Suicide is Painless – By James Simpson
Kerry Von Erich shot himself. Mike Awesome hung himself. Chris Kanyon took an overdose of pills. These three wrestlers are part of a handful of wrestlers who have died at their own hand out of the dozens of pro wrestlers who have passed on in the past two decades. Suicide in wrestling seems ‘rare’ in comparison to the stats about wrestlers dying due to accidental drug overdoses and heart attacks due to steroid abuse. For me it’s upsetting to think about how Awesome and Kanyon ended their lives (I was too young to comprehend Kerry’s suicide and I’ll explain more on that, later) and how they must have felt: these were men I loved watching and knew they had suffered setbacks in their careers but was it those setbacks that led to them committing suicide? The following is a look at the deaths of these wrestlers, plus others who suffered the same fate that decided their lives were not worth living.
Kerry Von Erich.
Kerry’s suicide is something that seemed to be surrounded by mystery and rumour for years after it happened. This writer can recall being at school and getting into arguments with other students when it came to how the Texas Tornado died. Was it actually suicide or was it a game of Russian Roulette creating another ‘loser’? Then there was talk of Kerry taking so much coke he committed suicide, gun to the head, thinking he was indestructible because of the class-A drug fuelling his body. This may have something to do with the real reason Kerry ended it as at the time of his death he was actually being indicted for faking a drugs prescription. Knowing he would do time he took a shotgun and blasted himself in the heart at his father’s ranch. This happened in February 1993: Kerry’s final glory days were behind him as he left the WWF in July ‘92. After leaving his families once proud company, World Class/USWA, he arrived in the Fed a big star as the Texas Tornado in summer 1990 even going on to defeat Mr Perfect for the Intercontinental Championship at Summerslam on Aug 27th of that year. He must have been relived that jumping to the WWF paid off so soon but he did not hold the belt for long (by the standards of the time) as Perfect beat him in a rematch on November 19th (although shown on TV on December 15th). It seemed afterward that the Tornado was treading water for the next 18 months as he appeared on the undercards of PPV’s, usually in tag encounters, before he left: 7 months later he would be dead. With the news he was in trouble for drug prescription forgery, his married life falling to piece and his professional life a shadow of its former self Von Erich wanted to join his dead brothers (who had their own issues when alive, some leading to their deaths in fact).
Mike ‘Crash’ Lockwood
Mike was, for a time, a big star in the WWF. From spring to winter of 2000 he was on nearly every WWF show as Crash Holly. He injected life into the stale Hardcore Championship by boasting he would defend the belt ‘24/7’ and other wrestlers took him up on that offer. This led to Crash being attacked by various WWF employees (not just wrestlers) wherever he was in attempts to win the battered Hardcore belt. This made for some very unique settings for matches such as hotel rooms and kid’s fun parks. By the end of 2000 Crash was suffering from over exposure as fans got sick of countless ‘title changes’ of the HC title on every show. He held the European belt for two days, the briefness of his reign showing how important it was to the product. He did have a run with the Light Heavyweight title in 2001 but that championship was always something of a joke in the WWF, too. Things went from bad to worse for Lockwood in 2003 when he was released by the now WWE after he hadn’t done much of note in two years (bar from being a ‘follower’ of Matt Hardy) and he briefly entered TNA as Mad Mikey. Away from the cameras Lockwood’s life was in turmoil as his wife filed for divorce and Mike ended up homeless. Thankfully Lockwood had a good friend in Michael ‘Stevie Richards’ Manna who put Lockwood up in his home while he came to terms with the loss of a solid income, his wife and home. Sadly, on November 6th 2003 Manna returned home to find that Mike had committed suicide via overdose aged 32. Mike Lockwood has disappeared from wrestling fans minds in the years since, apart from being included in a video tribute to deceased wrestlers at ECW One Night Stand 2005, and this may be in part due to how he died. While his firing from WWE isn’t fully responsible for his suicide it in part added up to a series of disasters for Mike that he felt made his life no longer worth living. Dying alone, in his friend’s house, without work or the woman he loves is something that many people will try to avoid thinking about when they do recall Crash Holly. The fact a friend of my wife asked me recently “Whatever happened to Crash? I use to have the hots for him!” and was shocked at my reply shows that not many people even know what really happened to the ‘Houdini of Hardcore’.
