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Brainroom: Past Deaths of Professional Wrestlers

The Von Erich Family

At one time, the Von Erichs were the biggest stars in wrestling but things went bad for the family rather quickly. Out of five brothers that wrestled, only one lived to see 35. David died in 1984 due to an intestinal problem.

Mike suffered an injury and during surgery contacted a virus that nearly killed him. He was never the same again and killed himself. Kerry was a former World Champion that lost his foot in a motorcycle accident.

He wrestled for a few more years but drug charges led him to kill himself. Chris, the youngest of the Von Erichs, desperately wanted to be like his brothers, though, and so he wrestled. He wrestled until his body inevitably failed him. In 1991, the 21-year-old man put a gun to his head.

Bruiser Brody

In 1988, Bruiser Brody (Frank Goodish) was stabbed to death in a Puerto Rico locker room. Goodish was getting ready for a match when he and Jose Huertas Gonzalez, a fellow grappler and local booking agent, got into an argument.

Gonzalez, who wrestled under a mask as Invader I, was working for the World Wrestling Council, headed by promoter Colon. Goodish was stabbed multiple times. A wound near his liver caused him to bleed to death. Gonzalez was arrested and charged with murder. He spent one night in jail before bonding out.

At trial in January 1989, his attorney argued that the stabbing was self-defense, and the jury acquitted Gonzalez. There remain many mysteries about the case. The knife, described in various accounts as a large kitchen knife, a butcher knife and a hunting knife, was never recovered.

Several other wrestlers who were in the locker room when the stabbing occurred — including Dirty Dutch Mantell, Tony Atlas, Roberto Soto and Chris Youngblood — were questioned by police but never testified during Gonzalez's trial.

Andre the Giant

Andre The Giant - real name, Andre Rousimoff. Died Jan. 27, 1993, of a heart attack at 46. At 7 feet tall and weighing more than 500 pounds, Andre was one of the biggest and most popular wrestlers in the business for nearly 20 years. The man who wore a size 26 EEEE shoe died just 12 days after he buried his father.

Dino Bravo

Dino Bravo - real name, Adolpho Bresciano. Was shot and killed near his home in Canada on March 11, 1993, at the age of 44. Bravo, hailed as the Canadian strongman for his numerous feats of strength when he competed in the World Wrestling Federation, was believed to have upset members of an organized crime group in Canada for his involvement with cigarette smuggling. The murder was never solved. Bravo once held the National Wrestling Alliance World Tag Team Championship belts with Mr. Wrestling, Tim Woods.

Eddie Graham

Eddie Graham - real name, Eddie Gossett. Committed suicide on Jan. 21, 1985, at the age of 55. Former wrestler and promoter was despondent over financial problems brought on when he fell victim to a con man's scam involving a dirt-hauling business venture.

"Gorgeous" Gino Hernandez

"Gorgeous" Gino Hernandez - real name, Charles Wolfe, died of a cocaine overdose on Jan. 30, 1986, at the age of 29. Hernandez was on the verge of making it big, when fame and fortune took him down the path of drug abuse. Hernandez made a name for himself working in Texas in the early '80s with battles against the Von Erichs.

"Adorable" Adrian Adonis

"Adorable" Adrian Adonis who was real name was Keith Franke died in an auto accident on July 4, 1988, at the age of 34 while traveling to a wrestling show in Lewisporte, Newfoundland, Canada. Franke was perhaps best known as the former tag-team partner of former Minnesota governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura. He died when the minivan he was riding in went off the road and into a stream. After a successful run with Ventura as the American Wrestling Association tag team champions during the mid-'80s, Franke continued to wrestle even though he was in horrible physical shape. He weighed nearly 400 pounds at the time of his death. Two other wrestlers - Pat Kelly (Victor Arko) and The Canadian Wildman (David McKigney) also died in the crash.

"Flyin' " Brian Pillman

Pillman, 35, was found in a Minnesota hotel room in October 1997. Near his body, investigators found empty vials of painkillers. His widow, Melanie King, said an autopsy found that Pillman died from undiagnosed heart disease. But she feels his heavy use of prescription drugs may have played a role by enabling him to exceed normal physical limits. Pillman played linebacker at Miami University and the Bengals in 1984, wrestled until his death in 1997.

