A Disheartening Trend? Wrestling's Lengthy Death Toll

Thursday, August 16, 2007

World Wrestling Entertainment officials say they see no connection or pattern to the deaths of dozens of professional wrestlers over the past decade or so. Among those who have died, however, are at least eight men who were friends, mentors or close professional associates of Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit:

· Art "Love Machine" Barr, 28, who died in 1994, was one of Guerrero's best friends on the Mexican circuit, as well as his tag-team partner in a group called Los Gringos Locos. Official cause of death: heart failure.

· Brian Pillman, 35, a former NFL player who wrestled against Guerrero and with Benoit in a World Championship Wrestling group called the Four Horsemen, died in October 1997. Cause of death: heart attack.

· Louis ("Louie Spico li") Mucciolo, 27, a later member of Los Gringos, died in 1998. Cause of death: complications from an overdose of Soma, a painkiller and muscle relaxant popular with wrestlers.

· Owen Hart, 34, Benoit's teenage training partner and longtime friend, died in May 1999 when he fell more than 50 feet from the rafters at a World Wrestling Federation show in Kansas City, Mo.

· Ted Petty, 49, who wrestled with Benoit and Guerrero throughout the 1990s, died in 2002. Cause of death: heart attack.

· Victor "Black Cat" Mar, 51, a onetime member of Los Gringos who wrestled with Benoit in Japan, died in late January 2006, about two months after Guerrero died. Cause of death: heart attack.

· Mike "Johnny Grunge," Durham, 39, Benoit's neighbor and confidant after Guerrero's death and Petty's longtime partner in a tag team called Public Enemy, died in February 2006, about three months after Guerrero. Cause of death: complications from sleep apnea. (Dunham had worked with Nancy Benoit in Extreme Championship Wrestling in the mid-'90s and shared the Benoit's doctor, Phil Astin.)

· Shayne Bower, 42, known as "Biff Wellington," died the same weekend this year as Benoit. Bower was another former tag-team partner of Benoit's and a fellow Canadian. Suspected cause of death: heart attack.

-- Paul Farhi

© 2007 The Washington Post Company