Fallen Soldiers Gone But Not Forgotten Full List Of Deceased Wrestlers 07
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.
Lance Cade Death – Drug Overdose
Lance Cade dies at age 29 from a drug overdose. Photo: wwe.com
1981-2010 (age 29)
If there’s one WWE death that has largely been overlooked, it’s the passing of Lance Cade. Known to family and friends as Lance McNaught, the young superstar was trained by Shawn Michaels in San Antonio, TX. Unlike many before him, Lance managed to reach the big stage of wrestling in very short time. He seemed to have a promising career ahead of him. The Lance Cade death story would break within a few years of him reaching the WWE.
Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. Photo: wwe.com
Prior to reaching the WWE, Lance Cade briefly spent in Japan in 1999-2000. He was quickly moved to the WWE’s developmental territories – Heartland Wrestling Association in Memphis, followed by Ohio Valley Wrestling. By 2003, just four short years after training, Cade was debuting on Sunday Night Heat.
Cade was primarily a tag team wrestler with the WWE, first teaming up with Mark Jindrak under the alias “Garrison Cade”. By 2004, Cade was teaming up with Trevor Murdoch, and the duo captured the tag team titles on three separate occasions.
With a career that picked up steam so quickly, no one was expecting Lance Cade’s death to arrive so abruptly.
Lance Cade (first known in the WWE as “Garrison Cade”) teams up with Mark Jindrak to defeat the Dudley Boys on a February 2004 episode of Sunday Night Heat.
By 2008, Cade moved on to storylines involving Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels. His WWE career seemed to be on the up and up. Sadly, within two short years Lance Cade’s death would shock wrestling fans – at least the ones who heard about it.
It started with his 2008 release from the company, presumably, due to drug use:
In an October 15, 2008 blog post, WWE commentator Jim Ross shed some light on Lance Cade’s sudden departure from the WWE:
…Lance Cade was abruptly released from his contract this week much to the surprise of many of us. I have always thought that Cade had a wealth of physical potential and he was always a polite young man in my dealings with him. Like many fans, I too did my share of arm chair quarterbacking as to why Cade was not featured in a more prominent role on WWE TV programming. However it seemed that in the past several weeks those issues were being addressed even to the point of Cade defeating HBK on a recent Monday Night Raw.
The story that I have read on many internet sites about the reason for Cade’s sudden dismissal isn’t accurate. Many punhdits speculate that Cade was dismissed because of a bad performance in a recent TV bout against DX on Raw which is absolutely untrue. Lance’s dismissal had zero to do with his in ring performances or his lack of ability.
Lance Cade was dismissed from the WWE because, like many humans, he made a major league mistake while utilizing bad judgment that cost him his job. This included Lance having a seizure on an airplane and having to have emergency medical care. Luckily, Lilian Garcia was on the same flight and was instrumental in helping Lance get taken to a hospital where a battery of tests were run that luckily determined that there was nothing seriously wrong with the young man such as a brain tumor, etc.
Everyone makes mistakes, Lord knows I have made plenty in my career, but in this day and time some mistakes just simply can’t be condoned. To some fans, Lance Cade will likely still be perceived as the victim in this matter and his punishment too harsh.
Under the circumstances of the situation, I don’t know what other decision the WWE could have made. I’m just relieved that it wasn’t me in my former role that would have had to address this matter. I really like this kid and hope that he continues to follow his dreams. Second chances are not foreign in the wrestling business so perhaps that could be in Lance’s future but that’s just a personal observation.
Lance Cade is a talented young man whose best days should be ahead of him and I wish him nothing but success. Lance has been knocked down and now it is up to him to get off the canvas and get back in the game. I’m damn sure pulling for him. Jim Ross (10/15/2008)
Upon his WWE release, Lance Cade spent time on the independent circuit. As Jim Ross noted, second chances are not uncommon in wrestling, and as luck would have it, Lance Cade was back in a WWE developmental territory in 2009. Unfortunately he was released in April 2010. Within 5 months Lance Cade would be dead.
2 years before his death: Cade defeats Jeff McCallister on the final episode of Sunday Night Heat – June 1, 2008
On August 13, 2010, Lance McNaught died from a drug overdose. A San Antonio medical examiner determined the death was accidental, and was caused by a deadly cocktail of mixed drugs that caused Lance’s heart to fail.
Lance Cade’s trainer, Shawn Michaels tweeted out: “Goodbye Lance I Love You. I ask that all of u lift his family up in prayer.”
Lance Cade Legacy
On the December 29, 2017 episode of his Something to Wrestle podcast, Bruce Prichard generally spoke highly of Lance Cade. He also noted that Cade and tag partner Lance Murdoch took themselves too seriously, which may have held them back in the business. Prichard notes:
“Lance Cade was a guy that I had extremely high hopes for. I thought Lance had all the tools.” He continues “instead of having fun, they [Cade and Murdoch] took everything so damn seriously. I enjoyed both of them immensely, but when it came time to performing, I think they took themselves way too seriously.”
Co-host Conrad Thompson then asks if Prichard was surprised to hear about the passing of Lance Cade and he responds “Yes. Very much so. He had… god, to me, he just had it all. I could have seen Lance Cade as WWF champion.”
Thompson echoes the sentiment, “I think a lot of people thought he had that level upside. It’s a shame that we never got to see that.”
Lance Cade Grave
Lance Cade’s grave is located at the Holy Cross Cemetery in San Antonio, TX.
Lance Cade’s grave at the Holy Cross Cemetery in San Antonio, TX. Photo: wbam366
Lance Russell Death – Complications from Broken Hip
“The Voice of Memphis Wrestling” – Lance Russell, dies at age 91.
1926-2017 (Age 91)
Lance Russell was a legendary announcer whose smooth, easy-going style made calling matches look easy, but as anyone who’s heard bad commentating can attest, it’s far more difficult to call matches than it seems.
Russell spent the majority of his career in Memphis Wrestling, yet earned a worldwide reputation as one of the greatest wrestling announcers of all time. That Lance Russell’s name is spoken in the same breath as Jim Ross and Gordon Solie is a testament to his work, and like these two announcers, he was equally gifted as a stick man, capable of getting a good interview out of even the most marble-mouthed of wrestlers.
Would You Like to Announce Wrestling Matches?
Lance Russell was born on March 18, 1926 and grew up in the small town of Jackson, Tennessee.
Lance Russell interviews a newcomer by the name of Hulk Hogan. Memphis Wrestling, 1979.
Although Russell’s legend grew out of his work in Memphis, he started calling matches in his hometown of Jackson when promoters Nick Gulas and Roy Welch started a new wrestling program. Russell found he enjoyed the gig, and that was the beginning of a storied career calling matches. In addition to calling matches, Lance Russell worked as a programming director, analyzing demographics to better understand his audience. This led to a revolution in wrestling programming. At the time, Memphis wrestling aired on Saturday afternoons, but was often preempted by shows such as Wide World of Sports. Russell decided to air wrestling at 11am, against Gulas’ wishes. Russell’s move paid off with Saturday morning wrestling becoming a fixture in Memphis, achieving unheard of ratings and leading to other promotions following his programming lead.
Saturday morning wrestling became the norm, thanks to Lance Russell’s vision.
Finding Two Great Tag Team Partners
Lance Russell discovered radio disc jockey Dave Brown in 1967, inviting him to work as his co-announcer for wrestling. In a 2015 interview with the Post and Courier, Russell discussed how he recruited Brown:
“I needed a guy to work with me because the guy that I had was dropping out of it. I was looking for an assistant. I got to know Dave around the station and was really impressed. When he said he would do something, he did it. Dave was just a very conscientious guy who was an extremely dependable man of his word. That attracted me to him. He had a great personality and a great sense of humor.”
The two formed a remarkable announce team as well as a life-long friendship. Russell also helped Brown become the local weatherman, a career he continued for decades.
Lance Russell played an integral role in Jerry Lawler’s entrance into Memphis Wrestling. The duo remained close friends behind the scenes.
