UPDATE: WWE issued the following statement via WWE.com:
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.
ORIGINAL: Brian Knighton, professionally known as Axl Rotten, was found dead today in Baltimore, Maryland. He was best known as a member of the original Extreme Championship Wrestling. Knighton was only 44 years old.
Rotten was found by authorities in a motel. He had tweeted earlier today, so the belief is he passed away sometime in the last ten hours.
Knighton was best known for his intense feud with his storyline brother and former tag team partner Ian Rotten resulted in ECW getting plenty of magazine press and online buzz for the usage of barbed wire baseball bats and a level of blood and violence that wasn’t the norm in 1995 anywhere but several of the Japanese death match promotions. The feud was named the 1995 “Feud of the Year” by Pro Wrestling Illustrated Magazine and at the time, the throwback to the old days of wide-eyed, bloody photos in the magazines, mixed with the storyline of two “brothers” trying to maim each other with barbed wire, led to ECW getting far more coverage than it would have likely.
We’ll have more on this story as soon as it becomes available.