The unfortunate truth about our beloved sport between the ropes is that so many have left us far too soon. As such, it would be impossible to talk about every single one; but when I heard about Sean O'Haire's recent passing, having been a huge fan of The Natural Born Thrillers in WCW back in the day, I wanted to do some sort of tribute to his memory.
Unfortunately, when sitting down to do so, I realized that sadly, his career never reached the heights of potential that it should have. Therefore, I thought the best choice to make was to reflect on those tragic losses in pro wrestling which have affected me the most and reflect upon his career at the end of this list.
In an effort to try to control this piece and keep it from being even longer than what will undoubtedly already be an incredibly long read, I won't be talking all that much about what made each performer a great wrestler. I'll be strictly focusing on the impact that each man and their passing left on me. I sincerely hope that you enjoy this piece and will share with me some of your equal or other choices via our comments section.
Eddie Guerrero: October 9, 1967 – November 13, 2005
|"Latino Heat" Eddie Guerrero in his signing moment is WWE Champion|
Eddie comes first on this list because I was born on the day he died. That's right—yours truly was born on November 13th! What made the impact even worse was that it was also the date of my 21st birthday and having a family history of alcoholism, I refused to drink. As of today, I still have never taken one; so instead, my big 21st birthday gift/celebration was front row tickets to a WWE Raw house show here in Dayton, Ohio that night! Never before and never again (most likely) will I ever experience such a high and such a low in the same evening from this sport that I love so dearly.
I remember so vividly that I arrived home to find that my answering machine had been blowing up all night long and I thought it had everything to do with my birthday and people wanting to send me well wishes and nothing more. Instead, I tragically discovered my messages were about the news of Eddie's passing.
In those days, the ease in which everyone could aspire to become a media personality through the Internet had not yet fully come to pass. As such, my early days as a wrestling personality came as a hotline host. Yes, you read that correctly, I said a hotline host. I have no ability to speak as to if it was a universal thought process or not, but those of us in Dayton, Ohio took the idea from WCW and the legendary "Mean Gene" Okerlund driving their hotline number into our heads. We thought if they can have a number giving their opinions on professional wrestling, so can we.
I was a part of somewhere between 3 to 5 hotlines over the years—I've honestly lost track. Ironically enough, it just so happens to be the case that at the time of Eddie's passing, I was running one of my own. As the owner, I had the number one responsibility over any other reporters on the hotline to deliver and reflect upon breaking news. I have no idea what I said, because I've never been so shocked and saddened at the same time in all of my life; it was literally the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Instead, the one particular memory that I vividly have in regards to my report from that night is of a message left by a fan after the tone expressing his own shock and disbelief.
"EDDIE?! EDDIE?! EDDIE?! HOW CAN THIS BE? I JUST SAW HIM ON SMACKDOWN YESTERDAY?! HE JUST HAD A MATCH AGAINST MR. KENNEDY! THIS CAN'T BE RIGHT, EDDIE GUERRERO CAN'T BE DEAD! His shouts of anger through tears are exactly what I—and I'm sure everyone else around the world—was feeling at the time.
Over the next several days, everyone at "The Source Hotline" reported on every bit of "news" that we could regarding Eddie's passing, trying so desperately to find answers and bring some closure. As is the truth about every shocking sudden passing—not just Eddie's—even once the truth comes out, it doesn't take away the pain.
There are very few performers in the history of this industry who have the unique ability of being both a great high-flyer and a great mat technician the way that Eddie did. He lied, cheated and stole his way into all of our hearts and he will never, ever be forgotten! As for me, my birthday will be forever bittersweet as long as I live. Forever rest in peace "Latino Heat!"
Chris Benoit: May 21, 1967 – June 24, 2007
|A highlight in Chris Benoit's career that has been tainted by his death|
It's no mystery at all to anyone who is a wrestling fan why Chris Benoit would be on this list. The reasons that his death shocked me so much are the same reasons that they shocked all of us throughout the world.
All that I want to say here is that while there will never be any excuse whatsoever that can condone the actions of the last 24 hours of his life, I've always felt that wrestling fans need to try to find a way to remember his career since the information that has since come out has revealed that without a doubt he was nowhere near in his right mind.
As someone with a disability myself, I can tell you that mental issues are something that should not be taken lightly and I've often wondered if those horrible events would've taken place had people known how depressed he was and how many concussions he actually had.
When I think back on the life of Chris Benoit, I think of a true wrestling legacy that will never be allowed to be recognized because of his actions that can never be undone. I've always felt this way, but recent access to the WWE Network and the ability to see his work for the first time in years have reminded me that just as his good friend Eddie Guerrero was, Benoit was quite simply one of the best hybrid technicians in the history of the industry. It breaks my heart that it's so hard for anyone to have the ability to remember that and rightfully so. I am in no way saying forget, forgive or as I've already mentioned condone the last 24 hours of his life. But speaking strictly as a fan of wrestling, I wish more than anything in the world that night had turned out differently so that we would be able to reflect on the life of a great performer as opposed to having to carry around a memory that has forever left a black mark on our sport.
