Pro wrestler Axl Rotten dead at 44

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Brian Knighton, who wrestling fans loved to cheer and jeer when he entered the ring as "Axl Rotten," died this week at 44.

Knighton's death was confirmed by WWE on Thursday.

"WWE is saddened to learn of reports that Brian Knighton, best known for competing in ECW as Axl Rotten from 1993 to 1999, has passed away," read a statement from the wrestling promoter. "WWE extends its condolences to Knighton's family, friends and fans.

Knighton burst onto the pro-wrestling scene in 1993, performing in the ECW with his fictional brother Ian Rotten. The duo's acrimonious split became one of the network's the most famous rivalries.

As Axl Rotten, Knighton was known for dramatic matches that incorporated barbed wire, flaming tables and broken glass.

He went on to form a tag team partnership with Jonathan Rechner -- known as Balls Mahoney in ECW -- where he competed until 1999.

In 2005, Knighton made a brief appearance in WWE, when his and others' old ECW characters were resurrected for a "one night only" event.