Former ECW Wrestler Axl Rotten Dies Of Accidental Drug Overdose

By McCarton Ackerman 02/18/16

Brian Knighton, known as Axl Rotten, was best known for his work in Extreme Championship Wrestling between 1993 and 1999. 

Former ECW Wrestler Axl Rotten Dies Of Accidental Drug Overdose
Photo viawikicommons

Beloved wrestler Axl Rotten (real name: Brian Knighton), who rose to fame in Extreme Championship Wrestling during the ‘90s, died on Feb. 4 after suffering an accidental drug overdose. He was 44 years old.

The Baltimore Sun first reported Knighton’s death last Tuesday. The former wrestler passed away after overdosing in a McDonald’s bathroom in Linthicum, Md. A police report indicated they found an unlabeled medication bottle with pills of a “brownish substance,” which is being suspected as heroin. Knighton had also pulled down the baby changing table inside the bathroom and put drug paraphernalia on top of it, as well as a broken burnt tablespoon with a “crystalline residue.”

A 2005 Baltimore Sun feature on him noted that Knighton gained fame “for the extremes he would go to in the ring, including mutilating himself in matches involving barbed wire and broken glass.” But his life outside of the ring was just as extreme and included addictions to heroin, prescription drugs, alcohol and cocaine. He told the paper that he had been sober for a year at that time.

An online fundraising page posted last year on Give Forward also claimed that Knighton was “proud to be clean of all non-medically prescribed drugs.” He was trying to raise money after wrestling-related injuries left him unable to walk. Doctors told him he needed two cervical spine surgeries or he risked spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. However, the $25,000 campaign ended last August having raised no money.

His ECW story-line brother, John “Ian Rotten” Williams, said in a Facebook post that he was not surprised to hear of the death.

“When Axl left my house Sunday night, I pretty much knew I would never see him again,” he wrote. "He would always say to me that he had no idea why he was still here. That God must have been making him suffer. I told him that it was God’s plan for him to write his book, and maybe that book would change one person's life. Unfortunately, now that book won't be written. When he left my house, he told me he wrote this story and he knew how it ended.”

Knighton sent out a cryptic tweet hours before his death, writing, “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.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.