Fallen Soldiers Gone But Not Forgotten Full List Of Deceased Wrestlers 06

List of Deceased Wrestlers with Photos

This List of Deceased Wrestlers & includes Photos & Some History about the Wrestler, his or her Family & Friends Comments & their Impact on the Wrestling World.

Jerry Blackwell Death – Automobile Accident

Jerry-Blackwell

Wrestling big man, Jerry Blackwell – Dead at 45 after injuries stemming from a car accident
1949-1995 (Age 45)

While today’s wrestling landscape boasts many talented big men, that wasn’t always the case. Wrestling had its big men from the sport’s earliest days, but few could move like Jerry Blackwell or work long matches without looking for the nearest oxygen tank. Jerry Blackwell was a talented worker who helped pave the way for other agile big men such as Bam Bam Bigelow and Vader by showing all that big men could do. Blackwell achieved his greatest fame in Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association (AWA) but enjoyed success in several National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) territories as well. Unfortunately, Blackwell did not enjoy a long life, dying at the young age of 45.

Super-Heavyweight Stand-Out

Jerry Blackwell debuted in 1974 at a time when most big men got by on size alone – content to work slow matches where they utilized few holds and worked what could be seen as boring matches.

AWA: Jerry Blackwell sends Buck Zomhofe for a ride

Blackwell distinguished himself by showcasing an impressive combination of speed and agility in addition to his awesome girth. Although he only stood 5’9” tall, the 400-pound Blackwell dazzled audiences with his ability to throw dropkicks where men his size sometimes lumbered about the ring like three-legged elephants.
Blackwell’s early years in the squared circle saw him campaign in the Central States territory, Memphis’ CWA, Tulsa’s Tri-State promotion, and Southeastern Championship Wrestling.
Blackwell was invited to wrestle in the World Wide Wrestling Federation where he enjoyed a brief run under the guidance of manager the Grand Wizard.
His size and in-ring ability garnered Blackwell more attention, as seen by his run in the Sam Muchnick’s NWA St. Louis promotion and runs in Japan. Blackwell’s time in St. Louis and Japan (including later appearances in Japan in a tag team with the late Bruiser Brody) reflected his hard-earned reputation as a skilled wrestler and draw.

The Sheiks: Jerry Blackwell and Ken Patera (AWA)
AWA Superstar

Jerry Blackwell enjoyed a lengthy run in Verne Gagne’s AWA and while he never won the promotion’s top prize, the AWA World Heavyweight Championship, he was a top contender. Jerry “Crusher” Blackwell feuded with the promotion’s biggest stars including Hulk Hogan, “Mad Dog” Vachon, and Reggie Lisowski aka “The Crusher.”

Blackwell and Lisowski battled over the rights to the “Crusher” moniker with Lisowski triumphing.

Eventually, Blackwell achieved championship success in the AWA when he teamed with Ken Patera and defeated the AWA World Tag Team Champions, “The High Flyers” (Jim Brunzell and Greg Gagne).
With manager Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissey guiding them, Blackwell and Patera became known as “The Sheiks,” earning the fans’ enmity for working for the much-hated manager.
Although Jerry Blackwell had a fearsome reputation, he was known for being easy to work with. However, when the Road Warriors came to the AWA, they developed a reputation for refusing to sell for their opponents.
Hawk and Animal had a change of mind once they wrestled a match with Larry “The Ax” Hennig and Jerry Blackwell. The two legit tough men worked a stiff match with the Road Warriors, reminding them that selling for your opponents goes both ways.
By the mid-80’s the wrestling in the United States was undergoing massive change with Vince McMahon looking to take his WWF national. McMahon signed many AWA talents including Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, and Ken Patera. Wrestling lore has it that Jerry Blackwell was invited to work in the company, but turned them down in disgust after waiting for hours to cut a try-out promo.
Blackwell remained in the AWA where he turned babyface after an attack by Bruiser Brody. Blackwell and Brody feuded, leading to a series of successful and well-received matches.
Blackwell also feuded with “Freebird” Michael Hayes during the Freebirds’ run in the AWA. In 1986, Blackwell even worked a Ladder Match, competing against Colonel DeBeers.

An Unexpected Passing

While Jerry Blackwell had once commanded respect with his size and ability, he began to put on more weight, leading to his workrate being reduced and a drop in his stamina.

Ric Flair getting the best of Jerry Blackwell (AWA)

Blackwell, while still a draw, was no longer the agile big man with unbelievable reserves of stamina. Blackwell’s added weight led to him all but retiring from the ring. He retired in 1988, but returned to promote for an independent organization, Southern Championship Wrestling. An appearance on the independent circuit here or there was all that was left to remind fans Blackwell still wrestled.
Tragically, Blackwell began to suffer health problems including diabetes, gangrene, and gout. Additionally, Blackwell suffered personal losses such as the death of his son, a subsequent divorce, and the loss of his business. Blackwell came close to death after kidney failure and pneumonia, and suffered several automobile accidents.
In December 1994, Jerry Blackwell was injured in another automobile accident.
On January 22, 1995, Jerry Blackwell died as a result of complications from his automobile accident. He was 45.
Jerry Blackwell is buried at Zion Hill Cemetery in Cumming, Georgia.

Jerry Tuite Death – Heart Attack

WCW and TNA star Jerry Tuite, who wrestled under the names “Sgt AWOL”, “Sgt. A-Wall”, and “Malice” – dead at 36 after suffering a heart attack.
1966-2003 (Age 36)

Jerry Tuite’s 6’10” 320-pound frame made him a natural for the squared circle, wrestling during the Monday Night War. The big man performed in WCW under a few variations of “The Wall” (including “Sergeant AWOL” and “Sergeant A-Wall”). When WCW was absorbed by the WWF in 2001, Tuite signed a developmental deal, but never made it to TV.
He later wrestled for TNA under the moniker “Malice.”
Jerry Tuite was described by announcer Mike Tenay as “a gentle giant” and someone who constantly worked to improve himself in the ring. Tuite toured All-Japan Wrestling, the last place he would wrestle before his shocking death at the age of 36, just weeks shy of his 37th birthday.

The Wall takes on The Franchise (WCW’s Great American Bash, 2000). Photo: wwe.com

A Jersey Big Boy

Michael Jerome Tuite was born on December 27, 1966 in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Tuite trained with wrestler “Iron” Mike Sharpe at Sharpe’s Jersey wrestling school, eventually befriending Bam Bam Bigelow. Tuite began working in independent territories including NWA New Jersey and occasional spots in ECW. In 1999, Tuite went to the WCW Power Plant, where he caught the attention of WCW booker Kevin Nash. Tuite was paired with Berlyn (aka Alex Wright) as Berlyn’s bodyguard, “The Wall.” With his raw power and devastating chokeslam, “The Wall” presented a challenge to any opponent.
Tuite split from Berlyn and went on to singles action for the next several months, eventually joining “The Misfits in Action” (MIA) faction as Sgt. AWOL.
Despite his size and potential, “The Wall” never became a top star.
When WCW was bought out by the WWF, Tuite was signed to a developmental deal, but personal issues led to his dismissal.