Tony ‘Ludvig Borga’ Halme
Halme will be best known for his brief run in the WWF as ‘Finnish Nightmare’ Ludvid Borga in 93/94. He was booked to end Tanaka’s year’s long winning streak which showed the WWF were firmly behind him. In early 1994 he suffered an injury and was never seen in the Fed again. While he did wrestle in Germany afterward and even attempted MMA he left wrestling to become involved in politics. Halme caused controversy with his nationalist views and going even attacking the female president, Tarja Halonen as a lesbian during a radio interview. He also, rather oddly, appeared on British late night TV show Eurotrash where the female voice over claimed Halme was a “former 5 time WWF champion”! In his personal life Tony began to abuse drugs and alcohol which caused him to act irrationally. This caused Halme’s wife to leave him and he was even sectioned into a mental hospital due to heavy alcohol abuse. On January 8th 2010 took his own live by shooting himself in the head: he was not found until days later. It seems no one in the wrestling world was upset by his death with Jim Ross saying of Halme “(Tony) was not a great guy to be around”. Halme’s suicide seems to be something no one has really ever mourned.
Rick will be best known as WCW’s Ultimate Warrior rip-off ‘Renegade’ from 95-98. Hulk Hogan had heavily hinted that Renegade was Jim ‘Warrior’ Hellwig in the run up to Williams’ debut at WCW Uncensored 95. You could have heard a fart in the arena when he did finally appear: fans were miffed. The bad first impression seemed to follow Rick for the rest of his push, despite beating Arn Anderson to win the TV title in June 95, which ended at the end of the year when his manager Jimmy Hart turned heel on him. He poured water over the Renegade facepaint and slapped Williams while shouting “You’re just Rick!” After this he still used the Renegade name but had a less Warrior-esque appearance as he quickly became a jobber. He was fired by WCW in late 1998 and on February 23rd ’99 he shot himself in the head, aged 33. Many at the time believed he took his own life as he was upset with his treatment in WCW and, once fired, thought his career was over as no other promotion showed an interest in him. He decided he would rather be dead than not continue doing what he loved: wrestling. Sadly, people will remember Rick Williams for the failed Warrior rip-off gimmick that was Renegade.
Alexander ‘Larry Sweeney’ Whybrow
Whybrow is wrestling’s most recent suicide as well as one of the youngest to take his own life. On April 11th 2011 he was found hanging from a turnbuckle pole on a ring at a wrestling school he was staying at. Whybrow had talked about leaving wrestling at one point the previous year, saying in an interview “…I may disappear never to return to this business again” As ‘Sweet ‘n’ Sour’ Larry Sweeney he had gained fame in Chikara & ROH for being a brilliant and OTT heel manager. However, Whybrow was a sufferer of Bi Polar Disorder and prone to violent mood swings. Rumours were that this is what caused him leaving Ring of Honor in spring 2009 despite Whybrow saying it was due to money issues. He returned to ROH by the end of the year. He won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter award for Best Non Wrestler twice (in ’07 and ’08). Alexander had many issues away from wrestling that got too much for him: the thought of him ending his life via the most important thing to him (a wrestling ring) is truly sad. He lived for wrestling and, in a way, died for it.
