Fallen Soldiers Gone But Not Forgotten Full List Of Deceased Wrestlers 05
List of Deceased Wrestlers with Photos
This List of Deceased Wrestlers & includes Photos & Some History about the Wrestler, his or her Family & Friends Comments & their Impact on the Wrestling World.
Giant Baba Death – Cancer
Giant Gonzales Death – Diabetes and Heart Issues
Giant Haystacks Death – Cancer
Gino Hernandez Death – Drug Overdose
Gordon Solie Death – Throat Cancer
Gorilla Monsoon Death – Heart Failure
Wrestling legend, Gorilla Monsoon passes away at age 62. Photo: wwe.com
1937-1999 (age 62)
5 years prior to his death, Gorilla loses his son, WWF referee, Joey Marella. Photo: wwe.com
Tragedy in the Marella Family
The 1990s proved to be a very difficult time for the Marella family. On June 9, 1994, Gorilla Monsoon was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by friend Killer Kowalski, but soon after, tragedy struck his family. On July 4, 1994, Robert’s son, Joey, was killed in a tragic auto accident. Joey served as a WWF referee throughout the 80s and early 90s. The collision occurred when Joey Marella was traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike and fell asleep at the wheel.
While it would be several years before the Gorilla Monsoon death, many people speculate that grief and stress over losing his son contributed to the wrestler’s eventual death.
Jim Ross remembers Gorilla Monsoon
Perhaps the most legendary commentary duo in wrestling history: Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
The Last Days of Gorilla Monsoon
In 1999 just months before Gorilla Monsoon death, the retired wrestler served as a judge at WrestleMania XV’s Brawl for All. Fans were shocked at the appearance of the former wrestling superstar. Gorilla had been largely out of the spotlight since health concerns required him to give up wrestling commentating in 1997. Gorilla Monsoon was suffering from diabetes and had become very frail.
On September 19, 1999, Gorilla had a massive heart attack and was hospitalized. He was placed on kidney dialysis and treated for heart failure, but ultimately, these treatments could not prevent Gorilla Monsoon’s death. His family made the decision to discontinue his dialysis. Robert Marella peacefully passed away in his own home in Willingboro, New Jersey, on October 6, 1999. He was only 62 years old.
The Best of Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
Friends Remember Gorilla Monsoon
Arguably the greatest announcer duo in wrestling history: Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura were calling virtually every big time match in the 80s wrestling explosion. Photo: wwe.com
The Legacy after the Gorilla Monsoon Death Story
Gorilla Monsoon Grave
Gorilla Monsoon’s grave is located at Lakeview Memorial Park in Cinnaminson, NJ.
Gorilla Monsoon’s grave at Lakeview Memorial Park in Cinnaminson, NJ. Photo: Donald W. Timony
Harley Race Death – Lung Cancer
Wrestling legend Harley Race, dead at 76.
1943-2019 (Age 76)
Harley Race, a familiar face to wrestling fans for decades, an icon in the wrestling world, a record-setting National Wrestling Heavyweight Champion, and one of the toughest and most respected figures in professional wrestling.
Race battled adversity numerous times in his life, stared down death more than once, and was the last of the wrestling world’s shooters, a champion who could defend the belt for real should his opponent try and pull a double-cross.
Missouri native Harley Race was never one to let someone tell him what to do, defying authority throughout his life. At 15, Race was expelled from school for punching out his principal. Given the option to apologize and return, Race opted to leave school and devoted his free time to fulfilling his dream of becoming a professional wrestler.
Race worked as a farm hand and in an amazing instance of happenstance, the farm was owned by Stanislaus Zbyszko, a legendary wrestler from the early 20th century. Zbyszko took Race under his wing and taught him the basics before Harley met promoter Gus Karras, who operated wrestling shows at carnivals.
Race worked these carnivals, further learning the trade and how to protect himself in the ring. These carnivals required tough performers because a wrestler never knew who was going to step into the ring. During the shows, a wrestler would challenge someone from the audience, offering a cash prize to anyone who could beat him. Race started off by posing as an ordinary Joe who would take up the wrestler’s challenge. Later on, he would graduate to being the wrestler who took on the plant in the audience. As easy as this gig seemed, it didn’t always go according to plan and sometimes a real contestant made it to the ring before the plant. This meant Race could face anyone from an ornery farmer to the local barroom brawler looking to get their hands on the prize money.