3 years before his death: Wrestling in the “Misfits in Action” stable, Sgt. A-Wall tosses Scott Steiner back into the ring. (Nitro, December 12, 2000). Photo: wwe.com

Later Years

Tuite returned to NWA New Jersey and also found work in Phoenix Championship Wrestling. In June 2002, Tuite joined the new promotion NWA Total Nonstop Action (TNA) as “Malice,” a big man with a penchant for violence and a short temper. Tuite also worked in All-Access Wrestling and Xtreme Pro Wrestling before embarking on a tour of Japan as “Gigantes.”
Death in the Land of the Rising Sun
Jerry Tuite was finishing a tour for All-Japan Pro Wrestling, working a pay-per-view six-man tag team match with Bull Buchanan and Justin Credible in a winning effort against Nobutaka Araya, Tomoaki Honma and Kazushi Miyamoto.

Jerry Tuite as “Sergeant A-Wall” in WCW (2000). Photo: wwe.com

Jerry Blackwell’s grave in Cumming, Georgia. Photo: Nascargoodolboy
Many other wrestlers died in the 90s, several of which also died before age 50.

Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart Death – fall

Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart – Dead at 63. Photo: wwe.com
1955-2018 (Age 63)

August 13, 2018: WWE has confirmed the death of Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. He was 63. The Pasco, Florida Sheriff’s Office stated “preliminary information indicates that [Neidhart] fell at home, hit his head, and succumbed to his injury. No foul play suspected. No additional information to release at this time.”
Neidhart was living in Wesley Chapel, Florida – part of the Tampa Bay Area metro.
WWE issued a statement, noting “Neidhart last competed in WWE in 1997 but his legacy lives on today through his daughter, Natalya, who displays her father’s signature charisma and toughness every time she steps in the ring. WWE extends its condolences to Neidhart’s family, friends and fans.”
Anvil’s former tag partner Bret Hart Tweeted the following:

A Wrestling Family

The Hart family. If you are fan of professional wrestling, you are very familiar with this family as they are like royalty when it comes sports entertainment. It all started with Stu Hart, the patriarch, who personally trained this successful family in the legendary “dungeon” in Calgary. In addition to his own offspring, Stu trained such prolific performers as Chris Benoit, Edge, Christian, and Chris Jericho – just to name a few. The Hart family themselves certainly were no slouches. Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Owen Hart are of course direct descendants of Stu and Helen Hart, while both The British Bulldog and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart married into the family. The four interacted in wrestling storylines for the better part of their careers.
We all know the story with Bret Hart, long regarded as one of the best and most successful wrestlers of not only his era, but of all time. Owen Hart certainly has the same kind of praise, albeit with less wrestling accolades than his older brother, Bret.

Jim Neidhart with his daughter (and current WWE wrestler) Natalya

The British Bulldog went from being the consummate tag team specialist when partnering with The Dynamite Kid in the 80’s, to frequenting WWE main events worldwide in the 90’s.
Most of Stu and Helen’s other children have had successful runs with their own promotion (Stampede Wrestling) and their own wrestling schools in Canada. Right along in the same era with the aforementioned stars, was Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, who certainly had a very successful career in his own right – but probably owns the distinction of being the least successful of that quartet (Bret, Owen, Davey Boy Smith).
Hardly a slight, though, when being compared to talents as distinguished as those men. That’d be like saying Andy Garcia was the 4th best known male cast member of Ocean’s eleven. Few would dispute that fact, yet I don’t think either would be bothered by being ascribed that credit.

A young Jim Neidhart with tag partner, Bret Hart. Photo: wwe.com

Jim Neidhart was a standout athlete in his early years. In high school he was very successful in strength-oriented events in track and field and nearly landed on an NFL roster, having gone through training camps and preseason games with both the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders. He was ultimately unable to latch on with an NFL roster long term, though, so Neidhart turned his attention to professional wrestling.
Neidhart began his wrestling career with Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling, working there from 1978-1985. It was during this time that Jim met his wife, Ellie Hart, one of Stu and Helen’s daughters. There was an event at the Calgary Stampede around this time that Neidhart entered into as an attempt to receive some publicity. He won his event, which was an anvil throwing contest – thus earning his nickname “The Anvil”.
In 1985, Stu Hart sold Stampede Wrestling to Vince McMahon, and as part of the deal, Bret, Owen, Davey Boy Smith, and Neidhart would all go to work for WWE.

The Hart Foundation

Bret and Jim began working a feud against each other for their first few weeks with the WWE (then “WWF”), but Bret was upset with a “cowboy” gimmick that was assigned to him, so he requested to be partnered with Neidhart. This was the creation of the tag team, The Hart Foundation, a team that went on to great success.
The Hart Foundation debuted at WrestleMania 2 – nearly winning a 20 man battle royal – and they never looked back.
The duo won two tag team championships and are considered one of the greatest teams to ever wrestle for WWE. They were broken up in 1991, due mainly to creative wanting to give Bret Hart a singles push.
Neidhart would briefly tag with Owen Hart, creating The New Foundation, but very little traction was gained with this run and Neidhart left the company in 1992.
Jim bounced around a few different organizations after leaving WWE – including New Japan, WCW, and ECW. He made his return to WWE in 1994, immediately assisting Bret Hart upon his arrival.
Neidhart did very little in ways of his singles career, but rumor has it that the original plans were for Neidhart and Owen Hart to team together again and win the Tag Team Titles at WrestleMania 11. Allegedly Jim missed some events and Owen ended up partnering with Yokozuna to win the titles.
Return to the WWF during the Attitude-era
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart returned to the WWF in 1997 and once again was paired with his Hart brethren, when he joined the heel stable, The Hart Foundation. The group itself had great success, but its primary focus was Bret Hart’s ongoing feuds with the likes of Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels (and America in general for that matter).

Jim Neidhart with the last incarnation of The Hart Foundation (1997). Sadly, all four men in this Photo are no longer here. From left to right: Brian Pillman, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, and “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith. Photo: wwe.com

Neidhart left with Bret Hart and The British Bulldog to WCW in 1997 after the infamous “Montreal Screwjob”. It was reported that all three received substantial contracts from WCW, but “The Anvil” and Bulldog were rarely utilized, making limited TV appearances. Jim was occasionally working the independent circuit throughout the early 2000s, while maintaining a career in real estate.
In 2007, Anvil participated in WWE’s 15th Raw Anniversary Battle Royal. He also made frequent appearances on the television show Total Divas – a show in which real life daughter and wrestler Natalie (Natalya in WWE) is a cast member. For all intents and purposes, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart had a very prosperous career in professional wrestling.
Jim Neidhart Death
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart died on August 13th, 2018. Reports indicate he suffered a fall inside his Florida home.
Anvil’s brother-in-law, Ross Hart, told The Associated Press that Neidhart suffered from Alzheimer’s. Ross Hart continued that he believed Neidhart suffered from a seizure, though there have been no official reports to confirm this.
“He got up (Monday) morning and went to lower the temperature on the air conditioner and he just collapsed and I think died pretty quickly,” Ross Hart said. “I thought this was stemming from Alzheimer’s which he’d been battling for some time. It’s a struggle he’s been going through.”

Less than one month prior to his death: Jim Neidhart poses with his daughter (current WWE superstar) Natalya. July 18, 2018. Photo: @natbynature / instagram

Jim’s daughter, current WWE wrestler Natyala, posted the following on Instagram:
“I can’t put into words how hard it is going to be for myself and our family to have to say goodbye to my dad. He meant the world to us, and nothing will ever replace the special times we shared together as a family. My dad was always a fighter and an incredibly special person. There was no one like him! I’m just gonna miss him so much. We are going to hold all of the moments we had with him close to our hearts forever and never let them go. I promise to keep your memory alive. We love you so much, Daddy! On behalf of my entire family, we would also like to personally thank everyone for the outpouring of thoughts and prayers. It’s meant so much to us.”
Several other notable wrestlers have died in 2018 including Brian Christopher Lawler, Vader, Nikolai Volkoff, and Bruno Sammartino.

