Yesterday, I saw the passing of another ECW original on social media and checked to verify the story. when it was confirmed, I was surprised, but all things considered, it shouldn’t have been that surprising.
John Rechner, better known to fans around the world as Balls Mahoney, died at the age 44. According to PWinsider, Rechner had fallen a few days ago and was using a walker prior to his passing, but as of this writing, the cause of death hasn’t been announced. Mahoney got his start in the wrestling business alongside his friend, Chris Candido and the two started setting up rings at local shows in New Jersey in their teenage years. Eventually, both trained to become pros at the Monster Factory under Larry Sharpe. Rechner worked the New Jersey independent scene as “Abudah Singh” and became known for spitting fire. When Candidio began working for Jim Cornette’s Smokey Mountain Wrestling in 1994, Rechner followed him there for an extensive rivalry between the two, which concluded the following year.
During the peak of the WWF’s cartoonish era in 1995, Rechner was booked as Ted DiBiase’s heel Santa character that only made a few appearances. A true misfit, stories have been told that Rechner just didn’t fit in with the WWF agenda at the time, but he would soon find a home in pro wrestling’s island of misfit toys.
In 1996, Balls Mahoney debuted in the Philadelphia-based Extreme Championship Wrestling and he generated a cult following as one of the wrestling rebels that was guided by Paul Heyman at the world famous bingo hall, the ECW arena. While Mahoney had an amateur wrestling background and some have claimed that he could be a technical wrestler, he became typecast in ECW as a “blood and guts” performer. At times, he was paired with Axl Rotten, another competitor that was typecast into a hardcore role, and the duo became crowd favorites for their wild matches. Mahoney became known for his customized steel chairs and even more well known for the violent chair shots. Along with swinging the steel, Mahoney took many unprotected chair shots as well, something that makes you shake your head, especially considering the information that is being researched about concussions today. Obviously, those ECW brawlers didn’t have the benefit of hindsight, but it’s certainly a cautionary tale for current performers.
After Axl was dismissed for personal problems, Mahoney found success with both Spike Dudley and Masato Tanaka, winning the ECW tag team titles on a few occasions. As the two major promotions began to sign many of ECW’s top acts, the company pushed the envelope even further in an attempt to maintain its ground and because of his dedication to the business, Balls Mahoney was involved in some of the organization’s more risky stunts. In a highlight that was played several times during the opening of ECW’s national TV show, Mahoney was put through a flaming table by The Dudley Boys. The flaming table spot was repeated and objects such as, barbed wire and thumbtacks weren’t uncommon in his matches. During the closing stages of Extreme Championship Wrestling, he battled in violent matches that featured some disturbing chair shots, but again, that was his role in the company. His often bloody matches led to the chance for his to work a few FMW tours in Japan, a country he traveled to a few times even after ECW closed.
When ECW folded, Balls Mahoney took to the independent scene and similar to many of his peers, got work based off of the name he made in the extreme promotion. He resurfaced on the national scene when the WWE relaunched ECW in 2006, but along with the other originals, he was mostly booked as a jobber. Surprisingly, remained under contract for almost two years before he was released in 2008.
After the WWE’s ECW experiment fizzled, Balls Mahoney had a renewed run on the independent circuit from the WWE TV exposure, but years of sacrificing his body, both inside and outside of the ring, became noticeable. ECW was known for its party atmosphere and Mahoney spoke candidly about his drug use in interviews. Many of his peers have spoken about Mahoney being a nice guy, which might be true, but he is responsible for his own decisions when he used substances. In recent years, Mahoney’s appearance changed drastically and while he’s the only one that knows the actual details, many speculated that it was as a result of drug use. He also made headlines when he puked during a match with Marty Jannetty in 2012, which fueled the rumors. Basically, when the party of ECW concluded and the national spotlight faded, John Rechner was left with a forehead mashed with scar tissue, injuries from the risk of the ring, and damage from the substances he used.
Outside of the ring, Rechner and his wife, Gayle gave birth to a son named Christopher after his friend, Chris Candido. In interviews, Mahoney mentioned that he was looking for other potential jobs to support his family, but he also continued working wherever he was booked to wrestle on the local scene. As mentioned, Mahoney’s death was initially surprising, but it really shouldn’t be all that shocking. While the official cause of death hasn’t been announced, Balls Mahoney spent a few decades abusing his body, inside and outside of the ring, which probably didn’t help the situation. It was always mentioned that Mahoney could work a technical style, but that’s not how he made his name and it’s doubtful that he would’ve been a national name without the hardcore genre. Further more, Balls Mahoney is another example of the consequences of substance abuse and it’s another performer gone too soon. Hopefully, it’s a precautionary tale for other competitors in the business that are trying to make a name for themselves, the risks you take in the ring to become a star have consequences.
Despite the problems he might’ve had, Balls Mahoney had a dedication to the wrestling business and he sacrificed his body to make a name for himself. He was eccentric and one of the true character of the business. It’s obvious that Balls Mahoney was willing to scar his body and set himself on fire to become a pro wrestling star, and he will certainly be remembered as the wild competitor in ECW.
Sincere condolences to his friends and family at this difficult time. An online fundraiser has been organized to help pay for his funeral expenses and you can donate at this link – The Jon Rechner Memorial Fund.