These encounters taught Race how to defend himself in just about every conceivable situation in the ring, a talent Race sometimes relied on when fans jumped into the ring or attacked him on his way in or out of the ring.
Race continued honing his skills until it seemed the world was his for the taking. However, like fellow legend Ric Flair, an accident nearly ended both Race’s career and his life. A horrific car crash killed Race’s pregnant wife and Race himself was so severely injured that medical personnel told him one of his legs had to be amputated. Harley’s friend and promoter, Gus Karras sent Race to a bone specialist and the leg was saved. Nonetheless, Race was told he’d be lucky if he ever walked again, let alone wrestle.
For the next two years, Race endured a painful rehabilitation process that paid off and he returned to the squared circle.
The gutsy grappler worked in several territories before settling in the American Wrestling Association (AWA), where he formed a lengthy tag team partnership with Larry Hennig. The roughhouse duo won AWA Tag Team Titles several times, feuding with popular AWA stars including the Crusher, Dick the Bruiser, and Verne Gagne.
“Handsome” Harley’s work caught the eye of Japanese promoters who invited him to wrestle for him, a rare honor for Americans.
In the early 1970’s Race shifted his attention to wrestling’s top prize—the world heavyweight championship. Never one to rest on his laurels, the would-be champion learned new skills in the ring and also learned about the sport’s day-to-day operations, becoming a booker and later investing in the promotion, Heart of America Wrestling.
Race eventually launched his own wrestling school, the Harley Race Wrestling Academy, and ran his own promotion for his students to work in.
In later years, Race suffered a number of medical issues but always stood tall, impressing his fans and fellow wrestlers with his tenacity.
In early 2019 Harley Race was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away on August 1, 2019. He was 76.
Harley Race is survived by his 3 children.
Hayabusa Death – Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
Legendary Japanese wrestler, Hayabusa, dead at 47 from a subarachnoid hemorrhage
1968-2016 (Age 47)
1968-2016 (Age 47)
Eiji Ezaki gained fame in professional wrestling as Hayabusa, a hard-hitting junior heavyweight who became the heart and soul of Japan’s Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling (FMW).
Hayabusa pioneered high-flying moves in wrestling, but sadly, saw his wrestling career cut short due to a high-flying move gone wrong.
Eiji Ezaki was born in Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan on November 29, 1968.
Hayabusa hits a springboard moonsault – the same move that would leave him paralyzed in the years ahead.
On November 2, 1987, Ezaki worked his first match, competing in Kumamoto with a group of aspiring wrestlers. From there, he hit Japan’s indie circuit, hoping to catch a break into the big leagues.
Eventually, Ezaki was given a try-out at Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling’s FMW Dojo.
Ezaki competed with 40 other would-be wrestlers, becoming one of two who were accepted into the dojo. Ezaki began a grueling process training in FMW. FMW would become known for its brutally violent stipulation matches such as the No Ropes Exploding Barbwire Deathmatch and the No Ropes Exploding Barbed Wire Time Bomb Cage Deathmatch.
Ezaki survived the FMW Dojo, but his career had a long way to go before he established himself as a star.
In 1991, Ezaki made his rookie debut in FMW, and like most rookies, spent the majority of his matches putting over opponents.
In 1993, FMW’s founder Atsushi Onita sent him to Mexico to learn the lucha libre style. There, he developed his Hayabusa (which means “Falcon”) character, traveling in 1994 for the Super J Cup tournament, but returning to Mexico for further seasoning.
The Heart and Soul of Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling
In 1995, Hayabusa returned to FMW where the promotion began grooming him to become its franchise player.
While fans were reluctant to get behind Hayabusa, he won them over with his heart and his Phoenix Splash, eventually becoming the company’s ace. His finisher the Falcon’s Arrow helped him get over even more, and Hayabusa gained an international reputation among his peers as one of the most incredible performers.