However, Dave Brown wasn’t Russell’s only tag team partner. Russell helped a young artist by the name of Jerry Lawler share his cartoons of wrestlers on air. This led to Lawler eventually stepping into the ring and becoming a wrestler. Eventually Lawler became “The King of Wrestling” as the area’s top star and an eventual color commentator for the WWE. During his time as a heel, Lawler taunted Russell by calling him “banana nose,” but behind the scenes the two men became lifelong friends.
In a promotion surrounded by some of the most off-the-wall performers and the home of some of wrestling’s most insane matches (the scaffold match is believed to have debuted in Memphis Wrestling), Lance Russell did his best to sell angles, show his disdain for heels’ reprehensible deeds, and wrest good promos from wrestlers with limited mic skills.
Lance Russell also called matches every Monday from Memphis’ Mid-South Coliseum, making him the voice of Memphis Wrestling.
Russell reminded fans of a laid-back uncle who put up with his nephews’ shenanigans – but only for so long. However, there were times when even Russell was legitimately taken aback by what he saw. One interview saw wrestler Jos LeDuc take an ax and cut into his flesh as he said he was taking a blood oath to destroy his opponent. Russell, who also served as an executive for the TV station’s owner was shocked and justifiably concerned about what had just taken place:
A Regional Star with National Fame
Memphis Wrestling might seem like a small promotion, but co-owners Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler drew a monster business. In a 2016 interview with Slam!, Lance Russell put things into perspective regarding how big wrestling was in Memphis:
“…we used to sell out 11,000 every single week in the Memphis Mid-South Coliseum and I’d ride all the guys in the East who would talk about Madison Square Garden. Look at that man, they’d say, we had 24,000 people there. And then I’d say, yeah but that was in a city with eight million, and we’re sitting down in here in Memphis with 350,000 people and we had 44,000 people in one month spread over four shows.”
Although Lance Russell spent the majority of his career calling matches in Memphis, his remarkable announce style led to national fame during the 1980’s. The proliferation of VCR’s in the 1980’s expanded the practice of tape trading, allowing wrestling fans to see action from all over the country. Lance Russell’s popularity grew as a new fanbase embraced his distinctive style. Russell called some of the promotion’s biggest matches including the Tupelo Concession Brawl and the “Empty Arena Match” involving Terry Funk and Jerry Lawler.
Lance also benefited from the national exposure Memphis enjoyed during Jerry Lawler’s feud with entertainer Andy Kaufman.
As always, Russell played the role of the long-suffering peacemaker, trying to maintain order in an already chaotic environment which turned into an abyss thanks to Kaufman’s presence.
Russell gained further exposure from the Lawler/Kaufman feud thanks to I’m From Hollywood, a documentary chronicling Kaufman’s foray into Memphis.
Eventually, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) took notice of his many talents, bringing Russell into the promotion in 1989 to serve as an announcer. In addition, Lance Russell produced WCW’s 1-900 hotline during the 900-number heyday. He eventually returned to Memphis where he continued calling the action.
Lance Russell was well-respected in his community, both by his co-workers, his family, and the members of his church. His achievements earned him various industry awards including inductions into the Pro Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame and NWA Hall of Fame. Additionally, he taught Sunday school for years, with at least one of his students going on to become a broadcaster.
Lance Russell with WWE chairman Vince McMahon.
Russell in Retirement
Lance Russell retired to Pensacola, Florida where he lived with his wife Audrey, who passed away in 2014. Tragedy brought him back to Memphis when his sick daughter Valerie succumbed to cancer just days before Lance’s death. Lance’s son asked for prayers for his dad, who he said had been suffering from health issues. Russell fell and broke his hip while in Memphis.
Lance Russell Death
Lance Russell passed away on October 3, 2017 from complications related to his hip fracture.
Lance’s obituary detailed his surviving family members and predeceased ones “He was preceded in death by his much-loved wife of 67 years, Audrey and his daughter, Valerie Houston. Mr. Russell is survived by his two sons, William Lance Russell and his wife Debbie, Shane Russell and his wife Debra, eight grandchildren, eight great grandchildren, and his faithful dog and best friend Buddy.”
Lance Russell was 91 years old at the time of his passing.
Lord Alfred Hayes Death – Stroke
Lord Alfred Hayes – Dead at 76. Photo: wwe.com
1928-2005 (age 76)
Lord Alfred Hayes was a fixture in WWF programming throughout the 80s, into the early 90s.
Any fan watching the WWF during this era remembers the Lord’s British accent – fondly heard across hundreds of WWF Coliseum home videos… or at least on YouTube and the WWE Network.
Lord Alfred Hayes died from a stroke in 2005. He was cremated and it’s not public knowledge who his ashes were given to.
Lord Alfred Hayes attempts to interview the Bushwhackers while they annihilate Trump Plaza’s buffet at WrestleMania V. Photo: wwe.com
Lord Alfred Hayes and Mean Gene Okerlund. Photo: wwe.com
Lou Thesz Death – Complications from Heart Surgery
Lou Thesz – Dead at 86. Photo: wwe.com
1916-2002 (age 86)
Debuting all the way back in 1932, the legendary Lou Thesz enjoyed a five-decade career in professional wrestling. Fans and wrestling historians alike often credit Lou Thesz as one of the best wrestlers of all time.
A Wrestling Innovator
Thesz spent time with the AWA, NWA, Stampede, among other promotions. He is credited with the creation of many moves which are still used in modern wrestling today, including the German suplex and powerbomb.
Lou Thesz underwent triple bypass surgery on April 9, 2002. Sadly, he wouldn’t make it to the end of April. On April 28, 2002, Thesz died as a result of complications from heart surgery. He was 86.
Thesz was cremated, his ashes spread in the Meramec River in St. Louis.
Lou Thesz squares up with Verne Gagne in an undated match. Photo: youtube.com
Louie Spicolli Death – Drug Overdose
Louis Mucciolo Jr, known to wrestling fans as Louie Spicolli and Rad Radford – Dead at age 27 from a drug overdose. Photo: wwe.com
1971-1998 (Age 27)
Louie Spicolli was a talented worker with a great sense of humor stymied by a lack of the big man look in vogue during the 1990’s.
Nevertheless, Spicolli advanced himself through sheer determination, finding work in ECW, the WWF, and WCW. But success was short lived for Spicolli, in large part to years of abusing the muscle relaxer Soma.
Many say Spicolli was on the verge of a break-out in WCW, but unfortunately, his life was cut short. Spicolli suffered a drug overdose at the young age of 27.
The Crème de la crème of Enhancement Talent
Louie Spicolli, seen in the background of this 1991 Photo with Vince McMahon talking to “Max Moon” (later to be known as Konnan with WCW).
Louis Mucciolo Jr. was a talented athlete in high school, with but one goal—to become a professional wrestler.
Mucciolo dropped out of school to begin training as a professional wrestler with ring announcer Bill Laster (aka Billy Anderson). Mucciolo debuted in the WWF just days after turning 17. Mucciolo worked as Louie Spicolli, the name of Sean’s Penn character in the 1982 comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Although he was a smaller than most wrestlers, Spicolli proved a talented worker, who quickly found himself in demand as enhancement talent:
Louie could make opponents look good and he was so good at his job, the WWF flew him in for shows. Concerned he might be stuck as enhancement talent, Spicolli looked to improve his marketability and moved elsewhere.
Reinventing Himself in Lucha Land
Spicolli worked further on improving his ring skills and reportedly began using steroids to gain size.
He worked in Mexico’s Triple A promotion as “Madonna’s Boyfriend,” a character that got over big and was featured in Triple A’s When Worlds Collide pay-per-view in ’94. This led to the WWF signing him as Rad Radford, a would-be member of the Bodydonnas whose overweight frame clashed with the fitness-minded Bodydonnas.
However, Spicolli’s drug problems led to his dismissal after he ingested 55 Somas and was found face down in a puddle. Mucciolo was hospitalized and at one point was pronounced clinically dead.
