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Brian Knighton (April 21, 1971 â" February 4, 2016) was an American professional wrestler, better known by his ring name, Axl Rotten. 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. 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
Training and independent circuit (1986â"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. 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 Leon's murder, he won the vacant title from The Psycho in Thomasville, Georgia on November 30, 1988.
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)
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.
Extreme Championship Wrestling (1993â"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 coa
t 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 (1999â"2016)
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. At the follow-up event, November Reign, on November 6, 2005, Rotten defeated Ian Rotten in a Taipei Death match. Rotten also wrestled at the Extreme Reunion event on April 28, 2012, facing Balls Mahoney.
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. 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. Rotten went to wrestle several dark matches for WWE in July 2005.
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".
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.
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.
Knighton suffered from a spine injury in his final years that forced him out of the ring and caused the use of a wheelchair. He was living in Anchorage Rehab Center in Salisbury, Maryland.
Knighton was found dead by police in a Baltimore, Maryland, motel room on February 4, 2016. 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."
SST - Severe Skull Trauma (Inverted brainbuster)
Death Valley driver
"Antichrist Superstar" by Marilyn Manson (ECW)
"The Beautiful People" by Marilyn Manson (ECW)
"Cake and Sodomy" by Marilyn Manson (ECW)
"Fight For Your Right" by Beastie Boys (ECW)
"Hair of the Dog" by Guns N'Roses (ECW)
"Get Your Gunn" by Marilyn Manson (ECW)
"Kick Out the Jams" by Monster Magnet (ECW)
"Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" by Marilyn Manson (ECW)
Championships and accomplishments
AAWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
Allied Powers Wrestling Federation
APWF Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
Eastern Wrestling Alliance
EWA Hardcore Championship (1 time)
Global Wrestling Federation
GWF Commonwealth Championship (1 time)
GWF Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Ian Rotten
Independent Wrestling Association Mid-South
IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
IWA Mid-South Tag Team Championship (2 times) - with Ian Rotten
Maryland Championship Wrestling
MCW Hall of Fame (Class of 2009)
MAW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
Mid-Eastern Wrestling Federation
MEWF Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
MEWF Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Corporal Punishment
National Wrestling League
NWL Hardcore Championship (1 time)
NWL Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Morgus the Maniac
Pro Wrestling Illustrated
PWI ranked him #132 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1996
PWI ranked him # 437 of the 500 best singles wrestlers of the PWI Years in 2003
PWI Feud of the Year (1995) vs. Ian Rotten
Star Cavalcade Wrestling
SCW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
SCW Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Ricky Lawless
Universal Independent Wrestling
UIW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
The Bad Breed
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