If we take a minute to think about this, it's not really all that surprising.
So, I logged on this evening, and happened across an article on the front page of Yahoo noting that with the recent death of WWE performer Macho Man Randy Savage, somewhere between a quarter and a third of the athletes performing at 1991's Wrestlemania VII are dead. By and large, these deaths have occurred as a result of heart problems or drug use, though there were a few other causes listed in an associated chart.
Now, let's take the minute I mentioned at the top of the article to think about how and why this might happen. What one must realize is that the kind of entertainment the WWE provides is really quite abusive, physically, to those who do it. They must at least act like they're getting hit with metal folding chairs and slapping the crap out of one another. And then there are certain moves that can't be faked to quite that extent, such as those moves that require one performer using another to smash a table, or getting thrown over the top ropes. After a few years of taking that sort of punishment, the human body is going to be smashed to shit and back. There's going to be arthritis to hell and a ton of other pain and damage I can't even really begin to think of. All of that would require these guys to be on some serious medication to function at all, let alone in any truly meaningful way.
Add to that the all-too-likely wide use of steroids in the business. That class of drugs can really mess with a person's heart, which can wind up being deadly by way of things like, just to name one, heart attack.
And then, there is the time factor in this. We're talking about an event that happened in 1991. That's twenty years ago. Two whole decades. I was in middle school then. There's so much that's changed over the course of those 20 years, including me.
So really, all things considered, it's actually kind of a surprise that only a third or so of them have died off in the last twenty years. Considering the abuse that most professional show wrestlers put themselves through, both in and out of the ring, one might think that more than 14 of 51 of the athletes in Wrestlemania VII would have died somehow.
The article also mentions football and boxing as comparisons. Sure, markedly fewer of the people involved in the various championships from those sports have died over the course of the last two decades, but one must also remember that boxers and football players take at least somewhat better care of themselves and use noticeably more protective gear when actively engaged in their sports. While boxers do punch one another repeatedly and football players take some hard hits when they get tackled, boxers do, for the most part, wear gloves, and football players wear padded suits and helmets to soften the blows inflicted in the course of their matches and games. Show wrestlers, for the most part, don't have that luxury, and therefore, are taking their falls and hits with relatively little padding to take some of the blow.
In the end, it's no real surprise that so many of the people who performed in Wrestlemania VII have die for one reason or another. One must only consider what these men do and how they do it to figure out why.