Christopher Klucsartis aka Chris Kanyon (January 4th, 1970 – April 2nd, 2010)
As you can probably tell by now, this is a bit of a different direction for a wrestling column, but it’s also very important to get these words out there. September is National Suicide Prevention & Awareness Month, and not only is it an important tie-in to the world of professional wrestling, but it’s an important tie-in to my personal life, as well.
Allow me to apologize right off the bat because I’m not sure about how much actual wrestling content the main section of my column is going to have this week. I’m pretty much freestyling as I go along, and I don’t know the journey that my brain is going to take us on quite yet. Don’t worry, though. I’ll make it up to you next week by posting my list of the Top 748 Armbars In Wrestling History or something along those lines.
Hana Kimura (September 3rd, 1997 – May 23rd, 2020)
The first time I remember hearing anything about suicide was when I was a little kid. The mother of one of my neighbors took her own life. I don’t know if I ever heard the details about what happened, or why it happened, but I do remember that my neighbor was bullied a lot after it happened. In case you’re unaware of this fact, kids can be assholes. It takes a special kind of person to hear that your classmate’s mother just killed herself and for your first reaction to be making fun of him about it. Looking back on it, I don’t know how he handled all of that. The loss of his mother, plus all of the nonsense that came along after the fact, would be too much for most people to handle, especially at such a young age.
Michael Alfonso aka Mike Awesome (January 24th, 1965 – February 17th, 2007)
The first time I remember hearing anything about suicide in the world of wrestling was at some point in 1993. Kerry Von Erich had just passed away, and I didn’t hear anything about how he died. I was still pretty young, and I didn’t grow up in Texas, so the story of the “Von Erich Curse” wasn’t one I was familiar with. A friend of mine had an uncle that was a member of different wrestling “communities” that I had never heard of before. One, he was a “tape trader” with access to promotions, matches, and wrestlers that I had no idea existed. It was always cool to browse through his collection when my friend would bring me over to his house. Secondly, and more important to this story, he was a Wrestling Observer Newsletter subscriber, long before “Dave Meltzer” became a well-known name in the business. Soon after Kerry’s death, I got to read an issue of the WON that went into great detail about not only Kerry, but the deaths of his brothers, as well.
I was blown away. By now, I would assume most of you have heard about the tragedies that have hammered the Von Erich family through the years. Fritz Von Erich had six sons. One of them died at the age of six when he was electrocuted and then drowned. In 1984, David Von Erich passed away at the age of 25, and there has been a bunch of mystery surrounding his death. “Acute enteritis” is what is listed as the official cause of death, but Ric Flair has mentioned that he thinks the death was due to a painkiller overdose, and that Bruiser Brody helped to the remove the evidence of an overdose before authorities could find it. In 1987, Mike Von Erich took his own life at the age of 23. Chris Von Erich would take his own life in 1991 at the age of 21. Then we got Kerry Von Erich’s death in 1993.
Years later, we would get a heartbreaking quote from Kevin Von Erich, the only surviving son of Fritz…
“I used to have five brothers. Now, I’m not even a brother.”
Alexander Whybrow aka Larry Sweeney (February 18th, 1981 – April 11th, 2011)
I’ve been a fan of wrestling for well over three decades now, but even after all this time, it still amazes me when I read/hear stories about how the business used to be. The insane travel schedule, the amount of days spent on the road, the bumps, the drug use, the alcohol… there’s nothing else like it in the world. It really shouldn’t surprise anybody to see such a high number of wrestlers to die “early” in their lives. While I was doing research for last week’s PWI 500 column, I discovered a sad stat that 120 people from the first edition of the 500 (1991) are no longer alive.
