To come up with a definitive list of deceased American professional wrestlers that everyone will agree with is virtually impossible. American professional wrestling is a unique business, belonging neither to the sports or entertainment world. It does not have a well recorded history. There is no single entity that oversees the industry or official database that keeps track of participants or any vital statistics.
Professional wrestling: An activity in which participants struggle hand-in-hand primarily for the purpose of providing entertainment to spectators rather than conducting a bona fide athletic contest. (1)
American professional wrestler: The individual who engages in United States of America professional wrestling. The definition is broadened to include other individuals within the industry such as promoters, announcers, trainers, referees, managers, and valets.
National era of professional wrestling: June 6, 1982 to March 23, 2001.
The beginning of the National Era of American professional wrestling can be traced to June 6, 1982. This is the date Vincent K. McMahon bought Capitol Wrestling, the parent company of what is now known as WWE. Within months McMahon started his national expansion by acquiring talent from other organizations, airing his shows in new markets, securing time on cable television and venturing into pay-per-view programming. The era was also characterized by the end of the old territorial system. While several promoters tried to be successful on a national level, by 2001 only the WWE had survived.
Modern era of professional wrestling: March 24, 2001 to present.
By the end of the last century the only remaining American professional wrestling companies from the National era were WWE and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Coming off the success of Wrestlemania XIV, on March 29, 1998, WWE Raw surpassed WCW Monday Night Nitro for the first time in the cable television ratings on April 13, 1998. WCW never recovered and was eventually sold to Vince McMahon on March 23, 2001.
Professional wrestling National Era major promotions:
(1) American Wrestling Association (Verne Gagne): June 6, 1982 to early 1991.
(2) Extreme Championship Wrestling (Todd Gorden/Paul Heyman): August 8, 1994 to April 4, 2001.
(3) Global Wrestling Federation (Max Andrews/Joe Pedicino/Grey Pierson): June 1991 to September, 1996.
(4) National Wrestling Alliance members within the United States: June 6, 1982 to September 1, 1993.
- By the early 1980's most of the territories were no longer viable. Jim Crockett Promotions emerged as the most likely contender at the national level. The promotion absorbed several other territories including Championship Wrestling from Georgia (April 6, 1985), St. Louis Wrestling Club (1985), Bob Geigel's Heart of American Sports Attractions, Inc. (from September 1986 to February, 1987), Championship Wrestling from Florida (February, 1987), and Bill Watt's Universal Wrestling Federation (April 9, 1987) before being bought by Ted Turner on February 2, 1988.
- Although the National Wrestling Alliance is still in existence today, the symbolic end to the organization occurred on September 1, 1993 when Jim Crockett, Jr. pulled out.
- World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) is included in this category. WCCW withdrew its membership from the Alliance on February 20, 1986. It integrated with Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) to form the United States Wrestling Association (USWA) on December 13, 1988.
(5) United States Wrestling Association (Kevin Von Erich/Jerry Jarrett): December 13, 1988 to November, 1997.
(6) Universal Wrestling Federation (Herb Abrams): October, 1990 to 1994.
(7) Universal Wrestling Federation (Bill Watts): March, 1986 to April 9, 1987.
(8) World Championship Wrestling: February 2, 1988 to March 23, 2001.
(9) WWE: June 6, 1982 to March 23, 2001.
- During the National Era WWE absorbed several other promotions including Georgia Championship wrestling (April 19, 1984), Maple Leaf Wrestling (July 22, 1984), Stampede Wrestling (August 24, 1984), Houston Wrestling (August, 1987), World Championship Wrestling (March 23, 2001), and eventually the assets of Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Professional wrestling Modern Era major promotions:
(1) Total Nonstop Action Wrestling: June 19, 2002 to present.
(2) WWE: March 24, 2001 to present.
- This includes the following affiliated/developmental promotions: Heartland Wrestling Association (1998 to 2005), Memphis Championship Wrestling (February 20, 2000 to June 2001), Ohio Valley Wrestling (2000 to February 7, 2008), Deep South Wrestling (January 1, 2005 to February 18, 2007), and Florida Championship Wrestling (February 15, 2008 to present).
