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Axl Rotten, Former WWE Wrestler, Dies at 44

Rotten is best known for his time in ECW in the early 1990s

Axl Rotten, a former WWE and ECW superstar, has died at the age of 44.

Rotten, whose real name was Brian Knighton, was found dead in Baltimore on Thursday night. WWE confirmed the news on its website. The cause of his death has not yet been disclosed.

“WWE is saddened to learn of reports that Brian Knighton, best known for competing in ECW as Axl Rotten from 1993 to 1999, has passed away,” the company wrote. “WWE extends its condolences to Knighton’s family, friends and fans.”

Rotten started out on the independent wrestling circuit in the late 1980s, where he met Ian Rotten (real name: John Williams), the man with whom he would form the tag team Bad Breed. After a brief stint in WCW, both Axl and Ian were recruited by Paul Heyman to join ECW.

Bad Breed competed in ECW’s tag team division until 1994, when they lost a match against the Pit Bulls that required the losing team to split up. Axl and Ian then engaged in a well-regarded feud with each other, which culminated in the infamous Taipei Death Match in July 1995.

During the match, both men came to the ring with broken glass taped to their knuckles in what has become known as one of the bloodiest matches in U.S. wrestling history.

Rotten left ECW in 1999 and returned to the independent circuit, with ECW declaring bankruptcy and being bought out by WWE in 2001.

Rotten was brought in by WWE in 2005 for the ECW reunion pay per view “One Night Stand” and went on to wrestle briefly for the company that same year.

Rotten struggled with drug addiction during his career, admitting during a recent interview on fellow wrestler’ Chris Jericho’s “Talk Is Jericho” podcast that he missed a scheduled WWE appearance due to his efforts to secure heroin.

In that same interview, Rotten spoke of how years of working the hardcore style for which he became famous had taken a toll on his body, severely limiting his mobility. However, a crowdfunding page had been started to raise money for a back surgery he required, with Jericho himself donating $10,000.