As I turned on the WWE Network last night, I was treated to WCW’s 1996 Great American Bash pay-per-view. This was during a fun time in wrestling, as the NWO had yet to officially take shape, yet Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were appearing on TV, wreaking havoc wherever they went. This was also during the Big Show’s (the the Giant) title reign, as he faced off against Lex Luger in the main event.
I decided to jump in where the PPV was, which was right after Dean Malenko pinned Rey Mysterio, Jr. in a match that went almost 18 minutes (that never happens today for cruiserweights). Malenko used the ropes after giving Mysterio a nice little powerbomb. I was excited to see it, but little did I know that I was walking directly into some sad, sad times.
As it turned out, I was walking into a graveyard.
The first wrestler I saw after the Malenko/Mysterio match was Tenta. You might remember him better as Earthquake, or if you’re a big WrestleCrap fan like me, you’ll remember him as any number of terrible characters. I didn’t think much of it when I saw Tenta, other than “why the heck is half of his head shaved?”
For those that have forgotten, Tenta died back in 2006 of bladder cancer, at age 42. This didn’t really hit me until I saw his opponent for the night.
BIG BUBBA ROGERS
Ray Traylor, Jr. was better known as the Big Boss Man — the man from Cobb County, Georgia who happened to be a good guy that carried around a nightstick earlier in his career. He was also the guy who fed Al Snow his own dog and happened to drag Big Show’s dead father around by way of dragging his casket around, but I digress.
I find myself watching these old PPV’s and I remember what I was doing in my life around this time. It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago (though 18 years certainly is a while back).
Traylor died in 2004, at age 41, of a heart attack.
After watching the Rogers/Tenta match and feeling a bit of sorrow for two men that had their lives ended much too soon, I was hit with another big dose of reality.
As if two deceased people in a match wasn’t bad enough, the next match hit us with three who have since passed on.
Chris Benoit, Miss Elizabeth and Woman were all involved in the next match, as Benoit beat Kevin Sullivan in a Falls Count Anywhere match. We’re not going to get too deeply into it, but Benoit’s murder-suicide involved Woman and Miss Elizabeth died in a drug overdose at age 42. Benoit was 40 when he hung himself and Woman was 43.
It’s difficult when we really sit back and think about how early all of these folks died. Obviously Benoit’s situation was different, though it’s suspected that years of abuse due to the wrestling business drove him to severe brain damage before he did the unthinkable. In the span of two matches, we had cancer, heart attack, murder, suicide and drug overdose.
When you watch today’s WWE, take a minute to think about those who have passed and hope that you’re not going to look back at this era in the same way.