The pro wrestling world is full of fascinating characters, and we sadly lost some beloved people in 2023. Although the pro wrestling world is extensive, and full of many stories on several levels, we have compiled a list of notable losses that the pro wrestling world saw in 2023.
There were some huge losses in 2023, like Bray Wyatt and Jay Briscoe’s tragic deaths. We also lost some absolute legends in 2023, like Terry Funk, Jerry Jarrett, and The Iron Sheik. It was truly a year full of sad headlines, but these names will never be forgotten for everything they gave to the world while they were with us.
Bray Wyatt passed away on August 24, 2023, at the age of 36. Known for his creative storytelling and terrifying gimmicks, Wyatt had a successful career, winning both the WWE Championship and Universal Championship. His last match was at the 2023 Royal Rumble, after which he was removed from television due to illness. Unfortunately, he succumbed to a heart attack following complications from COVID-19.
Terry Funk passed away on August 23, 2023, at the age of 79. A veteran of the wrestling industry, Funk had a career spanning over 50 years, making significant contributions to both WWE and WCW. Renowned for his hardcore style of wrestling, Funk retired from in-ring action in 2017. He had been battling dementia and lived an assisted life since 2021.
The Iron Sheik passed away on July 7, 2023, at the age of 81. An Iranian-American professional wrestler, he gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s while wrestling for WWF and WCW. Inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005, The Iron Sheik had a memorable rivalry with Hulk Hogan.
Jay Briscoe tragically lost his life at the age of 38 on January 17th in a car accident in Delaware while accompanied by his daughters. The Delaware State Police reported that another woman driving a truck veered out of her lane for unknown reasons, resulting in a head-on collision with Briscoe’s truck. Unfortunately, Briscoe was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. Despite the devastating loss, Jay Briscoe leaves behind a legacy as a wrestling legend, having achieved significant success with his brother Mark, including holding the ROH World Tag Team Championship 13 times and earning recognition in various promotions. His wrestling journey began at the age of 16 in May 2000, and he and his brother, known as “Dem Boyz,” made their mark in ROH in 2003. Reigning as the ROH Tag Champions at the time of his passing, they secured the titles from FTR at ROH Final Battle in 2022. Jay Briscoe also held the ROH World Championship twice as a singles competitor, and their contributions were honored with induction into the ROH Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class in 2022.
Darren “Droz” Drozdov, who competed for WWF in the late 1990s, died on June 30, 2023, at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center at the age of 54. Droz suffered a career-ending neck injury in 1999 but later continued as a writer for WWE.
Lanny Poffo passed away at the age of 68 on February 2 due to congestive heart failure, as announced by “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan on Instagram, with the initial cause of death undisclosed. Poffo, also recognized as “Leaping” Lanny in the WWF, commenced his wrestling career in the 1970s, participating in various NWA promotions and International Championship Wrestling, initially owned by his father, Angelo Poffo. His tenure in the WWF spanned from 1985 to 1992, and he later joined his brother “Macho Man” Randy Savage in WCW during the mid-1990s, though he never had a televised match. Poffo’s final wrestling appearance occurred in January 2020 for Survival Championship Wrestling, and in 2020, he made a cameo on an episode of AEW during a tribute to Memphis wrestling legends. Beyond his in-ring persona as “The Genius,” Poffo was recognized for his heel poetry and also for his literary contributions, including a biography comic book and an anti-smoking poetry book aimed at children.
Peggy Lee Flower, known by her ring names Peggy Lee Leather, Lady X, and Thug, passed away on May 22, 2023, at the age of 64. A former WWF Women’s Champion, she wrestled for multiple promotions and retired in 2013.
“Superstar” Billy Graham died on May 17, 2023, at the age of 79. Recognized for his time in WWWF/WWE, Graham held the WWWF Heavyweight Championship during the 1970s. He had been working with WWE under a legend contract since 2015 and faced health issues leading to his hospitalization in January 2023.
Jerry Jarrett, co-founder of NWA: TNA, died on February 14, 2023, at the age of 80. Known as a “Wrestling Genius,” Jarrett contributed to multiple wrestling promotions and was associated with his son Jeff Jarrett.
Bushwhacker Butch passed away on April 2, 2023, in a Los Angeles hospital. He had traveled to participate in the WrestleMania 39 festival.
Mike “Mantaur” Halac peacefully passed away in his sleep on July 11 at the age of 55, as reported by his daughter. According to her, Halac was relieved of pain after sustaining a back injury earlier in the day. Eric Simms of ESS Promotions also announced the news on social media, having booked Halac for an upcoming event. Halac gained prominence as Mantaur, a gimmick that fell flat during the WWF’s New Generation era, portraying a character billed as half-man and half-beast upon his debut in late 1994, briefly managed by Jim Cornette. After the gimmick was abandoned, he returned to the WWF as Tank in 1997 as part of The Truth Commission stable and also competed as Bruiser Mastino in ECW, making a solitary appearance in WCW in a dark match.
Absolute Andy passed away tragically in his sleep at the age of 40 on November 23. The announcement of his demise due to a prolonged battle with an undisclosed illness was made by the German promotion Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw), stating that he “fell asleep in the presence of his wife.” Ullmann, a two-time GWP World Champion and five-time holder of wXw tag team gold, engaged in over 330 matches for the promotion. In 2020, he assumed the role of Director of Sports, wrestling his final match in January 2022 and relinquishing the wXw Shotgun Championship in March due to illness. Throughout his tenure, he faced notable opponents such as Bryan Danielson and GUNTHER, the latter expressing condolences on social media. Their last encounter occurred in the 30-man ShortCut to the Top match in 2019.
Our thoughts are with anyone who lost a loved one in 2023. This was a trying time for a lot of people, but now we can look forward to seeing what 2024 has to offer.
Please use the comments section to drop a tribute to someone we lost in 2023. This list is certainly full of outstanding talent that will be truly missed.