Brian Knighton, the Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) original who wrestled as Axl Rotten all over the country was founded dead in a Baltimore motel Thursday. Axl Rotten was only 44 years old.

As Axl Rotten, Knighton gained fame and notoriety in the mid-’90s, just as ECW’s brand of counter-culture was emerging as a third party to WCW & the then WWF. He and his fictitious brother waged wars all over the ECW Arena in Philadelphia that established him as not only one of the company’s best hardcore performers but helped create the aura that ECW was the home of hardcore, especially in North America. Later, he would team with Balls Mahoney in a tandem that was popular with the ECW crowd. Rotten didn’t get a chance to enjoy the latter days of ECW as he was released in 1999. Much like another ECW hardcore original in New Jack, the wars in ECW and beyond had riddled Knighton’s body with scars.

PWInsider reports that Axl Rotten had fallen on hard times in his latter years, battling substance abuse and isolation. The WWE issued a statement on Rotten’s passing.

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.