On the night of March 20, 2015, legendary Mexican wrestler Pedro “Perro” Aguayo Jr. took part in a four-man match in Tijuana that would end his 20-year career … and his life. In a sprawling feature in Playboy, Thomas Golianopoulos recounts Aguayo's career and explores the impact his death had on the beloved spectacle of wrestling, or "lucha libre," in Mexico. "Everything was normal," says T.J. "Manik" Perkins, his partner for that last match. "Up until the moment we were both on the ropes." Minutes into the "fairly sedate" contest, Aguayo's neck was broken. Hauled out of the ring on a piece of plywood, Aguayo was rushed to a hospital but doctors were unable to save him. Exactly what caused the "hangman's fracture"—taking a dropkick to the face, bumping on the ring apron, hitting the ropes—could not be determined.
It was, Golianopoulos notes, "a tragedy with more than one victim." Aguayo's mother, Luz Ramirez, for instance, keeps her son's ashes in a mahogany box bearing a tiny gold crucifix. And Óscar "Rey Mysterio" Gutiérrez, who wrestled against Aguayo the night he died, received death threats and still could face manslaughter charges in the death of his friend. Aguayo's family, however, has urged fans not to blame Gutiérrez, according to Latin Times. Aguayo started wrestling professionally with his father—legendary luchador Pedro "Perro" Aguayo Sr.—when he was 15. He didn't have to be in the ring for that final match. With a successful clothing line and a construction company, the younger Aguayo was well off, a former wrestler tells Golianopoulos. "He didn’t have to wrestle," he says. "He wrestled because he loved it." Read the full Playboy story here.