Obviously, not all of those deaths are due to suicide. The larger point that I’m trying to make by bringing the stat up is that it’s so, so wild to know what these men and women put themselves through back in the day. Think about how much has changed in wrestling from the 1980’s to the current day. There’s a lot stricter rules and regulations when it comes to drugs, whether they’re recreational, prescribed, or anything in between. The travel schedule is considerably lighter for most wrestlers, especially those in the larger promotions. Wrestling rings have changed and often aren’t like taking bumps on concrete anymore. We, as a society, have gained so much knowledge on brain injuries, what causes them, how we can try to avoid them, what to do when they happen, and so on.
A generational shift in out-of-the-ring interests and hobbies seems to be helping, too. It seems like every wrestler in the business today has a podcast and/or a Twitch channel, and all they care about when they aren’t actively wrestling is playing video games and collecting sneakers, much to the chagrin of older wrestlers such as The Undertaker, who has gone on record with negative opinions about today’s locker rooms.
Michael Lockwood aka Crash Holly (August 25th, 1971 – November 6th, 2003)
I have a personal history with suicide. It wasn’t my proudest moment, of course, but I tried to take my life once. I was in my early-20’s, and I was going through a lot of the usual things that people of that age range are dealing with. Living on my own, and my financial situation wasn’t exactly in a great place at the time. I had just gotten out of a relationship with a girl that I just KNEW was going to be “the one” for me. My grandparents had raised me, and they had both passed away by then, so I was feeling lonely. If you’ve ever experienced suicidal thoughts, you know that the things you’re sad/mad/upset/hurt about don’t have to be earth-shattering. I knew I wasn’t the only person going through sad times. It’s never about that, though. As I said, I was living on my own, and that’s a dangerous thing to experience when those thoughts rush in. You get into your own head, and you run through a million scenarios in your head. The “woe is me” starts getting stronger and stronger.
It was all new to me. Not only had I never gone through suicidal thoughts before that time, I could say that I wasn’t even sad all that often. I was always a pretty happy person, going all the way back to my earliest memories, so feeling so down was terrifying. My decision to take my thoughts and act on them wasn’t something that I would call spontaneous, but obviously, it’s something I wish I would’ve spent a lot more time thinking about. I wish I would’ve found someone… anyone… that I could reach out to.
There was obviously a part of me that didn’t want to go through with it, because I made a post on MySpace (yes, I’m old) about it before I made my attempt. This may have saved my life, because it gave people time to contact the right authorities that were able to make it to my place before anything reached the point of no return. I will never forget the looks on the faces of those police officers, security guards, and EMT’s. They tried their best, but, to me, it just looked like they were silently judging me, starting from my apartment and then during the ambulance ride to the hospital. Once at the hospital, I felt like I was receiving those same looks and judgments from the staff there. I hated it. It was embarrassing. That’s when I knew I made the wrong decision. If I really, REALLY wanted to be gone, why would I give a fuck if so-and-so was looking at me a certain way?
I spent a day in the “regular” section of the hospital before being transferred to the psych ward section for a few days. This was rough. It’s as close to being in jail as many people are ever going to experience. No shoelaces, drawstrings, or anything along those lines. “Lights on” at a certain time in the morning, and “lights out” at a certain time at night, with numerous “check-ins” from staff and security at all hours. We couldn’t even use the restroom or take a shower without damn near being watched by multiple people to make sure that everything was on the up-and-up.
While I was there, I encountered a bunch of other people that were “residents” there for the same reason I was. I remember there being a girl that was fresh out of high school. There was a man who was in his 70’s. White people. Black people. Asians. Latinos. There was a businessman in there who was, at least in the business world, having a very successful life. One or two people were basically homeless and fighting multiple types of addictions. During the daily “group sessions” we were mandated to have, I heard all kinds of stories about why these people were there. You know what? I know I shouldn’t have felt this way because everyone travels their own paths in life, but I was ashamed of myself. These people were having what I felt to be “real” problems. Problems that I couldn’t have dreamt of dealing with at any age, let alone barely being into adulthood like I was at the time.
