Axl Rotten

Axl Rotten

Rotten at the York County School Of Technology in April 2009
Birth name Brian Knighton[1]
Born (1971-04-21)April 21, 1971
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.[1]
Died February 4, 2016(2016-02-04) (aged 44)
Linthicum, Maryland, U.S.
Cause of death Accidental heroin overdose
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Axl Rotten[1][2]
Brian Knighton
Billed height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)[2]
Billed weight 310 lb (141 kg)[2]
Billed from "Hostile City"
Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Trained by Ricky Lawless
Joey Maggs
Debut 1987
Retired 2014

Brian Knighton (April 21, 1971 – February 4, 2016), better known by the ring name Axl Rotten, was an American professional wrestler. In the early 1990s, he was a part of the tag team The Bad Breed with Ian Rotten. He had a short stint with World Championship Wrestling in 1991, but he was best known for his appearances with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) from 1993 to 1999.[1] In ECW, Axl and Ian had a short rivalry that Pro Wrestling Illustrated named "Feud of the Year" for 1995. After leaving ECW in 1999, Knighton wrestled on the independent circuit and appeared at World Wrestling Entertainment's One Night Stand pay-per-view in 2005.

Professional wrestling career

Rotten wrestling on the independent circuit in 2009

Training and independent circuit (1986–1993)

Knighton was trained to wrestle by Ricky Lawless at a gym on Baltimore's North Avenue, receiving supplementary training from Joey Maggs. He debuted on the independent circuit at the age of 17, adopting the ring name "Axl Rotten", a portmanteau of the rockers Axl Rose and Johnny Rotten.[1] Rotten won his first championship teaming with Lawless to win the tag team titles in Frank Cain's Star Cavalcade Wrestling during the summer of 1988. He also succeeded Lawless as the promotion's heavyweight champion when, shortly after reigning champion Ricky Lawless was murdered, he won the vacant title from The Psycho in Thomasville, Georgia on November 30, 1988.[3]

In the early 1990s, Rotten trained Ian Rotten, who formed a tag team with Axl, masquerading as his brother. The duo, known as The Bad Breed, wrestled primarily in the Mid-Eastern Wrestling Federation. Rotten later opened his own professional wrestling promotion in Maryland called Universal Independent Wrestling. The promotion featured wrestlers such as the Bad Breed, Bam Bam Bigelow and Scotty The Body. It had a television series that aired on Saturday nights on the local ABC channel. The promotion closed in the mid-1990s.

From 1991 to 1993, Axl and Ian Rotten had a run with the Global Wrestling Federation (GWF) in Texas, being featured on their daily ESPN show. While in GWF, Axl succeeded in winning both the GWF Commonwealth title and the GWF Tag Team Championship, with Ian Rotten.

World Championship Wrestling (1991)

Rotten holding one of his signature chairs in 2009

In 1991, Rotten had a short stint with World Championship Wrestling (WCW), where he feuded with P.N. News. During his time with WCW, Rotten befriended Paul E. Dangerously, the future owner of Extreme Championship Wrestling.[1][4]

Extreme Championship Wrestling (1993–1999)

In 1993, the Bad Breed were hired by Paul Heyman, the then-booker of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) promotion. They competed in the ECW tag team division until November to Remember in 1994, when they lost a tag team match to The Pit Bulls with the stipulation that the losing team would be forced to separate. Both Rotten brothers blamed one another for the loss and playing off real-life ill feelings, a rivalry developed that Pro Wrestling Illustrated named feud of the year in 1995. The former partners wrestled their first match against one another in ECW at Double Tables on February 4, 1995, with Ian pinning Axl. They faced one another in a variety of hardcore matches over the subsequent seventeen months, fighting in "hair versus hair" matches and "barbed wire baseball bat, barbed wire chair" matches. Their feud finally ended at Hardcore Heaven 1995 on July 1, 1995 when Axl defeated Ian in a "Taipei Death match" (a match that saw each man coat their taped fists with shards of broken glass). The Bad Breed eventually reconciled and teamed together once again in early 1996.

Rotten competed in the ECW heavyweight division as a singles wrestler throughout the remainder of 1996. In 1997, he formed a tag team with Balls Mahoney known as The Hardcore Chair Swingin' Freaks and teamed up with Spike Dudley and New Jack to take on their main rivals, the Dudley Boyz. Mahoney and Rotten teamed together until 1999, occasionally wrestling one another.

Return to the independent circuit (1999–2014)

Rotten eventually left ECW in 1999 and appeared with Xtreme Pro Wrestling and the Japanese Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling promotion. Rotten then wrestled on the independent circuit throughout the early 2000s.

