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Wrestling's Dirty Secret

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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

Wrestling's Dirty Secret
While many people think of wrestling as a big joke, there is one thing about wrestling that isn't funny. The death rate among wrestlers is alarmingly high.

Drug Usage
While the outcomes of the matches are pre-determined, the effort to put on those matches takes a huge toll on their bodies. The wrestlers are on the road over 300 days a year and unlike other athletes, they do not have an off season. In addition, accidents do happen and injuries occur. Unfortunately, if wrestlers take time off, their wallets will suffer significantly. These factors all lead to the deadly slope that many wrestlers have found themselves facing. They get addicted to pain killers to numb the pain. 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 '90s, the WWE faced a major steroid scandal. While they claim to test for steroids, it is obvious to the casual viewer that many of the wrestlers are taking something to get their physiques to look like 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, whether muscle or fat, makes the heart work harder than it must.

Accidents and Old Age
Not all the wrestlers die due to the reasons stated above. Some die due to travel related incidents because of all the time on the road. Some have even died as a result of injuries suffered in the ring. Unfortunately, the least common way that wrestlers seem to be dying is due to old age.

How bad is the problem?
The list below only includes wrestlers that have appeared on national TV and were stars. Imagine if this many baseball players died at such an early age. There would be congressional hearings. Yet because it is wrestlers, no one cares. In an effort to stop this problem, the WWE has instituted a wellness program that monitors wrestlers for drug usage and cardiovascular issues.

Famous Wrestlers That Have Died Since 1985 Before the Age of 65 (please read this FAQ before making any assumptions or writing me any emails about this list)
Chris Von Erich (Von Erich Family Tree) - 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
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
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
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
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

(Sources include: Pro Wrestling Illustrated Almanac, Onlineworldofwrestling.com, & Wrestling Information Archive)

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