareem Mohammed, died in a Georgia hospital of a heart attack at the
age of 43 on May 23, 1994.
Clarey, Dennis: (Vincent Lizdennis: Age of 31): Unknown cause of death on
January 30, 1955.
Columbo, Rocky: (John Columbo: Age of 35): Unknown cause of death on March
Demetroff, Dimitri: (Dimitri Demetroff: Age of 37): Dies on May 9, 1932 of
Doyal, "Lucha" Larry: (Age of 37): Unknown cause of death on June 21, 1998.
Note: This is the wrestler who I couldn't identify in the book as Le Femme
Nikita Koloff, which was just one of his identities since he was a long time
southern California wrestler.
Drake, "Catalina" George: (Age of 39): Unknown cause of death on December
Erik the Red: (Eric Hansen: Age of 34): Is killed on November 18, 1978 while
changing a car tire near Miami, FL when he was struck and killed by another
Gantner, Ed "The Bull": (Edward Gantner: Age of 31): Former football star
turned wrestler with the NWA Florida Championship Wrestling promotion. Held
the NWA Florida title in early 1987. Commits suicide on December 31, 1990
following a lengthy battle with kidney disease.
Gilbert, Eddie: (Thomas Edward Gilbert, III.: Age of 33) A major star in
virtually every territory and major independent in the late 1980's and early
1990's. Had brief, but memorable, stints in the WWF and pre-WCW NWA as well.
The present version of the NWA still honors him every year with a memorial
show. Was either a booker or wrestler, or both for Continental Wrestling
Federation, USWA, ECW, Global Wrestling Federation, Smoky Mountain
Wrestling, Bill Watt's UWF and World Wrestling Council. Major star in
Memphis area. Held numerous region titles, as well as the NWA United States
tag team title. Died of an apparent heart attack while working for WWC in
Puerto Rico. Was married at one time to Missy Hyatt and later to Debra
"Madusa" Miceli. Died February 18, 1995.
Gotch, Frank: (Frank Gotch: Age of 39) Early 20th century world heavyweight
champion. Arch rival of George Hackenschmidt. Some consider him the greatest
pure wrestler of all time, despite a reputation as a rule breaker. Died of
either uremic poisoning or syphilis, depending on what source you believe,
on December 16, 1917. It should be noted that some news paper accounts list
him as 41 at the time of his death.
Hady, Jim: (Age of 38): Unknown cause of death on January 12, 1968.
Hart, Owen: (Age of 34): Former WWF Intercontinental and World tag team
title holder and member of the legendary Stu Hart family, was killed in a
horrific fall during the WWF Over the Edge PPV on May 23, 1999. While
attempting to enter the ring as "The Blue Blazer" while being lowered into
the ring from the arena ceiling, the cable holding him became detaching
which sent him into a seventy-foot plus fall, after which he struck the
turnbuckle and was killed instantly.
Hasegawa, Satoshi: (Age of 22): Wrestler for the Pancrase organization of
Japan. Died on March 1, 1999 after falling three stories off an apartment
building in a freak accident.
Hernandez, Gino: (Charles Wolfe: Age of 29): Stand out star in the Texas
based World Class Championship Wrestling organization. Many pegged him as a
future big star. Team frequently with Chris Adams, then later feuded with
him. Died of a cocaine overdose on February 4, 1986.
Hester, Frank: (Frank Hester: Age of 37): Is killed on July 26, 1976, along
with Sam Bass and Pepe Lopez, in a car accident near Dickson, TN.
Idol, Lance: (Steve Schumann: Age of 32): A journeyman independent wrestler
who competed under such names as Lance Idol, Ray Evans, Steve Winters, Star
Rider, and Steve Austin (not "Stone Cold"). Idol often reportedly bragged of
his drug use, though he appeared to have a serious heart condition, which is
eventually what got him on October 21, 1991.
Irwin, Scott: (Age of 35): The brother of "Wild" Bill Irwin, with whom he
formed the AWA tag team combo of "The Long Riders". Scott had also wrestled
for a number of years, most notably in the NWA as The Super Destroyer. Irwin
died of a brain tumor on September 5, 1987.
Kado, Emiko: (Age of 23): A wrestler for the Japanese women's group Arsion.
Kado was teaming with Michiko Omukai against the team of Mariko Yoshida &
Mikiko Futagami on a small show at Fukuoka Acros Hall in Fukuoka, Japan when
she struck her head hard on the mat. After she was pinned, her fellow
wrestlers were unable to revive her. She was rushed to the hospital
following the March 31, 1999 show and died on April 9, 1999. She remained in
a coma the entire time.
Kasavubu: (Jimmy Banks: Age of 26): Unknown cause of death on July 27, 1982.
