26. Brian Pillman – Age 35
The man nicknamed “The Loose Cannon” lived up to his moniker in and out of the ring, walking the razor’s edge between life and death before an unknown ailment robbed him of his life. Brian Pillman could wrestle technical bouts, hit highspots, and shift gears to fisticuffs without losing a step. This, along with his good looks and charisma made a rise to stardom inevitable, particularly after he began working his kayfabe-breaking “Loose Cannon” character. Behind the scenes, Pillman lived a tumultuous life, perhaps no more evident than the incredible amount of drugs he consumed. In the book, Sex, Lies, and Headlocks, Sean Assael discusses how Pillman passed out at one point and a doctor found Pillman had consumed ten times the recommended dosage of pain medication. Wrestling legend has it Pillman rotated getting his Vicodins and Percocets from forty different pharmacies so his drug abuse would go unnoticed. Despite Pillman’s drug abuse (and the WWF allowing him to work even after failing drug tests), his death was ruled the result of an undetected heart condition (arteriosclerotic heart disease) that snatched Pillman’s life on October 5, 1997. However, Pillman’s widow Melanie told the New York Daily News she believes prescription painkiller abuse likely played a role in his life, noting that Pillman’s doctor Joel Hackett prescribed him drugs over the phone. In a 2000 story, Melanie told a reporter, “I would call him up and say, ‘Joel, why do you keep giving him all this medicine? He’s getting addicted to it.” Pillman was 35 years old.