Some of you may know that I follow professional wrestling. I don’t actually watch it anymore, but I am fascinated by the business. I fully acknowledge that it’s violent, misogynistic, juvenile, and frequently stupid beyond belief. It’s also a billion- dollar industry that relies on non-unionized performers to work insane schedules and subject themselves to substantial and prolonged physical abuse.
To deal with the physical demands of the industry, many wrestlers come to rely on painkillers and narcotics as a long-term solution. Many others turn to steroids to develop the abnormal physiques that the industry seems to covet above all else. The combination of steroids, drug abuse, and physical wear and tear has lead to an incredibly high death rate among active and retired wrestlers. This is the industry’s dirty secret that rarely gets mainstream attention.
As an illustration, the following is a list of stars from the 80’s and 90’s who haved died at an early age in recent years.
Eddie Guerrero (38, heart failure)
Davey Boy Smith (39, heart attack)
Owen Hart (34, in-ring mishap)
Rodney Anoia aka Yokozuna (34, heart attack)
“Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig (45, drug overdose)
“Ravishing” Rick Rude (40, heart attack)
Brian Pillman (35, heart disease / drug overdose)
Dino Bravo (44, murdered)
Sherri Martel (49, cause unknown)
Mike Awesome (42, suicide)
Scott “Bam Bam” Bigelow (45, heart disease / drug overdose)
Kerry von Erich (33, suicide)
Keith Franke aka Adrian Adonis (34, hit a moose in Newfoundland)
Sylvester Ritter aka Junkyard Dog (46, fell asleep at the wheel)
Elizabeth Huelette aka Miss Elizabeth (42, drug overdose)
C Candido (33, in-ring injury led to fatal blood clot)
Ray Traylor aka Big Bossman (42, heart attack)
Raymond Hernandez aka Hercules Hernandez (47, heart attack)
Jerry Tuite aka The Wall (36, heart attack)
Michael Lockwood aka Crash Holly (34, drug overdose)
Michael Hegstrand aka Road Warrior Hawk (46, heart attack)
This afternoon, it was reported that C Benoit had been found dead in his Atlanta home, along with his wife and 7-year old son – few details are available about what happened. C is generally recognized as the best technical wrestler in North America, a Canadian legend who trained in Stu Hart’s dungeon in Calgary and went on to great success in Japan and the U.S. By all accounts, he was a nice guy who didn’t seem to have any personal demons.
So, the tragic history adds another chapter. For a week or two, fans will say the business has to change. Then another ‘roided up monster will become a hero or villain and the cycle will continue.