Beulah, Louie Spicolli, and Francine. ECW, 1996
Spicolli went to work in ECW, but again, his substance abuse problem impeded his career with Paul Heyman seeing Spicolli out of his company. According to wrestling lore, Spicolli could consume up to 85 Somas at a time. On more than one occasion, Spicolli passed out on planes and had to be rushed to a nearby hospital to flush out his system.
A Second Chance and Possible Redemption
Spicolli was brought into WCW as a pledge of the New World Order (nWo), working with Scott Hall during Hall’s feud with Larry Zbyszko. During this time, Spicolli did a guest stint on color commentary, proving so funny that Eric Bischoff considered putting Spicolli into a permanent role as a color commentator. Bischoff reportedly saw Spicolli as “The Chris Farley of Wrestling.”
Late 1997: A few months before his death, Louie Spicolli debuts in WCW as part of the nWo. Photo: wwe.com
A Deadly Relapse
Plagued by frequent overdoses, Spicolli resolved to give up his drug abuse and reportedly did so cold turkey. However, he relapsed when his mother was diagnosed with cancer and she was given just months to live.
On February 15, 1998, Spicolli was found dead in his home by a friend who had crashed there.
According to Dave Meltzer’s 2001 book Tributes, Spicolli’s friend John Hannah “…woke up to a really bad odor. When he opened the door to Spicolli’s room, he knew right away what had happened. Spicolli was lying fast first on the floor, there was vomit all over the place, his ankles were swollen, and his body was already discolored”
Spicolli had mixed Somas and wine, suffering a drug overdose. The official cause of death was a heart attack due to an enlarged heart.
Louie Spicolli’s grave in Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Photo: D K Railsback B
Several other notable wrestlers died in the 90s, including Owen Hart, Rick Rude, Brian Pillman, Dino Bravo, Junkyard Dog, Uncle Elmer, Bobo Brazil, Big John Studd, and Andre the Giant. Spicolli is buried in Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, California – 30 miles south of Los Angeles.
Ludvig Borga Death – Suicide
Ludvig Borga dies from self inflicted gunshot wound – he was 47. Photo: wwe.com
1963-2010 (age 47)
Tony Christian Halme was a professional wrestler best known by the ring name of Ludvig Borga with the WWF. He was also an author, actor, singer and even a politician – Halme was a member of the Finnish Parliament from 2003-2007. Tony was born on January 6, 1963 in Helsinki, Finland. He was a troubled kid who cultivated a tough persona and was known to be a bully on behalf of other kids. One has to wonder if this was an early indicator of the Ludvig Borga death.
By his teens, Halme began power training and weight lifting.
With help from Mr. Fuji, Ludvig Borga ends Tatanka’s winning streak on an episode of Superstars, pinning him with one finger (October 30, 1993). The troubled kid went on to have a varied career, inside and outside the ring. He began by joining the Finnish military and training with the Finnish military sports team. Tony’s athleticism was on display when he appeared in the Finnish television show Gladiattorit (or Gladiator) under the name Viikinki. He was also a professional boxer (who held the Finnish Heavyweight championship) and a MMA fighter.
As Ludvig Borga, Halme he went on to fame in the World Wrestling Federation. He also became the first fighter from a Nordic country to compete in the UFC. Throughout his athletic career, Halme was known for his aggressive and powerful persona. The Ludvig Borga death news was perhaps foreshadowed by this persona.
Early Career (1989-1993)
In his early career, Tony was trained by Verne Gagne. Halme worked to enhance his tough guy image by defending himself in well-publicized bar brawls and began making a name for himself as a powerhouse professional wrestler. 20 years before his death: Before he became known as Ludvig Borga, Tony Halme was known as The Viking. Here he is cutting a promo in the UWF (UWF Fury Hour – October 22, 1990)
Going by the ring name of the Viking, he began his professional wrestling career with Herb Abrams’ Universal Wrestling Federation. Viking’s first appearance was on October 29, 1990. He defeated the Patriot and then went on to defeat Kevin Benjamin. Like many other wrestlers, Halme spent time in Japan. On December 26, 1990 he appeared for the first time on New Japan Pro Wrestling.
World Wrestling Federation (1993-1994)
Ludvig Borga ended Tatanka’s winning streak – pinning him with one finger. Photo: wwe.com
On July 6, 1993, Ludwig Borge (later to become Ludvig Borga) debuted as a wrestler with the World Wrestling Federation in a television taping of ‘WWF Superstars’. Ludvig’s gimmick was that he was a Finn who looked down on America due to deficiencies like the education system and environmental laws i.e. the stereotypical “cheap heat” gimmicks that worked wonders in the 80s and first half of the 90s.
He used the Finnish national anthem as his entrance music and went by the nickname “The Hellraiser from Helsinki”. Ludvig Borga plays the evil foreigner gimmick, calling out the patriotic Lex Luger in this 1993 promo
After ending Tatanka’s winning streak, Borga moved from the midcard up to main event status. He feuded with a baby faced Lex Luger. Luger was in the midst of his “All American” gimmick, which made for a fitting rivalry with Borga’s foreign heat. At the ’93 Survivor Series, Ludvig Borga teamed with Yokozuna, Quebecer Jacques, and Crush. They were known as the Foreign Fanatics. The Foreign Fanatics took on the All-Americans (Lex Luger, The Undertaker, and The Steiner Brothers) and were defeated by them when Borga was pinned by Luger.
With the Intercontinental Championship on the line, Ludvig faced Razor Ramon on December 14th, 1993. He defeated Ramon but the decision was reversed when Shawn Michaels interfered and hit Ramon with a fake title belt.
Ludvig’s career with the WWF proved to be a short one. On January 17, 1994 he injured his ankle in a match with Rick Steiner. The injury caused the WWF to scrap Borga’s planned appearance at the Royal Rumble. A planned WrestleMania match against Earthquake was also cancelled. One is forced to wonder if the abrupt end of his wrestling career was another factor in the eventual Ludvig Borga death.
Political Fighter (1995-2007)
After his career with the WWF ended, Tony had a varied career in professional fighting, acting and politics. Halme wrestled for the Catch Wrestling Association from 1995-1997, winning a single championship. He retired from professional wrestling in 1997, but continued mixed martial arts fighting where he saw limited success.
Halme fought in RINGS (Japan) and went 0-4. He also briefly fought in the UFC, losing his only bout to Randy Couture. Halme had a brief acting career, most notably landing a small role in Die Hard: With a Vengeance.
Tony Halme became a member of Finland’s Parliament in 2007 and remained in parliament until 2010. During his parliamentary career he continued to be a controversial figure. At one point even being forced to apologize for inaccurately referring to Finland’s new president as a lesbian.
After his short WWF run as Ludvig Borga, Tony Halme enters the mixed martial arts world. Here he is Finland, 2 years before his death, taking on Kari “Murikka” Torniainen. The action starts around the 4:15 mark and (spoiler alert) ends with a single punch in the first round (May 20, 1998)
Ludvig Borga Death
The Ludvig Borga death occurred on January 8, 2010 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It took two days for his body to be found. Ludvig Borga’s death occurred in the wake of a July 2003 incident when he fired a handgun in his apartment while impaired by alcohol and drugs. His trial was shown live on television and he received a suspended sentence.
No stranger to having trouble with the law, Halme was convicted in 2006 of driving while impaired. He suffered from cirrhosis of the liver and pancreatitis. His various illnesses caused Tony to be involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in March of 2006. Sadly, the Ludvig Borga death news appears to have been the inevitable outcome. Halme’s battle with drug and alcohol addiction, along with a violent personality was a recipe for disaster.
Tony Halme Grave
Tony Halme’s grave is located at the Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki, Finland.
