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Top 10 Most Famous Tragedies of the Past 25 Years

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Unfortunately, wrestlers participate in a very demanding endeavor that has taken years off of many of their lives. While many of these tragedies are just known throughout the wrestling community, some have hit the mainstream media due to either the names involved or the circumstances of the event. This list is in chronological order of the most famous wrestling tragedies based upon media attention, bizarre circumstances, and the affect that the event may have had in wrestling history.

Please note that this list was created prior to the double-murder suicide of the family of Chris Benoit.

1. The Von Erich Family

Wrestler Owen Hart Dies In Freak Accident
Photo of Owen Hart: Russell Turiak/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
At one time, the Von Erich's 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 gastroenteritis. 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. Youngest brother Chris killed himself because he felt he could never be as good as his brothers were.

2. The Car Crash of Magnum T.A.

In 1986, Magnum T.A. was one of the most popular stars in the NWA. His feuds for the U.S. Title with Tully Blanchard and Nikita Koloff almost overshadowed the main feud of the area, Dusty Rhodes vs. Ric Flair. There is no doubt that Magnum T.A. was soon going to be a World Champion. However, he was involved in a near-fatal car crash. In one of the most emotional moments ever, at the Crockett Cup 1987, he made a surprise appearance and walked to the ring. Magnum never wrestled again. The biggest what if question long-time fans have is: What would wrestling be like now if Magnum was not in that accident?

3. Bruiser Brody Stabbed to Death in a Locker Room

In 1988, Bruiser Brody was stabbed to death in a Puerto Rico locker room by Invader I (Jose Gonzalez), one of the bosses of the wrestling organization he was working for. An ambulance did not appear for 45 minutes after the stabbing due to either it not being called or traffic at the stadium. That delay allowed the murder weapon to be hidden. Despite several witnesses to the crime, Gonzalez was found not guilty. The American witnesses claimed to have received their summons to testify after the verdict had been rendered.

4. The Death of Andre the Giant

Without a doubt, Andre the Giant is the most famous wrestler to have passed away. Ironically, the medical condition that caused him to become famous was also partially responsible for his death. In 1993, Andre died of a heart attack shortly after attending the funeral of his father. In honor of Andre, the WWE created a Hall of Fame and made him the first inductee.

5. The Death of Dino Bravo

While dying young is all too common an event in the wrestling world, the death of Dino Bravo is the only one that looks like a plot on The Sopranos. It is highly rumored that Dino was allegedly involved with an organized criminal group in Montreal that dealt in illegal cigarettes. On March 11, 1993, Dino was found dead in his apartment. He was shot seven times and at least two were to the head. Since there was no signs of forced entry, police believe that he knew his killers.

6. The Death of Brian Pillman & Interview of Melanie Pillman

Wrestling fans are not surprised when they hear that a retired wrestler has died. However, everyone was surprised when Vince McMahon announced on the pre-show to the PPV, In Your House: Bad Blood 1997, that Brian, who was scheduled to compete that night, was found dead in his hotel room a few hours earlier. The next night, most fans were disgusted when Vince interviewed his widow, Melanie. In 2005, I spoke to Vince Russo, the head booker of the WWE at the time, about why that interview was done.

7. 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.

8. D-Lo Brown vs. Droz

The results of a wrestling match may be predetermined but the wrestlers put their well being on the line every time they step in the ring. During a 1999 SmackDown TV taping, D-Lo fought Droz in what was supposed to be an ordinary match. D-Lo slipped on a wet spot on the mat while giving Droz a running power bomb. Droz fractured two discs in his neck. The accident left the former Denver Bronco paralyzed from the neck down.

9. The Death of Miss Elizabeth

In the brutal world of wrestling, Miss Elizabeth provided something that no one else did to the sport, a sense of class. In 2003, fans were shocked to find out that she had passed away from an overdose of a combination of pain pills and alcohol. She was at the home of her boyfriend, former WCW Champion, Lex Luger. Fans were enraged when they found out that just two 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.

10. The Death of Eddie Guerrero

Eddie had a well documented battle with substance abuse that almost cost him his life, his career, and his family. However, Eddie appeared to win his battle and even reached the top of the wrestling world by becoming World Champion. On the night of November 13, 2005, he was scheduled to wrestle for the championship. However, earlier that morning he was found dead from heart failure. The moral of the story is that even if you can kick drugs, the damage they do to your body is irreversible.
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