Every WWE Royal Rumble Participant That Has Died
The amount of dead wrestlers that have competed in the Royal Rumble is crazy. The 1990 event features only eighteen wrestlers that are still alive. With this year’s Royal Rumble so close, we’ve found ourselves going into full hype mode, re-watching all previous events – 1988 up to 2016. At times the ring is crowded, solely with wrestlers that have passed away.
In total, 34 competitors have died since the inaugural Royal Rumble match. Here, we list them all.
#1. Dino Bravo
Born Adolfo Bresciano August 6th, 1948 in Quebec. Former WWF Canadian Championship and WWWF Tag Team Champion. On March 10th, 1993, while watching a hockey game, he was shot seventeen times. It’s alleged that it was a mafia hit and that Bresciano was involved with illegal cigarette smuggling.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1988, 1990, 1991
#2. Ultimate Warrior
Born James Hellwig, June 16th, 1959. Later changed his name to simply Warrior. One of the biggest stars Vince McMahon has ever promoted. Former WWF Intercontinental Champion and World Heavyweight Champion. His years on the wrestling blacklist were highlighted by some bizarre public speaking engagements, upsetting students on university campuses with quotable claims such as, “Queering doesn’t make the world work.”
In an eerily coincidental turn of events, he reconciled with the company shortly before his death, being inducted into the Hall of Fame the day before Wrestlemania 30, appearing on Raw the day after, and then dying the day after that, on April 8th, 2014 of a massive heart attack.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1988, 1990
#3. Junkyard Dog
Born Sylvester Ritter, December 13th, 1952. A big star in Memphis before his jump to the WWF in 1984, where he’d spend four years competing in mid-card matches. Died June 2nd, 1998 in a car crash, driving home from his daughter’s high school graduation. It’s suspected he fell asleep at the wheel.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1988
#4. André The Giant
Born André Roussimoff, May 19th 1946, exactly sixty years before the release of See No Evil. Coincidence? Yes.
His health had been steadily deteriorating for a long time, largely due to gigantism and later acromegaly, which can result in an enlarged forehead, jaw, and nose – as well as joint pain, deepening of the voice, and headaches. He died of heart failure on January 27th, 1993. Shockingly, for someone with such an impressive record in battle royals, he never won the Rumble.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1989, 1990
#5. Mr. Perfect
Born Curtis Hennig, March 28th, 1958. A true wrestler’s wrestler, having amazing matches with pretty much everyone he got in the ring with. He held the AWA World Heavyweight Championship for over a year, before making the move to the WWF, where he became a two-time Intercontinental Champion.
On February 10th, 2003, he was found dead in a Tampa, Florida hotel room. Official cause of death was acute cocaine intoxication, although his father, Larry ‘The Axe’ Hennig, has stated his belief that steroids and painkillers also contributed.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 2002
#6. Bad News Brown
Born Allen Coage, October 22nd, 1943. Became a wrestler after a successful career as a judoka, where he won a bronze medal at the 1976 Olympics. His short stint with the WWF was highlighted by his battle royal victory at Wrestlemania IV.
He died of a heart attack on March 6th, 2007.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1989, 1990
#7. ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage
Born Randy Poffo, November 15th, 1952. The number-two guy all throughout the ’80s wrestling boom. If there was a wrestling Mount Rushmore, he’d be on it.
He died March 20th, 2011, from a sudden heart attack while driving. His wife was in the car with him and, when he became unresponsive, took control of the wheel, swerving to avoid traffic, before smacking into a tree. She received minor injuries.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994
#8. Big Boss Man
Born Ray Traylor Jr., May 2nd, 1963. A perennial mid-carder for the WWF. He won the tag belts once and the Hardcore Championship four times. His body of work includes some of the weirdest, most risqué angles the WWF has ever produced – including stealing Big Show’s dead dad’s coffin, and being hung from his neck, until seemingly dead, at Wrestlemania 15.