Hayabusa’s appearance in Extreme Championship Wrestling in late ’98 gave U.S. fans a chance to witness his excellence:
The combination of FMW’s brutal matches and Hayabusa’s high-risk maneuvers led to him having to change his in-ring style to more of a mat-based game. Consequently, he retired his Hayabusa character, transforming into “H”. He also developed another character known as “Darkside of H” entertaining fans in any identity. Eventually, Ezaki returned to his Hayabusa character.
Hayabusa was at the top of his game when he suffered an in-ring accident on October 22, 2001 that left him paralyzed during a main event match at Tokyo’s Korakeun Hall. Hayabusa was going for a quebrada (better known to WWE fans as Chris Jericho’s “Lionsault”) when he slipped on the rope and broke his neck. WARNING: video is not for the faint of heart:
His battle to survive was only beginning as he faced various health woes including kidney failure and pneumonia.
Hayabusa dropped from 232 pounds down to 127 pounds as his body wasted away. He was forced to retire from in-ring competition at the age of 32 – but his career entertaining fans was far from over.
Rebuilding His Life
Undaunted by his career-ending injury, Haybusa worked hard to rebuild his life.
A return to the ring was out of the question so he promoted Wrestling Marvelous Future (or “WMF”), a promotion whose initials were the reverse of FMW.
Hayabusa also spent time in the Dragon Gate promotion, leading to the recording of an album with Dragon Kid. His musical career saw him release several other albums.
Hayabusa also performed in the play “The Shinichi Amano Story” in 2005, playing a wheelchair-bound World War II pilot.
Amazingly, Hayabusa had gained some mobility six months before his death:
Unfortunately, the signs of improvement were short lived.
On March 3, 2016, Hayabusa unexpectedly passed away.
According to Tokyo Sports, Haybusa’s cause of death was due to a subarachnoid hemorrhage – bleeding of the brain.
It is possible to survive a subarachnoid hemorrhage if treated quickly, but Hayabusa lived alone so there was no one available to contact emergency services. He had been scheduled to sing at a local tavern later during the week and when he didn’t show up for a meeting, the tavern owner checked on him, discovering his dead body.
Up until his death, the Japanese legend was taking blood thinners to prevent a heart attack – common in people whose mobility is limited.
Hayabusa makes an appearance at ECW’s 1998 ‘Heatwave’ pay per view, teaming with Jinsei Shinzaki (Hakushi from his WWF days). Photo: wwe.com
Had he survived, it is believed his health would have quickly declined.
Hayabusa was 47 years old at the time of his passing. He was survived by his mother, his brother Takanori, and Hayabusa’s two daughters Ayane and Shie.
Hayabusa’s body was cremated and his ashes given to his mother for storage in a shrine at her home.
Hayabusa left a tremendous legacy for both wrestlers and wrestling fans.
During his career, Hayabusa helped to popularize the 450 Splash and the Falcon’s Arrow, as well as inventing the move known as the Phoenix Splash (aka the 450 Corkscrew Splash).
Hayabusa’s style was considered far ahead of its time and his passing saw wrestlers such as A.J. Styles, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Tommy Dreamer, Bubba Ray Dudley, Neville, Sami Zayn, and Kenny Omega heaping accolades on Twitter.
Haystacks Calhoun Death – Diabetes
Wrestling big man, Haystacks Calhoun, Dead at 55 after suffering from diabetes
Haystacks Calhoun cultivated the character of a lovable hillbilly with his overalls, bushy hair, and trademark lucky horseshoe.
Legend has it the big man was discovered by a group of wrestling promoters who saw him carrying cows across his farm. Whether or not this is true, Calhoun began wrestling in the mid-1950, wearing overalls and carrying his lucky horseshoe to the ring. Calhoun boasted a weight ranging from 450-500 pounds – and in true wrestling fashion, his weight would be exaggerated to 600+ pounds depending on where he was working at the time.
Billed from Morgan’s Corner, Arkansas, Calhoun furthered the role of a giant hillbilly, thanks to his bushy hair and beard, and habit of wrestling barefoot.
More than Mass
While it’s possible Haystacks could have got by on his size alone, the man mountain showed a willingness to learn wrestling holds, displaying rarely seen moves for a man his size. Calhoun displayed remarkable agility as well, making him much more than just a mass of muscle.
Calhoun never lacked for work, traveling the globe to work in a number of National Wrestling Alliance territories, earning NWA World Heavyweight Championship title shots.