Our condolences to the friends and family of Jim Neidhart.

Jimmy Del Ray Death – Heart Attack

Jimmy Del Ray – Dead at age 52. Photo: wwe.com
1962-2014 (age 52)

David Ferrier, known to wrestling fans as “The Gigolo” Jimmy Del Ray, wrestled throughout the 80s into the mid 90s, most notably as one half of the Heavenly Bodies, alongside the “doctor of desire”, Tom Prichard.
Jimmy Del Ray’s early career, Heavenly Bodies
In 1985, Ferrier got his start in professional wrestling with Championship Wrestling from Florida.

Jimmy Del Ray and the Heavenly Bodies. Managed by Jim Cornette. Photo: wwe.com

The company folded in 1987.

Eventually, he moved on to Smoky Mountain Wrestling, where he partnered with Tom Prichard, forming the Heavenly Bodies.
Ferrier adapted the ring name “Jimmy Del Ray” and the duo was managed by Jim Cornette. Cornette is also credited with giving Del Ray the moniker of “The Gigolo” – a playful jab at Ferrier’s apparent “jiggling” when he would thrust his midsection, taunting his babyface opponents.
WWF, ECW, WCW
In the early 90s, Smoky Mountain Wrestling signed deals with the WWF and WCW in order to display their talent on a larger platform. The Heavenly Bodies benefited from the deal, making sporadic appearances on WWF programming throughout the early 90s, including several pay per views and a feud with the Steiner Brothers.
In 1995, The Heavenly Bodies briefly wrestled with ECW.
In 1996, Jimmy Del Ray had moved on to singles action with WCW. His stint mostly flew under the radar, wrestling under the moniker “Jimmy Graffiti.”
Injury, Life after Wrestling
Del Ray’s stay with World Championship Wrestling would remain brief, with a knee injury effectively putting him into retirement from wrestling in 1997.
After wrestling, Jimmy operated a hardwood flooring company in Tampa, Florida.

Jimmy Del Ray during his run in the WWF with the Heavenly Bodies. Photo: wwe.com

Jimmy Del Ray Death

On December 6, 2014, Ferrier was traveling southbound on route 301 in Tampa in his 2005 Ford F150 truck. According to police reports, his vehicle swerved off the road, hitting a lamp post and a fence. Ferrier, who was living in Valrico, Florida at the time, was rushed to Tampa General Hospital. Sadly, he didn’t pull through. Not unlike the death of the “Macho Man” Randy Savage, it was ultimately learned that Ferrier suffered a heart attack while driving. He was 52 years old.
On his podcast, Jim Cornette noted of Jimmy Del Ray: “Nobody worked harder inside the ring in Smoky Mountain Wrestling.”

“Superfly” Jimmy Snuka Death – Stomach Cancer

“Superfly” Jimmy Snuka dies at age 73. This Photo was taken in 2011 (Paparazzo Photography)
1943-2017 (age 73)

Jimmy Snuka has died at age 73. He was battling stomach cancer and severe dementia. Snuka’s abuse of alcohol, steroids, and cocaine were well documented in his 2012 autobiography. He was also tied to the suspicious death of his ex-mistress, which we document further below.
Jimmy Snuka’s daughter, Tamina Snuka, is part of the active WWE roster.
In his heyday, Superfly was on top of the world. He enjoyed a long career in professional wrestling, debuting all the way back in 1968.

“Superfly” Jimmy Snuka makes a special appearance at WrestleMania V (1989). Photo: wwe.com

Snuka would capture a number of titles in the NWA promotion, and by 1982 was wrestling for the WWF. He originally debuted as a heel under Captain Lou Albano. Despite the villainous gimmick, fans warmed up to Snuka’s high flying abilities, and he would eventually transition to a fan favorite. One of his most recognizable feuds was with the late great Rowdy Roddy Piper.
Fans watching the WWF in the mid 80s will no doubt recall the time Piper smashed Snuka in the head with a coconut… oddly enough this segment was recently referenced in court when Snuka’s attorneys were arguing that he suffered from severe brain damage and wasn’t fit to stand trial in the death of his ex-mistress… yeah, we’ll get to that part in a minute.
Despite all of his achievements in the ring, it’s unlikely Jimmy Snuka will be remembered for his storied career in wrestling. In recent years, the headlines that were following Snuka were far more controversial. We’re of course referring to the death of a woman named Nancy Argentino.

Cold Case: Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was charged with Nancy Argentino’s 1983 murder in Allentown, PA. Photo: Alex Reed

The Events of Nancy Argentino’s Death

While there has always been debate about what exactly happened to Nancy Argentino on May 10, 1983, some basic facts have been confirmed. Jimmy Snuka and Nancy Argentino returned to the George Washington Motor Lodge hotel after a WWF taping at the Allentown, PA fairgrounds.
Paramedics were called to the scene, where Nancy was found unconscious. She was taken to the Sacred Heart Medical Center where she was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. She was pronounced dead early the following morning.

Initial Investigation and Autopsy Findings

The Allentown, PA motel where Nancy’s unconscious body was found. Photo: The Morning Call

The coroner who examined Nancy Argentino’s body concluded that she had been struck in the head by a heavy object and that she had dozens of fresh cuts and bruises consistent with domestic abuse. Jimmy Snuka was investigated by Allentown police. Snuka gave several varying accounts of what took place, including that he struck Nancy and she fell and her head on concrete. He also claimed that she slipped and hit her head while going to the bathroom at a rest area. Snuka further added that he had never been abusive toward Nancy, although police reports contradict this.

Nancy’s grave in Green-Wood Cemetery – Brooklyn, NY. Photo: Bob Collins

A police report prior to Nancy’s death shows the couple did in fact have a violent past, notably a separate hotel incident in Salina, NY. That incident involved Snuka dragging Nancy by the hair, with nine police officers needed to handcuff him. This was mid January 1983, just four months before Nancy turned up dead. Despite the circumstances, bafflingly, Snuka was not charged for Nancy’s death. The court did however, allow the case to remain open.
Civil Suit
Although criminal charges were not initially brought against him, Nancy’s parents did win a $500,000 civil lawsuit against Snuka in 1985. Nancy’s sisters proclaim that the family never saw a dime of that money. Snuka’s 2012 Autobiography Inspires Nancy’s Sisters to Get Case Re-Opened.

Jimmy Snuka and Nancy Argentino in the early 80s. Photo: The Morning Call

After the civil settlement with the Argentino’s, little was publicly spoken about Nancy’s death. That changed in 2012 when Snuka released his autobiography. Nancy Argentino’s sisters, Louise and Lorraine Argentino, contacted the district attorney, pleading to give the case another look.
The DA listened.
Louise and Lorraine Argentino credit Snuka’s book release as their primary motivation to hound the DA; appalled and disgusted that Snuka painted himself as the victim in his autobiography. Based on the evidence gathered, the case was brought before a grand jury in 2014 to decide whether or not Jimmy Snuka should be indicted.
Arrested in 2015: Jimmy Snuka Murder Charge
Ultimately, the grand jury concluded that there was sufficient evidence to charge Jimmy Snuka with the murder of Nancy Argentino. On September 1, 2015 an arrest warrant was issued. Snuka turned himself in, his ex-wife posting part of his $100,000 bond for release.

