Wrestling With Tragedy
Chris Candido passed away at the very young age of 33, reportedly from a blood clot from complications relating to recent surgery.
He had suffered a serious leg injury Sunday, and was denied pain medication for some time. The doctors could see by the tracks in his arm that he was at one time a drug addict, and didn't want to tempt him with more.
This one hits me hard. I was a big fan. On November 19, 1994, I was in Cherry Hill, NJ to watch little known independent wrestler Chris Candido, "managed" by his girlfriend Tammy (soon to be known as Sunny) win the NWA "World Heavyweight title" in a tournament to fill the vacant position.
He showed great promise. In many ways, he stole the show. I was very happy when Chris and Tammy rose through the ranks to go to the WWF, as it was like being aware of a rock band before it hit the big time.
Candido did well there. He was entertaining, even when overshadowed by his mate.
In the years that followed, I would read reports of his drug addiction, and undoubtedly he used steroids to help his career. That was when I was older, and the Internet told me things about the business I didn't want to know...or believe.
I was one of those kids who believed in Santa Claus, and that professional wrestling was real. I was mad when Bob Backlund was attacked by Sgt. Slaughter, as absurd as that sentence may seem right now.
We didn't know. They didn't admit it back then.
When wrestling told me it was all fake, I stopped watching it for quite some time. I had been tricked. At some point though, I had come to the conclusion that it was entertainment, and that I would start watching it again. After all, the business came out in the open and was honest with me.
Except that they weren't. Even though they told me that the "fights" were predetermined, they didn't tell me about the hard schedules, the pain medication, the steroids, and the shattered lives.
Professional wrestling has proven to be a tragic business to be in. The death toll has not gone unnoticed. It is surprising to me that in the talks about baseball and steroids that professional wrestling never came up. Will it take tragedies of the magnitude of this one to make them listen?
I have long since lost track of how many of my childhood heroes and villains have died for my entertainment. Then again, I have long since stopped being a child. I have long since stopped believing in Santa Claus.
The point is somewhat moot today. It does not appear that Candido died because of his lifestyle or his profession, at least not directly. Just bad luck, or bad medical care.
Nevertheless, one has to wonder what it was that I was watching as a kid, and who will be next.
Wrestling Deaths: Photos