Tony Halme’s grave is located at the Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki, Finland. Photo: Julia & keld
Luna Vachon Death – Drug Overdose
Luna Vachon dies from a drug overdose at age 48. Photo: wwe.com
1962-2010 (age 48)
Throughout the 90s, most women in the world of professional wrestling were little more than eye candy – designed by the wrestling industry to look good while valeting their male counterpart to the ring. But Luna Vachon was different than her female contemporaries. The adopted daughter of wrestling legend Butcher Vachon, Luna could actually wrestle.
Skilled in the ring, Luna was a force to be reckoned with. In 1995, she would be named among the top 500 singles wrestlers by Pro Wrestling Illustrated. And her talents didn’t end in the ring. She was a gifted entertainer on the mic and cut many memorable promos. Although Luna was always over with fans and well-respected from men and women in the wrestling industry, her life was marked by tragedy. Ultimately, the Luna Vachon death story would result in the end of her life at an early age.
Stress and Loss before the Luna Vachon Death Story
Luna Vachon’s life was a true struggle. The former wrestler was faced with bipolar disorder. She tried to find solace in religion but it seems that becoming a born again Christian did little to ease her pain. Adding stress to her life was a tragic 2009 house fire that destroyed nearly all of her belongings. While Luna Vachon did not die until the following year, it’s possible that the hardships that she faced sent her over the edge and contributed to the behavior that would lead to her death.
The Luna Vachon Death Story Comes at a Time of Tragedy
On August 27, 2010, Luna Vachon died at her home in Pasco County, Florida. The former wrestler was 48. Her body was discovered by her mother who had stopped by for a visit. Anytime that a former wrestler dies suddenly, the wrestling community is shocked and saddened, but in Luna Vachon’s case it was especially difficult, as seven other notable wrestlers died in August 2010.
The Findings of the Luna Vachon Death Examination
As soon as Luna Vachon’s death was announced, websites began speculating that the former wrestler committed suicide. TMZ was quick to report that drugs were found in her home. Authorities confirmed they found drug paraphernalia including crushed pill residue and snorting straws.
Ultimately, the medical examiner revealed that Luna Vachon had died from an overdose of benzodiazepine and narcotic painkiller oxycodone. The medical examiner did not rule the death as a suicide. Rather, Luna Vachon is believed to have accidentally overdosed on the drugs.
Saying Goodbye after the Luna Vachon Death News
Following her death, Luna Vachon was cremated. Her family decided to scatter her ashes at the ranch of her longtime friend Andre the Giant. Andre himself had passed away in 1993 due to congestive heart failure.
Shortly after the news of her passing, many professional wrestlers expressed their sympathies for Luna Vachon’s family. In 2011, Women Superstars Uncensored added Luna Vachon to their hall of fame. A number of tribute sites and social media groups dedicated to Luna Vachon exist to this day. Fans of the early and mid 90s era of the WWF will fondly remember Luna as not only Bam Bam Bigelow‘s “main squeeze” (and briefly a valet for Shawn Michaels) – but also as an intimidating force to be reckoned with in the ring.
Luna Vachon’s ashes were scattered at the former ranch of Andre the Giant, in rural North Carolina. Photo: unknown
Luna Vachon Grave
Luna Vachon was cremated. Her ashes were scattered at the former ranch of Andre the Giant in Ellerbe, North Carolina.
The ranch was put up for auction in 2013.
Mad Dog Vachon Death – Natural Causes
Mad Dog Vachon – Dead at 84. Photo: youtube.com
1929-2013 (age 84)
Joseph Maurice Régis Vachon, best known to wrestling fans as “Mad Dog” Vachon, wrestled for the AWA throughout the 70s and 80s. Born in Montreal, Mad Dog is the uncle of the late Luna Vachon. Mad Dog Vachon peacefully died in his sleep on November 21, 2013. He was 84.In 2010, Mad Dog Vachon was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Lord Alfred Hayes Death – Stroke
Mae Young – Female Wrestling Legend – Dead at 90. Photo: wwe.com
1923-2014 (age 90)
Mae Young will forever be remembered in the world of professional wrestling for being a fierce competitor and pioneer in the women’s division. Even after her death, she remains one of the most well known female wrestlers of all time.
Many professional wrestlers have died before age 50, but not Mae Young. Born in 1923 as Johnnie Mae Young, she was the youngest of eight siblings. Mae lived through the great depression with a wrestling career that began in 1939. Who would’ve thought that 60 years later she would be taking bumps through tables?
Never afraid to take a bump: 77 year old Mae Young takes a powerbomb off the entrance through a table, courtesy of Bubba Ray Dudley.
Over the course of her career, Mae Young won the NWA United States Women’s Championship and the NWA Women’s World Tag Team Championship with Ella Waldeck.
Fans who weren’t watching Mae in her wrestling heyday in the 1950s will most likely remember her for the infamous angle with Mark Henry during the WWF’s Attitude era. Mae was well into her 70s at the time, and continued to make occasional WWE appearances from 2002 to 2010 before officially retiring.
Details of the Mae Young Death
In the late 1990’s, Mae Young was still taking bumps. Here she is working the Fabulous Moolah during the October 21st, 1999 episode of SmackDown. Photo: wwe.com
In 2013, Mae’s health deteriorated and she was put on hospice care. She was hospitalized on December 31, 2013 and reported to be in poor health. Young was released from the hospital, but died roughly one year later on January 14, 2014. She was home at the time in Columbia, South Carolina and died of natural causes.
Mae Young was 90 years old at the time of her death.
In accordance with her wishes, Young was buried at Greenlawn Memorial Park, located in Columbia, South Carolina. Her burial site is not far from where her good friend, The Fabulous Moolah, was laid to rest back in 2007.
Mae Young’s grave at Greenlawn Memorial Park in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo: pinterest
Confusion over the Mae Young Death Story
In one of the more ridiculous angles in WWF’s “Attitude Era” – Mark Henry finds a love interest in the 80 year old Mae. Photo: wwe.com
There was confusion surrounding the death of Mae Young caused by the media. On January 9, 2014, the Charleston Post and Courier, a local newspaper in the city where Mae Young lived, reported that she had died. The news turned out to be false, but not before many were mourning her passing on social media.
Mae Young died five days later – January 14, 2014.
Because of the false death report in the days prior, when the WWE announced on their website that she died on January 14, many questioned if it was legitimate. Sadly, in this instance the news was not a false report.
Paying Tribute after the Mae Young Death News
Once it became clear that Mae Young had indeed passed away, the world of professional wrestling began to pay respects. On January 16, 2014, TNA’s Impact Wresting was dedicated to Mae’s memory. The WWE also paid tribute to Mae Young by dedicating the January 17 episode of SmackDown to Mae.
Wrestlers Pay Their Respects
Following the Mae Young death news, many wrestlers took to social media. The Rock tweeted that he had “deep affection” for her and called her a “wrestling pioneer” while Stephanie McMahon called her a “legend.” Titus O’Neil said she was one of the “greatest women” he ever met, and Jim Ross said that her toughness was inspiring.
Marianna Komlos Death – Breast Cancer
Marianna Komlos, known to wrestling fans as “Mrs. Cleavage” has passed away from breast cancer. She was 35. Photo: wwe.com
1969-2004 (age 35)
Marianna Komlos, known to wrestling fans as “Mrs. Clevage”, spent a short period of time with the WWE in 1999. Komlos worked as a valet for “Beaver Cleavage”, who was a repackaged version of Mosh from the Headbangers tag team. The Beaver and Mrs. Cleavage characters were created after Mosh’ tag team partner, Thrasher, needed time off to recuperate from a knee injury. The gimmick, a bizarre incestual take on the 50s/60s TV show Leave it to Beaver, did not last long. When the storyline was scrapped, Komlos was briefly transitioned into Mosh’ girlfriend while Mosh was repackaged as “Chaz”.
Beaver Cleavage and Mrs. Cleavage appear on Raw. Photo: wwe.com
Like the Beaver Cleavage gimmick, this gimmick was also quickly dropped – feuds with “Meat” and Prince Albert did not help get anyone over, and the storyline of Komlos making up lies about being beaten by Chaz didn’t bode well either.