I feel like that was the “boost” I needed in my life at the time. Instantly, everything was placed squarely into perspective. “Hope” might be the wrong choice of words, but in that time at the hospital, and in the immediate aftermath of my release, I felt… something… that made me feel better. That made me want to be here. Made me want to keep keeping on. Here I am, all these years later, and I’m glad I wasn’t chosen to leave. I couldn’t even begin to list the blessings, the moments, the people, and the events that I would’ve missed out on if things played out differently on that day.
Kerry Adkisson aka Kerry Von Erich aka The Texas Tornado (February 3rd, 1960 – February 18th, 1993)
The advent of social media has brought on a new era, of sorts, when it comes to suicide and the negativity that precedes it. There’s so much that people, famous or not, have to deal with when it comes to social media that either didn’t exist before, or at least was a lot more difficult to come by.
There are too many people on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and every other social media site who are painting an inaccurate picture of their lives. They’re either outright lying about their lives, or they’re only posting about the good side, making it look as if their lives are going a lot more swimmingly than they really are. You know the ones I’m talking about. Because of those types of people and accounts, you have folks out there who find themselves comparing their lives to what they see on the internet.
“This guy drives a fancy car. My car isn’t fancy at all.”
“Look at this women on vacation in another beautiful place. I can’t even afford to leave the state.”
“I wish I looked like her.”
“He has so many followers. I wish I had that many.”
The list goes on and on.
Then you have the cyberbullying that has become an out-of-control pandemic on social media. People say some horrible shit on the internet, and it’s usually because they know, or at least feel, that there won’t be any consequences to their actions. Look… I’m not a saint here. I’ve said some awful things to people online. Things that I regretted instantly. Even some things that I’ve gotten into trouble for. I’m simply pointing out that it’s so much easier to say things to people now. At one point in life, you had to say something to someone in a face-to-face setting, and you’d better be prepared for a fight, or worse, if what you had to say wasn’t something pleasant. Now, not only can you say it from behind a phone or a computer monitor, you can also do it anonymously, or behind a fake persona. It takes ten seconds to log on and tell someone on social media things that would’ve put you in a fistfight a generation ago, and you can say those things to anybody. Me, some random person, a celebrity, a politician… anybody.
I think about Hana Kimura a lot when it comes to this type of thing. In 2020, she took her own life after being relentlessly bullied online due to her time on the Japanese reality show, Terrace House. She was 22 years old, and she was a rising star in the world of joshi puroresu, wrestling on a show co-produced by Ring Of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling, and also wrestling at New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 14 show, in what was the first time women had worked a Wrestle Kingdom event and the first time women had wrestled at the Tokyo Dome in nearly two decades. It seemed like she had great things on the horizon, but in an instant, her life was over. She has become one of the “faces” of the new generation when it comes to how far people can be pushed by bullying on the internet.
I can completely understand why a lot of people stay away from social media completely. Whether its online trolls, the aforementioned negativity, the news cycle being full of dread and bad news, or whatever their reasonings are, I get why someone wouldn’t want that constant dark cloud and poor energy floating above their heads at all-time. I try not to use Twitter as much these days. There was a time when I was on Twitter constantly, but now, I try to stay away unless it’s live-tweeting a sporting event or wrestling show, or to promote these very columns that I post. That particular part of social media remains a ton of fun and is unmatched when it comes to connectivity and interactivity with people all around the globe.
Ashley Massaro (May 26th, 1979 – May 16th, 2019)
If you’re reading these words right now and are going through struggles in your life, I want you to know that you’re not alone. I know it sounds cliché as all hell, but it’s true. There are people out there who care about you. Who love you. Who would be devastated if you were to cease being a part of their lives. I know that it might not seem like it… trust me, I’ve been there… but you’d be surprised to know how much you’re cared for in this world. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Ever. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you’re not okay. That doesn’t make you weak. Again, it’s another cliché, but asking for help makes you incredibly strong. Identify the people in your life who can be there for you if you need a shoulder to cry on, or who can listen if you simply need to vent. Maybe it’s a family member, or a friend, or a neighbor… or even a “stranger” on the internet that you’ve met, but haven’t MET met.
