By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Wrestling has had more than its share of losses through the years. This week, on the Mt. Rushmore blog, a look at four wrestlers who left us way too soon. Obviously, there are dozens, maybe even hundreds of wrestlers, announcers, and managers I wish were still with us. Also, I'd like to thank Jittery Monkey Podcasting Network founder Greg Mehochko for this idea.Kerry Von Erich was my first favorite pro wrestler. When I first saw him wrestle Ric Flair in late 1982 inside a steel cage, I was sold on pro wrestling. He and his brothers ruled the ring in World Class Championship Wrestling. In early 1984, big brother David died unexpectedly, and Kerry later beat Flair for the NWA Championship. That remains one of my favorite moments in wrestling.
He'd later wrestle for the WWF, and shortly after that run, he ended his own life. It was a tragic ending to a string of tragedies the Von Erich family faced. I remember reading the news of Kerry's death in the newspaper in my college library. Someone on my floor had told me the news, which I didn't believe. Remember, this was pre-internet, so I had to read all about it in the newspaper.
Yes, Kerry battled demons. You'll see a few others on this list did as well. Kerry was only 33. I'd like to think he had at least another decade in him, had he stayed healthy. We have the legacy of his nephews, Marshall and Ross, and his daughter Lacey who have all contributed to the business.
Eddie Guerrero is someone I admittedly did not appreciate enough when he was alive. Yes, I thought he was an amazing wrestler. First, really seeing him in action in ECW. His time in WCW and WWE made him a household name. I never dreamed he'd be the man to beat Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship, but he did it, and despite his brief reign, he made a lasting impression.
I was stunned when I went into work in 2005 and learned the news that Eddie had died. His star was still shining so brightly. At just 38, I figured he had at least another run or two as World Champion in him. I have no doubt he'd still be involved in the business in some capacity today. Viva La Raza!
Owen Hart's death may be the most tragic in wrestling history. I listened in shock to Jim Ross tell us that Owen had fallen and a short time later that he had died from his injuries. It made no sense, and I couldn't wrap my brain around it.
While wrestling as the Blue Blazer, Owen was likely to win the Intercontinental Championship the night of his death. There are plenty of stories that Owen had intended to retire from the ring in a few years. I believe had he lived and continued to wrestle, he would have had at least one run at the top of the mountain.
Brian Pillman was someone that caught my eye during his time in Stampede. I read about him in the Apter mags, and a short time later, he ended up in WCW as Flyin' Brian. His character development was as amazing as his skills inside the ring.
I loved it when Brian showed up in the WWF in 1996 and looked forward to him being healthy enough to wrestle full-time again. In fact, I was in the crowd at In Your House Badd Blood in St. Louis in October 1997. However, they never announced to the crowd that Pillman had died, just that the match wasn't happening. I got the news the next morning after calling a wrestling hotline. I was crushed.
I'm happy to see Brian Pillman, Jr. is tearing it up in the ring. I have no doubt his father is smiling down and so very proud.
As far as honorable mentions, I have to add Gino Hernandez and Brodie Lee to the conversation. I hated Gino when I was a kid as he was a huge foil for the Von Erichs, but I know he was a great performer with the benefit of hindsight, and I believe he would have been a huge star in WCW or WWE eventually. And we just lost Brodie Lee last year as he seemed to reach new heights of popularity in the ring. His potential was finally being realized at the time of his death.
It is hard saying goodbye to our heroes. They're gone but not forgotten.