Snuka hits a jobber with the “Superfly Smash” on a ’93 episode of Raw. Photo: wwe.com
Snuka was facing charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter.
A preliminary hearing was held on October 7, 2015.

Snuka’s attorney claimed that he was suffering from dementia, brought on from years of head injuries in the wrestling ring. The attorney argued that Snuka was not fit to stand trial. The judge ruled that the case would be revisited in six months, at which time they would reevaluate Snuka’s health. To raise money for his defense, Snuka’s grandchildren started a Go Fund Me campaign; hopeful that Snuka’s fans would be willing to contribute money to pay for his legal team. Fans were not interested. Ultimately the crowd funding campaign was unable to raise more than a few hundred dollars and has since been deleted from the website.
Case Dismissed in January 2017
On January 3rd, 2017, less than two weeks prior to Jimmy Snuka’s death, the murder trial was dismissed. The judge ruled that Jimmy Snuka did not have the mental capacity to stand trial due to him suffering from severe dementia, as well as terminal cancer.

Joey Maggs Death – Undisclosed Causes

Former WCW and WWF enhancement talent, Joey Maggs, dead at 37. Photo: youtube
1969-2006 (Age 37)

Not everyone gets to be a wrestling star, but wrestling’s enhancement workers play an important role in making said stars look dominant. One such enhancement worker was Joey Maggs, whose abilities found him work in WCW and the WWF putting over some of the promotions’ biggest names. Unfortunately, Maggs joined the number of wrestlers who passed away before their 40th birthday, dying at the young age of 37.
A Start in the South
Joseph Magliano was born in 1969 in Baltimore, Maryland. He began working in Buck Robley’s promotion Deep South Promotion in 1987. Working as Joey Maggs, he developed his craft in the South, eventually working in the Memphis promotion United States Wrestling Association (USWA) where he captured the USWA Tag Team Titles with Rex King and the USWA Junior Heavyweight Championship.

Joey Maggs as one half of ‘The Creatures’ – WCW Halloween Havoc, 1991. Photo: wwe.com
Putting Wrestlers Over for Money

Joey Maggs hit the big-time, going to work in WCW as “Jumping” Joey Maggs. His first match was against the late Tom Zenk, a wrestler he remained close friends with. As an enhancement talent, Maggs took pride in his ability to make the worst workers look good. He teamed with with Johnny Rich under “The Creatures” moniker at 1991’s Halloween Havoc – the pair were on the losing end of a bout against Big Josh and P.N. News.
Maggs participated in WCW’s 1991 Light Heavyweight championship tournament, putting over wrestler Badstreet in the first round. He later went on to work in the WWF, appearing on Wrestling Challenge and Superstars. Maggs spent time in Jim Cornette’s Smokey Mountain Wrestling, but the majority of his career was in WCW, making opponents look good on shows ranging from WCW Saturday Night to WCW’s flagship show, Nitro. In 1998, Maggs’ career ended when a nagging shoulder injury forced his retirement from the ring. Maggs credited WCW with taking care of him after his injury.

Joey Maggs in an undated Photo. Photo: youtube

Life after Wrestling

Not much is is known about Joey Maggs’ post-wrestling career. At one point, he was attending flight training school to become a cargo pilot. In 2005, Maggs worked as a stunt man on the film The Dukes of Hazzard in an uncredited role.
Maggs had few regrets about wrestling, and while he never hit the big time, he seemed content with what he’d accomplished. Maggs said it best in an interview at TomZenk.net:

Jerry Tuite as “Sergeant A-Wall” in WCW (2000). Photo: wwe.com

Jerry Blackwell’s grave in Cumming, Georgia. Photo: Nascargoodolboy
Many other wrestlers died in the 90s, several of which also died before age 50.

Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart Death – fall

WCW and TNA star Jerry Tuite, who wrestled under the names “Sgt AWOL”, “Sgt. A-Wall”, and “Malice” – dead at 36 after suffering a heart attack.
1966-2003 (Age 36)

Jerry Tuite’s 6’10” 320-pound frame made him a natural for the squared circle, wrestling during the Monday Night War. The big man performed in WCW under a few variations of “The Wall” (including “Sergeant AWOL” and “Sergeant A-Wall”). When WCW was absorbed by the WWF in 2001, Tuite signed a developmental deal, but never made it to TV.
He later wrestled for TNA under the moniker “Malice.”
Jerry Tuite was described by announcer Mike Tenay as “a gentle giant” and someone who constantly worked to improve himself in the ring. Tuite toured All-Japan Wrestling, the last place he would wrestle before his shocking death at the age of 36, just weeks shy of his 37th birthday.

The Wall takes on The Franchise (WCW’s Great American Bash, 2000). Photo: wwe.com

A Jersey Big Boy

Michael Jerome Tuite was born on December 27, 1966 in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Tuite trained with wrestler “Iron” Mike Sharpe at Sharpe’s Jersey wrestling school, eventually befriending Bam Bam Bigelow. Tuite began working in independent territories including NWA New Jersey and occasional spots in ECW. In 1999, Tuite went to the WCW Power Plant, where he caught the attention of WCW booker Kevin Nash. Tuite was paired with Berlyn (aka Alex Wright) as Berlyn’s bodyguard, “The Wall.” With his raw power and devastating chokeslam, “The Wall” presented a challenge to any opponent.
Tuite split from Berlyn and went on to singles action for the next several months, eventually joining “The Misfits in Action” (MIA) faction as Sgt. AWOL.
Despite his size and potential, “The Wall” never became a top star.
When WCW was bought out by the WWF, Tuite was signed to a developmental deal, but personal issues led to his dismissal.

3 years before his death: Wrestling in the “Misfits in Action” stable, Sgt. A-Wall tosses Scott Steiner back into the ring. (Nitro, December 12, 2000). Photo: wwe.com

Later Years

Tuite returned to NWA New Jersey and also found work in Phoenix Championship Wrestling. In June 2002, Tuite joined the new promotion NWA Total Nonstop Action (TNA) as “Malice,” a big man with a penchant for violence and a short temper. Tuite also worked in All-Access Wrestling and Xtreme Pro Wrestling before embarking on a tour of Japan as “Gigantes.”
Death in the Land of the Rising Sun
Jerry Tuite was finishing a tour for All-Japan Pro Wrestling, working a pay-per-view six-man tag team match with Bull Buchanan and Justin Credible in a winning effort against Nobutaka Araya, Tomoaki Honma and Kazushi Miyamoto.

Jerry Tuite as “Sergeant A-Wall” in WCW (2000). Photo: wwe.com

Jerry Blackwell’s grave in Cumming, Georgia. Photo: Nascargoodolboy
Many other wrestlers died in the 90s, several of which also died before age 50.

Joey Maggs Death – Undisclosed Causes

Former WCW and WWF enhancement talent, Joey Maggs, dead at 37. Photo: youtube
1969-2006 (Age 37)

Not everyone gets to be a wrestling star, but wrestling’s enhancement workers play an important role in making said stars look dominant. One such enhancement worker was Joey Maggs, whose abilities found him work in WCW and the WWF putting over some of the promotions’ biggest names. Unfortunately, Maggs joined the number of wrestlers who passed away before their 40th birthday, dying at the young age of 37.

