Fallen Soldiers Gone But Not Forgotten With Photos
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.
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Adrian Adonis Death – Car Accident
Adrian Adonis – Dead at 33 after the minivan he was traveling in crashes off a bridge and into a creek. Photo: wwe.com
1954-1988 (Age 33)
The life of a wrestler contains many potential dangers – the pitfalls of drugs and alcohol, the temptation of easy romance, and the dangers of the road.
Keith Franke, better known as Adrian Adonis found his way on the road to wrestling success, but a tragic road accident ended his career in an instant, leading fans to wonder how things might have otherwise turned out for the young star.
Adrian Adonis before his “Adorable” gimmick. Tuesday Night Titans – May 29, 1984. Photo: wwe.com
Born September 15, 1954, Buffalo, NY native Keith Franke trained under wrestling star Fred Atkins, a man known for his tough conditioning regimen (Atkins reportedly trained the Buffalo Sabres hockey club during its first year).
Franke debuted in 1974, and worked under his real name initially. By the early 80s, however, he was a leather-clad biker, working under the moniker Adrian Adonis. Adonis improved his skills, eventually landing in Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association.
Adonis enjoyed success as a singles star and tag team performer. He formed the legendary “East-West Connection” in the AWA with Jesse “The Body” Ventura, holding the AWA World Tag Team Championship.
AWA All-Star Wrestling, August 1981: Adrian Adonis & Jesse Ventura vs Sonny Rogers & Chuck Greenly
Adonis and Ventura also worked in the World Wrestling Federation as a team and in singles competition. Adonis was a fantastic worker, with WWF champion Bob Backlund praising his ring skills in his memoir.
Adrian Adonis formed a successful partnership with Dick Murdoch as “The North-South Connection,” eventually winning the WWF Tag Team Championship from Rocky Johnson and Tony Atlas. Murdoch and Adonis would ultimately part ways, but Adonis’ WWF career was just beginning.
“Adorable” Adrian Adonis taunts the Junkyard Dog. Saturday Night’s Main Event, March 1, 1986. Photo: wwe.com
In 1986, the WWF had Adonis undergo a radical transformation, ditching his leather outfits and transforming into a flamboyant wrestler known as “Adorable” Adrian Adonis.
The character was played off stereotypes of gay men as much as the WWF could get away with during the kid-friendly days of Hulkamania (rumor has it Vince McMahon liked “Exotic” Adrian Street’s character, but felt Street was too old to work in the WWF).
Wearing pink clothing and made up in garish make-up, Adonis also puffed up to a reported 350 pounds. Adonis played the effeminate character well, quickly becoming a top heel.
Adrian Adonis and Roddy Piper feud through late ’86 into WrestleMania III in March ’87. Photo: wwe.com
Despite his extra weight, Adonis was still agile in the ring, and at the top of his mat game. With Roddy Piper gone, Adonis took over “Piper’s Pit,” renaming it the “Flower Shop”—that is, until Piper returned to reclaim it. This launched a heated feud culminating in a Hair vs. Hair Match at WrestleMania III that saw Piper triumphant. Behind the scenes, Piper and Adonis were close friends and in later years, Piper would claim to have seen Adonis’ ghost.
A Comeback Cut Short: The Car Accident that Claimed Adrian Adonis
By 1988, Adonis’ career was sinking fast.
Adonis interviewed at the Pontiac Silverdome before his big match with Piper at WrestleMania III in front of 90,000+ fans. Photo: wwe.com
The WWF had let him go shortly after WrestleMania III and Adonis’ return to the AWA was short lived. In order to make ends meet, Adonis began working short runs in small wrestling promotions. That meant considerable travel, which would prove deadly. On July 4, 1988, Adonis was traveling through Newfoundland, Canada with Canadian wrestling colleagues Dave McKigney, and identical twin brothers William and Victor Arko – known as the Kelly Twins (Pat and Mike Kelly) in wrestling circles. The four men were in a minivan when their vehicle drove off a bridge and into a shallow creek in Lewisporte, Newfoundland – a small coastal town with a population of roughly 3,000. William Arko was driving at the time of the incident, and was the only survivor. He suffered a broken leg and underwent surgery a few days after the accident. One of the odd things about the minivan accident that claimed three wrestlers’ lives, including that of Adrian Adonis, is the lack of information, and conflicting reports. Various reports stated that driver William Arko was blinded by the sun. Some reports also note that Arko may have swerved to avoid hitting a moose, while others say a moose was actually struck in the accident.
An officer examines the scene of the van accident in Lewisporte, Newfoundland, which claimed Adrian Adonis and two of his colleagues. Photo: youtube
Secret East raises another valid question, “Aside from the debated details of how the driver and sole survivor, William Arko, steered the minivan into the creek, there is yet another mystery surrounding the crash; the mystery of a detour that quickly landed the career of Adrian Adonis from New York’s Madison Square Garden to Newfoundland’s gymnasiums and hockey arenas within a single year.”
