A disturbing look at wrestler death stats from the early 90s

After hearing the news of Savage's death, I happened to look at the line-up for Wrestlemania 7 in 1991. Not counting the deaths of Gorilla Monsoon (62, natural causes) and Lord Alfred Hayes (76), I counted 14 onscreen performers who died prematurely - Kerry Von Erich, Dino Bravo, Davey Boy Smith, Crush, Savage, Sensational Sherri, Elizabeth, Big Boss Man, Mr Perfect, Andre the Giant, Earthquake, Hawk, Hercules and Joey Marella. And that's from a total list of wrestlers, managers, referees and commentators etc. of just 51.

I thought I'd do a quick and largely unscientific comparison of how that stacked up to deaths of a similar sized sample from three sports and entertainment fields that all, for various reasons, are sometimes compared to pro wrestling in discussing premature deaths. These were the NFL (physical punishment, concussions and steroid use), music (drugs, alchohol and the road owning people) and boxing (concussions, steroid use, crazy lifestyle). The results aren't entirely surprising but the difference between them and Wrestlemania 7's roll call of dead people is pretty stark.

Of the 44 men who started on both offense and defense in Superbowl XXV (the Buffalo Bills vs. New York Giants game which took place in January '91) every single one of them is still alive.

For music I looked at the bands who played at the 1991 Monsters of Rock festival, which used to be held annually, here in England, and attracted the biggest names in hard rock and heavy metal, and crowds of up to and around 100,000 people. From the bands who played in '91, there were 23 musicians. Every single one of them is still alive. As that was a much smaller sample than for either Wrestlemania or Superbowl XXV, I looked at the follwoing year's festival. Again, no deaths at all, from a further 27 musicians.

For boxing, I looked at every individual who held a major (WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO) world title during 1991 from heavyweight, down to lightweight. I didn't go any further down the weightclasses simply because by that time, I'd got my target sample of around 50. Actually, 46 of them. This time, there were two deaths. Magne Havna, a Norwegian who held the WBO cruiserweight title died aged 40 in a 2004 boat accident. Edwin Rosario, a four time champion who held the WBA light welterweigfht title during '91, died, quite likely as a result of his drug addiction, in 1997 at the age of 34. In addition, Gerald McClellan, who held a portion oif the middleweight title almost died and was left permantly disabled as a result of brain injuries he sustained in a 1995 fight with Nigel Benn.

So, based on this sample - 14 of 51 wrestlers/performers active in 1991 are dead. 0 of 44 high level professional football players are dead. 0 of 50 musicians active in 1991 and '92 are dead. And 2 of 46 world champion boxers from that year are dead.


Andrew Garvey

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