Mike ‘Awesome’ Alfonso
At the WWE produced ECW One Night Stand event in June 2005, Awesome and old foe Masato Tanaka tore the house down in another epic. The match ended when Awesome did a suicide dive over the ropes and onto Masato on the ringside floor (who had just been Awesome Bomb’d through a table) as commentator Joey Styles said it was a shame Awesome actually didn’t take his own life (Styles comments were due to Mike ‘double crossing’ ECW in 2000) Just 20 months later Alfonso would hang himself on February 17th 2007, aged 42. It was a shock for many as he had retired a year before feeling he had nothing left to prove in wrestling. He was also making a lot of money in real estate and had felt ripped off by WWE’s pay for his fantastic match at ONS ’05. Although it later emerged that Alfonso’s wife of 16 years wanted a divorce and it caused him to be, understandably, devastated. It is also alleged she somehow managed to get all of their assets which would have left Alfonso penniless. As Mike Awesome he had gained fame first in Japan for the bonkers FMW promotion then he would join ECW in 1999 and win their World Championship on his first night as a full timer. By spring 2000 he was the top guy when he shockingly jumped to WCW for more money. Some say he also left because he didn’t want to put Rob Van Dam over ahead of when RVD returned from an ankle injury. Awesome was still ECW champ and sore he wouldn’t show up on WCW Nitro with the belt, but Paul Heyman took no risks and sent someone to get the belt so Awesome would keep his promise of losing it at the next ECW house show. This is what caused Styles’ remark about suicide and Awesome a year later: the jump to WCW caused a lot of bad blood. Sadly, for Awesome, he was misused by WCW then the WWF following the buyout in March 2001. Alfonso was found by his friends who went to his house when he failed to show up for a hunting trip.
Chris ‘Kanyon’ Klucsarits
For this writer, the suicide of Klucsarits was a real blow. I had always been a fan from his days as Mortis in WCW (97-98) then when he wrestled under his ‘real name’ of Kanyon. Unfortunately, he became a victim of backstage politics due to various reasons: namely, the fact that he was gay. During his years in the big leagues (WCW ‘95-‘01 & WWF ’01-’04) Kanyon had struggled to come to terms with his sexuality then keep it a secret in an overly testosterone filled environment. The years of mental torture caused him to fall victim to Bipolar Disorder and Manic depression. Upon his release from WWE, Chris could not cope now he was no longer in the top promotions (much like Rick Williams) and carried out a disastrous PR stunt. Kanyon ‘came out’ but Klucsarits, the man behind the character, was not. Eventually Klucsarits saw sense and admitted he was gay. This did not lift a weight off his shoulders as he attempted to commit suicide via overdose but woke up hours later, throwing up, which spurred him to give pro-gay talks. He started writing a book, which detailed his overdose in gruelling detail, in which he hoped it would help him and others come to terms with being gay or suffering from depression. Sadly Chris would succeed in taking his own life before the book was published. He took an overdose of anti depressants he had stored up on April 2nd 2010. Having read his book and knowing what happened to Klucsarits after he finished writing it makes for very depressing reading: wrestling fan or not it is upsetting. People claim that the final straw for Chris may have been Orlando Jordan in TNA doing a very silly bi-sexual gimmick: Kanyon had been told by TNA they wouldn’t hire him for his proposed gay gimmick as it ‘didn’t fit’ in the company. Chris’ angle was that he would be a masculine, serious, gay wrestler instead of the usual homophobic trash like Rico or ‘Adorable’ Adrian Adonis. Seeing Orlando prance around in yellow tape and whipped cream all over his body may have been too much to comprehend.
So, that was a look at some, not all, of the wrestlers known to have committed suicide. From being surrounded in controversy (Von Erich) to the downright sad (Sweeney, Kanyon) these men believed that, for a number of reasons, they had nothing else to live for or offer the world. There have been some not mentioned, Skull Murphy and Andre Baker being just two, but this feature hopefully illustrates that when it comes to brushing aside wrestler’s deaths by suicide there is more than the most infamous suicide in wrestling: Chris Benoit.
This was James Simpson’s first article here at Calling Spots – a very hard subject to write about I think you will agree. If you enjoyed it then please join the conversation over on Twitter. You can find James on Twitter @WrestleDojo and you can find us @CallingSpots.
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