To those of you that feel you’re doing just fine right now, check in with your people. Chances are, you have someone in your circle that is struggling, even just a little bit. You never know when something as small as a call or a text or an in-person check-in can change someone’s life. I’ve lost too many people. We’ve all lost too many people. If I can help just one person and get them the help they need to stick around… just one person, in a sea of humanity… this column will have been completely worth it.
If you need resources, there’s a million of them out there. I’m going to list some of them here. If you need help, please… PLEASE… reach out.
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network that provides 24/7 service via toll-free hotline with the number 988, and you can use that number through a call or a text. You can also use their website (988Lifeline.org) if you would prefer to chat with one of their counselors online instead of on the phone. This is the new name of what used to be called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, made famous in the Grammy-nominated song by Logic, Alessia Cara, and Khalid titled “1-800-273-8255“. That was the official number of the NSPL, but the number is still fully functional and will connect you to 988, as well.
If you’re in the United Kingdom, you can text SHOUT to 85258 and be connected to a trained volunteer 24/7.
In Ireland specifically, you can text HELLO to 50808 to be connected to a trained volunteer 24/7. If you’re in Ireland and have a smaller carrier network such as An Post or 48, you would text HELLO to 0861800280 and receive the same services, as those carrier networks may not support the shorter code numbers.
For United States veterans and their loved ones, you can text 838255 or dial 988 (then press 1) to contact the Veterans Crisis Line. You do not need to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to connect.
If you look at the Suicide Crisis Line page on Wikipedia (Click Here), there are numbers, websites, and services for people in nearly 100 different countries across the world. Any age, race, sexual orientation, job, etc… there are specific places out there that will cater to you and whatever it is you’re going through.
I’ll say it once more… PLEASE reach out and get some help if you’re going through something right now. We need you here.
Shannon Spruill aka Daffney (July 17th, 1975 – September 1st, 2021)
Weekly Power Rankings
- AJ Styles vs Sami Zayn: Even with the new people in charge of what goes on in WWE, AJ remains one of the more criminally underutilized workers in the business today. He could, and should, be in the main event scene at almost all times. Even after all these years, he is still putting on world-class performances. Sami is also putting in great work. His combination of in-ring and character work with The Bloodline has been tremendous. Really good stuff here.
- Bryan Danielson vs Jon Moxley: Another pay-per-view main event quality match on weekly television. My only question is just why AEW hasn’t pulled the trigger on Danielson yet. His time with AEW has been really strange. You know he’s going to have great matches, and he has had them with regularity over the last year. However, when you look at his record, he hasn’t been on the winning side of pretty much every “big” match he’s had. This was his third attempt at winning the AEW World Title, and he has a 0-2-1 record in those matches. There was the draw with Kenny Omega in his first AEW match, a loss to Moxley at Revolution back in March, a loss to Chris Jericho at all Out, a loss to Daniel Garcia back in July, and he was on the losing team in Anarchy In The Arena at Double Or Nothing. He has won almost everything else, though. I’m not saying he has been “buried” or that he’ll be permanently moved down the card from here on out. I’m just curious as to what the deal is. Did Mox really need to become a three-time AEW World Champion here?
- Matt Riddle vs Damian Priest: Riddle continues to put in main event level performances. A lot of people were curious about what would happen to him without Randy Orton, but he has risen to the occasion. Priest has also done really good work since being called up from NXT, and I think this might be his best main roster match.
- Roman Reigns “Swerving” Sami Zayn: The crowd ate everything up with a spoon. Every single thing. When Roman began speaking down to Sami and asking him about why he was wearing a Bloodline shirt, you could hear the uneasiness in the crowd as they were anticipating the four-on-one beatdown that was coming. The WWE Universe has really grown attached to Sami, and they don’t want to see The Bloodline destroy him. Then, Roman reveals that he has a new “Honorary Uce” shirt for Sami, and the crowd loved it. We know the “turn” is coming at some point. That part is understood, and it’s fine. The fact that these guys are taking everyone for a ride is the fun part. They’re all doing a great job. The story of Roman, Jimmy Uso, and Solo Sikoa all being welcoming of Sami, while Jey Uso grows more and more jealous at Roman giving Sami any attention, is amazing.