Louie "Spicolli" Mucciolo

Mucciolo, 27, died from coronary disease in his San Pedro, Calif., home in 1998, according to his autopsy. Investigators found an empty vial of the male hormone testosterone, pain pills and an anxiety-reducing drug. The Los Angeles County coroner's office determined the drugs might have contributed to his heart condition.

Richard "Ravishing Rick Rude" Rood

Rood, 40, died from an overdose of "mixed medications" in Alpharetta, Ga., in 1999, his autopsy shows. In 1994 he testified that he had used anabolic steroids to build muscle mass and relieve joint pain.

The Fatal Accident of Owen Hart

At the Over the Edge '99 PPV event, Owen Hart, dressed as the Blue Blazer, was supposed to descend from the ceiling to the ring. Something terrible happened and he plummeted from the rafters onto a turnbuckle chest-first. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The event went on and the fans in attendance did not find out what happened to Owen while the audience at home was told. Thankfully, an interview was being shown at the time of the accident and the fans in attendance and at home did not witness the fall.

"The British Bulldog" (Davey Boy Smith)

Smith, 39,died in 2002 in Canada of an enlarged heart with evidence of microscopic scar tissue, possibly from steroid abuse, a coroner said. "Davey paid the price with steroid cocktails and human-growth hormones," says Bruce Hart, a veteran trainer who worked with Smith and was his brother-in-law.

Miss Elizabeth

In 2003, people were shocked to find out that wrestling beauty, Elizabeth, had passed away from an overdose of a combination of pain pills and alcohol. Miss Elizabeth was at the home of her boyfriend, former WCW Champion, Lex Luger. A few weeks earlier, Luger was arrested for allegedly striking her in a domestic dispute. After a police search of the premises, Lex was charged with multiple drug possession charges.

Curt Hennig

Hennig, 44, died of acute cocaine intoxication in February 2003, medical records show. But his family believes that years of steroids and painkillers use contributed to his death.

Eddie Guerrero

Eddie's well documented battle with substance abuse almost cost him his life, his career, and his family. Eddie was primed to overcome this personal battle and had a shot at becoming becoming a wrestling World Champion. On November 13, 2005, he was scheduled to wrestle for the championship. Early that morning, however, he was found dead from heart failure.

Ed "The Bull" Gantner

Ed "The Bull" Gantner - real name, Ed Gantner. Committed suicide on Dec. 31, 1990, at 31. Gantner, who played football at Edgewater High School and the University of Central Florida before becoming a professional wrestler, was in failing health due to steroid abuse.

[source: USA Today: Wrestling deaths and steroids; 3/12/04; http://www.usatoday.com/sports/2004-03-12-wrestling-list_x.htm;]

[source: Official Site of the Von Erich Family // http://www.vonerich.com/Bios.html]

[source: Despite the deaths of five of her six sons, the matriarch of the Von Erich wrestling family finds hope in living and faith in God // 18 April 1993 // The Dallas Morning News]

[source: LOCKER ROOM MYSTERY THERE'S STILL UNCERTAINTY OVER THE STABBING DEATH OF BRUISER BRODY // 15 December 2000 // Orlando Sentinel]

[source: THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN ALONG ROAD TO FAME, FORTUNE // 28 January 2000 // Orlando Sentinel]

[source: brian pillman memorial; Linebacker/wrestler is remembered // 30 May 2000 // The Cincinnati Post]

[source: WRESTLERS LURED TO RISKY DRUGS Ring fan doc prescribed illegally, says complaint // 3 March 2000 // New York Daily News]

[source: Wrestler on Steroid Therapy/The Droz fractured Neck During Match //

Houston Chronicle // 10/8/99]

[source: Girlfriend Gurgling, Wrestler Told 911 // Atlanta Journal Constitution // 5/8/03]

[source: Lugar Charged with Felony Drug Possession // The Post Standard // 5/12/03]

[source: Guerrero was heart Disease Victim // Star Tribune // 12/9/05]

[source: WWF Wrestler Owen Hart dies in Fall // Orlando Sentinel // 5/24/96]