It was widely speculated, but now it’s official: Brian Knighton and John Rechner (better known to pro wrestling fans as Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney, respectively) suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The pair were diagnosed by Dr. Julia K. Kofler at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian based on brain examinations. Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist portrayed by Will Smith in the film “Concussion,” disclosed the information to the Boston Globe.
Both Knighton and Rechner were most known for their stints in the original ECW promotion during the 90’s. The hardcore nature of the wrestling promotion makes it not too surprising that the pair suffered from CTE given their embodiment of the ECW style.
Knighton and Rechner often took part in violent, hard-hitting matches, including taking chair shots to the head often which led their tag team name to being “The Chair Swinging Freaks.”
Both men died in 2016. Rechner died in April of a sudden heart attack in his New Jersey home.
Just two months later, Knighton was found dead after an accidental heroin overdose.
Both men were only 44-years-old.
“I hope these results help other wrestlers learn about the health problems they are going to have in the future,’’ Suzanne Rechner, his mother, said. “WWE, just like the NFL, should take care of their people.”
“My message to anyone who is interested in going into professional wrestling is to stay away from it,’’ Sonny Knighton, his father, said. “Unless you’re one of the top performers, no good comes of it.’’