Corrigan’s Corner: Balls Mahoney’s Death Adds To A Disturbing Statistic

The ECW legend's shocking passing is the 39th death for company alumni.

When I found out that Balls Mahoney passed away, I didn’t think of a favorite match or moment. I didn’t play his entrance theme on loop nor did I text my friends the news.

I didn’t even ponder how Tommy Dreamer will honor his fallen comrade at House of Hardcore 13 this Saturday at the ECW Arena.

The only thought that crossed my mind was “Jesus Christ, another young wrestler died?”

It’s not surprising; Balls never really looked healthy. After all, the fire-spewing, chair-swinging brawler took hellacious beatings throughout his ECW tenure. But the fans loved him for it because Balls epitomized ECW: funny name, makeshift gear, antithesis of a body builder, left it all in the ring for the fans, and hardcore to the bone.

Looking back on those ECW days brings a tear to your eye. Not because we long for the politically incorrect, reality-driven, underground bloodlust of the 90s—of course, we do. But more importantly, we miss all of our favorites who passed away tragically young.

Balls Mahoney, 44, passed away on April 12, 2016. Photo Credit: WWE

Balls Mahoney, 44, passed away on April 12, 2016. Photo Credit: WWE

Excluding those who made one-time appearances, 39 people associated with ECW have died as of April 14, 2016. Twelve of those from heart attacks, 10 from overdoses. Only four of the 39 made it to their 50s. Dusty Rhodes is the only one to reach 60.


Balls started his career in Smokey Mountain Wrestling, also an East Coast minor-league promotion with big-time talent running in the 90s, although for only half as long as ECW.

Excluding those who made one-time appearances, 18 people associated with SMW have died, eight of which appeared in ECW. Eight of those SMW deaths stem from heart attacks and only eight made it to their 50s.


This trend is not limited to the 90s. World Class Championship Wrestling, which ran from 1982 until 1989, changing ownership during the later years, has been in the wrasslin’ dialogue throughout the past month due to the Fabulous Freebirds entering the Hall of Fame and WrestleMania 32 emanating from Dallas.

Excluding those who made seasonal or annual visits such as Ric Flair and Andre the Giant, 24 people associated with WCCW have died. Bam Bam Bigelow, Rick Rude and Tommy Rogers also appeared in ECW. Steve Doll also appeared in SMW. Terry Gordy appeared in all three companies.

Four WCCW members died from heart attacks, five from overdoses.
At least 11 reached their 50s.


It would take a lot of time to tally the deaths of WWF/WWE guys, and I’m not sure it would add much to this article. So I analyzed the Rock N’ Wrestling Era, which I count as lasting from 1985 to 1992, about the length of Saturday Night’s Main Event’s original run on NBC and FOX.

Not counting the midgets, 36 people associated with the WWF during its initial boom period have died. Six of which also appeared in ECW, five of which also appeared in WCCW, and one Macho Man who appeared in SMW.

In the highest amount listed, 17 lived to see their 50s. Eleven WWF deaths stem from heart attacks, six from overdoses.


WCW, which began when Ted Turner purchased Jim Crockett Promotions in 1988 until Vince McMahon bought the company in 2001, accounts for the largest roster measured and subsequently the most deaths.

Excluding those who made one-time appearances, 51 people associated with WCW have died. Only 11 of those worked strictly for WCW, never spending time in ECW, SMW, WCCW, or WWF during the Hulkamania Years.

Fourteen WCW deaths stem from heart attacks, a dozen from overdoses. Only 30% (15) of those deceased reached their 50s.


On the overall spectrum, heart attacks accounted for roughly 32 deaths in this list. Overdoses accounted for roughly 20.

Only 10% of ECW’s deaths reached their 50s compared to 30% of WCW’s, 44% of SMW’s, 46% of WCCW’s, and 47% of WWF’s.

All of this from a “fake sport.”

The only glimmer of hope from this article comes from TNA. Yes, the red-headed step child of the wrasslin’ community.

TNA, which has operated since 2002, longer than any other company or timeframe measured, has had only 8 deaths. None of which were wrestlers who started there.

Hopefully, the current generation of athletes has learned from the mistakes of their forefathers, and will avoid the traps of the road life. I’m not sure how they’ll avoid heart attacks, as straying from drug and alcohol abuse only affects so much. Hurling one’s body against a ring, a ladder, a table, and a concrete floor, night after night, week after week, year after year, will take its toll.

As the NFL deals with concussions, and commentators speculate on the future of the game, maybe we should begin the discussion of heart attacks in pro wrestling. Will there come a day when the number of untimely deaths weighs too heavily on the minds of fans trying to lose themselves in the action?


Until then, I’ll go listen to “Dead Wrestler Beach” and envision Balls Mahoney manning the grill, satisfying the appetite of his peers just as he did his legions of bloodthirsty fans.

John Corrigan
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John Corrigan

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John Corrigan
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  • Corrigan’s Corner: Chyna’s Death Continues Disturbing Trend | Wrestledelphia
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    […] what you might not know is that Chyna’s death continues a disturbing trend similar to Balls Mahoney’s death just last […]

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