Rotten performed at the ECW reunion event Hardcore Homecoming on June 10, 2005, reuniting with Ian Rotten in a loss to The Gangstanators.[5] At the follow-up event, November Reign, on November 6, 2005, Rotten defeated Ian Rotten in a Taipei Death match.[6] Rotten also wrestled at the Extreme Reunion event on April 28, 2012, facing Balls Mahoney.[7]

World Wrestling Entertainment (2005)

In June 2005, Rotten was temporarily hired by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) for its ECW tribute pay-per-view, One Night Stand. He debuted in WWE on the June 6, 2005 episode of Raw, storming the ring with several other ECW alumni.[8] At One Night Stand on June 12, 2005, Rotten, Balls Mahoney and Kid Kash brawled with The Blue World Order prior to the main event.[9] Rotten went to wrestle several dark matches for WWE in July 2005.[10]

Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2010)

Rotten made a one-night appearance with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling on August 8, 2010 at the ECW tribute show Hardcore Justice. Rotten teamed with Kahoneys (Balls Mahoney), losing to Team 3D in a "South Philadelphia Street Fight".[11]

Other media

Rotten appeared in an uncredited, non-speaking role on the first episode of the show Homicide: Life on the Street, entitled "Gone for Goode", seen being questioned in "The Box" while Lieutenant Al Giardello gives Det. Tim Bayliss his introductory tour of the Homicide Unit.

Personal life

Knighton was born in the Fell's Point neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. He attended Southern High School, leaving in eleventh grade to pursue his ambition of becoming a professional wrestler.[1]

Knighton suffered from a spine injury in his final years that forced him out of the ring and required the use of a wheelchair. He was living in Anchorage Rehab Center in Salisbury, Maryland.[12]


Knighton was found dead by police in a McDonald's bathroom in Linthicum, Maryland on February 4, 2016. An autopsy showed that Knighton's cause of death was an accidental heroin overdose.[13][14] Ten hours earlier, he had sent his final tweet, which read, "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! (sic) #AxIsTruth."[15]

In July 2016, his estate was named part of a class action lawsuit filed against WWE which alleged that wrestlers incurred traumatic brain injuries during their tenure and that the company concealed the risks of injury. The suit is litigated by attorney Konstantine Kyros, who has been involved in a number of other lawsuits against WWE.[16] On October 21, 2016, it was revealed Knighton suffered CTE.[17]

In wrestling

Wrestlers trained

Championships and accomplishments

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Eck, Kevin (June 12, 2005). "After `Rotten' past, he returns to center stage". The Baltimore Sun. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Nix, Marc (2000). "Axl Rotten". IGN. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2000). Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  4. 1 2 Scott E. Williams (13 December 2013). Hardcore History: The Extremely Unauthorized Story of ECW. Skyhorse Publishing Company, Incorporated. pp. 47–. ISBN 978-1-61321-582-1.
  5. Commander Cory (April 30, 2012). "Extreme Reunion wasn't all bad". Québecor Média. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
  6. Kapur, Bob (November 6, 2005). "Storm interrupts November Reign". Québecor Média. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
  7. Kapur, Bob (April 30, 2012). "Extreme Reunion wasn't all bad". Québecor Média. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
  8. Keller, Wade (June 13, 2005). "WWE Draft flashback - 2005 edition (06-06-05)". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  9. Gramlich, Chris (June 13, 2005). "One great Night of hardcore nostalgia". Québecor Média. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  10. "Balls & Axl receive WWE tryout". WWE. July 13, 2005. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  11. Mackinder, Matt (August 8, 2010). "TNA's Hardcore Justice full of ECW memories". Québecor Média. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  12. Title Match Wrestling (June 14, 2015). "Extreme Injuries, Hardcore Recovery - Pro Wrestling Documentary". Title Match Wrestling. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  13. "Axl Rotten Passes Away [Updated". Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  15. "AXL ROTTEN on Twitter: "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"". Twitter. 2009-04-13. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  16. "WWE sued in wrestler class action lawsuit featuring Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka, Paul 'Mr Wonderful' Orndorff". Fox Entertainment Group (21st Century Fox). July 18, 2015. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "ECW Theme Songs". The Music Made Me Do It. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  19. "James Ellsworth profile". Cagematch. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  20. "Independent Wrestling Association Mid-South Heavyweight Title". Retrieved 2009-04-26.
  21. Maryland Championship Wrestling (2009). "Axl Rotten". 2009 Inductee. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
  22. "Pro Wrestling Illustrated Top 500 - 1996". Wrestling Information Archive. Retrieved 2009-08-03.

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