<b>A Start in the South</b>

Joseph Magliano was born in 1969 in Baltimore, Maryland. He began working in Buck Robley’s promotion Deep South Promotion in 1987. Working as Joey Maggs, he developed his craft in the South, eventually working in the Memphis promotion United States Wrestling Association (USWA) where he captured the USWA Tag Team Titles with Rex King and the USWA Junior Heavyweight Championship.

Joey Maggs as one half of ‘The Creatures’ – WCW Halloween Havoc, 1991. Photo: wwe.com
Putting Wrestlers Over for Money

Joey Maggs hit the big-time, going to work in WCW as “Jumping” Joey Maggs. His first match was against the late Tom Zenk, a wrestler he remained close friends with. As an enhancement talent, Maggs took pride in his ability to make the worst workers look good. He teamed with with Johnny Rich under “The Creatures” moniker at 1991’s Halloween Havoc – the pair were on the losing end of a bout against Big Josh and P.N. News.
Maggs participated in WCW’s 1991 Light Heavyweight championship tournament, putting over wrestler Badstreet in the first round. He later went on to work in the WWF, appearing on Wrestling Challenge and Superstars. Maggs spent time in Jim Cornette’s Smokey Mountain Wrestling, but the majority of his career was in WCW, making opponents look good on shows ranging from WCW Saturday Night to WCW’s flagship show, Nitro. In 1998, Maggs’ career ended when a nagging shoulder injury forced his retirement from the ring. Maggs credited WCW with taking care of him after his injury.

Joey Maggs in an undated Photo. Photo: youtube
Life after Wrestling

Not much is is known about Joey Maggs’ post-wrestling career. At one point, he was attending flight training school to become a cargo pilot. In 2005, Maggs worked as a stunt man on the film The Dukes of Hazzard in an uncredited role. Maggs had few regrets about wrestling, and while he never hit the big time, he seemed content with what he’d accomplished. Maggs said it best in an interview at TomZenk.net:

Joey Maggs squaring off against Bam Bam Bigelow on Monday Night Raw. July 5, 1993. Photo: wwe.com

“A wrestling career….I’d certainly do it again! Nobody’s ever had that kind of fun. I’d change a few things (like the tights I wore) but Tom and I did things that people dream about – staying in first class hotels, flying first class, pampering yourself, buying sportscars and other luxuries.”
Joey Maggs passed away on October 15, 2006 at the age of 37. His cause of death is not public knowledge.
Many other wrestlers didn’t make it to age 40, and we’ve previously chronicled wrestlers who passed away before age 50.
Have any memories of Joey Maggs? Share them in our comments section below.

Joey Marella Death – Car Accident

WWF referee and son of Gorilla Monsoon, Joey Marella – dead at 31. Photo: wwe.com
1963-1994 (Age 31)

Joey Marella was a familiar background figure to anyone who watched WWF programming in the 80’s and early 90’s. The adopted son of WWE Hall of Famer Gorilla Monsoon (aka Gino Marella), Marella followed in his father’s footsteps by working in the ring, but as a referee instead of a wrestler.

A Famous Father Opens the Door

Although his father was an important figure in the WWF, Joey started from the ground up, setting up rings and learning the ins and outs of the business from a layman’s perspective. Marella began his WWF career in 1983 and over time, worked his way into the ring as a referee, first at local matches, working his way up to television.
Joey Marella officiating Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog at SummerSlam ’92. Photo: wwe.com Eventually, Marella became one of the WWF’s most successful referees.
He officiated historic matches such as the Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan main event at WrestleMania III, and the highly regarded Davey Boy Smith vs. Bret Hart at 1992’s SummerSlam in Wembley Stadium. In an online interview with Wrestletalk TV, referee Earl Hebner discussed what a wonderful person Marella was and how he could perk up anyone having a bad day. Hebner revealed that he was scheduled to referee the last match on a card, but Marella offered to referee the last match so Hebner could get out early and fly home from the nearby Newark Airport. Sadly, this occurred on July 3, 1994, and what happened next would cause Hebner to forever question his decision to take up his friend’s offer.

The Perils of the Road

Tragedy struck on July 4, 1994 when Marella was driving on the New Jersey Turnpike after officiating matches at a television taping in Ocean City, Maryland.

Joey Marella at the ’94 Royal Rumble, less than 6 months before his unexpected death. Photo: wwe.com

Marella was accompanied by manager Harvey Wippleman (aka Bruno Lauer). Marella reportedly fell asleep at the wheel, crashing through a guardrail and into a tree. Wippleman recalls an uncanny hush as Marella lay still. Wippleman repeatedly asked Marella if he was dead, finally acknowledging the young man’s life had been snuffed out in the crash. Wippleman survived the crash because he was wearing a seatbelt but Marella died at the scene, having failed to wear a seatbelt. Marella was only 31.

The Aftermath of Joey Marella’s Death

Joey Marella’s death affected his father tremendously, with some believing it contributed to Gorilla Monsoon’s death at the age of 62. However, the young man’s death had a positive effect too as the WWF implemented a new travel policy to prevent a similar tragedy from happening. The WWF instituted rules that WWF personnel have to check into hotels when working late. Furthermore, WWF personnel could no longer travel alone and everyone traveling together had to agree to travel.
Although Joey Marella died over twenty years ago, his memory lives on. WWE ring announcer Tony Chimel christened his son Joey to honor Marella as did Joey’s sister Valerie, who named her twin sons Joey and Gino, in honor of her brother and father. Joey is buried at Lakeview Memorial Park in New Jersey, next to his father.

John Kronus Death – Heart Failure

1969-2007 (Age 38)

George Caiazzo went from bouncing unruly nightclub patrons to bouncing opponents in the ring as John Kronus, one-half of ECW’s famous tag team the Eliminators. Kronus’ time in professional wrestling is best known for his work in Extreme Championship Wrestling and Xtreme Pro Wrestling. Caiazzo retired in 2002 except for a return to the ECW reunion shows Hardcore Homecoming in 2005.

The Eliminators: John Kronus (right) with tag partner, Perry Saturn
Bouncing into the Business

George Caiazzo was born on January 13, 1969 in Everett, Massachusetts.
Caiazzo worked as a bouncer at a nightclub managed by Perry Saturn and happened to watch a video of Saturn wrestling. Intrigued, Caiazzo decided to become a wrestler, traveling to Memphis with Saturn in order to split living expenses.
Saturn researched Greek mythology and discovered Saturn’s Greek equivalent was Kronus, thus John Kronus was born.
The two began working in the United States Wrestling Association as the Eliminators (Saturn wanted them to wrestle as the Harvesters of Sorrow due to Saturn and Kronus being gods of harvest, but Jerry Lawler vetoed it as he felt few fans would make the connection).
The Eliminators were successful in USWA, holding the promotion’s tag team titles. They also traveled to Japan’s WAR promotion, touring there in 1994 and 1995.

The Eliminators going to work on New Jack. Kronus would eventually ally with New Jack and form ‘The Gangstanators’. Photo: instagram

The Eliminators became best known in ECW where they became one of the promotion’s top teams. They held the ECW World Tag Team Championship three times (Kronus also held it with New Jack once) and battled some of the 90’s hottest teams including the Gangstas, the Dudley Boyz, the Pitbulls, the Steiner Brothers, and the team of Rob Van Dam and Sabu.
Eventually, the Eliminators broke up and Kronus paired with New Jack, forming the team “The Gangstanators.”
In 2000, Kronus appeared in the softcore bondage film Violence on Violence (which also starred the late Nicole Bass).
Although he retired from wrestling, he did appear at the 2005 Hardcore Homecoming shows.
Later, he discussed making a comeback to better support his young son Gage.
Shortly before his death, Caiazzo worked as a bouncer at the Weirs Beach Smokehouse in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.

