Wrestling Deaths: No News Is No News

Scott Hudson

Wrestling deaths are big news again. And they should be.

You mean you havenâ<80><99>t heard? Wow, I would have thought that everyone would be talking about the latest rash of deaths of those associated with the sport of kings. It really is huge news.

In case you did not hear – old people are dying again. Just this week, the heavenly beautiful Penny Banner and the not beautiful at all but deservedly respected Leo Garibaldi passed away. Miss Banner was 73 and Mr, Garibaldi was 78. Just recently we lost Don Curtis (age 80), Playboy Gary Hart (age 66), Johnny Weaver (age 72), Sara Lee (age 76) and Ron Slinker (the baby at age 62). All as old as our parents or grandparents or older.

Yep. You heard me. Not one blamed on lifestyle or Vince McMahon. What happened (you might ask)?

Chris Benoit happened. June 25, 2007, almost one year ago, the rules changed. Itâ<80><99>s almost as if the Pilled-Up Gassed-Up Coked-Up Wrestlers Association of America ( PUGUCU-WAA) issued a press release memo on June 26 that said: â<80><9c>We are pleased to announce that the surge of young wrestler deaths is over (for the time being). We have learned our lesson after what happened with Benoit and, for the forseeable future, we will really ratchet-back on the recreational drug use and other anti-long-life lifestyle decisions. Thank you for your time and John Cena sucks.â<80>

Of course, that was a joke. But it makes you wonder. The off-quoted figures of 70 wrestlers under the age of 50 have died since 1998 (or whatever) has been turned on its head. Since Chris Benoit betrayed his legacy and his fans that horrible George weekend last summer, four wrestlers have passed away before the age of 50:

Brian Adams, age 43, the next to last of the holdovers who did not get the PUGUCU-WAA memo;

Sean â<80><9c>Shockerâ<80> Evans, age 36, of cancer (we still miss you my friend);

Dave â<80><9c>Angel of Deathâ<80> Sheldon, age 45, the last of the holdovers who did not get the PUGUCU-WAA memo;

Chase Tatum, age 36, okay so he was the last of the holdovers who did not get the PUGUCU-WAA memo.

And thatâ<80><99>s it. Adams, Sheldon and Tatumâ<80><99>s deaths, while undeniably tragic, do fit in with that growing list that has been tossed around like a hackey-sack. But Adams died on August 13, 2007, Sheldon died on November 24, 2007, and Tatum died on March 24, 2008. Hardly the deluge we experienced from 1998 until June 25, 2007.

Is it just possible that maybe the Benoit situation was the slap in the face, the cold water bath, the cattle prod to the twins that wrestling needed to at least marginally clean up their act? I think the answer is unequivocally yes.

The dressing rooms of the WWE, TNA and ROH are populated now a growing number of workers young enough to vividly remember the deaths of Louie Spiccoli, Rick Rude, Road Warrior Hawk, Brian Pillman, Curt Hennig, Bobby Duncum, Jr., and the like. This group understood that the pills, coke, gas, etc. would lead them to a similar fate. I am certainly not naive enough to think that no one is doing this stuff. But it is worth noting that not as many are doing it and those that are doing it are being much more careful. There are still a few who veterans maybe didnâ<80><99>t get the memo but it appears they are also cutting back in order to prolong their life.

I do not mean to diminish the loss to the families of those who passed away at a ripe old age. I have endured the deaths of four grandparents, my mother and my father (the latter of whom died during my first broadcast of â<80><9c>WCW Nitroâ<80> on April 10, 2000). A loss is a loss is a loss. But if someone in the sport of wrestling dies at the age of 65 or 70, we can look back and say â<80><9c>they had a great run and lived a long life.â<80> No tragedy in that at all. Lets hope this is a trend that continues.

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