Wrestling's High Death Rate

Many professional wrestlers die long before they reach retirement age.

NEW YORK - MARCH 11: Wrestler Eddie Guerrero attends a press conference to promote Wrestlemania XX at Planet Hollywood March 11, 2004 in New York City.
Peter Kramer / Getty Images

While many people think of wrestling as an entertaining stage show, there is one thing about the sport that isn't funny: the alarmingly high death rate. Many wrestlers die long before they reach age 65, and more than a few never reach age 40 or 30. A number of factors may contribute to this scary statistic. Read on to learn possible reasons for this sad statistic.

Drug Use

While the outcomes of matches are predetermined, the effort wrestlers put into preparing for them takes a huge toll on their bodies.

They are on the road over 300 days a year and unlike other athletes, they do not have an offseason. In addition, accidents do happen and injuries occur. Unfortunately, if wrestlers take time off, their wallets suffer significantly. These factors all lead to the deadly slope that many wrestlers have found themselves facing. They become addicted to painkillers. This medicine keeps them too lethargic to wrestle, so they take drugs to get high. This deadly mixture leads to illegal drug dependency that many wrestlers have to cope with even after they retire.

Large Bodies

In the 1990s, WWE faced a major steroid scandal. While the organization says it tests for steroids, it is obvious to the casual viewer that many pro wrestlers are taking some kind of supplements to get their physiques to look as they do. In today's environment, a wrestler must carry either an enormous amount of muscle or a tremendous amount of fat to give him the larger-than-life size needed to be successful in the business.

That extra weight -- particularly from fat -- makes the heart work harder than it must.

Accidents and Old Age

Not all the wrestlers die due to the previous reasons. Some die from travel-related incidents because of all the time they spend the road. Some have even died as a result of injuries suffered in the ring.

Unfortunately, the least common way that wrestlers seem to die is old age.

Sad - and Growing - List

The list below includes only wrestlers who have appeared on national TV and were once stars. In many cases, their stage names -- by which they were better known -- are given rather than their real names. In an effort to stop this problem, WWE has instituted a wellness program that monitors wrestlers for drug use and cardiovascular issues.

Before Age 30

  • Chris Von Erich 21
  • Mike Von Erich - 23
  • Louie Spiccoli - 27
  • Art Barr - 28
  • Gino Hernandez - 29
  • Lance Cade - 29
  • Jay Youngblood - 30
  • Rick McGraw - 30
  • Joey Marella - 30

Before 40

  • Ed Gatner - 31
  • Buzz Sawyer - 32
  • Crash Holly - 32
  • Kerry Von Erich - 33
  • D.J. Peterson - 33
  • Eddie Gilbert - 33
  • The Renegade - 33
  • Chris Candido - 33
  • Test - 33
  • Adrian Adonis - 34
  • Gary Albright - 34
  • Bobby Duncum Jr. - 34
  • Owen Hart - 34
  • Yokozuna - 34
  • Big Dick Dudley - 34
  • Brian Pillman - 35
  • Marianna Komlos - 35
  • Umaga - 36
  • Pitbull #2 - 36
  • The Wall/Malice - 36
  • Emory Hale - 36
  • Leroy Brown - 38
  • Mark Curtis - 38
  • Eddie Guerrero - 38
  • John Kronus - 38
  • Davey Boy Smith - 39
  • Johnny Grunge - 39

Before 50

  • Chris Kanyon - 40
  • Vivian Vachon - 40
  • Jeep Swenson - 40
  • Brady Boone - 40
  • Terry Gordy - 40
  • Bertha Faye - 40
  • Billy Joe Travis - 40
  • Chris Benoit - 40
  • Larry Cameron - 41
  • Rick Rude - 41
  • Randy Anderson - 41
  • Bruiser Brody - 42
  • Miss Elizabeth - 42
  • Big Boss Man - 42
  • Earthquake - 42
  • Mike Awesome - 42
  • Biff Wellington - 42
  • Big Daddy V (Mabel & Viscera) - 43
  • Brian Adams (Crush) - 43
  • Ray Candy - 43
  • Nancy Benoit (Woman) - 43
  • Hector Garza - 43
  • Dino Bravo - 44
  • Curt Hennig - 44
  • El Gigante/Giant Gonzalez - 44
  • Bam Bam Bigelow - 45
  • Jerry Blackwell - 45
  • Junkyard Dog - 45
  • Hercules - 45
  • Toni Adams - 45
  • Andre the Giant - 46
  • Big John Studd - 46
  • Chris Adams - 46
  • Mike Davis - 46
  • Hawk - 46
  • Mitsuharu Misawa - 46
  • Ludvig Borga - 47
  • Luna Vachon - 48
  • Steve Dunn - 48
  • Cousin Junior - 48
  • Dick Murdoch - 49
  • Jumbo Tsuruta - 49
  • Rocco Rock - 49
  • Sherri Martel - 49
  • Steve Williams - 49

Before 60

  • Doug Furnas - 50
  • Moondog Spot - 51
  • Brad Armstong - 51
  • Bastion Booger/Norman the Lunatic - 53
  • Ken Timbs - 53
  • Ultimate Warrior - 54
  • Uncle Elmer - 54
  • Pez Whatley - 54
  • The Angel of Death - 54
  • Eddie Graham - 55
  • Tarzan Tyler - 55
  • Haystacks Calhoun- 55
  • Giant Haystacks - 55
  • Matt Borne/Doink the Clown - 55
  • Buddy Rose - 56
  • Kurt Von Hess - 56
  • Moondog King - 56
  • Randy Savage - 58
  • Paul Bearer - 58
  • Gene Anderson - 58
  • Dr. Jerry Graham - 58
  • Bulldog Brown - 58
  • Tony Parisi - 58

Before Retirement Age

  • Rufus R. Jones - 60
  • Ray Stevens - 60
  • Stan Stasiak - 60
  • Terry Garvin - 60
  • Boris Malenko - 61
  • Little Beaver - 61
  • Sapphire - 61
  • Shohei Baba - 61
  • Mike Graham - 61
  • Sir Oliver Humperdink - 62
  • Dick the Bruiser - 62
  • Wilbur Snyder - 62
  • George Cannon - 62
  • Karl Krupp - 62
  • Dale Lewis - 62
  • Gorilla Monsoon - 62
  • Hiro Matsuda - 62
  • Bad News Brown - 63
  • Bulldog Brower - 63
  • SD Jones - 63
  • Wahoo McDaniel - 63
  • Savannah Jack - 63
  • Bobby Jaggers - 64
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Your Citation
Cohen, Eric. "Wrestling's High Death Rate." ThoughtCo, Aug. 7, 2017, thoughtco.com/wrestlings-dirty-secret-2787283. Cohen, Eric. (2017, August 7). Wrestling's High Death Rate. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/wrestlings-dirty-secret-2787283 Cohen, Eric. "Wrestling's High Death Rate." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/wrestlings-dirty-secret-2787283 (accessed November 24, 2017).