Sunday, March 15, 2009


Did you hear about Test?

Holli Swank

This post is a downer, but I needed to write it. Turn away now if you're not interested in feeling a little worse coming out than you did going in. You have been warned.

Most of you reading this probably have no idea who Andrew Martin was. He was a professional wrestler, who spent several successful years in the WWE as Test; a few more of you might recognize the name now. Recently he had bounced around in the business, trying to stick somewhere after failing in his last stint in WWE and going through a drug rehab program. He died in his apartment on Friday, and while I've not seen any details yet, if this turns out to be anything other than a drug overdose, I'll be shocked.

I love professional wrestling. I absolutely love it. Yes, I know that this statement is entirely contrary to the title of this post, but just bear with me for a moment. I love the athleticism and the artistry - yes, I just called pro wrestling art - of what those guys do in the ring. I love the ability that the great ones have to not only pic up a microphone to tell a story, but also to get into a ring and tell the same story with physicality. It's like ballet for guys that aren't secure enough in their manhood to watch ballet, and I'm down with that. I'll take a moonsault over a pirouette any day of the week.

Now I'm going to participate in an exercise that is probably going to make me cry as I sit here in the dark. I've not thought about doing this today, so I'm totally unprepared, and my most sincere apologies here go out to the hereafter if there's anyone that should be here that I forget. I'm going to list professional wrestlers that I enjoyed watching, either as a child or an adult, who are now dead way before their time.

Curt Hennig, aka "Mr. Perfect": As a child of the 80's, being a wrestling fan meant that I grew up on the Hulk Hogan era. Well, Mr. Perfect was one of the great villains of that era, having a narcissistic "I'm better than everyone" persona. In the ring, Curt was one of the greatest performers that I've ever seen. Very few could tell a story within the confines of the ring better than he could. I remember watching a match as a child where Hulk Hogan was defending the belt against Mr. Perfect, who at the time was undefeated in the WWF. My child-brain wondered how Hogan could possibly beat someone who'd never lost. Well, Hogan won, and Hennig made him look like a million dollars.

In 2003, Curtis Michael Hennig died in a hotel room in Florida due to a cocaine overdose. He was 44 years old.

Richard Rood, aka "Ravishing Rick Rude": Richard Rood was one of Curt Hennig's contemporaries, and the two were good friends in real life. In the ring, Rick Rude was one of the all-time great villains. He was a solid worker with one of the best personalities I've ever seen. He was great on the mic, and he could make a crowd hate him - the job of a good heel - as well as anyone. He remained relevant into the boom of the 90s, when his sudden switch from WWF to WCW was one of the huge shots fired in the war between the two companies.

In 1999, Richard Erwin Rood died from an overdose of "mixed medications." He was 41 years old.

David Smith, aka "The British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith": One half of one of the great tag teams of my youth, the British Bulldogs, and a member of the Hart Foundation. Davey Boy was a wall of muscle. He was solid in the ring, and delivered a good interview in his thick, British accent. He was larger than life, though, physically and in character, and that's what made him really stand out.

In 2002, David Boy Smith died from a heart attack while on vacation in British Columbia. An autopsy revealed that years of anabolic steriod use may have contributed to his death. He was 39 years old.

Owen Hart, aka "The Blue Blazer": Owen Hart was a member of the famous Hart wrestling family, little brother to Bret "The Hitman" Hart. He was as talented as anyone who ever set foot in the wrestling ring, and could tell a story as well as anyone. He was great on the microphone, too, whether playing the little brother trying to climb out of Bret's shadow or as The Blue Blazer, decked out in superhero garb and parodying the caricatures that were wrestling personalities in the 1980s.

In 1999, Owen James Hart died when he fell from the ceiling of the Kemper Arena after a harness cable slipped during preparation for an elaborate ring entrance on pay-per-view. He was 34 years old.

Michael Alfonso, aka "Mike Awesome": I had no idea who Mike Awesome was before watching an ECW PPV view sometime around the turn of the century. I was tuning in to see Tazz - a little ball of hate and judo who was the ECW champion - wrestle against Masato Tanaka, an awesome Japanese talent, and Mike Awesome was inserted into the match as a third competitor. He blew my mind. He was a remarkable physical specimin, and could perform feats of both strength and agility that were amazing for someone of his size. He was one of the best high-flying big men I've ever seen.