Adrian Adonis was seemingly on top of the world at his 1986 WrestleMania III appearance – performing in front of a packed 90,000+ Pontiac Silverdome. A little over a year later he perished in a cramped minivan, working to make ends meet on the indie circuit.
Adrian Adonis left behind his wife, Bea Franke, and two daughters. The family was residing in Bakersfield, California at the time of the accident.
Adonis is buried at Greenlawn Memorial Park in Bakersfield, California.
Adrian Adonis’ grave at Greenlawn Memorial Park in Bakersfield, California. Photo: oakblossom
Al Green Death – Health issues related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Alfred Dobalo, known go WCW fans as Al Green, Dead at age 57. Photo: wwe.com
1955-2013 (age 57)
Alfred Dobalo, known to wrestling fans as Al Green, saw moderate success in the early to mid 90s during his run with WCW.
Green wrestled under a variety of monikers, perhaps most notably as “Blade”, where he teamed up with Kevin Nash (“Steel”) to form the Master Blasters.
He also wrestled under ring names “Rage”, and his final WCW gimmick as “The Dog”.
On the independent scene, Green wrestled as Al “The Enforcer” Knitti – one half of a tag team called The Dixie Mafia.
Al Green faces Goldberg on an episode of Nitro. Photo: wwe.com
Though he never reached upper card status in a major promotion, Dobalo did face some top tier opponents while wrestling for WCW, including Goldberg.
Getting any major TV time, even if you’re jobbing, can be considered a success in the ruthless industry of professional wrestling where only a select few make it to the big leagues.
Andre the Giant Death – Heart Failure
Many athletes are larger than life, but one 80s wrestler put new meaning to the term. Sadly, Andre the Giant passed away much too young. He was 46. This is the Andre the Giant death story.
A Giant Is Born
Andre Rene Roussinoff, better known by his ring name of Andre the Giant, was born in Grenoble France on May 19, 1946. Andre quickly rose in the wrestling ranks to become a household name around the globe, as well as an actor. In wrestling he was often called “The 8th Wonder of the World.”
Andre was born to parents who were an ordinary size, as were his siblings. Meanwhile, Andre measured a very tall 7’4” and weighed between 380-520 pounds throughout the course of his career. By the age of 12, he was already 6’3”.
The North American debut for this wrestler was in Montreal, Canada in 1971, where he wrestled under the name of Jean Ferre. His popularity later came when he took Vincent McMahon Sr. as his booking manager.
The first unveiling of Andre the Giant in the WWF (later the WWE) came in March of 1973. He was a favorite of fans from the start. A high point was the match between Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III at the Silverdome. It was then that Andre turned villain; the change from gentle giant to a heel was shocking for fans and likely extended his career by years.
6 years before his death: Andre wrestles Hogan at WrestleMania III – perhaps the most iconic match in wrestling history
Outside of wrestling, The Giant found success acting in TV shows and movies. His most recognized movie role was as Fezzik in the 1987 cult classic The Princess Bride. His big physical size and larger-than-life personality combined with his amazing athleticism to make him a celebrity around the globe. Sadly the Andre the Giant death headline would come a few short years later in 1993.
Arguably due to the prospect of death at middle age, Andre developed an affinity for food and alcohol. The big man routinely drank two cases of beer a day – an estimated 700 calories of the cold ones… per day. Legend is that he once drank 117 bottles of German beer in only one sitting.
When he first learned of his condition, he had fluid drained to ease the pressure to his heart. But, later in the ‘80s, he declined to have an operation to potentially improve his health issues. He is reported to have said that if God wanted him this size then it was the size he would be.
As the years passed, walking became more difficult for the pro wrestler due to his size. He retired from wrestling and took to his 160-acre ranch in North Carolina, near Rockingham. It was here that he raised longhorns and quarter horses.
Andre the Giant died on the night of January 27, 1993. He was sleeping in a Paris hotel room. The irony was that he was in the city of Paris to attend his father Boris’ funeral. The French hotel was called Hotel De La Tremoille. He went to sleep and never woke up.
It was only days after his arrival in the city that he passed away. Andre’s death diagnosis was congestive heart failure. The wrestler is survived by his one daughter, Robin Christensen Roussimoff. She was born in 1979.
Perhaps if he had undergone the surgery to reverse his health condition in the ’80s, his heart would not have been under such strain. His body and organs deteriorated with time, as is typical for acromegaly sufferers, which helped to explain Andre’s death.
In 1993, later the same year of the Andre the Giant death, the wrestler was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame. He was the only inductee in that particular year.
Tributes, Following the Andre the Giant Death Saga
News of the Andre the Giant death was met with tears from family, friends, and longtime fans. His life was honored by the making of the film My Giant in 1998 by Billy Crystal, who had met him on the set of The Princess Bride.