Through the years, Calhoun also visited New Japan Pro Wrestling and Vince McMahon Sr.’s World-Wide Wrestling Federation.
The big man could also be found on television, such as his cameo in Rod Serling’s television production of Requiem for a Heavyweight.
Haystacks signing autographs for fans at the Fairgrounds Expo Building in Walla Walla, WA. June 14, 1963.
He made frequent appearances on television including Groucho Marx’ show You Bet Your Life and talk shows hosted by Jack Parr and Merv Griffin. Calhoun dazzled viewers with his incredible strength when he appeared on Art Linkletter’s program House Party. There, Calhoun tossed bales of hay like they were rolls of toilet paper. Needless to say, the nickname “Haystacks” was forever attached to Calhoun.
Like colleague Andre the Giant, Haystacks could put food away with ease. Imagine the shock to the manager of an “all-you-can-eat” diner when Andre the Giant and Haystacks Calhoun walked in, ready to get the most of the $2 charge. Legend has it Calhoun and Andre each ate $25 worth of food on a $4 tab, bringing a restaurant manager to tears. Fortunately, Calhoun and Andre laughed the night off, paying the manager what the meal would normally have cost. Andre noted in a 1973 interview that “He [the manager] thanked us for that and told us two more like us could put him out of business.”
Calhoun’s wandering ways ended when he settled down in the WWWF, becoming a regular in the promotion.
There, Calhoun teamed with Tony Garea to form a powerful tag team, winning the WWWF Tag Team Championship. Calhoun continued wrestling there, both in singles and tag team action.
Haystacks Calhoun Death
Haystacks Calhoun grave in McKinney, Texas. Photo: Kathryn mckilip thrift
Hercules Death – Heart Disease
Remembering Hercules. The former professional wrestler was just 47 years old at the time of his death. Photo: wwe.com
Many people might not recognize Raymond Fernandez’s name, but anyone who followed the WWF during the 1980s has seen him step into the ring under the name Hercules Hernandez – and later shortened to just Hercules.
Also a competitive bodybuilder, Hercules was known for his powerful physique, which suited his ring name.
Despite looking like a million bucks, Herc’ never broke into super stardom in the wrestling world, though he did take part in a few memorable programs that 80s wrestling fans will remember.
Hercules Hernandez joined the World Wrestling Federation in 1985. While he was involved in a few story lines and took on some top billed talent (notably Hogan, and Warrior) he was never able to build a large fan base. Many speculate that the WWF never gave Hercules a real opportunity to shine – his matches often resulting in him jobbing to the bigger star.
Hercules takes part in the opening bout of WrestleMania V at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. Photo: wwe.com
A Quiet Retirement before Death
Hercules’ titantron video
The Details of the Hercules Death Story
Remembering the Man after the Hercules Death Story
Hercules grave at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, FL. Photo: unknown
Raymond “Hercules” Fernandez Grave
The grave of Hercules is located at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, FL. The plot is located at Section 325, Site 558.
Iron Mike Sharpe Death – Undisclosed Causes
1987: Iron Mike Sharpe on an episode of Prime Time Wrestling. Photo: wwe.com
Sharpe spent much of his tenure with the WWF as enhancement talent.
Boston Garden, 1986: Iron Mike Sharpe squares off against Special Delivery Jones. Photo: wwe.com
Ivan Koloff Death – Liver Cancer
Wrestling legend Ivan Koloff, Dead at 74. Photo: wwe.com
1942-2017 (age 74)
Wrestling legend Ivan Koloff has died at age 74.
The wrestling world has been dealt a number of blows over the last week, including the passing of George “The Animal” Steele on February 16th, and Nicole Bass just yesterday.
Chavo Guerrero Sr. died a week ago, February 11th, suffering from liver cancer – the same fate that would take Ivan Koloff.
MSG, November 17, 1975: Ivan Koloff scoops Bruno Sammartino for the slam. Photo: wwe.com
Koloff spent time in WWWF and NWA throughout the 70s and 80s.
NWA 1986: Ivan and Nikita take on the Road Warriors
Despite major success during his run in the WWWF (now WWE), Ivan Koloff was never inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame – though a posthumous induction could still take place in the future. Koloff was, however, inducted into the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, located in Wichita Falls, TX. He received that honor in 2011.
