Wrestling Success Stories
January 4, 2007
I wrote the following for my ďStorm FrontĒ article for ďFighting SpiritĒ Magazine, back in September, and is being reproduced with permission from Uncooked Media Ltd.
I was inspired this month by a conversation I had with my current batch of students at Storm Wrestling Academytm. I was asked a question about going out with the boys after shows and the camaraderie aspect of the business. In an attempt to answer this question I ended up, as I usually do, talking at length and telling a lot of stories from my own career. I think this is an important part of training as life on the road, conduct, and dealing with the boys, is a very large part of the business.
The story I decided to tell was one from 1993 when I was working for Otto Wanz in Graz Austria. I was new to the territory and not a partier; I did not drink or go out with the boys. I was developing a fair bit of heat because of my conduct and after consistent urging by Larry Cameron, about the importance of camaraderie amongst the boys, I gave in and went out with the boys one night after a big show. There were 5 of us out that night: myself, Larry Cameron, Anthony Durante (ECWís Pitt Bull #2), Road Warrior Hawk, and Eddie Gilbert. The story itself isnít important and isnít even what inspired this commentary. What inspired this commentary was the realization that everyone I went out with that night is now dead. Thatís right of the five of us that went out that night Iím the only one still alive.
Larry Cameron had a heart attack in the ring in Bremen Germany later that year at the age of 41. Eddie Gilbert also died of a heart attack, at the age of 33. Road Warrior Hawk was another heart attack victim at the age of 46. Anthony Durante died of a drug over dose at the age of 36. There is a strong likely hood that the ďhard life styleĒ of being on the road (recreational and or performance enhancing drug use) contributed to all three heart attack deaths. Wrestling is full of these tragic tales and Iím both saddened and frustrated by them.
With premature deaths, drug addictions, divorces, arrests, injuries, pain pill dependencies, and all the other horror stories we constantly hear about in this industry I thought it would be nice to take a look at some of the success stories in this business; people who not only survived this business but flourished in it and didnít fall victim to the common pit falls along the way.
I think one of the biggest success stories in the business has to be Chris Jericho. Here is a guy who had both a successful career and home life. Chris and I broke in together and believe it or not actually gave our notice to WWE the same week. Iíve known Chris his entire career and I can tell you honestly that he is a guy who wasnít changed by this business or his success. He went from being a complete nobody to the man who unified the WCW and WWE World Titles. Chris defended the Unified World Title in the main event of WrestleMania 18 in front of over 68,000 people. He is married (to his first and only wife) has 3 kids, and with the exception of driving a nicer car is pretty much the same guy I met 17 years ago. He has never had any drug issues, sex scandals, or crippling injuries. He achieved more than he ever thought he would in this industry and did it by the time he was 35. He was smart with his money, did things his way and left on his own terms. He went out with style and even did the honors on the way out. A class act if there ever was one and a success on so many levels.
I may not have experienced the level of career success as a Chris Jericho, I know I certainly didnít make the money he did (LOL), but I think in some ways Iím even a rarer success story. I too achieved more than I ever set out to in this business. When I broke in I never planned or figured on winning big league (WCW or WWE) gold, yet I did so ten times. My goal when I broke in was to become a respected worker, not a titleholder, (Jericho can attest to this) a goal I think I have achieved without question. I survived a 16-year career without a serious injury, concussion, or surgery. I remained faithful and happily married to my wife through 14 years of my career, and continue to do so to this day. I went my entire career without drug issues, drug dependency, and take great pride in going my entire career (and life for that matter) with out any form of steroid use. While I didnít make the big money Jericho did, my career was a financial success and I left the business on my own term and financially secure. While I still have my hand in the business somewhat, I donít need or depend on it anymore. I am apart of this business still only because I enjoy it. I look back on my career with pride, fond memories, and no regrets.
Iím on a bit of a Canadian kick but with the recent retirement of Trish Status, I figured I might as well make The Storm Front a Canadian hat trick of success stories. I think succeeding in this business is harder for the girls. Physique expectations are so much higher, which ends up giving them a much shorter life span in this business. There are fewer spots so it is even more competitive. Trish had a 7-year career, and certainly made the most of it. Trish started with WWE from day one and quite easily could have coasted on her looks alone. Getting by on her appearance wasnít good enough for Trish and with a lot of hard work and some training by Fit Finlay she managed to become, quite possibly, the most successful female wrestler in history. She has held the WWE womenís title more times than anyone in history, and was the centerpiece of the most competitive womenís division ever. She took womenís wrestling from being not much more than wrestling T and A to a legitimate competitive level. She did for womenís wrestling what Benoit, Guerrero, and company did for the cruiserweight division in the mid 90s. In addition to the amazing career success it is the way in which Trish left the business that makes her a true success story. Trish felt it was time, gave her notice, and finished up in style. There was no scandal, no heated contract negotiations that went sour, no big head, no clash of egos, she just decided it was time and left in one of the classiest departures on record.
There are more successes than the three I just mentioned, but these are the most recent and the ones that hit home for me. When I hear of or read about the next wrestling tragedy I will think of this article and remember the good things that happen in this business, and the good people whoíve manage to survive it.