In 2007, Michael Lee Alfonso committed suicide at his home. He was 42 years old.

Brian Pillman, aka "Flyin' Brian" and "The Loose Cannon": When I first saw Brian Pillman wrestle, he was in WCW as Flyin' Brian and was teaming with Stunning Steve Austin (later to become the greatest wrestler ever as Stone Cold Steve Austin) as half of the Hollywood Blondes. He was a great flyer, but when injuries took that away from him he started to let his personality do the work for him, and his gravely voice and unpredictable interviews made a name for him.

In 1997, Brian William Pillman died in a hotel room of complications from a previously undetected heart condition. He was 35 years old.

Eddie Guerrero: Eddie Guerrero was one of the best professional wrestlers I've ever seen. Born into a wreslting family, Eddie was as proficient in the art that is pro wrestling as anyone ever has been. He was graceful in the ring, he understood ring psychology, and he had a flamboyant personality and great microphone skills that gave us some of the greatest promos ever.

In 2005, Eduardo Gory Guerrero was found dead of heart failure in a hotel room prior to a pay-per-view. He was 38 years old.

Andrew Martin, aka "Test": Test was a part of the Attitude Era of the late 90s and early oughties in the WWE. He was a tall man and ripped to the gills, so he cut an imposing figure. He played a prominent part in many high profile storylines during his time there, including a long engagement to Stephanie McMahon that ultimately culminated, as all storyline weddings do in wrestling, with a wedding in the ring that was foiled by the bad guys.

On Friday, Andrew James Robert Patrick Martin was found dead in his apartment after a neighbor reported seeing him motionless through a window for hours. He was 33 years old.

Chris Benoit: I come to Benoit last, as had been my intention all along, because you save the best for last - and in the ring, Chris Benoit was the best. There are probably more names I should mention beforehand, but I honestly just can't do anymore. Chris Benoit was the greatest professional wrestler I have ever seen perform in the ring. Nobody could perform in the ring the way that Benoit could. The man was responsible for several of my all-time favorite matches, and had the uncanny ability to make anyone he was wrestling with look good.

One day before my birthday in 2007, Chris Benoit was found dead in his home along with his wife, former professional wrestler Nancy Benoit, and their son. Benoit had murdered both his wife and his son before taking his own life. Examination of his brain showed that it "was so severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient." He was 40 years old.

I have not watched more than an hour of wrestling in total since the death of the Benoit family, and I've enjoyed none of it.

I love professional wrestling. But I hate - and I mean that word with every ounce of the vile connotation that it holds - the wrestling business. I hate that it chews these guys up and spits them out with absolutely no lasting remorse. I hate that when they've outlived their usefulness to the business, it tosses them aside with absolutely zero thought as to helping them get by with the injuries and lasting disability that the business has caused them.

I want to be able to watch wrestling. I want to be able to enjoy it again, and mark out like I did when I watched Mrs. Foley's baby boy, Mick Foley, get tossed off the top of a cage through the announcing table. Then I close my eyes, see all the old heroes from my youth dead long before they should be, and I can't in any way justify supporting it. Maybe if they change the way the wrestlers are treated: ease up the schedule so they're not killing themselves with somas, ease up the physical requirements so they're not killing themselves with steroids, and ease up the in-ring requirements so they're not killing themselves with concussions and broken necks. Maybe when they stop treating these guys like cattle by pretending they're "independent contractors" and actually provide medical care for them. Maybe when they've got pension and benefits for after they've stepped out of the ring. Maybe I could enjoy it then.

Here's the rub, though. That's never going to happen, because the minute it does, the wrestling business goes under. It stops being profitable at that point because of the cost, and businesses that aren't profitable fail. So here I sit, desperately wanting to support an art form that I love, but unable to do so because I refuse to have a hand in killing anyone else the way I helped kill the guys on this list by cheering them on as they destroyed themselves.

Vaya con Dios, Test.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said.

- Turk