ECW: John Kronus (right) with Axl Rotten. Photo: instagram
John Kronus Death

Caiazzo passed away unexpectedly on July 18, 2007. He was 38. He is survived by his son Gage.
According to a report posted by a family member, George suffered from an enlarged heart and knew he could die at any time. Due to Caiazzo’s young age, an autopsy and toxicology report were ordered. The autopsy determined that Caiazzo had a significantly enlarged heart at the time of death.
Sadly, John Kronus joins a long list of other professional wrestlers who passed away before age 50.
George is buried at Saint Anthony’s Cemetery in Shirley, Massachusetts.
Have any memories of John Kronus? Be sure to leave them in the comments section below.

Johnny Grunge Death – Sleep Apnea Complications

Johnny Grunge, one half of Public Enemy – Dead at 39. Photo: wwe.com
1966-2006 (age 39)

As one half of the tag team Public Enemy, Mike Durham (known to wrestling fans as “Johnny Grunge”) was most known for his work in ECW with Rocco Rock. The duo were ECW World Tag Team Champions four times, i-Generation Tag Team Champions twice, and also held the NWA World Tag Team Championships, the UCW Tag Team Championships, and even a brief run with the WCW Tag Team belts.
After a few years on the independent circuit, their partnership came to a halt and within a short time, the Johnny Grunge death story would shake the wrestling world. Another wrestler, dead before 50.
10 years before Johnny’s death: Dory Funk Jr. and Terry Funk take on Public Enemy in a mid-90s ECW barbed wire match

A Tragic Loss before the Johnny Grunge Death Story

Wrestling together for many years, Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge were inseparable. The two were like brothers and remained in close contact. On September 21, 2002, Rocco Rock, or Ted Petty as he was known to friends and family, died of a massive heart attack on his way to a wrestling event. Reportedly, Johnny Grunge took the news very hard. It has been said that Mike Durham never got over the death of his former wrestling partner and friend, and many people believe that the stress and heartache caused by the loss likely contributed to Johnny Grunge’s death.

Public Enemy: Johnny Grunge and his tag tag team partner, Rocco Rock, enter the ring carrying a table on a 1997 episode of Monday Nitro. Rocco would be dead within 5 years, and Johnny within 10. Photo: wwe.com

Details of the Johnny Grunge Death Story

During his time wrestling, Durham weighed 263 pounds and stood at a height of 6 foot 3 inches. By doctor’s standards, he was considered to be obese. The professional wrestler was also known to have a number of health problems, including sleep apnea. On February 16, 2006, Mike was visiting a friend in Peachtree City, Georgia, when he was suddenly unable to breathe. Alarmed, his friend called paramedics and Johnny Grunge was rushed to the hospital. Sadly, he could not be revived and he died on the way to the hospital. He was pronounced dead on the scene in Atlanta, Georgia. Following his death, it was revealed that Durham had died because of a coronary artery blockage due to obesity. The wrestler was only 39 years old at the time of his death.

Public Enemy takes on Harlem Heat during a 1997 episode of WCW Monday Nitro. Johnny Grunge would be dead within 10 years. Photo: wwe.com

Honoring Mike Durham

Although Mike Durham was no longer actively involved with any major wrestling promotion, the news of his death came as a massive shock to the wrestling community. On February 25, 2006, The Ring of Honor wrestling show in Edison, New Jersey, rang the bell 10 times in memory of Johnny Grunge. The International Wrestling Cartel did the same at an event on February 18, 2006. On June 16, 2007, Mike Durham was added to the New Alhambra Arena Hardcore Hall of Fame. Today, his wrestling name and real name fly on a banner in the former ECW arena beside Rocco Rock’s flag, so the two are forever side by side. In 2010, the New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame also added Johnny Grunge to their Ranks along with Rocco Rock.

Johnny Grunge Grave

Johnny Grunge’s grave is located at the Mimosa-Pines South Cemetery in Carlyss, Louisiana.

The grave of Johnny Grunge at the Mimosa-Pines South Cemetery in Carlyss, LA. Photo: Melissa Daigle

Johnny Valiant Death – Hit by Car

WWE Hall of Famer, “Luscious” Johnny Valiant, killed after being struck by a pickup truck. Photo: wwe.com
1946-2018 (Age 71)

Thomas Sullivan, better known as “Luscious” Johnny Valiant to wrestling fans, was killed after being struck by a pickup truck in Ross Township, Pennsylvania in the early morning hours of Wednesday, April 4th, 2018.

Ross Township is a suburb of Pittsburgh.

Reports indicate Sullivan was crossing a very busy road and was not at a crosswalk.

Johnny Valiant’s Wrestling Career

Valiant wrestled for the (then) WWWF in the 70s, capturing tag team gold on two separate occasions, including a 1974 run with kayfabe brother “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant that lasted over a year.

“Luscious” Johnny Valiant and tag partner “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant with the WWWF tag team belts in 1974. Photo: wwe.com

He teamed with kayfabe brother Jerry Valiant to capture gold in 1979. The duo was managed by the late Captain Lou Albano.
Arguably, Johnny Valiant’s most recognizable role took place as a manager. After retiring from in ring competition, Valiant managed Hulk Hogan in the AWA, eventually transitioning to the WWF to manage Brutus Beefcake.
Johnny Valiant would go on to appear at the first three Wrestlmania’s in a mangerial role.
Those watching the WWF in the late 80s may also recall Valiant as a fill-in for Bobby “The Brain” Heenan on Wrestling Challenge. Valiant would take over commentator duties when the Brain left the booth to manage one of his wrestlers.

Johnny Valiant was killed in Ross Township, PA after being struck by a truck while crossing a busy road in the early morning hours of Wednesday, April 4th, 2018. Photo: wpxi

Johnny Valiant Death

On Wednesday, April 4th, 2018, police reported Sullivan “was struck before dawn on McKnight Road in Ross Township.” Detective Brian Kohlepp told WPXI “the driver of the truck stayed here on the scene. There’s no indication that this was anything other than a terrible accident.”

Sullivan was rushed to a local hospital, but was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

Tragic accidents are no stranger to the world of professional wrestling including the 1999 death of Owen Hart, and car accidents that claimed the lives of Junkyard Dog (1998), Adrian Adonis (1988), and referee Joey Marella (1994).

Johnny Valiant’s Legacy

Not only did Johnny Valiant have a notable career in the squared circle, but he also earned some successful credits as an actor. Valiant appeared on the fourth season of The Sopranos as Carmine Lupertazzi’s bodyguard. Various websites also note that he appeared on Law & Order, though I was not able to source any further information.
First lacing a pair of wrestling boots in 1969, Valiant reportedly worked for over 20 different territories throughout his career – an astounding feat.
In 1996, Johnny Valiant and tag partner, Jimmy Valiant, were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Our condolences to Valiant’s friends and family.

Jose Lothario Death – Unknown Causes

Jose Lothario – Dead at 83. Photo: wwe.com

1934-2018 (Age 83)

The beauty of professional wrestling is that a performer can play many roles during their career, even after retiring from active competition. Jose Lothario had a well-deserved reputation as an in-ring grappler long before he became known as Shawn Michaels’ mentor during the mid-1990s.

