Axl Rotten, a Baltimore-born professional wrestler who rose to prominence in the 1990s with Extreme Championship Wrestling, died from an overdose earlier this month, according to an Anne Arundel County Police report.
Police said in a report that Rotten, 44, was found unconscious and not breathing Feb. 4 on the bathroom floor of a McDonald's in Linthicum. Rotten, who was on the floor inside a bathroom stall, had pulled down the infant changing table and placed on it drug paraphernalia and a broken burnt tablespoon with a "crystalline residue," according to the report. An unlabeled pill bottle with capsules of a "brownish substance," which police suspected was heroin, was atop the paper-towel dispenser, the report said.
Rotten, who was born Brian Knighton and took the name Axl Rotten professionally, was pronounced dead at the scene at 3:09 p.m. It was unclear how long he had been in the bathroom before he was found. The manner of death is undetermined.
"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," the wrestling company, which owns ECW, said in a statement after his death.
A Fells Point native who dropped out of Southern High in 11th grade to pursue his wrestling career, Rotten was known "for the extremes he would go to in the ring, including mutilating himself in matches involving barbed wire and broken glass," The Baltimore Sun reported in 2005. He "helped establish ECW ... as the anti-establishment organization and a stark contrast to the family entertainment" of World Wrestling Entertainment and World Championship Wrestling. Outside the ring, however, he struggled with substance abuse, including prescription drugs, heroin, cocaine and alcohol.
He told The Sun he had been sober for a year in 2005, just before he was to perform in a pay-per-view event produced by WWE.
In 2014, according to a GiveForward fundraiser in his name, Rotten was hospitalized at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, where doctors told him he required two cervical spine surgeries.
The morning of his death, Knighton sent out a cryptic tweet: "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."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the announcement of his cause of death to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore. The Sun regrets the error.