Wrestling is an unusual sport. It comes in two very distinct forms. The most well-known form of wrestling is more like an endurance test and choreographed like a ballet rather than an actual fight. This is in direct contrast to sports like boxing, mixed martial arts, and the UFC, where participants engage in unscripted combat with one another.
Despite the amount of choreography that goes into wrestling, it requires individuals to be incredibly fit. In spite of all the planning that goes into wrestling displays, some wrestlers occasionally die in the ring while participating.
Going by the name ‘King Kong Kirk’ (owing to his 300lb frame). Malcolm Kirk was an imposing character and one of the most successful wrestlers of his generation. Just four months before his 51st birthday, Kirk was taking part in a tag team match in Norfolk, UK. During the course of the match, Kirk found himself on the receiving end of a move known as a splash. Kirk went down as expected, but didn’t get back up, eventually turning blue. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital, where an autopsy revealed a pre-existing heart condition.
Pedro Aguayo Ramirez was a professional wrestler from Mexico. The son of another professional and highly respected wrestler, Ramirez’s career showed great promise. He was taking part in an event in Tijuana against another wrestler known as Rey Mysterio Jr. After being on the receiving end of a powerful, kick Ramirez temporarily lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness, Ramirez could do nothing more than hang from the ropes, however, the match continued for another two minutes before those in attendance realized the severity of the situation. It is always a tragedy when a wrestler dies in the ring, but in the case of Ramirez, the Baja California state prosecutors office is considering manslaughter charges against the promoter.
The case of Owen Hart is among the most well-known of all wrestling deaths, in large part because it was broadcast across pay-per-view. As a way of kicking off the ‘Over The Edge’ pay-per-view event in style, the WWE elected to have Owen lowered into the ring on a harness. The rig failed, however, and Hart plunged approximately 70 feet. His neck landed on one of the ringside ropes and it is widely believed that he died on impact, although he wasn’t pronounced dead until he reached the hospital.
Legendary Japanese wrestler, Mitsuharu Misawa, was widely regarded as one of the finest wrestlers of his generation and he enjoyed a long and illustrious career, continuing to wrestle well into his 40s. On 13 June 2009, Misawa entered the ring for the last time. He was taking part in a tag team match at the Hiroshima Green Arena. Misawa died after taking a shot to his back, which caused a freak spinal cord injury. He never regained consciousness.
Thankfully, deaths in wrestling are rare, but those on record are a stark reminder of how dangerous the sport can be, especially when the participants become complacent about safety.