Komlos’ run in the world of professional wrestling was brief, and perhaps misogynist given the character she was assigned by WWE’s creative team – this was “The Attitude Era” after all.
The Attitude Era is where the WWE was selling sex more than they were selling in-ring wrestling. This was a business move that was criticized, but literally paid off for the company. The Attitude era is looked at as one of the most financially successful periods for the WWE, ultimately leading to the downfall of rival company WCW (whom had nearly put WWE out of commission in the years prior).
Mrs. Cleavage had a brief run in 1999 as the mother of Beaver Cleavage (better known as Headbanger Mosh). Photo: wwe.com
Body Building, Death
Even though she left the world of professional wrestling within a year of her debut, Komlos had previously enjoyed a successful career throughout the mid 90s as a body builder. She was featured on numerous fitness magazine covers in 1997 including Muscle & Fitness. On September 26, 2004 at age 35, Marianna Komlos died from breast cancer.
Masa Saito Death – Parkinson’s disease
Masa Saito aka “Mr. Saito” dies at age 76 after an eighteen year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
1942-2018 (Age 76)
Former Japanese wrestling star, Masa Saito has died after an eighteen year battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 76. Prior to his career in the WWF, Masa (born “Masanori”), was already in the spotlight – competing in freestyle wrestling in the 1964 Summer Olympic games in Tokyo. In the early 80s, Saito worked as “Mr. Saito” in the WWF, winning tag team gold on two separate occasions alongside Mr. Fuji and manager Captain Lou.
The Far East-West Connection: Mr. Fuji (middle) and Mr. Saito (right). October 13, 1981.
By 1983, Masa Saito was working for Verne Gagne‘s AWA – once again in a tag team, working opposite Jesse Ventura as the ‘The Far East-West Connection’. Saito’s AWA run would take a detour after an incident with Ken Patera that started at a local McDonald’s.
A Brawl with the Police
According to the Schenectady Gazette, Ken Patera was irate after being refused service at a Waukesha, Wisconsin McDonald’s on April 6, 1984. The restaurant was closed at the time, but the lights were on as they were shooting a commercial. The Gazette reported that Patera threw a 30-pound rock through the McDonald’s service window. Police responded to Patera’s hotel room, which he was sharing with Saito.
Mr. Siato enters the ring for a 1981 WWF event at Madison Square Garden
When police confronted Saito about a man matching Patera’s description being in the hotel room, a brawl ensued. According to Dave Meltzer “It took 18 officers to finally subdue Patera and Saito. Ten of the officers were seriously injured, six by Saito and four by Patera, including a female officer who suffered a broken leg and had to retire from police work.”
Wrestling lore aside, the Schenectady Gazette reported a more modest number of officers who sustained injuries during the incident with Ken Patera and Masa Saito – three, to be precise.
In June of 1985, both men were convicted, each receiving a two year sentence.
Saito was released 6 months early, returning to the AWA on Christmas night of 1986. Saito would eventually go on to become the AWA World Heavyweight Champion – defeating Larry Zbyszko at the Tokoyo Dome on February 10, 1990.
In the early and mid 90s, Saito made sporadic appearances for WCW, including an appearance at Starrcade ’95. Ultimately, Saito retired from in-ring competition in 1999.
Masa Saito punishes Johnny B. Badd at Starrcade ’95. Photo: wwe.com
Masa Saito Death
Shortly after his retirement, Saito would take on his biggest battle – that of a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, dealt to Saito in the year 2000. He would fight Parkinson’s for nearly two decades. Masanori Saito died from complications of Parkinson’s disease on July 14, 2018. He was 76 years old at the time of his passing. Several other notable wrestling stars died in 2018, including Vader and Bruno Sammartino.
Matt Anoa’i Death – Heart Failure
Matt Anoa’i, known to WWE fans as “Rosey”, has died at age 47. Photo: wwe.com
1970-2017 (age 47)
Matt Anoa’i, better known to WWE fans as Rosey, has passed away at age 47. He suffered from heart failure related to obesity. Matt was the older brother of current WWE star, Roman Reigns. Anoa’i suffered from heart complications as early back as 2014.
A Wrestling Family
The surname Anoa’i is nearly as synonymous with professional wrestling as Von Erich. Matt Anoa’i was part of the legendary Samoan wrestling dynasty, which includes the likes of Yokozuna and Umaga, both of whom also passed away before age 50.
3 Minute Warning: Rosey (left) with tag partner Jamal. (Raw, 1/20/2003). Photo: wwe.com
Rosey’s WWE Career
Matt Anoa’i spent several years on the independent circuit throughout the mid to late 90s, including tours in Japan and a brief run with ECW. Most of his indie career was spent alongside his cousin, Eddie Fatu. In mid 2002, the pair were called up by WWE. They debuted as enforcers for Eric Bishoff, dubbed 3-Minute Warning.
The partnership would fizzle out after a year when Fatu was released by the WWE.
Rosey was then repackaged as a superhero. He partnered with The Hurricane (Shane Helms) and despite being a comedy gimmick, the duo would end up getting a considerable amount of TV time; even winning the WWE tag team championships in May of 2005 at Backlash. They were briefly joined by Stacy Keibler who acted as a valet – referred to as Super Stacy.
The Hurricane and Rosey would hold tag team gold throughout the summer of 2005, before ultimately giving up the titles at the Unforgiven PPV in September. They lost the titles to Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. Cade passed away in 2010 from a drug overdose. He was 29.
The Hurricane and Rosey with tag team gold (Raw, 5/2/2005). Photo: wwe.com
Anoa’i Family Statement
The Anooa’i family has issued the following statement to the WWE regarding Rosey’s passing:
“The Anoa’i family is mourning the loss of Sika’s son, Matt aka Rosey, due to an untimely death.
We want to let his fans know that he loved them and the wrestling world so much. In his passing, he left three beautiful young children and a heartbroken family. Please respect the privacy of his children and family as they mourn the loss of this kind, loving, gentle man, who was a father, son, brother and a superhero to us all.
Our family appreciates your prayers and continued support during this very difficult time.”
Wrestlers Dying Young
Sadly, Matt Anoa’i is among a long list of other notable professional wrestlers who have passed away before age 50. We’ve profiled several of these young wrestler deaths on our Dead before 50 page.
Our condolences to Matt’s friends and family.
Matt Cappotelli Death – Brain Cancer
Former WWE development wrestler and Tough Enough III winner, Matt Cappotelli, dead at 38 from brain cancer. Photo: wwe.com
1979-2018 (Age 38)
Matt Cappotelli has died after his second bout with brain cancer. He was 38. In 2003, Cappotelli won WWE Tough Enough III, alongside John Hennigan (aka John Morrison). In July of 2017, Cappotelli announced he was diagnosed with grade IV glioblastoma multiforme – an aggressive brain cancer.
Cappotelli’s widow, Lindsay Cappotelli broke the news via a heartfelt Facebook message, stating:
“Hey Team Capp…I’ve been struggling with what to say and how to say this, and I’ll probably end up rambling, but here goes. Today my love-my strong, sweet, beautiful love-took his last breath at 3:30 a.m. and went Home to be with Jesus…exactly one year after his brain surgery. You think you can be prepared for this when you know it’s coming, but you just can’t. The only person whose comfort I want right now is the one who can’t give it to me. I miss him so much. I know where he is now is so much better, but it doesn’t change how much I miss him.”
Matt Cappotelli vs. Bob Holly on Tough Enough
Cappotelli was involved in an infamous incident on Tough Enough III in 2003 when trainer Bob Holly started shooting on him:
Holly stated in an interview that he was simply “protecting the business” after he saw the Tough Enough competitors, including Cappotelli, goofing off in the ring, laughing while taking punches. Most condemned Bob Holly for the incident, including fellow trainer Al Snow. Triple H called Bob Holly’s actions “inexcusable.”
Matt Cappotelli Health Issues
In 2006, Cappotelli was diagnosed with grade 2 glioma, which effectively ended his wrestling career. However, most of the tumor was removed after what was considered a successful surgery. Cappotelli underwent extensive radiation and chemotherapy over the following two years, but all seemed positive.
