WWE and pro wrestling is a dangerous industry. While the winners of matches are pre-determined, the toll the bouts take on the bodies of professional wrestlers is unlike just about anything else imaginable.
While some superstars become household names and reach the highest of highs, others fail to reach any level of success. Unfortunately, even those who reach great heights in the industry can face extreme hardships.
This article will take a look at 15 former WWE Superstars who passed away far too early. These losses may be from accidents, succumbing to their personal demons, or unexpected health complications. Regardless, each certainly made a mark in the industry and will be remembered forever.
Below are 15 wrestlers who died too early.
15. Rick Rude – The Ravishing Villain
Rick Rude is one of the most memorable wrestlers in history. He had a body seemingly carved out of stone and played the heel role to perfection. During his time in WWE, he captured the Intercontinental Championship and later won the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship.
Unfortunately, the legendary star passed on far too early. He was found dead on April 20th, 1999, at just 40 years old. His passing was seemingly caused by a bad mixture of medications. Rude was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2017.
14. The Big Boss Man – Serving Up Memories
The Big Boss Man was a memorable wrestler, best known for his time in Jim Crockett Promotions, World Championship Wrestling, and the World Wrestling Federation. He’s a former WWF Hardcore Champion and Tag Team Champion, remembered for his prison guard gimmick.
The talented big man passed away on September 22nd, 2004, at the age of 41. His death was reportedly due to a heart attack. Big Boss Man was later honored by being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016.
13. André the Giant – A Larger-Than-Life Legend
André the Giant is arguably the most famous wrestler of all time. 30 years after his death, his image and likeness remain a major part of pop culture.
He’s also a former WWF Champion and a former WWF Tag Team Champion, but his popularity went above and beyond what he did in the ring.
The Eighth Wonder of The World suffered from gigantism, which contributed to his poor health. He passed away from congestive heart failure in his sleep on January 28th, 1993. He was then honored as the first-ever inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame.
12. Mr. Perfect – A Flawless Performer
Mr. Perfect was an extraordinary pro wrestler. The former Intercontinental Champion found success in every promotion he competed in while managing to be charismatic, great on the mic, and excellent in the ring all at once.
The phenomenal competitor passed away on February 10th, 2003, apparently from cocaine intoxication. He had a standout performance just over a year prior in the 2002 Royal Rumble. Curt Hennig was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.
11. Bam Bam Bigelow – The Athletic Marvel
Bam Bam Bigelow was a phenomenal pro wrestler who found major success in WWE, WCW, ECW, and Japan. While he never held gold in the-then WWF, he did capture titles in WCW, ECW, New Japan, and WAR. He even headlined WrestleMania 11.
The athletic big man was found dead on January 19th, 2007. At just 45 years old, his death was said to have been caused by multiple drugs found in his system. Bam Bam is widely regarded as one of the most influential big men of all time.
10. Brian Pillman – The Controversial Star
Brian Pillman was a legendary pro wrestler. Early in his career, he was known for his impressive high-flying action. Later on, he developed a wild and unpredictable persona that gained a lot of attention in WCW, ECW, and WWE.
The Loose Cannon sadly passed away on October 5th, 1997, at only 35 years, a shockingly young age. It was apparently from a heart attack caused by atherosclerotic heart disease. His son, Brian Pillman Jr., wrestles in All Elite Wrestling.
9. Chyna – Breaking Barriers
Chyna broke the mold when it came to being a female performer. Her larger-than-life physique led to her battling male superstars in WWE.
In fact, she even captured the Intercontinental Championship, the only woman to ever do so. She was also the first woman to compete in the Royal Rumble Match.
The Ninth Wonder of The World passed away on April 20th, 2016, at only 46 years old. She was later posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of D-Generation X in 2019.
8. Owen Hart – A Technical Wizard
Owen Hart was an incredible and influential professional wrestler. He was a technical savant and a high-flyer who won numerous titles in WWE, including the Intercontinental Championship. His feud with Bret Hart was one of the best of all time.
The Rocket passed away on May 23rd, 1999. He was set to make an over-the-top, extravagant entrance and fell when the harness came loose. He passed away soon after. Today, the former European Champion’s legacy continues through the Owen Hart Cup Tournament in All Elite Wrestling.
7. Chris Candido – An Underrated Star
Chris Candido was a popular star who competed in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, TNA Wrestling, ECW, WCW, and WWE. He might be best remembered for being one-half of the Bodydonnas alongside Doctor Tom Prichard.
The talented wrestler passed away on April 28th, 2005. He had been recovering from surgery, which led to him suffering from acute pneumonia that went on to take his life at just 33 years old.
In 2005, TNA Wrestling held the Chris Candido Memorial Tag Team Tournament in his honor.
6. Umaga – The Samoan Bulldozer
Umaga is one of the best big men to compete in a WWE ring in the last 20 years. While he initially found some success as Jamal in 3-Minute Warning, his biggest success came under the Samoan Bulldozer gimmick, where he won the Intercontinental Championship and represented Vince McMahon in the Battle of the Billionaires at WrestleMania 23.
The imposing big man passed away on December 4th, 2009, from a combination of drug use, heart disease, and liver disease. He is honored today by Solo Sikoa, Jimmy Uso, and Jey Uso, his nephews.
5. Yokozuna – A Massive Presence
Yokozuna was iconic. While he wasn’t Japanese, he did represent Japan while working in WWE, where he held the then WWF Championship on two occasions. He was also a two-time tag team champion.
Unfortunately, the Samoan star’s weight ultimately led to his health declining. It possibly contributed to him passing away at a young age. He died on October 23rd, 2000, from pulmonary edema
. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
4. Chris Benoit – A Controversial End
Chris Benoit was a pro wrestler who found a lot of success in his home country of Canada and in Japan before breaking out in the United States. He went on to become a World Champion in both WCW and WWE.
Benoit’s legacy is forever tarnished by his death, however. Chris was allegedly the aggressor in a double murder-suicide that led to the death of his wife, young son, and himself on June 25th, 2007.
WWE opted not to mention him on-air and avoid showing him due to the tragedy from that summer day.
3. Brodie Lee – A Beloved Superstar
Brodie Lee was a beloved superstar, both by fans and his peers. He was a champion in both AEW and WWE, having won the TNT Championship, Intercontinental Championship, and a handful of tag team titles.
The former Luke Harper sadly passed away on December 26th, 2020, from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis at the age of 41. He is often brought up and honored in both All Elite Wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment to this very day.
2. Eddie Guerrero – A Major Influence
An argument could be made that Eddie Guerrero is the most influential wrestler of the modern era. He was hugely successful in Mexico and Japan before blowing up in ECW and WCW. He later joined World Wrestling Entertainment, where he became the WWE Champion.
Unfortunately, the man known as Latino Heat was found dead on November 13th, 2005, after suffering acute heart failure. He was later inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.
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1. Bray Wyatt – A Creative Genius
The most recent death on this list, Bray Wyatt’s tragic passing in August 2023 left the wrestling world in shock. He was one of the most creative people to ever appear on-screen in WWE, with several different characters working well in the promotion.
However, Wyatt’s lasting legacy will be his delightful real-life personality. Many of his former peers told heartwarming backstage stories following his demise. These 15 WWE wrestlers left us too soon, and their legacies continue to influence and inspire the wrestling world. While their time in the ring may have ended prematurely, their impact on the industry and the hearts of fans will endure forever.