The 'Coincidental' Curse of Hardcore

In the last few decades of the 20th century, one of the more powerful wrestling organizations was World Class Championship Wrestling, based out of Dallas and run by Fritz von Erich. In the old days, it was remembered for its great match-ups and hard-running feuds. The von Erichs vs. the Freebirds were routinely talked about as one of the greatest rivalries of all time. Yet today, most people remember WCCW for a different legacy: that of the deaths of many of its young wrestlers. You can put together a Whoís Who of young wrestlers who passed away, including Chris Adams (46), Bruiser Brody (42), Gino Hernandez (28), and most of the von Erichs (Chris at 21, David at 25, Kerry at 33, and Mike at 23).

They died of different causes, to be sure. The Von Erichs, except for Davidís Ďoverdoseí, committed suicide. Brody was murdered in Puerto Rico by a fellow wrestler. Adams was shot by his best friend, who later claimed self-defense. Hernandez was found ODíed on cocaine. You obviously canít blame everything on the World Class organization, but it does lead people to wonder about what went on in the locker room. Was there an overriding factor that all of these wrestlers had in common? Pressure? Pain? Drugs? Or was it simply, as some have called it, the WCCW curse? We may never know.

I started thinking about the old WCCW recently, due to some recent events in the wrestling world. There have been a lot of deaths in the news lately, most especially Chris Benoitís murder/suicide. TV broadcasters have gotten all over the story, blaming World Wrestling Entertainment, the wrestling business, and, of course, steroids. I, however, am noting another trend: many of the younger wrestlers who have passed away spent time in Extreme Championship Wrestling. Thatís what really got me going: is there a new curse building up, that took the place of WCCW? Is there an ECW Curse? I was wondering whether I should write this column a few months ago, but with the recent surge in ECW deaths, I felt I just had to get it out there and let the readers decide on it.

Letís look over a list that Iíve put together, using a lot of the Deceased Wrestlers bios Iíve built up over the years. First off, Iím going to limit my own list. Iím thinking that you either had to have a good period of time spent in ECW, or you had to have had a title reign there, to be added to my list. This leaves off Bobby Duncum Jr (34), Terry Gordy (40), Sensational Sherri Martel (49), and Brian Pillman (35), all of whom only spent a few months in ECW. All four of those are debatable, as they did work in ECW, but for now, letís leave them off. So whoís that leave? A heck of a lot of people, sadly.

Mike Awesome (42): Awesome was a former two-time ECW World Heavyweight Champion, as well as a co-ECW World Tag-Team Title holder with Raven. On February 17th, 2007, Awesome apparently committed suicide, hanging himself.

Chris Benoit (40): Benoit held the ECW World Tag-Team Titles with his good friend, Dean Malenko. Everyone, by now, knows the story of how Benoit killed his wife, Nancy, and his child, then killed himself, only a few weeks ago. It still feels like yesterday.

Nancy Benoit (43): I thought Iíd throw Nancy on here, as she managed the ECW World Tag-Team Champions, Kevin Sullivan & The Tazmanic, while she was in the organization. Maybe she didnít hold the belts herself, but she was there long enough to manage champions, and thatís good enough for me. RIP, Nancy.

Bam Bam Bigelow (45): Bigelow had his greatest success in ECW, holding both the ECW World Heavyweight Title and the ECW Television Title during his run there. He was also a major part of the Triple Threat, a group that lived on in other organizations. Bigelow died on January 19th, 2007, due to multiple drugs in his system, including cocaine and benzodiazepine.

Chris Candido (33): Candido, another member of the Triple Threat, was a three-time ECW World Tag-Team Champion, twice with Johnny Hotbody & Chris Michaels, and once with Lance Storm. Candido, after working through his drug addictions and getting a fresh start in TNA, had a freak broken leg occur after a dropkick at the Lockdown PPV, then, due to complications stemming from a blood clot, passed away April 28th, 2005.

Big Dick Dudley (34): Big Dick may never have held any titles in ECW, but he was there long enough to help start one of the most famous wrestling families in the world today. The patriarch of the Dudley clan passed away on May 16th, 2002, possibly due to kidney failure due to a dependency on painkillers.

Eddie Gilbert (33): Gilbert was only in ECW for a brief time, but it was long enough for him to earn the ECW Tag-Team Titles along with his brother, the Dark Patriot, in 1993. Gilbert died on February 18th, 1995, from a heart attack that may have been helped along by either steroids or the remnants of an earlier car accident.

Johnny Grunge (39): Grunge, along with his partner, Rocco Rock, formed one of the most famous ECW tag-teams in The Public Enemy. They held the ECW World Tag-Team Titles four times, an impressive display. Grunge died on February 16th, 2006, due to complications with sleep apnea (although some are speculating now that his prescriptions may have also played a part).

Eddie Guerrero (38): Guerrero had two reigns as the ECW Television Champion in 1995, before hitting the big time in World Championship Wrestling. As most people know, Guerrero battled a painkiller addiction for a long time, before cleaning himself up. On November 13th, 2005, Guerrero was found dead in his hotel room, due to heart failure.

John Kronus (Unknown): Kronus was the one who inspired me to finally start writing this report that Iíd been looking at for weeks. He was a former 4-time ECW World Tag-Team Champion, reigning once with New Jack in the Gangstanators, and three times with Perry Saturn as the Eliminators. Kronus passed away July 18th, 2007, of unknown causes (at this time). He was found in his girlfriendís house.

Pitbull #2 (35 or 36): Anthony Durante, commonly known as Pitbull #2, held both the ECW World Tag-Team Titles (with Pitbull #1) and the ECW World Television Title. He and his girlfriend, Dianna Hulsey, were found dead on their living room floor on September 25th, 2003, due to overdoses on painkillers. Their children were found wandering around, having spent at least a day alone with the bodies.

Rocco Rock (49): Rock, as noted earlier, had four ECW World Tag-Team Title reigns with his partner, Johnny Grunge. Rock nearly made it to the 50-year cut-off point, but passed away on September 21st, 2002, due to a heart attack (which was common in his family).

Louie Spicolli (27): Spicolli never officially won gold in ECW, but he did spent over a year there, feuding with wrestlers like Chris Candido, Shane Douglas, Tommy Dreamer, and Too Cold Scorpio, among others. Spicolli died on February 15th, 1998, due to an overdose of alcohol and painkillers.

Just like that, I have 13 names on my list. Thirteen wrestlers who came through ECW and did not live to see 50, not including the other four I mentioned earlier. That, to me, is a pretty telling statistic, and thatís just noting the wrestlers who had success in ECW. So does this mean that we should be watching other wrestlers from those days, making sure theyíre hanging in there? How about Sabu, who had such health problems a few years back that a charity show was run to raise funds? How about Shane Douglas, who entered rehab last year for an Oxycontin addiction? Should we be monitoring Dean Malenko or Perry Saturn, both of whom have lost several friends as of late? I donít know. At the start of í07, I would have said no. But with 5 members of my list having died just this year, I have to wonder if the Curse is reaching its peak, much like WCCWís did. I just hope Iím wrong.

If this disturbed you to read it, well, it disturbed me to write it as well. But I felt I needed to do it, to gain some of my 'wrestling sanity' back after such a rough year thus far for professional wrestling. I guess you could say it helps me put some stuff behind me. I'm sick and tired of placing new additions to the Deceased Wrestlers section. I've got 77 names on that list now, over 11% of my total bios, and a very good percentage of those are men and women who seemed to pass before their time. I just hope I won't be adding any more names to that list, or especially this ECW list, for some time to come.

The Accelerator