Sadly, Cappotelli’s brain tumor returned in June of 2017 – nearly a decade after being in remission.
According to family, the diagnosis was “grade IV GlioBlastoma Multiforme (GBM), which is the most aggressive and deadliest form of brain cancer.” After the second cancer diagnosis, a GoFundMe was launched in August 2017 to help offset Cappotelli’s medical expenses. The campaign raised over thirty thousand dollars. On May 4, 2018, Lindsay Cappotelli wrote in her blog that after discussion with the neuro-oncologist, Matt would discontinue treatment in his fight against cancer.
“Matt has fought hard. He never gave up hope. He kept the faith. He never complained through any of this. Not once did I hear him say, “Why me?” He still always thought of other people above himself, and anyone who knows him will tell you that. He is a true warrior.”
Matt Cappatelli Death
Matt Cappatelli died on June 29, 2018 around 3:30am after his second bout with brain cancer. WWE posted an obituary on their website, and tweeted out: “WWE is saddened to learn that Matt Cappotelli, a promising Superstar who was a co-winner of WWE Tough Enough III, passed away Friday at age 38.”
Twitter was flooded with praise for Cappotelli – both for his in-ring work, as well as his character outside the ring.
The Miz took to Instagram to share a story about the phone call he received when Matt received his first cancer diagnosis: “In 2005, Matt Cappotelli & I were gonna be brought up to WWE Smackdown as the tag team “Reality Check.” One day out of no where he called me and said that he had just been diagnosed w/ brain cancer. On the phone, even with this scary news he remained positive and was gonna fight to beat cancer. He has been fighting for his life ever since. Every time I saw him he was positive and always had a smile on his face. Today, we lost a good one. A true fighter. My condolences to his wife and family. Matt, you will be missed my friend.”
Several other notable wrestling deaths have taken place in 2018, including Bruno Sammartino and Vader. Matt Cappotelli also joins a long list of professional wrestlers who died young.
Our condolences to Matt’s friends and family.
Matt Osborne Death – Drug Overdose
Matt Osborne aka the original Doink the Clown – Dead at 55 of a drug overdose. Photo: wwe.com
1957-2013 (age 55)
The early 90s was a transitional period for the WWE. Lots of silly gimmicks came and went. Although the gimmick of Doink the Clown gets a lot of flack by today’s standards, there’s no denying that the man under the costume had a lot of talent. I’m of course referring to Matt Borne.
Born Matthew Wade Osborne, he was only 55 years old when he died.
Early Days in Wrestling
“Maniac” Matt Borne with WCCW in 1986. Photo: wwe.com
Osborne received notriety in the mid 80s as “Maniac” Matt Borne, wrestling with WCCW in Texas. Osborne made his WWF debut in March 1985. He participated in a number of low card matches, including one against Ricky Steamboat at the very first WrestleMania. After a brief break from professional wrestling, he returned to the ring with WCW. He wrestled under the name “Big Josh” from 1991 to 1992.
Even though the character may be a bit cheesy by today’s standards, Doink’s original heel run was pretty terrifying as a young kid in the early 90’s. Photo: wwe.com
A Villainous Clown
Matt Osborne didn’t hit it big until late 1992 when he debuted in the WWF as Doink the Clown. Not unlike Pennywise from Stephen King’s IT, Doink was first scripted as a villainous clown. Osborne would have moderate success with the character, notably feuding with Crush, Bret Hart, and Randy Savage. Osborne was ultimately fired from the WWF in 1993 for problems stemming from drug abuse, and Doink the Clown was later played by Ray Apollo. Osborne did get to reprise the role one final time during the Raw 15th Anniversary on December 10, 2007. The event held a Legends Battle Royal.
20 years prior to his death: One of Doink the Clown’s more memorable feuds was with Crush. Here they match up at WrestleMania IX at Caesar’s Palace (1993)
A History of Health Problems
Weighing in at 243 pounds with a 6 foot frame, Osborne was strong, but he was also overweight. He had a number of health problems. Medical examiners blamed these problems as being partially responsible for his death. The most serious was heart disease.
Battle with Substance Abuse
During his years in the public spotlight, Osborne wasn’t afraid to discuss his personal struggles. Specifically, he often talked about how he was addicted to drugs. He claims he made several failed attempts to quit using on his own. He also shared that he was admitted to rehab at least once; however, it seems that the time he spent at the White Deer Run facility in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, did not ultimately help him get clean. Drugs would ultimately play a factor in Matt Osborne’s death.
A bad night to be a jobber: Doink hits his finishing move, “The Whoopie Cushion”. Photo: wwe.com
Matt Osborne dies
The professional wrestler died on June 28, 2013. Details into exactly what happened on this day are scarce. It was about one month before what would have been his 56th birthday. Reportedly, his girlfriend woke up that morning and found Osborne’s dead body in their home. The couple lived in Plano, Texas. The authorities were called and an autopsy was scheduled to determine the cause of death.
Investigation into Matt Osborne’s Death
Because Matt Osborne was found dead at home and there was no immediate physical evidence to indicate exactly what transpired, the Plano Police launched a full-scale investigation into the cause of death.
An immediate search of Osborne and his girlfriend’s home found no weapons or any signs of a struggle. Ultimately, the autopsy blamed an overdose of the narcotic pain reliever’s morphine and hydrocodone for Matt Osborne’s death. It is believed that the overdose was accidental and not an act of suicide and that the wrestler’s heart condition likely made him more at risk for an overdose.
A Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Nearly 2 years after his death, in June 2015 the family of Matt Osborne filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the WWE. The lawsuit states the WWE is to blame for the wrestler’s death. The paperwork filed by the family accuses the WWE of promoting violence, contributing to Osborne’s negative state of mind that led him to drug abuse.
Matt Osborne reprises the role of Doink the Clown for Raw’s 15 Year Anniversary show in 2007. Photo: wwe.com
In addition, the lawsuit alleges that the WWE did not do enough to make Osborne aware that repeat blows sustained in the ring could cause chronic swelling of the brain and other brain injuries. The lawsuit states that because Osborne did not fully understand the risks, he continued to wrestle and sustained repeated injuries. These injuries caused him to grow depressed and use drugs to self medicate.
The WWE Fires Back
Days after the lawsuit from Matt Osborne’s family was filed, attorneys for the WWE spoke out about the case. They stated that Osborne’s family had been misled by an unscrupulous attorney who promised them money if they brought a frivolous lawsuit against the wrestling organization. The lawyer was adamant that the WWE was not liable.
Later in 2015, the family’s case was consolidated with the other WWE concussion-related cases being brought on by Kyros Law Firm. The law firm has its own website dedicated to their on going class action concussion case.
Mean Gene Okerlund Death – Accidental Fall
Legendary WWE stick man, Mean Gene Okerlund, dead at 76.
1942-2019 (Age 76)
He was so good at his job that he made it look so easy. After all, how difficult can it be to hold a microphone while a wrestler or manager cuts a promo? Yet as anyone who’s watched other interviewers can see, it’s far more difficult than it looks.
Gene Okerlund worked in Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association (AWA) for many years, interviewing wrestlers and also commentating during matches. However, it was his work as an interviewer where he excelled. The man nicknamed “Mean” Gene raised interviews to an art form, becoming wrestling’s greatest stick man including his time in the AWA, WWF, and WCW.
Born Eugene Okerlund, the man who would become synonymous with wrestling promos began his broadcast career working for Omaha radio station KOIL before jumping to a local Minneapolis TV station. However, in 1970, Okerlund changed course, beginning a career-defining role as one of wrestling’s most prominent non-wrestling personalities (but as we’ll see soon, he managed to step into the ring on one special occasion) when he joined the AWA. Okerlund was hired as the fill-in announcer for the AWA’s Marty O’Neill, eventually taking over for O’Neill a few years later.
