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In Memoriam: Wrestlers who passed away in 2018

Jim 'the Anvil' Neidhart's name has been used in Natalya's feuds on Raw recently.
Jim 'the Anvil' Neidhart's name has been used in Natalya's feuds on Raw recently.

2018 saw some big names pass away.

Some were huge in the industry (Bruno Sammartino) while others were huge physically (Vader).

Three wrestlers - Nikolai Volkoff, Brian Christopher and Brickhouse Brown - all died on the same day, Jul 29, 2018.

Usually, actors, not pro wrestlers, die in threes. And there aren't usually three deaths on the same day.

2018 saw wrestlers both old and young pass away and even one's passing was used in current WWE storylines.

Although drug use and addiction to painkillers have been the main issue behind a lot of wrestler deaths, few of the deaths in 2018 were related to drug use or overdoses.

Here are some of the pro wrestlers that passed away in 2018.


NIKOLAI VOLKOFF

Volkoff was used as one of the typical 'anti-American' heels during the 1980s.
Volkoff was used as one of the typical 'anti-American' heels during the 1980s.

DIED JULY 29, 2018, AGE 70

CAUSE OF DEATH: HEART PROBLEMS AND OTHER MEDICAL ISSUES

Volkoff portrayed the 'evil Russian heel' throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

The United States and the USSR were immersed in the Cold War but things finally ended between the two sides in 1991 with the collapse of the USSR.

During his run in the 1980s, he was often paired with the Iron Sheik, another famously anti-American heel of the 70s, 80s and 90s.

The pair won the WWF Tag Team titles at the first Wrestlemania after defeating the US Express, comprised of Mike Rotunda (IRS) and Barry Windham.

He also was a part of the tag team 'the Bolsheviks' with fellow Anti-American heel Boris Zhukov.

He did have a face turn in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was eventually inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 by Jim Ross.

On July 29, 2018, Volkoff passed away after complication from heart problems as well as dehydration and other medical issues.

MATT CAPPOTELLI

Matt Cappotelli had to retire in 2007 due to a malignant brain tumor
Matt Cappotelli had to retire in 2007 due to a malignant brain
tumor

DIED ON JUNE 29, 2018, AGE 38

CAUSE OF DEATH: BRAIN TUMOR

Cappotelli won the third season of Tough Enough along with John Morrison (Johnny Nitro, Mundo, Impact).

The season and Cappotelli's involvement on the show were highlighted by the brutal beating Bob Holly gave Cappotelli as a lesson during a tag team match on one episode of the show.

Holly claimed he was teaching the rookie that not everything in pro wrestling is easy and that sometimes you have rough matches.

Al Snow and X-Pac later commented that he went overboard with the whole attack. Cappotelli and Holly actually shook hands after the match.

It was truly a strange and unsettling moment to watch.

Capotelli had been assigned to OVW, WWE's previous developmental system before being forced to retire in 2007 due to a brain tumor.

He had surgery in May of 2007 and WWE even reported that most of the brain tumor had been removed.

Cappotelli battled outside the ring for OVW, helping to train new wrestlers to OVW.

In July 2017, Cappotelli was diagnosed again with an aggressive brain tumor. After battling it for over a year, he passed away nearly a year after the recurrence of his brain cancer on July 29, 2018.

His co-winner has gone on to have a pretty successful wrestling career both in and out of the WWE.

It's hard to know how big an impact Cappotelli could have made as a pro wrestler.

Some like Morrison have had long, successful careers while others like Andy Leavine, Ariadne Andrew and Josh Bredl haven't had much of any success to speak of.

While he was unable to truly make a huge impact in the WWE, he was respected among his peers like Elijah Burke and John Morrison for his toughness, grit and fighting spirit.

BRIAN CHRISTOPHER

The son of Jerry Lawler led a troubled life in his father's shadow.
The son of Jerry Lawler led a troubled life in his father's shadow.

DIED: JULY 29, 2018, AGE 46

CAUSE OF DEATH: SUICIDE BY HANGING WHILE IN JAIL

Brian Christopher was the son of the legendary Jerry 'the King' Lawler and got his start in his father's promotion, USWA.

He joined the then WWF in 1997 where he wrestled under the name Grand Master Sexay. He was a member of the team Too Cool alongside Scotty 2 Hotty and Rikishi.

