The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling by David Shoemaker:
There have been other wrestlers to die in the ring: Mike DiBiase (“Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase’s stepfather) may be the only other wrestler that mainstream American fans have heard of; he had a heart attack midmatch at the age of forty-five. Larry Booker (a.k.a Moondog Spot) likewise died of a heart attack in the ring. Gary Albright died after a “bulldog”—his head forcibly driven into the mat by his opponent—at a local show in Pennsylvania. Indie wrestler Daniel “Spider” Quirk died when his opponent fell from the ring onto Quirk’s head against the concrete floor. Japanese standout Mitsuharu Misawa died after a belly-to-back suplex dropped him hard onto his neck, and female wrestlers Emiko Kado and Plum Mariko both suffered life-ending accidents in the ring. Mexican wrestler Jesús Javier Hernández—known as “Oro”—reacted too dramatically to a clothesline and landed on his head, ending his life. British behemoth Malcom “King Kong” Kirk had a heart attack after landing a “splash” on his opponent. Ray Gunkel died in the locker room after an in-ring punch to the chest apparently gave him a heart attack.
These tragedies—all of them nebulous incidences to the average wrestling fan—are balanced by a handful of storylines in which death, or near-death, was scripted: Fritz Von Erich’s postbeatdown collapse, Ric Flair’s midmonologue heart attack, Road Warrior Hawk’s leap off the Titantron, referee Tim White’s (numerous) suicide attempts. The list could go on to include lesser offenses: Brian Pillman pulling a gun on Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan sending the Giant (Paul Wight) off a rooftop, and, less seriously, the Undertaker’s innumerable “buried alive” and casket matches.