Borderland Sensation

Born December 12, 1934, Guadalupe Robledo slowly rose to fame as Jose Lothario, one of hundreds of grapplers seeking fame during the days when territories dotted the wrestling landscape.
Over time, Lothario earned a reputation as a solid worker, particularly in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) where he combined his legitimate boxing skills with wrestling ability to develop a captivating style. His star rose as he teamed with fellow Mexican Mil Mascaras as well as many other stars in promotions in Mexico, Texas, Puerto Rico, and Florida.
Jose Lothario became a frequent challenger for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and while the “Big Gold Belt” eluded him, he held many other singles and tag team regional titles. He earned the nickname, “Gran” Lothario, carrying it with him throughout his celebrated career. Giants of the industry such as former NWA World champions Jack Brisco and Dusty Rhodes praised Lothario for his work, considering him one of the finest workers during their time.
Jose Lothario became a legend in Texas wrestling, working programs with established stars as well as rising stars like Gino Hernandez.

Giving Back to the Industry

Despite a storied career in the ring, Jose Lothario is best-remembered by most fans today for training Shawn Michaels and appearing with “The Heartbreak Kid” during his quest for the WWF Championship. Lothario would second Michaels during his famous WrestleMania XII “Iron Man” Match where he defeated Bret “The Hitman” Hart for his first WWF Championship.
Lothario appeared several more times with Michaels, including an angle where Sid Justice attacked Lothario with a television camera at 1996’ Survivor Series.

Jose Lothario Death

The wrestling world lost a key figure from the territory era when Jose Lothario passed away on November 6, 2018. Jose was 83 and is survived by his wife Jean Robledo and two children.

Junkyard Dog Death – Car Accident

Sylvester Ritter, known to wrestling fans as the Junkyard Dog – Dead at 45 in a car accident. Photo: wwe.com
1952-1998 (age 45)

Sylvester Ritter, known to wrestling fans as the Junkyard Dog, was tragically killed in 1998. Known for wearing a dog collar complete with a heavy silver chain and for his massive 300-pound frame, Junkyard Dog was a beloved wrestler. He first made a name for himself during the 1970s and 80s.
Ritter’s athletic career began not with wrestling, but with football. After graduating from Fayetteville State University with a political science degree he ended up attending the Hart family’s wrestling school. Ritter then completely shifted his focus to professional wrestling.

Junkyard Dog appears on an episode of Tuesday Night Titans, January 10, 1986. Photo: wwe.com Junkyard Dog’s Achievements
Over the course of his career, Sylvester Ritter won the Mid-South Wrestling Association Championship 15 times. Later he would become involved with numerous story lines with the WWF and the WCW up until his retirement in 1993. After retirement, the Junkyard Dog continued to contribute to wrestling by appearing at events and serving as a manager. His involvement with wrestling abruptly ended when the Junkyard Dog death tragically occurred in 1998. Junkyard Dog and Davey Boy Smith take on the Hart Foundation in Maple Leaf Wrestling (Toronto, January 11, 1987)

Junkyard Dog Death

Many wrestlers’ death stories begin with a downward spiral of drug use. Many involve medical problems or injury. These common threads leave loved ones saddened but not surprised at their deaths. The Junkyard Dog death story is much different.

JYD enters the ring for ‘The Wrestling Classic’ – November 7, 1985. Photo: wwe.com

On June 2, 1998, Sylvester Ritter was returning home from the high school graduation of his daughter, LaToya Ritter. He traveled along Interstate 20 in Mississippi and was involved in an auto accident. He was killed instantaneously. Ritter was only 45 at the time of his death. The exact location of his death was Forest, Mississippi. Initially, investigators did not reveal any details about the accident. Eventually, reports surfaced that Junkyard Dog had fallen asleep while driving.

Junkyard Dog Grave

Junkyard Dog’s grave is located at Westview Memorial Park in Russellville, NC.

Junkyard Dog’s grave at Westview Memorial Park in Russellville, NC. Photo: Andrea B
Honoring Sylvester Ritter after Death

The news of Junkyard Dog’s death saddened the wrestling community. There was an outpouring of support for his grieving family from both fans and fellow wrestlers.
In 2004, the WWE chose to honor the Junkyard Dog by inducting him into the WWE Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony took place on March 13, 2004, one day before WrestleMania. Sylvester’s daughter, LaToya, was present at the event to accept the award on his behalf. Junkyard Dog’s friend, wrestler Ernie Ladd, represented the WWE at the induction.
Sadly, Ladd himself passed away three years later from colon cancer.

A Sad Final Chapter to the Junkyard Dog Death Story

The Junkyard Dog death story has a very sad final chapter. In 2011, an unexpected tragedy once again struck the Ritter family. On October 19, 2011, Junkyard Dog’s daughter, LaToya, was talking to her friend on the phone when she suddenly stopped responding. Her friend heard a loud thud and thought that LaToya might have fallen down the stairs and been injured. Alarmed, she got in touch with LaToya’s brother, who arrived to find his sister unconscious on the floor. Paramedics were called, but it was too late.
LaToya had died at the age of just 31. The Ritter family never shared the cause of LaToya’s death publicly, but her obituary stated that she was in good health.

Kerry Von Erich “The Texas Tornado” Death – Suicide

Kerry Von Erich, known as the Texas Tornado in the WWF – Dead at 33 from suicide. Photo: wwe.com
1960-1993 (age 33)

Kerry Von Erich made his debut as a professional wrestler in 1979. First known as The Modern Day Warrior with World Class Championship Wrestling, Kerry won the American Heavyweight Championship five times.
By the early 90s, Kerry won the WWF Intercontinental Championship title as The Texas Tornado and was thought to have a bright career ahead of him. Instead, he cut his life short at the young age of 33.

A Family Plagued by Tragedy

It’s always a shock when a wrestling star is killed in his prime, but Kerry Von Erich’s death was particularly tragic given that he was preceded in death by four of his five brothers. One brother was killed when he was just 7 years old in a tragic electrocution accident. The other three deaths, David, Mike, and Chris, also wrestlers, died from a variety of causes. His Brother David’s cause of death has never been confirmed, though it’s rumored it was a drug overdose. Mike intentionally overdosed on drugs, while Chris shot himself. In his autobiography, wrestler Bret Hart explains that the death of Kerry Von Erich did not come as a big surprise to him because Kerry had told him once that he wanted to die like his brothers. Surviving brother, Kevin Von Erich, told ESPN that Kerry had called him telling him he wanted to commit suicide. Kevin raced to his brother’s aid, but it was too late when he arrived.

A Tragic Accident Leads to Addiction

Kerry Von Erich works “Gentleman” Chris Adams in the mid-80s. WCCW. Photo: wwe.com

In 1986 while working for his family’s World Class Championship Wrestling, Kerry suffered a motorcycle accident. The damage to Kerry’s foot was so bad that it ultimately required amputation. Although the wrestler wore a prosthetic foot after that, he managed to keep the injury a secret, not just from fans, but also from the wrestling community. The injury caused Kerry tremendous pain, so much that he had to take painkillers just to remain active and get through his daily life. Eventually, he would become addicted to the drugs, putting into motion the chain of the events that would result of his death.