(3) Ring of Honor: February 23, 2002 to present.
(1) The deceased was an American professional wrestler.
- The individual did not have to achieve main event status, as preliminary, enhancement, and WWE developmental talent are also eligible for inclusion.
(2) To be classified in the National Era, the professional wrestler must have spent the majority of his/her career working in this time period.
- If the professional wrestler spent the majority of his/her career in the National Era , but sporadically worked into the Modern Era, or worked mostly for non-major promotions in the Modern Era, he/she would be classified into the National Era.
(3) To be classified in the Modern Era, the professional wrestler most have spent the majority of his/her career working in this period.
- If the professional wrestler spent the majority of his/her career in the National Era, but was actively working into the Modern Era with a major promotion at the time of death, he/she would be classified into the Modern Era.
(3) The professional wrestler was age 55 or younger at the time of his/her death.
(1) Any individual who does not meet the definition of an American professional wrestler.
(2) International professional wrestlers. An international professional wrestler is defined as a professional wrestler who spent the majority of his/her career in an organization geographically located outside the United States of America. An international professional wrestler may have worked in one or more of professional wrestling's major leagues during his/her career. Also included under this definition are international promoters, announcers, trainers, referees, managers, and valets
(4) Wrestlers who died while training in a wrestling school.
(5) A professional wrestler who spent the majority of his/her career working for any regional/independent company not listed as a major promotion.
- Kerr, P. (February 10, 1989). Now it can be told: those pro wrestlers are just having fun. New York Times. www.query.nytimes.com.
- David Adkisson (David Von Erich) 2/10/84.
- Edward Gossett ( Eddie Graham) 1/25/85.
- Steve Romero (Jay Youngblood) 9/2/85.
- Rick McGraw 11/1/85.
- Charles Wolfe (Gino Hernandez) 2/2/86.
- Mike Adkisson (Mike Von Erich) 4/12/87.
- Scott Irwin 9/1/87.
- Keith Franke (Adrian Adonis) 7/4/88.
- Frank Goodish (Bruiser Brody) 7/16/88.
- Roland Daniels (LeRoy Brown/Elijah Akeen) 9/6/88.
- Ed Gantner 12/31/90.
- Chris Adkisson (Chris Von Erich) 9/12/91.
- Ralph Pulley 1/6/92.
- Bruce Woyan (Buzz Sawyer) 2/7/92.
- Stan Frazier (Uncle Elmer) 6/30/92.
- Andre Roussimoff (Andre the Giant) 1/27/93.
- Kerry Adkisson (Kerry Von Erich) 2/18/93.
- Adolfo Bresciano (Dino Bravo) 3/11/93.
- David Peterson (DJ Peterson) 5/25/93.
- Ray Canty (Ray Candy) 5/15/94.
- Art Barr 11/23/94.
- Jerry Blackwell 1/22/95.
- John Minton (Big John Studd) 3/20/95.
- Hoyt Murdoch (Dick Murdoch) 6/15/96.
- Robert Swenson Jr. (Jeep Swenson) 8/18/97.
- Brian Hildebrand (Mark Curtis) 9/18/93.
- Joey Marella 7/4/94.
- Herb Abrams 7/23/96.
- Brian Pillman 10/5/97.
- Louis Mucciolo Jr. (Louie Spicolli) 2/15/98.
- Sylvester Ritter (Junk Yard Dog) 6/1/98.
- Dean Peters (Brady Boone) 12/15/98.
- Richard Williams (Renegade) 2/23/99.
- Richard Rood (Rick Rude) 4/20/99.
- Owen Hart 5/23/99.
- Mitch Snow "2000".
- Bobby Duncum, Jr. 1/24/00.
- Rodney Anoai (Yokozuna) 10/23/00.
- Terry Gordy 7/16/01.
- Rhonda Singh (Bertha Faye) 7/27/01.
- Chris Adams 10/7/01.
