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RIP, Axl Rotten (1971-2016)

On July 1995, one of the most infamous matches in ECW history was forever etched in blood and broken glass. On Hardcore Heaven, Axl Rotten defeated his storyline brother (and student) Ian Rotten—a duo formerly known as the Bad Breed—in a “Taipei Death Match,” which involved both men coating their taped fists in shards of broken glass.

Few of these matches took place after that bloody match: the last one being at Hardcore Homecoming’s November Reign event, on November 2005.

Sadly, this legacy of pain has been—for now—overshadowed by the early death of one of its pillars. 

Yesterday, Axl, the man behind some of the bloodiest and most hardcore matches of the ECW era, passed away at age 44. Axl (real name Brian Knighton) was found dead in a motel room in Baltimore, Maryland. 

For almost three decades, Axl Rotten was a veteran of the squared circle, spending most of his years in the Land of Extreme. Axl’s hardcore brawling style, punctuated by stiff chair shots and the ominous beats of Marilyn Manson songs as entrance music, became a hit for the fans of the Hardcore Era. While Axl never won championships in ECW, he did bring more than his share of extreme moments, whether as part of the Bad Breed, or one-half of the Hardcore Chair Swingin’ Freaks with Balls Mahoney.

Just ten hours before his body was found, he sent his last tweet:

“The way I do things may not be the way you do things but you will find out there is only 1 way. My away! #AxlsTruth” (sic)

Few would probably remember the Bad Breed in a day of PG wrestling; but even fewer stand for all the blood, sweat, and tears given up in the name of this artful spectacle we call wrestling. Axl Rotten—the street-fighting, chair-swinging, barbed-wire wrestling freak that he was for almost 30 years of hardcore wrestling—is one of the very few who represents that.

Rest in power, Axl.

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