The group was known for it's fun-loving nature and dancing.

Scotty would perform the worm in the ring and the others would often dance before/after matches in the WWE.

Throughout his run in the WWE, it was never said outright that he was the King's son. Other announcers would allude to it, but the King never acknowledged the fact on television.

He never made it above the mid-card but was part of an entertaining act during the Attitude Era.

Christopher was eventually released from the WWE in 2001 for trying to take drugs across the border between Canada and the United States.

He later returned with Scotty 2 Hotty in 2014 for a tag title match at NXT: Arrival against the NXT Tag Team Champions, the Ascension. The Ascension won the match.

Throughout his life, Christopher had issues with alcohol, being arrested several times in 2009 for DUI and public intoxication.

In 2018, he was arrested again for DUI and also evading police. On July 29 he was found hanging in his cell.

He was later pronounced dead at the hospital after he was taken off life support.

He most certainly didn't have it easy growing up in the shadow of the King. It's probably why he had so many issues throughout his life.

The King is a larger than life personality and helped define pro wrestling from 1990 until recently.

VADER

Vader was a big hit in Japan and in the US.
Vader was a big hit in Japan and in the US.

DIED: JUNE 18, 2018, AGE 63

CAUSE OF DEATH: HEART FAILURE AFTER COMPLICATIONS FROM PNEUMONIA

Big Van Vader truly was a larger than life personality in professional wrestling.

He was actually drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1977 but was only able to play two seasons in the NFL.

He was forced to retire after rupturing his patella.

Since he was forced to retire, he, like many pro wrestlers before and after him, set his focus on a career in professional wrestling.

He started wrestling for the AWA in 1985 and had an AWA Title match against future tag team partner Stan Hansen.

His first run in NJPW saw him win the IWGP Heavyweight title at the end of an eight-man tournament.

He became the first non-Japanese wrestler to hold the IWGP Heavyweight Title. He would win the title two more times in his tenure.

He also was a part of one of the most famous stories in wrestling history when his eye was popped out by a strike from opponent Stan Hansen.

Vader popped his eye back into the socket and continued the match.

He would also win the WCW Title from Sting, but would have to drop the title shortly thereafter to Ron Simmons (Farooq) because of a knee injury.

His WWE run wasn't as successful as a lot of backstage politics from the Kliq stymied any chances atop the card.

He had feuds with Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Yokozuna. He also battled Kane and the Undertaker.

Like many other wrestlers in the mid-to-late 1990s, Vader could have had a much bigger impact in the WWE had the Kliq not ruled over the WWE onscreen and off of it.

He would return to the WWE sporadically including against Heath Slater when Slater would run down wrestlers from the past.

Vader passed away on June 18, 2018 due to complications from multiple heart surgeries.

JIM 'THE ANVIL' NEIDHART

Neidhart was a key member of the Hart Foundation in several iterations of the group.
Neidhart was a key member of the Hart Foundation in several iterations of the group.

DIED: AUGUST 13, 2018, AGE 63

CAUSE OF DEATH: HEAD INJURY AND SEIZURE BROUGHT ON BY FALL

If you watched pro wrestling in the '80s and '90s, chances are you were acquainted with the Anvil.

He was the powerhouse of the Hart Foundation. Hes main tag team run was with WWE Legend Bret Hart.

Neidhart was the loud, brash and abrasive yin to Hart's more mellow, even-keeled yang during their time together.

He and Bret won the WWF Tag Team Titles on two occasions, defeating the face team of the British Bulldogs (Dynamite Kid and British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith).

The won the titles a second time after defeating Demolition at Summerslam in 1990.

He also tagged with Bret's younger brother Owen to form the New Foundation.

It didn't last long and Neidhart left the WWF for two years, returning in 1994.

His second run was highlighted by joining the Hart Foundation faction along with Bret, Owen, Smith and Brian Pillman.

They spoke out against America, considering Canada to be superior to its neighbor to the south.

He returned to WCW but didn't have much success.

He would make sporadic appearances in WWE throughout the rest of his life, but is just as famous being the father of current WWE superstar, Natalya.

He eventually died on August 13, 2018 after suffering a fall. His wife claimed he had a seizure that caused the fall. He was also rumored to have early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Because of his death during the summer, the WWE was forced to cancel a rumored Natalya heel turn on her friend, Ronda Rousey.

