The WWF’s 1980s Legion of Death
Died 1-27-1993, Age 51
Cause of death: Congestive Heart Failure [Wiki]
The WWF expansion in the 1980s was known as “Wrestling’s Second Golden Age”. It also racked up quite a death toll, with many of that era’s stars dead at an early age. A look at some of the biggest who’ve passed away.
Although the best-known of the wrestlers then was perhaps Hulk Hogan, Hogan is one of the few still alive today.
We were searching for popular wrestlers from the 1980s and was surprised to find how many of them had passed away. In fact, if you look at the WWF’s superstars from the ’80s, most are part of the WWF’s Golden Age Death Toll.
The 1980s wrestling boom (sometimes referred to as the 2nd Golden Age of Wrestling) was a surge in the popularity of professional wrestling in the United States of America throughout the 1980s.
The expansion of cable television and pay-per-view, coupled with the efforts of promoters such as Vince McMahon, saw professional wrestling shift from a system controlled by numerous regional companies to a system dominated by two nationwide companies: Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
The decade also saw a considerable decline in the power of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), a cartel which had until then domineered the wrestling landscape, and in the efforts to sustain belief in the verisimilitude of wrestling.
WWF in the 1980s was big, brash and mouthy–and expanding across the country at a speed unknown to pro wrestling up until that time.
A salute to the Pro Wrestling Super Stars who are no longer with us.
We’ll start with Andre the Giant.
Andre’s drinking exploits were legendary.
Andre the Giant was well-known and well-liked among wrestling fans. He was a giant draw to crowds, too.
Wherever he went, crowds of the curious and pro wrestling fans were sure to follow.
For proof of his drawing power, look no further than Wrestlemania III in 1987. The main event was Andre vs. Hulk Hogan. The show drew the first million-dollar gate in wrestling history, set a pay-per-view record that lasted a decade, and set the all-time indoor attendance record for any live event ever—78,000+ butts in seats at the Pontiac Silver Dome in Detroit—destroying the previous record set by some rock band called the Rolling Stones.
His rematch with Hogan two months later, broadcast live on NBC, attracted 33 million viewers, making it the most watched wrestling match ever.
Andre’s drinking, as stated were legendary.
But they were no legend. The man liked his alcohol.
The big man loved two things: wrestling and booze—mostly booze—and his appetites were of mythic proportion.
First, consider the number 7,000. It’s an important number, and a rather scary one considering its context, which is this—it has been estimated that Andre the Giant drank 7,000 calories worth of booze every day. The figure doesn’t include food. Just booze.
If Andre were consuming lite beer, that would work out to over 720 beers a day–60 cases of beer.
Sound impossible? Not so fast.
Vince [McMahon]Sr. pondered the situation and arrived at a novel solution. He wanted to keep the big man happy, so he bought a trailer and had it customized just for Andre. With plenty of room to spread out and relax, Andre could now travel in a semblance of comfort, which allowed him to do some serious boozing. During trips Andre consumed beer at the incredible rate of a case every ninety minutes, with bottles of vodka or top-rate French wine thrown in for variety.
It’s been reported that Andre’s bar bill for a month of shooting the Princess Bride came to over $40,000.
R.I.P. Andre the Giant.
Died: 6-15-2007, Age 49
Cause of death: Accidental Drug Overdose
Other WWF wrestlers from the 1980s no longer with us.
Died June 2, 1998, Age 46
Cause of death: Single car accident [Wiki]
Died: 2-10-2003, Age 45
Cause of death: Drug overdose [Wiki]
Died: 8-13-2007, Age 44
Cause of death: Accidental drug overdose [Wiki]
Died: 5-18-2002, Age 40
Cause of death: Cardiac Arrest [Wiki]
Died 10-5-1997, Age 35
Cause of death: arteriosclerotic heart disease [Wiki]
Died: 4-20-1999, Age 41
Cause of death: Heart failure [wiki]
Image [All Posters]
Died: 5-1-2003, Age 42, Cause of death: Drug overdose
Image [quickstop entertainment]
The Death of Miss Elizabeth
Elizabeth Hulette, or as she was better known as “Miss Elizabeth, was the woman who defined the role of the valet. She died early on May 1, 2003 after Atlanta police responded to a 911 call at the home of Larry Pfohl, better known to wrestling fans as Lex Luger. Hulette was 42 when she passed away.
Hulette was alive when police arrived and later died at a local hospital at a little after 5:30 am. Police reports at the time indicate that Hulette had mixed vodka with painkillers in the hours before she died.
For most of today’s core wrestling audience, Hulette was a large part of the early wrestling experience. As Miss Elizabeth in the mid- and late ’80s in the then-WWF, Hulette was Macho Man Randy Savage’s. manager. She also managed the Mega Powers team of Hulk Hogan and Savage, an angle that thrust her–and the valet role–into the limelight.
Hulette, who debuted in WWE in May 1985, was the first female of the new-look WWE. Her drawing power paved the way for future women to have major mainstream success. Though she was mostly silent in her WWE days, Miss Elizabeth was the gorgeous, petite brains behind Savage’s brawny success. She didn’t wrestle and didn’t get intimately involved with Savage’s matches. She was–plain and simple–eye candy. She was good at it, and the fans loved her for it.
Died 11-13-2005, Age 41,
Cause of death: arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease
Although Chris Benoit wasn’t part of the 1980s Pro Wrestling Boom, we still included him as part of the Death Toll.
Died: 6-24-2007, Age 40
Cause of death: Suicide, murdered his wife & 7-yr-old son
The plotlines in the WWF were interesting and fun.
And as always in Pro Wrestling, the most unneeded person in the ring was the referee.