Though morbid in nature and some would say “made in poor taste” death is a part of life and at some point everyone returns to the earth and the heavens. Dead pools are nothing new, they have been a part of Hollywood for decades. Pro wrestling has a morbidity rate that is exponentially higher than other sports and for some, a list such as this just pours the proverbial salt on the wound.
Some of the characters on this list are here simply because of their age and declining health while others are here because their excesses are putting them at greater risk to be a statistic.
There are no expectations of death or dying for these individuals just a prognostication concerning their longevity. For some this may be a wake-up call to change their lives for the better, for others it may be a time to start reflecting on the life they led and the joy they have brought to millions of wrestling fans across the world.
In addition to the top ten listed there are also those who did not make the cut but are on the precipice and for those individuals honorable mentions go to: Cora Combs, Bill Mercer, Lance Russell, Mr. Wrestling II, Mr. Fuji, Ole Anderson, Lex Luger and Dick Slater.
#10. Ian Rotten
Ian Rotten has long been a pioneer in hardcore wrestling, very violent, very bloody. A number of health issues have plagued Rotten the past year including painful brown recluse spider bites and numerous episodes with diabetes which resulted in the amputation of one of his toes. Rotten is said to be plagued with Hepatitis-C as well though he denies having the disease. At one point this fall Rotten even asked to be included on the dead pool list so, here he is.
#9. Abdullah the Butcher
Abdullah the Butcher is starting to see his age and rough in-ring style catch up to him as well as his reported diabetes and the effects of having Hepatitis-C. Abdullah has been in-and-out of the hospital over the last year and though his health has been described as “good” it is not the best.
#8. Jim Neidhart
Jim Neidhart took a hard fall from grace after his run in the WWE. The former tag team champion and member of The Hart Foundation was arrested in 2010 on drug possession charges and since he has appeared on camera for an interview incoherent, has appeared at a number of independent wrestling shows barely cognizant of his surroundings and has reportedly hounded some promoters and wrestlers who provide transportation to and from the airport for “gimmicks” (drugs). Some fear it is just a matter of time before his lifestyle finally catches up to him.
#7. Jake Roberts
Jake Roberts was near death full of booze and pills and seemingly waiting to die. “Diamond” Dallas Page moved Roberts into his house and with Page’s help and the use of DDP Yoga, Roberts made a miraculous recovery and lifestyle change. Roberts would eventually relapse and appeared at an indie show intoxicated and a recent health scare that was deemed double pneumonia and exhaustion also found a mass on Roberts’ brain. Roberts battled a cancerous tumor in his leg and though not confirmed it is feared that the cancer may have metastasized elsewhere.
#6. Scott Hall
Scott Hall was another former wrestling star who was near death and had all but given up on life. Enter “Diamond” Dallas Page who moved Hall into his house along with Jake Roberts and once again, Page perpetuated a miracle. Hall had numerous trips to rehab, to the tune of over $150,000 paid for by the WWE yet Page was the only one who could reach Hall and get him on a more sober path. Hall would relapse once again and earlier this year he missed a scheduled appearance at a wrestling convention saying he “was in a very dark place.” Rumors say Hall is once again abusing alcohol and fears for his health and desire for living are increasing.
#5. Don Leo Jonathan
Don Leo Jonathan was an enigma in pro wrestling from the 50s through the 70s being one of the physically biggest wrestlers who was legit tough and a true worker. Jonathan was an international star during his heyday and his legacy will live seemingly forever. Jonathan, a survivor of bladder cancer, is said to be in declining health, which could be due to his age (83) and having been a star in wrestling where the rings were like working on concrete slabs.
#4. Bobby Heenan
Bobby Heenan is arguably one of the best managers in the history of professional wrestling and his in-ring work was unheralded as he was one of the best workers in the 70s. Heenan has battled throat cancer since 2002 which has resulted in a drastic change in his appearance with him often looking gaunt and fragile. An attempted facial reconstruction surgery in 2007 resulted in Heenan being placed in a medically induced coma and a second surgery was done. A serious infection in his jaw in 2009, a broken hip and pelvis in 2011 and most recently Heenan fell out of bed and broke his shoulder and just this past September Heenan fell and broke his hip.
#3. Gypsy Joe
Gypsy Joe is an innovator in professional wrestling, he is one of the first to have ever jumped off a steel cage onto an opponent, he is one of the first to wrestle a rough, hardcore style and his in-ring career spanned over 50 years. Joe has been battling health issues for the better part of the last five years including advance bouts of gout which resulted in his foot being amputated. The rumors about Joe and his health are as plentiful as stories about his career. What is known is that Joe is in poor health and at this point, there is no getting better.
#2. Verne Gagne
Verne Gagne is considered one of the best and most pure wrestlers in history. A former NFL player, amateur wrestler and world heavyweight champion, Gagne has had a storied career. In 2009 Gagne was involved in an incident at the long-term care facility he was living in where he body slammed a fellow resident after an argument. Though the resident passed away two days later Gagne was not charged due to his advanced dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and some reports have him suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy due to the number of head injuries suffered during his career. Those close to Gagne say his health is starting to deteriorate.
#1. Nick Bockwinkle
Nick Bockwinkle is considered one of the greatest world champions in wrestling, having held the AWA title on numerous occasions and having memorable matches with Verne Gagne. Bockwinkle is a second generation wrestler and his father was also one of the best workers in the business. In 2009 Bockwinkle had triple bypass surgery and he also suffers from Alzeheimer’s Disease which has worsened in the last two years.