In 1999, an A&E biography TV episode aired in tribute to the wrestler called Andre the Giant: Larger than Life. More recently, in 2005, WWE released a DVD on his life and work within the ring, titled simply Andre the Giant. It was a re-issue of an earlier VHS of the same name that had been a limited release.
On March 10, 2014, Hulk Hogan announced that he would celebrate Andre’s legacy by creating the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale. The winner of each match would receive a memorial trophy that resembled Andre.
The Early Andre the Giant Death
At only 46 years of age, Andre passed away. He was not the only wrestler to die so young. Others include Umaga, Eddie Guerrero, Andrew “Test” Martin, and many, many others. Reasons for the premature deaths of pro wrestlers often include the tough, physical demands put on the body inside the squared circle.
While Andre the Giant stopped wrestling with the WWF in the early 1990s, he will always be remembered by fans for his massive size, impressive athletic ability, and for his reputation for being a gentle giant.
Andrew “Test” Martin Death – Drug Overdose
Martin struggled with substance abuse. In late 2007 into 2008, he was arrested on multiple occasions for DUI. He failed a WWE drug test in the fall of 2007, which ultimately lead to his dismissal from the company.
The Discovery of a Body Leads to the Andrew Martin Death News
The Results of the Andrew Martin Death Examination
Test – Master of the Big Boot
Beyond Drug Abuse: Head Injuries and the Andrew Martin Death Story
Andy Kaufman Death – Lung Cancer
Andy Kaufman cuts a scathing promo after getting knocked around by Jerry Lawler. He offers $5,000 to any wrestler who can put Lawler in the hospital. Memphis, 1982.
1949-1984 (Age 35)
Although Andy Kaufman was often billed as a comedian, his place in history isn’t so simple. Part actor, part performance artist, and yes, part comedian – Andy was a multifaceted entertainer. Today, we dive into Kaufman’s run as a professional wrestler. That’s right, the self-proclaimed “Intergender Champion”. Kaufman truly left behind a legacy just as strange as he would have hoped for…
A Born Entertainer
Anthony Durante Death – Drug Overdose
Art Barr Death – Unknown Causes
In 1991, Barr entered the world of lucha libre, working in Empresa Mexicana de la Lucha Libre (EMLL) as the masked man “The American Love Machine.”
Ashley Massaro Death – Undisclosed Causes
Axl Rotten Death – Drug Overdose
Axl Rotten, Dead at 44 from a heroin overdose. Photo: wwe.com
1971-2016 (age 44)
Bad News Brown Death – Heart Attack
Bad News Brown in a WWF promo Photoshoot circa 1988. Photo: wwe.com
Bad News working Jake “The Snake” Roberts in 1990. Photo: wwe.com
The Beast from the Middle East, the Man They Hale “Ali” only had this to say: “I Loved This Man”
Vinnie fever: “Thank –You for all you taught me about the business, R.I.P. Brother even though your gone you will never be forgotten”
Details of the Bad News Brown Death
Wrestler Deaths in 2007
Balls Mahoney Death – Heart Attack
Tommy Dreamer ✔@THETOMMYDREAMER I am beyond sad to announce my friend ECW Original Balls Mahoney has passed away. I just spoke w/his wife.
ECW 1999: Balls Mahoney and Axl Rotten. Photo: wwe.com
Bam Bam Bigelow Death – Drug Overdose
Bertha Faye – Heart Attack
Big Boss Man Death – Heart Attack
In 1993, Traylor briefly left WWF for All Japan Pro Westling, and then returned to America for the start of World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
He was in the WCW from 1993 to 1998, first joining as “The Boss” – apparently the WWF didn’t take too kindly to WCW using his familiar moniker and threatened with a lawsuit. Traylor’s character was then changed to The Guardian Angel (yeah, unfortunately it wasn’t very memorable). He did not see much success with his WCW tenure, but his career would eventually turn around.
Following his WCW run, Traylor rejoined the WWF. He once again took on his role as Big Boss Man, but his blue police shirt was swapped out for a SWAT-inspired uniform, all in black, complete with gloves and a bulletproof vest. He sometimes wore a mask to the ring. The updated character was a great fit for the WWF’s edgy Attitude Era.
In his final run with the company, Boss Man was part of Vince McMahon’s Original Corporation stable alongside The Rock, Shane McMahon, Pat Patterson, and Gerald Brisco. Mostly involved in the hardcore division, Boss Man also had an epic feud with Big Show which will probably always be remembered for how far it pushed the limits of the Attitude era – funeral crashing ring a bell??
Big Boss Man returns to the WWF in the late 90s. One of his most memorable feuds was with the Big Show – if any angle took it to the limits of the Attitude era, this one was it (Smackdown – November 11, 1999)