Former WWE wrestler Ashley Massaro - who joined the company after winning the 2005 Diva Search competition - sadly passes away at the young age of 39. Unfortunately, the scripted sport known as professional wrestling has become well-known for the staggering amount of early deaths suffered by its performers. This reality can be especially hard to face for those who've been watching since the 1980s Hulkamania era, as so many of the biggest stars of that time are dead, in many cases dying well before reaching retirement age. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, "Ravishing" Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, Andre the Giant, and The Ultimate Warrior are but a few of the names on that list.
Premature wrestling deaths are by no means confined to the stars of the 1980s though. Brian Pillman famously passed away due to a heart condition in 1997, at the age of 35. "Latino Heat" Eddie Guerrero, one of the most beloved wrestlers of his era, also died suddenly due to heart problems in 2005, at age 38. Eddie "Umaga" Fatu passed away in 2009 at age 36, due to a combo of heart disease and a drug overdose. A more recent example is Joanie "Chyna" Laurer, who died of a drug overdose in 2016 at age 46, after having seen her life slide steadily downward in the years since her WWE career ended. Sadly, that doesn't even scratch the surface of wrestlers who've died young.
Now, there's yet another unfortunate name to add to the tally of professional wrestlers whose lives have been cut short. As first reported by TMZ, former WWE superstar Ashley Massaro has died at the age of 39. A cause of death has yet to be released. WWE has confirmed Massaro's passing, and issued the following brief statement:
We are saddened to learn of the tragic death of former WWE Superstar Ashley Massaro. She performed in WWE from 2005-2008 and was beloved by her fellow Superstars and fans around the world. WWE offers its condolences to Ashley’s family and friends.
Massaro signed with WWE after winning 2005's Diva Search competition, and while her career was brief, she certainly made an impression, and her punk rock attitude made her a favorite of many. Massaro was part of the period in WWE where female wrestlers were mostly used for eye candy, and competed in things like bra and panties matches on a regular basis, which almost seems like a lifetime ago in the current era of the "Women's Evolution" and Becky Lynch main-eventing WrestleMania. Still, Massaro did the best she could in that climate, going head to head with the likes of Mickie James, Trish Stratus, Beth Phoenix, and Melina during her time competing in the ring.
Massaro's highest-profile match came at WrestleMania XXIII in 2007, challenging Melina for the WWE Women's Championship in a lumberjack match. She also spent some time as a valet for the popular high-flying tag team of Paul London and Brian Kendrick, as well as becoming one of several WWE divas to pose for Playboy. Before leaving WWE in 2008, Massaro also took part in a China-set season of the CBS reality competition series Survivor.
Rest in Peace Ashley Massaro: May 26, 1979 - May 16, 2019