- Kevin Owens & Johnny Gargano vs Alpha Academy: After years and years, Owens and Gargano were finally able to come together and form Panda Express! A lot of fast-paced action here. You knew what the match outcome would be, but the journey getting there was still enjoyable.
- Sting & The Great Muta: You can tell how old someone is by how much they loved this. Fans of a certain age and older were marking the fuck out for The Great Muta arriving in AEW to save his biggest rival from his time with the NWA in 1989. Seeing Sting and Muta together, including Muta hitting Buddy Matthews with THE MIST, was a wild dose of nostalgia.
- The Acclaimed: I continue to be amazed at the meteoric rise these guys have been on. They went from a heel tag team that looked destined to be job guys forever to building popularity in a completely organic way, and are now, arguably, the most over face act in all of AEW. Now that they have reached the top of the mountain and won the AEW Tag Team Titles, it will be v-e-r-y interesting to see how they’re treated by the company. Lord knows we’ve seen it a million times… a face act grows insanely popular during their title chase, then finally win the title they’re looking for, only for the promotion to forget how to book them properly. Next thing you know, their title reign is over quickly, and the dud of a reign is a stain on them for a long time. Could they have a great title reign? It’s possible. Could they also drop the titles to FTR or The Young Bucks sooner than later, and never reach the top again? It’s possible. We shall see.
- Ricky Starks vs Powerhouse Hobbs: Why in the world was this not the match they had at All Out? After the breakup of Team Taz, these guys having a short squash-like match on pay-per-view was perplexing, to say the least. At least they got this fun brawl out of it. I just don’t see why you couldn’t have done it in the first place.
- Jungle Boy vs Rey Fenix: Two young, exciting talents getting to do what they do. Simple. Effective. Christian Cage’s torn triceps taking him out of action until next summer (reportedly) is some terrible timing. He and Jungle Boy were really building a heated feud, and now… well… I hope you all enjoy Jungle Boy vs Luchasaurus three or four times.
- Rey Mysterio vs Seth Rollins: These two had a nice, long match and neither man lost an eye! It’s a miracle!
- “Hangman” Adam Page: He won a Battle Royal to earn an AEW World Title shot. As soon as he was revealed as a competitor in the match, you knew he was winning. It was a 28-man BR, and about 25 of those men have no business competing for the World Title. It would be like the Royal Rumble consisting of Drew McIntyre, Akira Tozawa, Cedric Alexander, Elias, Mustafa Ali, MVP, Reggie, Robert Roode, R-Truth, Shelton Benjamin, Angel Garza, Drew Gulak, Humberto Carrillo, Rick Boogs, Ridge Holland, Shanky, Brooks Jensen, Josh Briggs, Channing Lorenzo, Ikemen Jiro, Ashante Thee Adonis, T-Bar, Chad Gable, Dexter Lumis, The Miz, Ivar, Mace, Mansoor, Duke Hudson, and Ricochet. Gee, I wonder who would win that? Maybe Page can win the title, only to drop it back to Mox a week later. Then, maybe MJF can cash his shot in and beat Mox for the title, only to drop it back to Mox a week later. Let’s just give Moxley 20 title reigns already.
- Saraya: She made her AEW debut and got a huge pop. I’m still playing wait-and-see because she’s not going to be any sort of game-changer if she isn’t able to wrestle again. I like her, but I just don’t see what the point of signing her is if she’s only going to be a manager, a women’s division “authority figure” on-screen, or anything else besides an in-ring competitor.