Remembering Ivan Koloff
Many prominent names in the wrestling industry have tweeted out about Ivan Koloff’s passing. Here’s a few:
Jack Brisco Death – Surgery Complications
Legendary grappler Jack Brisco, dead at 68 after surgery complications.
1941-2010 (Age 68)
Jack Brisco distinguished himself in amateur and professional wrestling, becoming the first Native American to win the NCAA Wrestling National Championship as well as the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Heavyweight Championship.
Brisco teamed with Brother Jerry in various promotions. The pair were also part-owners of Georgia Championship Wrestling. Jack Brisco accomplished much in the wrestling industry; retiring as the business was going national.
Brisco died in 2010 following complications from heart surgery. He was 68 years old.
Amateur Wrestling’s First Native American NCAA Champion
Jack Brisco was born Freddie Joe Brisco on September 21, 1941, just months before America entered the Second World War.
The Blackwell, Oklahoma native proved a capable amateur wrestler in high school, winning two state wrestling titles. Brisco was an accomplished football player as well and was offered a football scholarship at the University of Oklahoma. However, Brisco was committed to wrestling and chose Oklahoma State, becoming a two-time All-American wrestler there. Jack Brisco’s skills saw him finish second in the NCAA’s 1964 wrestling tournament. In 1965, Brisco won it all, capturing the NCAA Wrestling Championship and becoming the first Native American athlete to do so.
Tag Team Champs: Jack Brisco (right) with Brother Jerry
Rising to the Top
Although Jack Brisco became a professional wrestler for the chance to travel and make money, he soon became disgruntled with the pay. Things changed when Brisco went to work in Eddie Graham’s promotion, Championship Wrestling from Florida.
Graham, a powerful figure in wrestling, began grooming Jack to become the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Along the way, Graham taught Brisco the figure-four leglock, a move Brisco immediately adopted.
Brisco’s good looks and incredible athleticism made him a top candidate for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. He could defend the belt should someone attempt to double-cross him, and he had the looks to play a strong babyface, yet evoke a tough image with his ability to dish out and take a beating in the ring.
Jack Brisco scoops Harley Race for the piledriver. Photo: youtube
Jack Brisco remained a top singles star, but also formed a long-lasting and successful tag team with younger brother Jerry (whom Jack trained for the business). The two won many regional titles and also wrestled matches with another brother team—Dory Funk, Jr. and Terry Funk.
The Brisco Brothers worked one of the hottest tag team angles in Jim Crockett Promotions when they began a rivalry with the popular babyface team of Jay Youngblood and Ricky Steamboat. The Briscos were babyfaces when they challenged Youngblood and Steamboat to a match, and during the match, the Briscos accidentally hurt one of their opponents—or was it an accident?
With tempers flaring, the Briscos turned heel, attacking Youngblood and Steamboat, battling with them for JCP’s version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship. This led to their much-anticipated match at the second Starrcade, where the Briscos lost to the babyfaces.
Jack Brisco (right) with his brother Jerry. Photo: instagram
In-Ring Retirement and a New Career
In 2008, Brisco was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Jack Brisco Death
Brisco is buried at Wolf Cemetery in Wolf, Oklahoma.
Jack Brisco’s grave in Wolf, Oklahoma. Photo: Joe easley
Jack Tunney Death – Heart Disease
Jack Tunney, WWF’s figurehead president in the late 80s and early 90s dies of a heart attack. He was 68. Photo: wwe.com
1935-2004 (age 68)
A Messy Separation from the WWF
The Details of the Jack Tunney Death Story
Silence after the Jack Tunney Death News
11 years before his death: At SummerSlam ’93, WWF President Jack Tunney orders Jerry Lawler into the ring to fight Bret Hart. Lawler attempted to get out of the match by faking an injury. Photo: wwe.com
Jack Tunney, pictured here at ringside, served as a figurehead president of the WWF in the late 80s and early 90s. Photo: wwe.com
A Legal Battle Concludes the Jack Tunney Death Story
Jack Brisco’s grave in Wolf, Oklahoma. Photo: Joe easley