"Macho Man" Randy "Savage" Poffo: November 15, 1952 – May 20, 2011
|"Macho Man" Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth were wrestling's first real-life power couple|
As a kid wrestling fan before I grew into the man with such passion and knowledge about the inner workings of the sport, before I discovered that Chris Jericho would be my favorite wrestler of all time due to his total package of skills, I always had a hard time choosing who my favorite wrestler was between Hulk Hogan and the "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Since I didn't know what charisma was at the time, I simply always thought that there was just something that made Savage different than any other wrestler than I'd ever seen before. Not only did he always win his matches (just like Hulk Hogan), but I always used to think to myself, "I wonder what crazy colors he's going to come out dressed in today and what crazy thing he's going to say next." That is what makes Savage one of the greatest of all time. The fact that he could penetrate the mind of a 6 to 7-year-old child and allow him to know somehow even then that this was a talent that set himself apart from the pack!
It's such an unbelievable crime that reported/rumored personal animosity between Randy and Vince McMahon have kept Randy out of the WWE Hall of Fame for all these years! There is pretty much nobody who isn't already in the Hall of Fame or guaranteed a future spot who deserves to be in it more than Savage does! Even though he's no longer with us to be able to enjoy it, I hope he someday will get his day and be able to look upon us from heaven and say the only thing that he could ever say when the moment would finally arrive; "OH YEAH! The Macho Madness is in the Hall of Fame where he belongs YEAH DIG IT!"
Forever rest in peace to the master of the flying elbow drop!
The Ultimate Warrior: June 16, 1959 – April 8, 2014
|The Ultimate Warrior wins the WWE Championship at WrestleMania VI|
As a young boy, Warrior stood out to me for many of the same reasons that Randy Savage did. He had the crazy colors, he had the crazy speeches that I of course now know as promos, and he just never seemed to slow down for anything!
As we all know, that was true of the actual man himself. No wrestler in the history of this industry has ever embodied his character and his lifestyle more than Warrior. It embodied the man's soul and spirit so much that he even legally changed his name to let the world know who he felt he truly was. Over the years, we all were exposed to rumors and stories and made us wonder if and when we should ever care about seeing him again and I was never more happy than to have it finally come out that it was all just overblown circumstances and situations that were misunderstood by the parties involved.
I have never cried more during a Hall of Fame induction speech that I did with Warrior's that night and I cried just as hard again when he returned to Raw the following one to cut his promo. Whether you're a religious individual or not, I doubt very seriously that you could argue with me that no moments in time have ever seemed more meant to happen the way that they did then the last several days of his life! Hollywood itself could never written a better film script of heartache, pain and ultimate redemption!
I have always been and always will be a proud card-carrying member of "One Warrior Nation" and I fully believe that if there's one man in our sport who left us to soon that will always be in a peaceful state of rest it's Warrior!
Owen Hart: May 7, 1967 – May 23, 1999
|Own Hart: one of the greatest WWE Intercontinental champions of all time|
I doubt that there is any death in pro wrestling history (other than perhaps the second man I've spoken of in this column) that has ever been more shocking or jarring than Owen's. He was a talent who was just beginning to find his stride. Myself and others (including my good friend Brennan Miller, The PWOutsider) have made the argument that had he lived, he could have surpassed his brother as the greatest performer in the Hart family's legacy. In my mind, he had more charisma and better mic skills which would've translated into career longevity that might still be active even to this day.
It's not the idea that Owen lost his life while doing the thing he loved the most in the world that makes his death such an impactful one on me—it's the fact that, in my mind, it was an unnecessary sacrifice. While it's never the right thing to be better about things you can't change, the real truth is that his Blue Blazer character should not even have been performing that stunt and all of us know it!
The only reason that they wanted him to come down from the ceiling was to copy something that arguably WCW's strongest performer of all time "Sting" Steve Borden was already successful at. The mentality of both companies during the time of the Monday Night War between WWE and WCW cost Owen his life and nothing you can say about "maybe the proper safety precautions weren't taken" or anything of that nature can change that fact! It's for this reason that out of all the men in professional wrestling, the one I would never want to be is Vince McMahon. No one will have to carry around the sorrow and pain of this tragedy more than him.
If it's true that the Hart Family doesn't want Owen to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, it is not my business to tell them what is best for them. As a fan, I can only continue to hope for the day in which we see him go in and take his rightful place among the all-time greats because he's still not in and as he would say; "enough is enough and it's time for a change!" I miss you Owen—we all do—and I along with every other wrestling fan in the world hope that you are truly resting in peace!
Reflection on Sean O'Haire: February 25, 1971 – September 8, 2014
|Sean O'Haire as WCW Tag Team Champion|
Although he didn't make the list itself, as I mentioned at the start of this column this entire piece was inspired by and dedicated to the memory of Sean O'Haire. I'm saddened that he's gone and I'm saddened that he felt that he had to go in the way he did. To me, he was always one of the industry's most underrated talents. I've always had the opinion that his swanton bomb was always slightly better than Jeff Hardy's and as one half of WCW's The Natural Born Thrillers, was my favorite time of his career. I hope that he's now finding the peace that he so desperately needed.
Which unfortunate deaths in the pro wrestling industry have hit you the hardest? What memories would you like to share about those who have left us too soon? Leave us your thoughts in the comments section below.