The Events Leading to Kerry Von Erich’s Death

Von Erich’s troubles with addiction would continue throughout the rest of his life. In September 1992, he was convicted for drug possession. He was sentenced to 10 years of probation. Then, in February 1993, he was indicted on cocaine charges. A warrant was issued for his arrest with prosecutors planning to send him to prison. Kerry’s marriage had also fallen apart shortly prior.
The loss of his family and the threat of prison apparently proved too much for Kerry. On February 18, 1993, he went for a walk on the grounds of his father’s ranch and shot himself in the chest with a handgun, just as his brother Chris had done before him.
10 years prior to his death, Kerry Von Erich is at the top of his game. Here he is defeating “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in front 45,000 fans to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship (Texas Stadium, May 6, 1984)

Paying Tribute to the Texas Tornado

After the 16th anniversary of his passing, Kerry Von Erich was finally inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, alongside his brothers. Word of the decision came on March 16, 2009, and the official induction took place on April 4, 2009, in Houston, Texas. At the event, Michael Hayes, who had been one of the Von Erich’s biggest rivals with the Fabulous Freebirds, oversaw the proceedings. Hall of Fame rings were given to Kerry’s daughters, Lacey and Hollie.

Kerry Von Erich Grave

Kerry Von Erich’s grave is located at Grove Hill Memorial Park in Dallas, TX. The plot is located at the Hilltop section, near lot 53. He is buried in the same plot as his father, Fritz Von Erich.

Kerry Von Erich’s grave at Grove Hill Memorial Park in Dallas, TX. Photo: David N. Lotz

Killer Kowalski Death – Heart Attack

Wrestling legend Killer Kowalski – dead at 81. Photo: wwe.com
1926-2008 (age 81)

In professional wrestling, not everyone can be the hero, and some wrestlers commit their lives to being the best villains imaginable in the ring. Killer Kowalski, known to family as Wladek Kowalski, is one such wrestler. Hated and loved by fans at the same time, from 1947 to 1977, he brought drama and excitement to story lines in the world of professional wrestling. Even up until the events of the Killer Kowalski death, he was never completely out of the world of professional wrestling.

An Injury Begins the Killer Kowalski Death Story

Following his retirement from the World Wrestling Federation in 1977, Killer Kowalski opened a school for professional wrestling in Massachusetts. He remained personally involved with the school up until 2003 when he began to suffer from health problems. Although he was no longer able to work, he remained in touch with wrestlers who graduated from his school including Triple H and Chyna. Killer Kowalski’s health problems came to a head in 2008 when he injured his knee. He was sent to a rehabilitation center in order to regain his strength. Killer Kowalski takes on Andre the Giant in a 1972 match in Quebec City

The Details of the Killer Kowalski Death Story

While Killer Kowalski was working to recover from his injury, he suddenly suffered a massive heart attack in early August 2008. He was admitted to a hospital in Malden, Massachusetts. Doctors told him he likely wouldn’t survive the ordeal. Despite the prognosis, Killer Kowalski lived for weeks in the hospital. He eventually passed away on August 30, 2008.

1975: Killer Kowalski, managed by the Grand Wizard, at Madison Square Garden. Photo: wwe.com

Unlike the death stories of many professional wrestlers, the Killer Kowalski death story did not play out early. The former wrestler was 81 years old at the time of his death, meaning he outlived many of the wrestlers of his generation and many that came after it.

Reactions to the Killer Kowalski Death News

Even though Killer Kowalski was 81 when he died and had not made an appearance at a professional wrestling event for about 30 years, the entire community mourned his loss. The WWE placed a tribute to Killer Kowalski on their website and even issued a press release. The press release expressed their condolences to Killer Kowalski’s wife, who he did not marry until the age of 79. Many professional wrestlers who had graduated from his school either made public statements about the wrestler or posted about him on social media when the news of his death broke.

Celebrating Killer Kowalski’s Legacy

As both a former wrestler and a trainer to some wrestling super stars, Killer Kowalski left a lasting mark on the wrestling world. His legacy has been celebrated since his death.
In November 2008, the New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame added him to their roster in a ceremony that took place during the APCW Thanksgiving Meltdown on the 9th of the month at the American Legion in Seekonk, Massachusetts. In 2010, Pro Wrestling Illustrated awarded Killer Kowalski the PWI Stanley Weston Award. This lifetime achievement award is given out annually to a person whom the publication feels has contributed greatly to the sport.

Killer Kowalski is buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett, MA. Photo: All McGonigles
Killer Kowalski Grave

Killer Kowalski’s grave is located at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett, MA.
Sources have said that Kowalski’s services were packed with people. This shouldn’t come as a surprise given the impact that Killer had on professional wrestling – both in the ring, and out of the ring as a trainer and family man.

King Cheesy Death – Undisclosed Causes

Larry Gibson, known for his role as “King Cheesy” at the ’94 Survivor Series, passes away. Photo: wwe.com

King Cheesy, the ring name of one of Jerry “The King” Lawler’s dwarf teammates at the ’94 Survivor Series, has passed away.

Outside the ring, King Cheesy was known to family and friends as Larry Gibson.

No official cause of death has been revealed and little information in general is publicly known about Larry Gibson’s wrestling career. Unless our sources are incorrect, it appears Jim Ross incorrectly refers to Cheesy as “Sleazy” in this video from 1995 We did receive a note from indie wrestler Jock Samson. Samson notes: “[Larry] lived in West Virginia around Charleston the last time I spoke to him. Really nice guy!! Didn’t know much about him other than in passing at shows down there.” Word of Larry Gibson’s passing first came from Kenny Casanova’s Facebook page: Casanova spent time in the WWF, working as “Kim Chee” – Kamala’s manager. More recently Casanova authored Kamala Speaks.

King Cheesy at the 1994 Survivor Series

“The Royal Family” team from the 1994 Survivor Series. King Cheesy is pictured on the far right. Photo: wwe.com

King Cheesy wrestled during the WWF’s transitional “New Generation era” – widely known for its occupational-style gimmicks and colorful characters.
At the 1994 Survivor Series, King Cheesy competed alongside Jerry Lawler, and dwarf wrestlers Queasy and Sleazy, collectively forming The Royal Family. The Royal Family competed against Clowns R’ us, a team consisting of Doink the Clown, Dink, Pink, and Wink.
At the time of the matchup, Doink was being portrayed by Ray Apollo, and not Matt Osborne, the latter of whom passed away in 2013 from a drug overdose.
Jump to the 1:20 mark for a brief glimpse at the ’94 Survivor Series matchup featuring King Cheesy
Although the narrator in the video above is a bit harsh on the match itself, it’s important to note that the match was intentionally being used for comedy purposes. In the mid 90s, the WWE’s target audience was largely children.
Condolences to the friends and family of Larry Gibson.

King Kong Bundy Death – Unknown Causes

Legendary wrestling big man King Kong Bundy – dead at 61. Photo: wwe.com
1957-2019 (Age 61)

WWE has confirmed the death of King Kong Bundy. He was 61.
Born November 7, 1957 as Christopher Alan Pallies, the New Jersey native made quite the mark on the wrestling world, despite fairly limited appearances.
Bundy spent 1985-1988 with the WWE (then, WWF) including a main event match against Hogan at WrestleMania 2 in 1986.
King Kong Bundy returned to the WWE in 1994, joining Ted DiBiase’s “Million Dollar Corporation”. He feuded with the Undertaker, culminating with a match at WrestleMania XI.
By the end of 1995, Bundy was released and hit the independent circuit.
Outside the wrestling world, King Kong Bundy earned several acting credits, including memorable appearances on Married with Children.
Several other notable wrestling stars have died in 2019 including Pedro Morales and Mean Gene Okerlund.
Our condolences to the friends and family of Bundy.