|The Greatest Wrestling Event of All-Time is Almost Dead, Literally|
When I was a kid, two things mattered. Hockey and Wrestling. I wasn't big on cartoons (although I wouldn't pass up a chance to watch He-Man), my toy box was filled with wrestlers, wrestling rings, the steel cage, hockey cards, and The A- Team van.
Anyway, wrestling was just about everything to me. I watched it on the weekends, during the week, in-between meals, when I was
breast feeding my baby brother, and I rented a video (courtesy of Coliseum Home Video) every single time I walked into Wegmans.
The climax of my love for wrestling was on March 27, 1987, when Vince McMahon promoted Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant and packed 93,173 people into the Pontiac Silverdome. It was a glorious day for a 6-year old. Mom forked over the cash to pay for the event on pay-per-view, the neighbors came over, and we ate pizza. My favorite wrestler, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, had heroically recovered from a serious throat injury suffered at the hands of the Macho Man Randy Savage to challenge him for the right to hold the Intercontinental Championship. Steamboat and Savage put on a match for the ages that many consider to be the greatest of all time. Steamboat went home with the gold, Hogan slammed Andre, the pizza was delicious, and life was as good as it ever would be.
Sadly, only twenty four years later, many of the strong, athletic, and herculean men that made Wreslemania III the historic event that it was are leaving the earth at a rate so startling I can barley keep up. It is hard to understand, hard to compute, and mostly hard to accept. I know Vince McMahon is still alive. He is living in Connecticut, a billionaire, who spends every day counting the money he has earned off of the sweat of these athletes. Lets try to use math, in 1987 most of the competitors had to be between the ages of 25-35. T0day, 24 years later, they should be 48-58 years old getting ready to retire and live off the riches that preforming in front of 93,000 people would surly bring. Somehow, that math isn't as smooth as 2+2=4. Instead, 48-58 years old is a birthday that most of the wrestlers that competed that day will never enjoy.
Sadly, the rest of this column will be obituary for all of the athletes, announcers, referees, and celebrities that have died since entertaining us on that glorious March day in Detroit, Michigan.
- Gorilla Monsoon d. October 6, 1999 at age 62. Gorilla died of heart failure brought on by complications from diabetes. Many say that the Gorilla died of a broken heart after his son Joey Morella passed away (see below). At WM3, Gorilla called the action with Jesse "The Body" Ventura. The event wouldn't have been the same with out Gorilla and Jesse arguing back and fourth like an old married couple.
- Joey Morella d. July 4, 1994 at age 31. Joey died when he fell asleep at the wheel driving from one WWF event to another. He was one of the top officials in the WWF and at WM3 his was the man assigned to the big main event.
- Hercules d. March 6, 2004 at age 47. Hercules died after going to sleep at his home and never waking up. His wife says that he died of hear failure caused by a genetic heart disorder (also known as Steroids). At WM3, Hercules battled Billy
JerkJack Haynes to a double count out before busting Haynes in the face with a giant chain and leaving him in the ring with a blood soaked face.
- Haiti Kid d. May 5, 2001 at age ?. For some reason, the internet is light on information regarding the birth of Raymond Kessler from Brooklyn, NY also known as the Haiti Kid. At WM3, the Haiti Kid was involved in a 6-man tag match between Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver, and THK against King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook, and Little Tokyo.
- Little Beaver d. December 4, 1995 at age 60. Little Beaver or Lionel Giroux died of emphysema. At WM3 he teamed with Haiti Kid and Hillbilly Jim earning a DQ victory after the massive Bundy body slammed the tiny Beaver.
- Junkyard Dog d. June 2, 1998 at age 45. Junkyard Dog passed away when he fell asleep at the wheel of his car driving home from his daughter's high school graduation. At WM3, JYD was pinned in the center of the ring by King Harley Race. The terms of the match meant the loser had to bow and curtsey at the feet of the winner. JYD followed through with the terms but then cracked Harley Race with a chair and danced in the ring with his cape.
- The Fabulous Moolah d. November 2, 2007 at age 82. Moolah's death was far from tragic but notable none the less. The cause was a heart attack or a blood clot caused by a recent shoulder surgery. At WM3, Moolah accompanied the King Harley Race to the ring as the keeper of the crown.
- Dino Bravo d. March 11, 1993 at age 44. Bravo was found shot to death in a story so bizarre it could only involve a pro wrestler. He was said to have been shot up to 17 times in the head by a gunman while he was watching a hockey game at his apartment in Quebec. The story is, he crossed a few mafia types involved in some kind of cigarette smuggling scheme and they put the hit out on the Canadian strong man. At WM3, Bravo accompanied The Dream Team to the ring as an adviser and then helped them score a victory with some good old fashioned outside interference.
- Adrian Adonis d. July 4, 1988 at age 33. Adonis was killed in a car accident when the mini van he was traveling in swerved to miss a moose and ended up in a lake (not kidding). At WM3, Adonis battled Roddy Rowdy Piper in a winner shaves the losers hair match. After being put to sleep by Piper, Adrain has his head clipped balled.
- Davey Boy Smith d. May 18, 2002 at age 39. Smith died of a heart attack as the result of anabolic steroid and excessive drug use. At WM3, Smith and his tag team partner Dynamite Kid teamed with
ChicoTito Santana to face The Hart Foundation and Danny Davis.
- Frankie the Bird d. in 2001 at age ?. Frankie tragically died in a fire at the house of Koko B. Ware. At WM3, he came down to the ring on the finger of the strutting and dancing Koko and then sat on a perch until the match ended. He may have chirped during the match.
- Macho Man Randy Savage d. May 20, 2009 at age 58. Savage died in a one car accident that likely occurred because of cardiac arrest suffered by Savage. At WM3, Savage participated in one of the greatest matches in wrestling history with Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat.
- Miss Elizabeth d. May 1, 2003 at age 42. Elizabeth died of a drug overdose and an exhausting relationship with Lex Luger. At WM3, the beautiful Elizabeth escorted the Macho Man to the ring for his match against Steamboat.
- Andre the Giant d. January 27, 1993 age 43. The Giant died of congestive heart failure in a Paris hotel room where he was staying while attending the funeral of his father. At WM3, Andre faced the immortal Hulk Hogan in the long anticipated main event that helped draw the record crowd.
There it is, a list as sad as any. Sure, someday everyone involved will have passed away, but this list will grow int he next few years as Dynamite Kid, Jake Roberts, and Bobby Heenan loose their battles with long illness (Heenan) and drug addiction (Roberts, DK).
The sad thing, is that this covers just one event. Many wrestlers that debuted shorty after WM3 are no longer with us. Owen Hart, Ravishing Rich Rude, Bad News Brown, Bam Bam Bigelow, The Big Boss Man, and Curt Hennig all died and were participants of either WM4 or WM5.
With each tragic death, a small piece of my youth dies with it.
At least Brian Bellows is still alive.
Say goodnight Brees...