When I was a child my favorite thing in the world was to turn on Monday Night Raw and watch my favorite wrestlers go head to head. I remember great times like going to live events and having my dad get me backstage to meet the Big Bossman and The Bushwackers or watching on television when Stone Cold Steve Austin came out and attempted to drink Budweiser straight from the hose of a beer truck.
I haven’t watched wrestling in over a decade now; I have grown out of my love of the male soap opera. Wrestling honestly hasn’t been on my radar in quite sometime but after watching Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler I was reminded of all the great wrestlers from my youth. After watching Mickey Rourke’s stunning portrayal of the sad, broken Randy “The Ram” Robinson, I began to think about what has happened to the wrestling stars I used to worship. What I found was that many of the wrestlers were living similar lives to Rourke’s character in The Wrestler; some have even succumbed to horrible addictions to painkillers and steroids and have died.
Known as “Latino Heat”, Eddie Guerrero was a champion in both WCW and WWE. On November 13th, 2005 Guerrero was found dead in a hotel room in Minnesota ; the initial cause of death was acute heart failure arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease. A Sports Illustrated article in 2007 revealed Guerrero was part of an HGH ring and had been taking Human Chorionic Gonadotropin and the steroid Stanozolol. Guerrero was thirty-eight years old at the time of his death.
Curt Henning “Mr. Perfect”
Former WWE Intercontinental Champion Curt Henning was known to many of his fans as “Mr. Perfect”. Henning was found dead in a Florida hotel room. The cause of death was determined by The Tampa Coroner’s office as a cocaine overdose. Henning’s father revealed later his sons addiction to steriods and painkillers directly contributed to his death. Henning was forty-four at the time of his death.
The Big Bossman
Ray Traylor was known by his fans as The Big Bossman. I remember when I was around ten my dad got me back stage at the Hershey Arena to meet Traylor. I remember how gigantic he seemed to me then but I also remember him being very cordial and friendly to me. Traylor took time to sit with me and take pictures and sign autographs for well over an hour. On September 22nd, 2004, Traylor died in his Georgia home from a heart attack. The Big Bossman was forty-one at the time of his death.
“Ravishing” Rick Rude
Rick Rude was a five time World Champion. Known as “Ravishing” Rick Rude, he was one of the most charismatic wrestlers in WWE history. Rude suffered a heart attack on April 20th, 1999 while training for a comeback. An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be a mixture of GHB and steriods, which Rude admitted to using to help “build muscle mass and relieve joint pain”. At the time of his death Rude was forty years old.
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith
Smith was known for being one of the most muscular men in professional wrestling. He also married in to the Hart family in 1994 but Smith died on May, 18th, 2002 after suffering a heart attack on vacation. An autopsy revealed that past anabolic steroid abuse may have contributed to his death. Smith’s Brother-in-Law Bruce Hart claimed “Davey paid the price with steroid cocktails and human-growth hormones.” Smith was thirty-nine at the time of his death.
The List goes on and on of professional wrestlers who have died from heart attacks due to addictions of steroids and painkillers.
While professional wrestlers are not considered athletes to the same extent as NFL or NBA players, they do put their body through a grueling schedule. Their bodies take as much abuse as most NFL players on Sunday; but wrestlers put their bodies through this abuse 300 days a year.
In February 2006 the WWE instituted The Talent Wellness Program after the death of Eddie Guerrero. The program provides its talent with a comprehensive drug, alcohol, and cardiac screening. Eleven current wrestlers were suspended after they had been discovered buying illegal steroids from a Florida pharmacy. With the instillation of the program, hopefully the next generation of viewers won’t have to see so many of their childhood heroes die so prematurely.