Natalya had been teaming with and supporting Rousey ever since her full-time debut at Wrestlemania earlier in the year.

The storyline would have Natalya eventually turn on her friend after Rousey would be treated like a bigger star.

Jim's death would be used in storylines in November as Ruby Riott would infamously crush a pair of Jim's trademark sunglasses.

It would cause the pair to brawl before the most recent Survivor Series PPV, causing them to be removed from Team Raw.

They have since continued their feud.

BRUNO SAMMARTINO

The Italian Strongman defined the WWF for much of the '60s and '70s.
The Italian Strongman defined the WWF for much of the '60s and '70s.

DIED: APRIL 18, 2018, AGE 82

CAUSE OF DEATH: MULTIPLE ORGAN FAILURES DUE TO HEART PROBLEMS

Sammartino was one of the first true heroes in wrestling due to his long title reigns in the 1960s and 1970s.

He had multi-year title reigns including a record 2,803 day first title reign that will never be broken.

Sammartino was also a legitimate strongman, having set a bench press record before entering the world of professional wrestling.

Vince McMahon Sr. built his company off of Bruno's stardom and it helped Vince Jr. build the WWF into the WWE into what it is today.

Bruno stepped away as an active wrestler in 1981 but returned for a four-year stint from 1984-1988 in which he feuded with upcoming stars Randy 'Macho Man' Savage, Brutus 'the Barber' Beefcake as well as the One Man Gang and King Kong Bundy.

He eventually left in the late 1980s stating that he didn't advocate the way that Vince Jr. was taking the company.

He disagreed with the 'vulgar' storylines he saw as well as the prominence of steroids throughout the industry.

As one of the pioneers of pro wrestling, it was strange that Sammartino hadn't been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

That all changed when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013 after turning down the honor several times before.

He felt that the company had done enough to rid itself of the rampant use of drugs and overtly sexualized storylines.

Triple H apparently had a big hand in convincing Sammartino to finally accept the nomination after rejecting it so many times before.

Sammartino had heart surgery in 2011 and ultimately died on April 18, 2018 due to multiple organ failure caused by severe heart problems.

HONORABLE MENTION

Busick certainly had a different gimmick that may remind some of the Vaudevillians.
Busick certainly had a different gimmick that may remind some of the Vaudevillians.

Masa Saito was a Japanese wrestler who won the WWF Tag Team titles with Mr. Fuji twice. He wrestled for NJPW and All-Japan Pro Wrestling.

Saito passed away on July 14, 2018 due to a battle with Parkinson's Disease. He was 76.

Along with Brian Christopher and Nikolai Volkoff, Brickhouse Brown passed away on July 29, 2018.

Brown primarily wrestled in Southern Promotions in the 1980s. He also wrestled in AWA and USWA.

In USWA, he would wrestle a future WWE Champion known as the Rock. He departed the promotion in 1997.

Brown passed away due to a battle with prostate cancer. He was 57.

Big Bully Busick had a one-year run in the WWF in 1991.

He was managed by Harvey Whippleman and portrayed a bully from the 1920s, complete with handlebar mustache and bowler hat.

He didn't have much success in his time in WWF but had matches with Bret Hart, Jimmy Snuka and Davey Boy Smith.

Busick suffered from many ailments including atrial fibrillation, esophageal cancer and brain cancer.

He was 63 when he died due to complications from brain surgery on May 8, 2018.

Johnny Valiant was a wrestler in the WWWF in the 1970s and 1980s. He won the tag team tiles twice with his storyline brothers Jimmy (once) and Jerry (once).

He also managed Dino Bravo, Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine during the 1980s.

He died on April 4, 2014 after being hit by a pickup truck. He was 71.

Jose Lothario wrestled in the WWF and NWA for most of his active career. He's perhaps best remembered as the mentor to Shawn Michaels.

Lothario was by Michaels' side when Shawn won the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania 12.

Lothario died on November 6, 2018 due to unknown causes. He was 83.

Dirty Dick Slater wrestled for much of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. During his tenure, he wrestled for the WWF, AJPW, AWA and WCW.

He died on October 18, 2018. His cause of death was unknown. He was 67.

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Edited by Moderator -PJ
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