- Mike Davis 12/25/01.
- Jeff Raitz 2/9/02.
- Dave DiMeglio (Dino Casanova) 3/1/02.
- Troy Thompson, Jr. (The Dream Machine) 3/7/02.
- Randy Anderson 5/5/02.
- Alex Rizzo (Big Dick Dudley) 5/16/02.
- David Smith (Davey Boy Smith) 5/18/02.
- Ted Petty ( Flyboy Rocco Rock) 9/21/02.
- Gary Mize (Billy Travis) 11/22/02.
- Curt Hennig 2/10/03.
- Elizabeth Hulette ( Miss Elizabeth) 5/1/03.
- Anthony Durante (Pit Bull #2) 9/25/03.
- Michael Hegstrand (Road Warrior Hawk) 10/19/03.
- Larry Booker (Moondog Spot) 11/29/03.
- Jerry Tuite (The Wall) 12/6/03.
- Michael Lozanski 12/18/03.
- Raymond Fernandez (Hercules Hernandez) 3/6/04.
- Ken Timbs 8/1/04.
- Ray Traylor (Big Bossman) 9/22/04.
- Marianna Komlor (Mrs. Cleavage) 9/26/04.
- Pez Whatley 1/18/05.
- Emory Hail (Emory Hale) 1/28/06.
- Michael Durham (Johnny Grunge) 2/16/06.
- John Tenta (Earthquake) 6/7/06.
- Joseph Magliano (Joey Maggs) 10/15/06.
- Scott Bigelow (Bam Bam Bigelow) 1/19/07.
- Michael Alfonso (Mike Awesome) 2/17/07.
- Sherri Schroll (Sherri Martel) 6/15/07.
- Nancy Benoit ( Woman) 6/22/07.
- George Caiazzo (John Kronus) 7/18/07.
- Brian Adams (Crush) 8/13/07.
- Dave Sheldon (Angel of Death) 11/25/07.
- Randy Barber 1/1/08.
- Chase Tatum 3/23/08.
- Michael Bell 12/14/08.
- Lanny Kean, Jr. (Cousin, Jr./Moondog Cujo) 1/13/09.
- Steve Doll (Steven Dunn) 5/22/09.
- Steve Williams 12/29/09.
- Tony Halme (Ludvig Borga) 1/8/10.
- Tom Burton 3/29/10.
- Toni Dunahoo (Toni Adams) 6/24/10.
- Mike Shaw (Norman the Lunatic/Bastion Booger) 9/4/10.
- Jorge Gonzalez (Giant Gonzalez) 9/22/10.
- Gertrude Hurd-Nash (Luna Vachon) 8/27/10.
- Bobby Baker 11/25/11.
- Valentino Puccio (Big Val) 1/7/11.
- Doug Furnas 3/2/12.
- Brad Armstrong 11/1/12.
- Dwain McCullough (Awesome Kong) 11/17/12.
- James Jefferson (Spike of the Mod Squad) 2/8/13.
- Al Green 6/3/13.
- Matt Borne 6/28/13.
- Corey Maclin 7/3013.
- Gene Petit (Cousin Luke) 9/24/13.
- Nelson Frazier, Jr. (Mabel) 2/18/14.
- Thomas Haas (Russ Haas) 12/15/01.
- Robert Dicks (Slick Robbie D) 2/18/02.
- Mike Lockwood (Crash Holly) 11/6/03.
- Chris Candido 4/28/05.
- Eddie Guerrero 11/13/05.
- Chris Benoit 6/25/07.
- Andrew Martin (Test) 3/13/09.
- Eddie Fatu (Umanga) 12/4/09.
- Chris Klucsaritis (Kanyon) 4/2/10.
- Michael Verdi (Trent Acid) 6/18/10.
- Lance McNaught (Lance Cade) 8/13/10.
- Shawn McGrath (Shawn Osborne) 1/26/11.
- Alexander Whybrow (Larry Sweeney) 4/11/11.
- Mark Smith (Bison Smith) 11/22/11.