He died for real on September 22nd, 2004 of a heart attack.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1989, 1992, 1999, 2000, 2002
#9. Big John Studd
Born John Minton, February 19th, 1948. One of the select few dead wrestlers to have won the Rumble. Other career highlights include his feud with André The Giant and their meeting at the first Wrestlemania, in which André successfully slammed Studd, winning $15,000.
A combination of liver cancer and Hodgkin’s disease claimed his life on March 20th, 1995.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1989 (Winner)
Born Raymond Fernandez, May 7th, 1956. He wrestled for the WWF between 1985 and 1992 on the lower to mid-card and never won a championship.
He died March 6th, 2004 as a result of heart disease.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992
#11. Roddy Piper
Born Roderick Toombs, April 17th, 1954 One of the most charismatic men ever to compete in the ring. He is a one-time Intercontinental Champion and held the tag titles with Ric Flair. Shortly before his death, he starred in WWE’s short-lived reality TV show, Legends’ House, in which he could be seen wandering through the night desert, howling at the moon.
He died on July 31st, 2015, after going into cardiac arrest.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1990, 1992, 2008
#12. Dusty Rhodes
Born Virgil Runnels, October 12th, 1945. An NWA legend with too many title victories to note. He wasn’t given nearly the push he deserved in the WWF, during his 1989-1991 run as an active wrestler.
Dusty died on June 10th, 2015 of complications related to stomach cancer.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1990
#13. Jimmy Snuka
Born James Wiley Smith, May 18th, 1943 – later to become James Snuka. He most famously dove off the top of a steel cage, onto Don Muraco, during a time when wrestlers weren’t doing stuff like that every week.
In 1983, his then-girlfriend Nancy Argentino died of injuries that were found to be consistent with domestic violence. The case was largely forgotten about until 2015, 32 years after the fact, when Snuka was charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. On January 3rd 2017, charges were dismissed due to Snuka’s ill-health. He died twelve days later, as a result of stomach cancer.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1990, 1991, 1992, 2008
#14. Earthquake / Golga
Born John Tenta Jr., June 22nd, 1963. Before becoming a pro wrestler, he competed in sumo – the third Caucasian ever to do so. In the WWF, he made up one half of The Natural Disasters, along with Typhoon, AKA Tugboat, AKA The Shockmaster. They held the Tag Team Championships on one occasion.
He died on November 18th, 2005, losing a battle to bladder cancer.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1990, 1991, 1993, 1999 (as Golga)
#15. ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude
Born Richard Rood, December 7th, 1958. A one-time Intercontinental champion and one of the WWF’s leading heels in the late ’80s, challenging Ultimate Warrior to an intensely inane pose-off at the 1989 Royal Rumble.
He was also an excellent wrestler bell-to-bell – until he was forced to retire, following a back bump taken in NJPW, jarring his C-4 and C-5 vertebrae.
Rude died on April 20th, 1999 as a result of mixing various medications, causing his heart to fail.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1990
#16. ‘The Texas Tornado’ Kerry Von Erich
Born February 3rd, 1960. He found much success in his father, Fritz Von Erich’s company, World Class Championship Wrestling – where he won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Following a motorcycle accident that cost him his foot, he became addicted to painkillers and various other drugs, and coupled with the grief of his brothers’ suicides, shot himself in the heart on February 18th, 1993.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1991, 1992
#17. ‘The British Bulldog’ Davey-Boy Smith
Born David Smith, November 27th, 1962. He started his career with the WWF teaming with The Dynamite Kid, and would go on to become one the bigger wrestling stars of the mid-90s, finishing runner-up in the 1995 Royal Rumble.
He died May 18th, 2002 of a heart attack, believed to be related to years of drug abuse.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000
Born Michael Hegstrand, January 26th, 1958. He was one half of the most widely revered tag team of all time, The Road Warriors, known as The Legion of Doom in the WWF.
He was discovered by his wife, having died of a heart attack in his sleep, on October 19th, 2003.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1991
Born Brian Adams, April 14th, 1964. He was awkwardly shoehorned into the Nation of Domination, and then led his own biker stable, Disciples of the Apocalypse.
