Many have described 2016 as a truly cursed year. We lost icons from the entertainment world such as Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael... the list goes on and on.
The cruel hand that touched 2016 was felt in the world of sports entertainment as well. Many unfortunate superstars left the planet before it was their time to go. Here is our tribute to 8 men and women who were claimed by the year 2016. Their mortal vessels may be gone, but their memories live on.
#8 Kris Travis
Cancer takes even the best of them, doesn't it? Kris Travis never wrestled for the bigger wrestling promotions but was a renowned name in the British independent circuit. Kris Travis and Martin Kirby won many accolades as a tag team, and it seemed like his career would take off to new heights, until his stomach cancer diagnosis.
In 2015, it was announced that Travis has beaten cancer and was back in the ring. There was no stopping him as a singles star, as he defeated his partner Martin Kirby and Marty Scurll. But cancer returned and claimed Travis in March 2016.
At NXT Takeover: Dallas, Finn Balor painted Travis' signature stars and heart symbols on his body. Noam Dar also dedicated his Cruiserweight Classic qualifying match to Travis.
#7 Iron Mike Sharpe
In January 2016, Iron Mike Sharpe passed away as a result of several health issues. We remember him fondly because of the black brace on his hand, that was always though to conceal foreign objects.
Sharpe never had a legendary career, though he did rise to prominence as Hulk Hogan's tag team partner in Japan, and Bob Backlund’s challenger for the world heavyweight championship. Even after this retirement, Sharpe helped train world heavyweight championship many upcoming wrestlers, most notably Charlie and Russ Haas.
RIP to one of the toughest men in history.
#6 Frenchy Martin
Frenchy Martin began his career as a wrestler but would never receive the same level of success that he did as a manager for Dino Bravo. Through 1988, Martin would accompany Bravo to ringside as Dino Bravo and his opponents raged on in the ring.
Martin also managed Jos LeDuc, though LeDuc did not have a long career. Years later, Bravo would pick Jimmy Hart as his manager over Martin, and Frenchy Martin would be relegated to the role of a jobber.
In September of last year, it was reported that Martin was afflicted with bladder cancer, and he succumbed to his ailment in October 2016. Long live the legendary Frenchy Martin.
Chyna remains, till date, the only woman to have captured the Intercontinental Championship. That’s not all, she's also the first woman to be a part of the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring tournaments.
Born Joan Marie Laurer, she rose to prominence as a member of D-Generation X in the mid-late 90s. Sadly, her split from her then boyfriend, Triple H and Hunter’s relationship with Stephanie McMahon would take a heavy toll on Chyna, ending her career prematurely.
She did have runs in NJPW and TNA, but neither of them really did take off as much as her initial WWE run in the 90s.
On April 20, 2016, Chyna was found dead at her home in California at the age of 46. The cause of death was found to be alcohol, combined with anxiety drugs, combined with sleeping aids combined with painkillers.
RIP 9th wonder of the world!
#4 Axl Rotten
Hours before he was found dead in a McDonald's bathroom, Axl Rotten sent out a tweet that said – ‘The way I do things may not be the way you do things but you will find out there is only one way. My way.’ He was found dead from a heroin overdose.
Axl Rotten and his brother Ian found prominence wrestling for a tag team known as the Bad Breed but found even greater prominence once they translated their real life animosity into a feud of their own. Their program lasted for many months and led to them reuniting once again once it had culminated.
Towards the end of his life, Rotten suffered a spinal injury and was confined to a wheelchair. It forced him to retire from the indies and live in a rehab facility in Salisbury.
#3 Balls Mahoney
Balls Mahoney was at home, playing jeopardy with his family when he felt like he needed to lay on his side. Soon he was unconscious and had died before the medics could arrive. His cause of death was CTE.
At the age of 44, Mahoney was the same age as Axl Rotten when he passed. They were part of a tag team known as the Hardcore Chair Swingin’ Freaks.
He found success with other partners too, most notably Spike Dudley. When WWE came up with the ECW brand, Balls Mahoney was part of that program in addition to Smackdown appearances till he was released in April 2008. He wrestled in the indies since then, until as recently as December 2015.
#2 Mr. Fuji
In August 2016, the world lost a legendary manager in Mr. Fuji. Not only did he lead Yokozuna during his historic run in the early 90s, he also led Demolition to their record-setting tag team championship reign.
Harry Fujiwara was a (kayfabe) terror at ringside as he threw salt in the eyes of wrestlers who went up against the talent he managed. This was nothing compared to the terror he was considered backstage with his ribs and dreaded practical jokes.
In the year 2007, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by a man he used to manage- Don Muraco. Fuji and Muraco were also part of many hilarious skits together, most notably the entertaining ‘Fuji Vice’.
#1 Blackjack Mulligan
Blackjack Mulligan is known to most modern wrestling fans as the grandfather of Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas. What many fans are not aware is that Mulligan was one of the most renowned big men from the wrestling world, who passed away last year at the age of 73.
Billed at 6 feet 9 inches, Blackjack Mulligan was a towering man who conquered professional wrestling with his presence.
Playing a tough cowboy, he faced many opponents such as Bruno Sammartino and Andre the Giant. In fact, Mulligan even had his own talk show on WWF Television entitled Blackjack’s Barbecue. Little wonder then that he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006, by Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan.
We remember these legends fondly at Sportskeeda!
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