- Liv Morgan: WWE finally let her showcase a little badassery. Even as the Smackdown Women’s Champion, she looks like the underdog of all underdogs going into her Extreme Rules match with Ronda Rousey. The way she has been booked has done her absolutely no favors, but this was a step in the right direction for her. On top of that, the camera angles WWE used to film her table dive were beautiful. That was a nice added bonus.
- Pac vs Orange Cassidy: From time-to-time, I forget Pac has a singles title. I remember that he’s one-third of the AEW Trios Champions, but the AEW All-Atlantic Champion? Nope. It keeps slipping my mind. That’s not his fault at all. It says more about the need for that title in the first place. He keeps having good matches, though, so at least there’s that.
- Bianca Belair vs Iyo Sky: The addition of Bayley, Dakota Kai, and Iyo Sky to the women’s division on Raw has really opened the doors for new and/or fresh matches. That’s a great thing, especially for Bianca Belair, who seemed like she was in a holding pattern for such a long time with Vince McMahon’s weird desire to run every match into the fucking ground. We’ve seen Bianca and Iyo in the ring together before, both as opponents and as tag partners, but they’ve both come a long way since their days in NXT. This was their second singles match on Raw, and both have been good. Works for me.
- Claudio Castagnoli vs Chris Jericho: I was really disappointed with this match. I’ve seen a lot of reviews, and I know I’m not alone. It was good, but that’s it. There was potential for greatness here, but it never got close to that. I’ve seen some people speculate that one, or both, of them got legitimately dizzy after The Swing. Others have speculated that both men, but especially Jericho, were gassed by the end of the match. Either way, there were so many clunky spots here, including one especially ugly spot where Jericho flips Claudio, and Claudio lands on his feet but then starts running toward the corner where Referee Aubrey Edwards is standing. If it would’ve been one fluid motion, it might’ve been fine, but Claudio flipped, landed, stopped for a split second like he was a video game glitch, and then started running. The majority of the match was doing what it needed to do, but then the wheels seem to have completely fallen off. An uncharacteristic “off” match for Claudio. As for Jericho… man, it’s WEIRD seeing him as the Ring Of Honor World Champion. We’re still in a crazy timeline when it comes to pro wrestling.
- The Usos vs The Brawling Brutes: I’m not sure that there were many people who thought we were getting a title change here, but it was another weird booking decision where Imperium interfered at the end and caused enough of a distraction for Butch and Ridge Holland to lose the match. On one hand, it makes sense for Imperium to make the lives of The Brawling Brutes miserable, but on the other hand, if Imperium is feuding with The Brutes, why not “help” them win the titles? It’s an interesting business decision that could put yourselves in line for a title shot. Now, you’ll just continue feuding with them with nothing on the line.
- Braun Strowman vs Otis: I believe the match barely cracked the five-minute mark, but it was everything that a match between Braun, 6’8″ tall and 385 pounds, and Otis, 330 pounds, should be. Lots of power moves, lots of brawling, and lots of back-and-forth action. Nobody in their right mind thought Otis was going to win, but it was good to have him look strong against the returning monster in Braun.
- Candice LeRae: Looking back, there was a lot more surprise at seeing Candice return to the company than there should’ve been. With her husband returning, it probably should’ve been expected, even if she was only going to wrestle in NXT again. She looked good in her return, marking her first match in almost 15 months. She only adds to the newfound depth of the women’s division on Monday nights.
- Hook & Action Bronson: It wasn’t a five-star classic, but it wasn’t supposed to be. Bronsolino wrestling in his first match is one thing, but it’s not like Hook is responsible for being in 30-minute marathons yet, either. All that matters is that neither of them screwed anything up, and that the live crowd loved every bit of it. Nothing wrong with some fun like that every now and then.
This Week’s Playlist: Nothing this week. “Happy” songs didn’t seem right with what I was writing about, and “sad” songs would’ve just taken me down some roads I didn’t want to travel on at this point in time. I’ll be back with some music in next week’s column.