Following the closure of WCW, he returned to the WWF with his KroniK teammate Bryan Clark – competing against Undertake and Kane at Unforgiven 2001 in one of the worst matches of the year.
He was found unresponsive by his son on August 13th, 2007 with a lethal cocktail of muscle relaxants, sedatives, and painkillers in his system.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1991, 1994, 1995
Born Rodney Anoa’i, October 2nd, 1966 and of no known Japanese descent. A two-time WWF World Heavyweight Champion and Royal Rumble 1993 winner.
He was found dead on October 23rd, 2000 in a Liverpool hotel room, his lungs drowned in fluid. Anoa’i weighed 580 pounds at the time of his death.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1993 (Winner), 1996
#21. Owen Hart
Born on May 7th, 1965 and wrestled under his real name. Barring his extended feud with his brother Bret Hart and his King of the Ring victory in 1994, he spent his entire career as a mid-carder, winning the Intercontinental Championship on two occasions, as well as the tag titles four times, in what were reliably good matches.
In his entrance at Over the Edge 1999, Hart was scheduled to descend to the ring from the rafters of the Kemper Arena by way of grapple line and safety harness. When at a safe distance, he was to make a comedy pratfall and tumble into the ring. The quick release mechanism gave way far too high up, meaning he fell 78 feet, landing violently on the top rope. He died later that night of internal bleeding.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999
#22. Doink the Clown
Born Matthew Osborne, July 27th, 1957. The character of Doink has been played by a few different wrestlers, but most often by Osborne and for both Rumble appearances. He debuted as a heel clown, inspired by Stephen King’s It – but soon became a fan favourite.
He overdosed on morphine and hydrocodone, also known as hillbilly heroin, on June 28th 2013.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1994, 1995
#23. Bam Bam Bigelow
Born Scott Bigelow, September 1st, 1961. He had two relatively successful tenures with the WWF. One in the late 80s and one in the mid-90s, headlining Wrestlemania 11 in a match against NFL star Lawrence Taylor.
He was found dead on January 19th, 2007 of an overdose, linked to toxic levels of cocaine and anti-anxiety medication.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1994
#24. Mabel / Viscera / Big Daddy V
Born Nelson Frazier Jr., February 14th, 1971. He has made more Royal Rumble appearances than any other dead wrestler, totting up nine in his lifetime. His most notable accomplishment, however, remains his 1995 King of the Ring tournament victory.
On February 18th, 2014, Frazier died of a heart attack while showering. His ashes were divided into 500 pendants and distributed to his loved ones.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
#25. ‘Gigolo’ Jimmy Del Ray
Born David Ferrier, November 30th, 1962. Although an excellent wrestler and a clear precursor to the modern day sleaze that typifies Joey Ryan, he had an easily forgettable career with the WWF, teaming with Tom Prichard as The Heavenly Bodies.
Ferrier suffered a heart attack while driving his truck and died soon after at Tampa General Hospital, on December 6th, 2014.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1995
#26. Timothy Well
Born Timothy Smith, September 8th, 1961. In his lower-card run with the WWF, he was part of a tag team with Steven Dunn called Well Dunn. The duo wrestled in matching attire, which included a neon bow tie and a wrestling singlet patterned as if a thong was placed over it.
He died as a result of kidney failure at his home on January 9th, 2017.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1995
#27. Steven Dunn
Born Steven Doll on December 9th, 1960. He wrestled under his real name everywhere but the WWF.
On March 22nd, 2009, Doll died after a blod clot formed in his lung, subsequently causing his heart to give up.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1995
#28. Dick Murdoch
Born Hoyt Murdoch, August 16th, 1946. He teamed with Junkyard Dog in Mid-South Wrestling, during the peak of his popularity in the early ’80s and was posthumously lionised by a crying fan at a wrestling convention shortly after an outburst of, “It’s still real to me, damnit!” Also, several wrestlers have claimed that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
He died of a heart attack on June 15th, 1996.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1995
Born Andrew Martin, March 17th, 1975. He spent the majority of his career with the WWF / WWE – amassing a body of work that spanned eight years, split over two periods of employment. More impressive than any championships that he won is his dating history, which includes Stacy Keibler and Kelly Kelly.