Like many AWA stars, Okerlund rose to superstardom when he left Verne Gagne’s promotion for Vince McMahon’s WWF. AWA star Jesse “The Body” Ventura nicknamed him “Mean” Gene during their time in the AWA, but it was in the WWF where “Mean” Gene became a household name.
McMahon’s plans for national expansion required many components and Gene Okerlund’s interview skills were a vital one. Okerlund could help the most marble-mouthed wrestlers sound passable while he enhanced the work of wrestlers and managers with the gift of gab.
Longtime fans have their favorite “Mean” Gene moments ranging from his foray into the ring alongside Hulk Hogan to battle the diabolical duo of Mr. Fuji and George “The Animal” Steele (Okerlund scored the pin on Fuji for those keeping track), his singing the national anthem at the inaugural WrestleMania, his singing “Tutti Fruitti” on The Wrestling Album, and his appearances at special events such as The Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania XVII, his appearance on the WWE Network’s Legends House, or his 2018 interview of A.J. Styles during the RAW 25th Anniversary show.
Okerlund’s skills were evident whenever he interviewed a wrestler, with fans having their favorite memories. Whether it was Hulk Hogan beginning his interviews with Okerlund by saying, “Well you know ‘Mean’ Gene,” Jake “The Snake” Roberts nearly scaring Okerlund to death while “Mean” Gene interviewed Jake and Damien in a shower, or the hilarious interviews featuring the Four Horsemen in WCW where Woman flirted and flustered him while he tried to maintain his composure, no one did it like “Mean” Gene.
Okerlund knew how to tell a story without making himself the center of the interview. Something as simple as a raised eyebrow told the audience not to believe a heel during a promo while a solemn look could reinforce that a babyface meant business while vowing revenge.
“Mean” Gene Okerlund made things look easy.
Indeed, his skills would see him inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 2016, and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2016.
Mean Gene Okerlund Death
Gene Okerlund died on January 2, 2019. He was 76. According to The New York Post, the legendary announcer was plagued by health problems including two kidney transplants, one in 1995 and another in 2004. Gene’s son, Todd Okerlund, told TMZ that in the weeks prior to his father’s passing, Gene had broken multiple ribs after suffering a fall at his home. Four days prior to his death he was moved to a nursing home.
Early on Wednesday, January 2, 2019, Okerlund had trouble breathing and was rushed to a Sarasota hospital. Sadly, he wouldn’t make it. Okerlund passed with his wife Jeanne by his side.
Gene Okerlund is survived by his wife and two children.
Mike Awesome Death – Suicide
Mike Awesome commits suicide. He was 42. Photo: wwe.com
1965-2007 (age 42)
You have to be a confident person to choose “Awesome” to be part of your wrestling name, and in the ring, Mike Awesome, or Michael Alfonso, definitely carried himself with confidence.
During the course of his 17-year career, the heavyweight won the ECW World Heavyweight Championship twice and the WWF Hardcore Championship twice. He also won several titles with Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling and was ranked in the top 10 of the annual ranking of top singles wrestlers published in Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 2000. Sadly, the events surrounding the Mike Awesome death have largely overshadowed his career in the squared circle.
Awesome hits Kid Kash with a top rope Awesome Bomb at ECW’s Living Dangerously (2000) Photo: wwe.com
An Early Retirement
After a brief stint with TNA in 2003, Mike Awesome began to compete as a singles wrestler on the independent circuit. He wrestled in Japan and with a number of other promotions for brief periods of time. Then in February 2006, he suddenly announced that he was retiring from wrestling. At the time, he cited dissatisfaction with his pay as one of the primary reasons for leaving the wrestling world.
ECW PPV, Anarchy Rulz (1999) – Mike Awesome wins the ECW World title in a three way dance – defeating reigning champ Taz and Masato Tanaka. Photo: wwe.com
A Marriage Dispute Sets off the Mike Awesome Death Story
Much of what is now known about the events surrounding the Mike Awesome death were not revealed until months after he died. Reportedly, Michael Alfonso got into a heated dispute with his wife after she said she wanted a divorce. He was reported to have grabbed her by the throat and to have slammed her into a wall. Fearing for her life, his wife called the police, and Alfonso was arrested and charged with domestic abuse. While he was still in jail, his wife visited him and told him that she was going through with the divorce and taking their two children.
Mike Awesome working Edge at his only WWF PPV appearance: 2001’s WWF Invasion. Photo: wwe.com
Details of the Mike Awesome Death Story
After Mike Awesome was released from jail, he returned to his home in Tampa, Florida. At some point soon after, he hung himself, most likely because he was facing criminal charges and had lost his family. It is also possible that he did not find the career in real estate that he launched after his retirement to be satisfying.
Mike’s body was discovered by a group of friends on February 17, 2007. He had turned 42 just a month before his death.
The Wrestling World Reacts
Following the news that Mike Awesome died, both the WWE and ECW paid tribute to him. Before the February 20, 2007 episode of ECW on Sci Fi, a graphic with Mike that said “In memory of” was shown. The WWE placed a tribute article about the wrestler on their website. Information about the fact that the wrestler had been arrested for domestic violence was not revealed until after the shocking news of the murder-suicide death of Chris Benoit, which occurred in June 2007.
Mike Awesome Grave
Mike Awesome’s grave is located at Elmwood Estates in Great Falls, MT. The plot is located at Row 2, Plot #6.
Mike Bell Death – Drug Overdose
WWF enhancement talent, “Mad Dog” Mike Bell – Dead at 37. Photo: wwe.com
1971-2008 (Age 37)
The number of wrestlers to succumb to personal demons such as drug and alcohol abuse are many, affecting everyone from main event stars to enhancement talent. Such was the case with enhancement talent wrestler “Mad Dog” Mike Bell, who worked in the WWF and told of his struggles with steroid and recreational drug use in the documentary, Bigger, Stronger, Faster. Bell also had a brief run in the original ECW.
Mike Bell played Division I football before transitioning to the wrestling world. Photo: Bigger, Stronger, Faster.
Football Player Turned Wrestler
Mike Bell struggled with weight issues as a child, and was mockingly called “Pugsley,” inspiring him to take to weight lifting and football. According to his brother Chris, Mike earned the nickname “Mad Dog” after beating up the bully’s who teased him in school.
Eventually, Bell became captain of his high school football team, and enrolled at the University of Cincinnati on a football scholarship. Bell played Division I football until a knee injury ended his gridiron aspirations.
With football out of the question, Bell quit college and turned to the squared circle.
“Mad Dog” Mike Bell gets punished by the Undertaker on a 1994 episode of Monday Night Raw. Photo: wwe.com
In the cut throat industry that is professional wrestling, Bell used steroids in an attempt to stand out – or at least keep pace with the giants of the 90s and early 2000s. Unfortunately, he grew despondent about his chances at success – increasing his drug use and becoming suicidal.
In his brother’s 2008 Bigger, Stronger, Faster documentary, Mike recounts his struggles after the WWE stopped calling: “I had a bottle of liquid lead, a bottle of nyquil, and like four boxes of sleeping pills. I went down to the river, down by the railroad tracks, parked my car and took everything. There’s no way I should be alive right now.”
Enhancement Talent and an Infamous Shoot
Mike Bell worked many years in the WWF as enhancement talent, both in singles and tag team matches. His career is perhaps best known for the infamous 2001 shoot with Perry Saturn where Bell botched a move, leading to Saturn’s head hitting the mat. Saturn retaliated by shooting (legitimately fighting) on Bell:
Perry Saturn admitted he was in the wrong for the incident and said that Vince McMahon was waiting for him in the locker room after the incident to bluntly ask him “what the fuck are you doing?”
Although neither man was seriously injured, some fans believe the WWF disciplined Saturn by giving him a storyline where he fell in love with “Moppy,” an inanimate cleaning tool. Saturn denies that allegation.
Illustrating the Dangers of Steroid Abuse
Mike Bell appears in his brother’s documentary, Bigger Stronger Faster (2008). Sadly, he would die from a drug overdose the same year the documentary was released.