Koma, Maseo: (Hideo Koma: Age of 36): Cause of death unknown on March 21,
Lopez, Pepe: (Rubin Rodriguez: Age of 39): A southern journeyman wrestler
who was killed in a car accident near Dickson, TN on July 26, 1976, which
also killed Sam Bass and Frank Hester.
Lovett, Yuel: (Alex Lovett: Age of 25): Florida independent wrestler who
died of apparent cardiac arrest while eating at a steak house while on a
tour of Peru with Steve Keirn. Lovett died on July 31, 1999.
Lynam, Joe: (Joe Lynam: Age of 31): Killed in a plane crash in Oregon on
September 25, 1948.
Mansfield, Randy: (Randy Toslinski: Age of 23): Cause of death unknown in
Mariko, Plum: (Mariko Umeda: Age of 29) Died of what is believed to be a
culmination of ring injuries which resulted in a brain abscess. The young
Mariko had suffered several concussions previously, but had continued to
wrestle. Following a match on August 15, 1997 where she teamed with Commando
Boirshoi against Mayumi Ozaki & Rieko Amano, Mariko passed out and died a
few hours later on August 16, 1997.
Martello, Rick: (Age of 38): Cause of death unknown on January 3, 1997.
Martin, Bull (Murray Grondin: Age of 34): Following a match in St. John's,
Newfoundland, Martin suffered a heart attack and died on July 31, 1979.
Mayne, "Moondog" Lonnie (Ronald Mayne: Age of 33): Cause of death unknown on
August 13, 1978.
McGraw, Rick: (Rick McGraw: Age of 31): Former southern journeyman wrestler
during the early 1980's who ended up with the WWF around 1984 working
underneath as a jobber. Had one famous match in the WWF with Roddy Piper
shortly before his death of a heart attack on November 1, 1985. Former
friend Steve Travis (Steve Musulin) blamed the heart attack on drugs.
McGuire, Billy: (Billy McCreary: Age of 32): Cause of death unknown on July
Medina, Alex: (Age of 32): Cause of death unknown on April 20, 1973.
Munn, Wayne "Big": (Wayne Munn: Age of 35): World heavyweight champion in
1925 dies on January 9, 1931.
Murphy, Skull: (John Murphy: Age of 39): Cause of death unknown on March 23,
Nuhammed, Hassen "The Terrible Turk": (Hassen Nuhammed: Age of 38): Early
20th century wrestler who was killed on January 28, 1929 in a car accident
near Phoenix, AZ.
O'Mahoney, Danno: (Daniel A. Mahoney: Age of 37): Cause of death unknown on
November 4, 1950.
Oklahoma Kid: (Elmer Gearlds: Age of 29): Cause of death unknown in 1968.
Oski, Jerry: (Jerry Arotski: Age of 32): Cause of death unknown in December
Oro: (Age of 21): His death is believed to have been from a brain aneurysm
on October 26, 1993. Oro was a dynamic high flier, ahead of his time in
Mexico where high fling was already an art. Oro collapsed following a chop
to the chest during a six man tag team match in Mexico City where he was
teaming with La Fiera & Brazo de Plata against Dr. Wagner, Jr. & Kaho I &
Papineau, Louis: (Age of 36): Dies following a match with Gino Brito in
Garden City, MI on March 7, 1964.
Peterson, D.J.: (Dave Peterson: Age of 33): Former co-holder of the AWA
World tag team championship was killed in a truck accident on May 25, 1993.
Pillman, Brian: (Brian Pillman: Age of 35) Headliner for both WCW and WWF
who died of a heart attack in Bloomington, MN on October 5, 1997. Pillman,
who had begun his career in Calgary and later moved up the ladder in WCW
from being a mid-card lightweight champion and tag team wrestler to being a
member of the Four Horsemen was wrestling for the WWF at the time as an
associate member of the Hart Foundation. Pillman had suffered a serious car
accident about a year earlier and initial belief that pain killers mixed
with alcohol, or a cocaine overdose caused the death proved false as none of
the above appeared in any significant amount in his system and no illegal
drugs or alcohol were in his system. Pillman was born on May 22, 1962.
Renegade: (Richard C. Williams: Age of 33): Committed suicide in front of
his girlfriend in February 1999 in Marietta, GA. Allegedly despondent over
not being used by World Championship Wrestling (WCW) where he had been a
past television champion under an Ultimate Warrior rip off gimmick. Renegade
was allegedly facing financial and personal problems and confronted his
girlfriend and shot himself with a .38 caliber handgun. Renegade was born
October 16, 1965.