Police were called to his condominium on March 13th, 2009, after a neighbour, able to see Martin through a window, realised that he had been motionless for several hours. He had died from an overdose of oxycodone.
His brain was later tested and it was discovered that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a condition that Chris Benoit also had.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
Born Joanie Laurer, December 27th, 1969. The biggest female wrestling star ever promoted by the WWF. She was the first female to enter the Royal Rumble, which she did at number 30 in 1999, winning the spot after a mini-Rumble on Raw, consisting of members of DX and The Corporation, called the Corporate Rumble.
Her life spiralled out of control after her departure from the company, appearing out of it in VH1’s reality TV show The Surreal Life and several porno films, as well as shamefully amusing appearances on The Howard Stern Show.
She died of an overdose on April 20th, 2016. Alcohol, anti-anxiety medication, painkillers, and sleeping pills were found in her system.
Years of Rumble Entry: 1999, 2000
#31. Crash Holly
Born Michael Lockwood, August 25th, 1971. He held the Hardcore Championship 22 times, and was the storyline cousin of Hardcore Holly and Molly Holly.
Lockwood was found at fellow wrestler Stevie Richards’ house, face-down in a pool of vomit, having consumed several bottles of somas and some alcohol. His death was ruled as suicide.
Years of Rumble Entry: 2000, 2001
#32. Eddie Guerrero
Born October 9th, 1967 and wrestled under his own name. His career included successful stays in AAA, NJPW, ECW, WCW, and finally WWF / WWE. In 2004, he won a mini-Rumble, consisting of 15 wrestlers on the Smackdown brand, to select the number-one contender to Brock Lesnar’s WWF title, which Guerrero also won.
On November 13th, 2005, his nephew Chavo Guerrero Jr. found him unresponsive on the bathroom floor of a hotel, his toothbrush still in his mouth. Attempts at CPR didn’t work and Eddie was pronounced dead as a result of heart failure, brought on by an underlying cardiovascular disease.
Years of Rumble Entry: 2003, 2005
#33. Jamal / Umaga
Born Edward Fatu, March 28th, 1973. He is the brother of Rikishi and with the considerably less photogenic brother of Roman Reigns, Rosey, formed the tag team 3 Minute Warning. Fatu was later repackaged as Umaga, a monster heel who was cornered by Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania 23 in a match against Bobby Lashley, who was cornered by Donald Trump.
He died of a drug-induced heart attack on December 4th, 2009, having been found bleeding from the nose. Hydrocodone, somas, and anti-anxiety medication were found in his system.
Years of Rumble Entry: 2003, 2008
#34. Chris Benoit
Born May 21st, 1967 and wrestled under his real name. His success in Japan would not be matched by a gaijin junior heavyweight until over a decade later and the emergence of Prince Devitt and Kenny Omega. Title-littered stays in ECW and WCW followed, before finally finding his way to the WWF in 2000. He went on to win the 2004 Rumble from the number one spot – an achievement shared only with Shawn Michaels.
Benoit committed suicide on June 24th, 2007, hanging himself in the basement of his house with a cord attached to a weight machine. In the three days prior, Benoit had strangled his wife, Nancy, with an electrical cord and smothered his son, Daniel.
Years of Rumble Entry: 2004 (Winner), 2005, 2006, 2007
Royal Rumbles Ordered by Number of Dead Wrestlers Competing
1990 – 12, 1991 – 10, 1995 – 10, 1989 – 7, 1992 – 7, 1994 – 6, 1999 – 6, 2000 – 6, 1993 – 5, 1996 – 5, 2008 – 4, 1988 – 3, 1997 – 3, 2002 – 3, 2003 – 3, 2005 – 3, 2001 – 2, 2006 – 2, 2007 – 2, 1998 – 1, 2004 – 1, 2009-2016 – No Deaths