Brian Knighton, a founding member of Extreme Championship Wresting (ECW) as Axl Rotten, has passed away at the age of just 44, according to reports.
As reported by PW Insider, Knighton was found deceased outside a fast food chain restaurant on Thursday evening in Baltimore, Maryland. The cause of death is, at this stage, unclear.
The wrestling world, including WWE, have been quick to pay their respects for a wrestler who during his run with ECW between 1993-1999, can be credited for bringing the hardcore style to a new, wider audience.
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Knighton had been active on his Twitter account (@AxlRottenECW) as recently as Thursday afternoon, posting the following message to his 16,000 followers:
As Rotten, Knighton was a huge draw in the mid-1990s as he enjoyed a well-publicized feud with Ian Rotten in ECW, the storyline brother of his heavy metal influenced character.
The duo actually won Pro Wrestling Illustrated's 'Feud of The Year' award in 1995.
Here are the two rekindling their feud in 2005:
Either side of his run in ECW, Knighton worked the independent circuit and spent time in GWF, WCW and Xtreme Pro Wrestling amongst others.
He also brought Axl Rotten to the WWE for a brief period in 2005 when the organization paid tribute to ECW with their One Night Stand pay-per-view.
WWE released the following statement today after hearing of the former wrestler's death:
"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. WWE extends its condolences to Knighton’s family, friends and fans."
In recent years, Knighton had been dealing with a number of health issues and injuries.