Written by PWinsider

WWE announced the passing of former WWE and ECW star Balls Mahoney, 44, this evening.

According to those we have spoken to, Mahoney had taken a bad fall several days ago and badly hurt his hip. He had been using a walker to get around since and this evening, took ill and passed away. We don’t have any additional details beyond that on his passing. It is far too early to know anything else.

Real name John Rechner, Mahoney, best known as ECW’s “Chair Swinging Freak”, grew up the best friend of the late Chris Candido and the two would put on and promote their own wrestling events as teenagers. They each broke into the business at a young age and while he may have had other jobs, wrestling was his life’s passion.

While Rechner was known for his wild characters, he was actually a very good amateur wrestler, before being banned from competition for angrily headbutting an official when upset about a call.

Rechner first made his name on the New Jersey independent scene as “Abudah Singh” doing a crazy Middle Eastern gimmick that including blowing fire. In one notable match, he accidentally scorched Abdullah the Butcher severely when his fire was spit onto Abdullah’s chest.

To most fans outside of the Jersey area, Rechner was originally seen in Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling, playing simpleton Boo Bradley, an old friend of Candido who was being used to do Candido and Tammy Fytch’s dirty work under threat of his cat Boots (actually Sytch’s cat in real life) being injured. This led to Mick Foley getting involved and a babyface turn for Bradley.

The SMW gig led to a short run as Xanta Claus, an evil Santa from the South Pole, for WWF. It was an awful gimmick. What was even more awful was that he showed up, asked for an advance, asked where the food was and promptly fell asleep in the locker room, according to a number of stories famously told. He didn’t last long and the character was gone quicker than a winter snowstorm.

After WWF, it was onto ECW, where he, a true misfit even in pro wrestling, fit like a glove. While he’s well remembered for being the leather jacket wearing Chair Swinging Freak, it’s often forgotten that when Balls Mahoney debuted, he was well, a gay biker, who humped his opponents. Within weeks, that was dropped and Mahoney’s astonishing and willing ability to absorb punishment was used as a way to note only showcase him as a tough guy but get over what insane punishment names like The Sandman would dish out.

Mahoney, always underrated as a performer due to the nature of his gimmick and his position in the company, actually had some tremendous matches with the likes of Rob Van Dam (even main evening Anarchy Rulz 1999 on PPV) and was a major part of getting Masato Tanaka over to the ECW audiences after Tanaka’s initial debut against Doug Furnas flopped.

Mahoney held the ECW Tag Team championships several times with Tanaka and with Spike Dudley, but was best remembered for his team with Axl Rotten. When ECW went out of business in 2001, Mahoney took it worse than most and in the documentary “Barbed Wire City” admitted that he tried to kill himself because he felt so lost without ECW, which he eat and breathed. Still, despite that, Mahoney would often argue to those who were angry about the company’s bankruptcy and seeking money owed that he would never seek his, because thanks to ECW, he was Balls, he had action figures and video games and all sorts of things that he wouldn’t have had otherwise. He felt ECW gave him his lifeline in wrestling and it was playing off that lifeline that he made a living for the rest of his life in the business.

Behind the scenes, Balls was well known for his crazy stories, especially one where he allegedly killed a Great White Shark while fishing off the Jersey Shore…with a spork. While he pretty much played a violent Neanderthal on TV, he was a voracious reader and would often read an entire book over the course of a flight. He was very much a big kid, one who lost his temper and his emotions when he was pushed too hard, but 99% of the time, was an affable guy, thrilled to be living and working in pro wrestling – it was a stark contrast from the guy who helped filled the more violent quotient of ECW.

A funny story about Mahoney is that when WWE resurrected ECW in 2005, he began calling everyone all happy that they were all “getting their jobs” back. Wrestlers, referees, even people who weren’t involved in the reunion show (I know this, because he called me, asking if I was going back to work on the ECW website again). Needless to say, this never happened. A year later, when WWE did the second One Night Stand PPV, he began making the calls again, only this time, especially at first, a bunch of people he called DID get their jobs back, many of whom told him not to fall for believing it was going to happen like he did the previous year. Instead, he was a prophet.

We all know the story of the WWE version of ECW, but perhaps the most amazing aspect is that out of all the ECW Originals who were brought in and dumped (beyond their regular pay, the majority they were promised a lump sum if they made it past a certain date, almost none did), Balls, the scruffy, rankled Chair Swinging Freak lasted longer than anyone…and even ended up in a somewhat romantic storyline with Kelly Kelly. Only in wrestling could someone defy the odds like that.

When Mahoney was finally released, he did what he always did, he went back to wrestling on the indy scene, working all over the place, doing crazy matches – often bloody even when he wasn’t asked to have bloody matches – and at times, getting himself into trouble for going over the edge. As the landscape changed and wrestling became more homogenized, even on the indy scene, Mahoney was just as much a misfit as when he started.

Mahoney was larger than life for sure and certainly lived his life the way he performed in the ring, to excess. Unlike others who might have been manipulative in life, Mahoney was, if anything, far too giving and at times, allowed himself to be taken advantage of, even by himself, in the pursuit of performing in the ring. That was easily obvious to anyone who saw “Barbed Wire City” and saw the physical difference in footage of Mahoney in the 1990s and then footage of him at reunion events in 2012. In recent years, he had lost a ton of weight and looked, for lack of a better description, gaunt and somewhat sickly. His body had paid the price for what he loved to do, especially since he continued to do it well after he should have been.

At his core, however, John Rechner was a good, loveable guy and it’s a damn shame he’s left behind a young son, especially given how heartbroken he was personally when his best friend, Chris Candido passed away in 2005.

We at PW Pop want to send our condolences to the family of John “Balls Mahoney” Rechner. Here are social media reactions from Twitter regarding his passing:


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About The Author

Dan is host of Shooting from the Hip which you can hear every Sunday at 8pm EST, 7pm CST right here on PWpop.com.