Rikidozan: (Mitsuharu Momota: Age of 39): Killed in a gangland style
stabbing in Japan on December 15, 1963.
Romano, Mike: (age of 36). Cause of death unknown in June 1936.
Rutten, Jackie: (Age of 23). Cause of death unknown on June 19, 1982.
Sangre India: (Age of 23): Died after missing a tope in Mexico City and
breaking his back on December 25, 1979.
Sawyer, Buzz: (Bruce Woyan: Age of 32): Stand out star in Texas, Louisiana,
Florida, and Georgia. Had a famous feud in the NWA with Tommy Rich, and was
later part of Gary Hart's stable with the The Great Muta that feuded with
the Four Horsemen. Top star in World Class Championship Wrestling and a
former UWF TV champion. Brother of Brett Wayne Sawyer dies a drug related
death on February 7, 1992.
Seleem, Iben: (Charles Halvey: Age of 27): Dies on February 17, 1939 in a
car accident near Hot Springs, NM.
Shamrock, Shane: (Brian Hauser: Age of 23) Maryland independent wrestler was
shot by police during a domestic altercation on August 17, 1998.
Shane, Bobby: (Bob Schoenberger: Age of 29): Is killed when the plane that
he, Buddy Colt, Mike McCord (Austin Idol), and Gary Hart are flying in
crashes. All others survive. Shane is killed on February 20, 1975.
Sleaze, Big E. (Jeremy Sumpter: Age of 22) Maryland independent wrestler
died from a self inflicted gun shot wound to the head.
Speer, Frank: (Frank Speer: Age of 32): Dies on June 10, 1938 from pneumonia
in Atlanta, GA.
Spicolli, Louie: (Louis Mucciolo: Age of 27) Wrestled for the WWF, AAA, ECW,
and WCW. Was wrestling for WCW at the time of his death on February 15, 1998
from an apparent overdose of prescription pain killers mixed with alcohol.
He was laid to rest in San Pedro, CA at Mary Star of the Sea Catholic
Sugai, Don: (Don Sugai: Age of 39): Killed in a car accident on October 14,
1952 in Ontario, Canada.
Superior, Neil "The Power": (Neil Caricofe: Age of 33): Died following a
confrontation with police in Ocean City, Maryland on August 23, 1996.
Superior was nude and causing a disturbance when police arrived and became
involved in a confrontation with Superior, who died a few hours later. At
the time this book was published, his family was still involved in
litigation with the Ocean City Police department.
Sweetan, Freddie: (Fred Sweetan: Age of 36): Dies in an accident at his home
on July 26, 1974.
Taylor, Chris: (Christopher Taylor: Age of 29): Olympic super heavyweight
wrestling bronze medalist who wrestled for the AWA dies following a lengthy
illness on June 30, 1979.
Torres, Alberto: (Age of 37). Cause of death unknown on June 17, 1971,
Von Erich, Chris: (Chris Barton Adkisson: Age of 21): The youngest of the
Von Erich brothers commits suicide with a self inflicted gunshot wound on
September 12, 1991.
Von Erich, David: (David Adkisson: Age of 25): Dies on February 10, 1984,
allegedly of acute enteritis, although rumors and stories have persisted for
years that his death was drug related. Von Erich died in his hotel room in
Tokyo, Japan while on tour.
Von Erich, Kerry: (Kerry Adkisson: Age of 33): The longest living of the Von
Erich brothers, with the exception of the still living Kevin. The most
nationally successful of the family, having won the NWA World heavyweight
title in 1984 from Ric Flair, and later held the WWF Intercontinental title.
Had a severe motorcycle accident in 1986 which lead to the amputation of his
foot, though he wrestled for years afterward with a prosthesis, keeping the
amputation a secret. Developed a serious drug problem after the accident
which lead to several arrest and eventually being put on probation. Kerry
was then arrested for prescription forgery while on probation and was
looking, quite possibly, at serious jail time. Instead he shot himself in
the chest with a .44 magnum on February 18, 1993.
Von Erich, Mike: (Michael Adkisson: Age of 23): Member of the infamous Von
Erich family of Texas wrestling. Suffered a near fatal bout of toxic shock
syndrome in 1986, but pushed himself, or was pushed by his father, to return
to the ring. Never fully recovered from the illness and on April 12, 1987,
committed suicide with an overdose of Placidyl.
Wright, Tex: (Age of 28): Dies following a match on March 11, 1934 with
Harry "Ali Baba" Ekizian in Greeley, CO.
Youngblood, Jay: (Steve Romero: Age of 30): Former multi-time NWA World tag
team title holder with Rick Steamboat, dies in New Zealand after rupturing
his spleen and suffering a heart attack on September 1, 1985