Mike Bell appears prominently in his younger brother Chris’ fascinating 2008 documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster. The doc’ examines the history of steroids and steroid abuse, presenting the pros and cons, suggesting some of the warnings against steroid use are exaggerated.
Chris Bell did not support steroid use, rather he pointed out the complexities of performance enhancing drugs, noting “there’s a clash in America between doing the right thing and being the best.” This was evident with his brother’s use of steroids in his quest to become a successful wrestler. In the documentary, Mike Bell candidly discussed his battles with abusing steroids and recreational drugs.
Mike Bell’s Sobriety and Death
Mike Bell was celebrating 60 days of sobriety when he died on December 14, 2008 at a Costa Mesa, California sober living facility.
“Mad Dog” Mike Bell works the 1-2-3 Kid on an episode of Monday Night Raw (1995). Photo: wwe.com
His brother Chris would comment to the Los Angeles Times “He was always wrestling, he was a personal trainer, and he was always pushing his body to the max…You can’t really blame wrestling, but it’s kind of the lifestyle… You have a couple of painkillers to get to the next match, have a couple drinks night to night and it gets out of hand.”
The Orange County California coroner’s office ruled Bell’s death as a heart attack caused by accidental inhalation of difluoroethane, a chemical used in the household product Dust-Off (a compressed gas product used for cleaning things such as computer keyboards).
Bell was 37 years old at the time of his passing.
WWE issued a fairly bizarre statement to the Poughkeepsie Journal on Mike’s passing: “Although Mr. Bell was never under a WWE contract, WWE extends its deepest condolences to the Bell Family.”
Noting Mike was “never under a WWE contract” right before you offer condolences comes across insincere at best. Perhaps the WWE was on the defense because the 2000s were not a particularly kind decade for wrestler deaths? Mike’s passing was also less than two years after the Benoit murder/suicide, which understandably created a PR shitstorm for the company.
Mike Shaw Death – Heart Attack
Mike Shaw, best known to wrestling fans as “Bastion Booger” from the early 90s – dead at 53. Photo: wwe.com
1957-2010 (age 53)
While some wrestlers are able to easily find their niche and an in-the-ring persona that attracts fans and enthralls audiences, others struggle to find that ideal way to present themselves. Sometimes it’s due to the product’s bad writing.
For these wrestlers, fame remains elusive despite skill and charisma. Such was the case with Mike Shaw, a professional wrestler who went by a number of names during his career including, most notably, Norman the Lunatic in WCW, and Bastion Booger with the WWF.
Sadly, Mike Shaw never achieved the notoriety he desired, and even more tragically, the Bastion Booger death story arrived much too early in his life. His undercard status can partly be blamed for bad writing. Shaw was well known as an agile big guy and was trained by Killer Kowalski. Yet, his comic-relief gimmick as a donut eating slob didn’t exactly give him a fair chance to get over.
A Battle for Fame and With Weight
Mike Shaws’s professional wrestling career was marked by many transformations, as he continually tried to reinvent himself in ways that would appeal to fans. Although he never achieved major fame, he did win the NWA Canadian Tag Team Championship two times. Shaw was also ranked among the top 500 best singles wrestlers by Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 2003.
At 6 foot 3 inches in height, Mike Shaw was seriously overweight at 401 pounds. Using his Bastion Booger character as comic relief, the WWF went as far as to “award” Bastion for a Slammy Award: “Most Likely to See Jenny Craig.” Something tells us the PG-era wouldn’t give out such an award.
Ultimately, obesity would play a role in the Bastion Booger death.
Bastion Booger shows off his dancing skills before butt dropping a jobber. Photo: wwe.com
Life after Wrestling
Although he retired from wrestling in 1994, Bastion Booger continued to love the sport. He opened a wrestling academy in Skandia, Michigan, and worked with young people who wanted to become professional wrestlers.
Shaw also worked in public relations and security for the Ojibwa Casino. In 2007, Bastion Booger returned to WWE Raw to participate in the 15th anniversary special, leading some to speculate that he might be returning to the ring for good; however, the appearance would prove to be his final one.
What’s known about the Bastion Booger Death?
Not much has been shared by Mike Shaw’s family about his death. He passed away on September 11, 2010, in Marquette, Michigan. He was 53 years old at the time. Survived by a wife and two children, Shaw reportedly died of a sudden heart attack. While nothing has been confirmed about the former wrestler’s health, many people rightfully speculate that his weight contributed to his cause of death. Obesity greatly increases the risk of heart attack.
Remembering Mike Shaw
Even though Bastion Booger never achieved great fame, his death was mourned by the world of professional wrestling. Today, you will find various tributes to the wrestler online. A number of professional wrestlers gave their condolences to Mike Shaw’s family following his death. Despite this, Wrestling Unlimited reported that the WWE didn’t publicly acknowledge the death of Shaw.
Mike Von Erich Death – Suicide
WCCW 1986: 1 year prior to Mike Von Erich taking his own life. Photo: wwe.com
1964-1987 (age 23)
If you were a wrestling fan during the territory days, you were undoubtedly familiar with the infamous Von Erich family.
Lead by Fritz Von Erich, who would develop the Texas territory with his promotion, WCCW, The Von Erich name quickly became synonymous with professional wrestling throughout the early 80s.
Sadly, the Von Erich name is now more often associated with “wrestling’s cursed family”.
Mike Von Erich works Ric Flair. Photo: espn.com
Mike Von Erich, one of five wrestling brothers in the Von Erich family, started his career in 1983. Although his surname helped get him over, Mike’s career didn’t see the same breakout success as brothers Kerry, David, or Kevin. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as it’s been said that Mike never showed too much enthusiasm toward becoming a professional wrestler to begin with.
Perhaps the pressures of being born into a wrestling family got the best of Mike – despite lacking the physique of his brothers, he reluctantly began his wrestling career in 1983 with WCCW.
An Injury that Changed Everything
In August of 1985, Mike Von Erich sustained a shoulder injury while wrestling in Israel. Days following the injury, complications were evident, with Mike suffering from toxic shock syndrome. This would be the start of a year and a half downward spiral.
One year prior to his death: Mike with kayfabe cousin Lance Von Erich. Photo: wwe.com
Although Mike returned to the ring following the injury in Israel, friends said that he was never the same. Close friends also spoke of Mike’s constant battle in “needing to be David” – his older brother, who he closely resembled, who passed away in Japan three years prior. David was considered the breakout wrestling star of the Von Erich family, hugely over with the crowds. In retrospect, it’s easy to see how Mike would feel pressure to live up to the super stardom that his older brother had achieved prior to his abrupt 1984 death.
Mike Von Erich Death
On April 12th, 1987, Mike Von Erich intentionally overdosed on Placidyl – a medication used to treat insomnia. A suicide note was found, but not with his body. In fact, Mike’s family found his suicide note four days before they found his body.
Mike Von Erich’s grave at Grove Hill Memorial Park in Dallas, TX. Photo: Susan Parker
Mike Von Erich Grave
Mike Von Erich’s grave is located at Grove Hill Memorial Park in Dallas, TX. The plot is located at the Hilltop Section, Lot 535.
Mike’s body was discovered on April 16th, 1987 in Lake Dallas, Texas. Sadly, a 1987 memorial show for Mike Von Erich at Texas Stadium only drew 4,900 fans in attendance – a small fraction of the 43,000 who turned out for David’s memorial event just three years prior. But these numbers don’t necessarily speak to Mike’s lack of popularity in comparison to David’s – the writing was already on the wall in recent years, with the downfall of WCCW looming imminent.
WCCW was ultimately sold in 1988.
One must wonder if living in the shadows of his brothers was the key contributing factor that lead Mike to take his life. Being the son of wrestling legend Fritz Von Erich, and having your siblings see success in a business that you had little interest in – it’s difficult not to make the connection on why Mike may have found it easy to turn to a life of self destruction – especially after suffering such heavy injuries.