A man walks into a bar, orders a drink. Bartender obliges, serves the man his usual. This man is a regular; friendly with the other patrons, flirty with the staff, chummy with the owner. His barstool, silently reserved, wears the wounds of repetition. Though only in his early 30’s, gravity drags his face to the ground. Denim sticks to his thighs like paste. Red craters bombard his face. Sweat crawls from beneath his thinning hair; he dabs his forehead with a napkin while he coolly orders his tenth drink. Again, the bartender obliges; ?he’s my most reliable customer? the bartender thinks to himself.
Two hours later the man returns home, stumbling through the stairwell on the way to his third floor apartment. Fully clothed, devoured by the putrid combination of cigarettes, alcohol, sweat and cologne, the man flops down on his twin sized bed, belly up. Twenty-five minutes later, he vomits in his sleep and chokes to death.
Friends and family grieve the loss; the local community whispers facts and fabrications about the man’s abysmal lifestyle. He will forever be remembered as a mild-mannered vagabond who never could quite find his footing as a functional member of society. Patrons at the bar he used to frequent will remember him quietly as they wrap their lips around their own demise. The bar will continue to flourish as tales begin to swirl that the dead man now haunts his former hang out. Sales will skyrocket as the tragic fairytale spikes interest in the old joint. Local news outlets pick up the story of the small-town haunted saloon. The bartender receives a raise.
In the above scenario, the bartender, or bar in general, acts as a willing enabler, acting as a go between for the alcoholic and the alcohol. Obsessive alcohol consumption, provided by the bar, directly leads to the man’s untimely death. Yet, the bartender or establishment is instantly absolved of any blame while the alcoholic bears the full weight and consequences of his actions. Justice is served and people rest easy.
However, in wrestling world, when an active or retired wrestler falls victim to his/her ill conceived choices and irresponsibility, World Wrestling Entertainment usually takes the brunt of the blame. The fallen wrestler is made out to be a hero or some sort of a martyr, absolved of all personal responsibility and blame, while WWE is made to look like a cold, heartless drug dealer who willingly peddles drugs to helpless, thoughtless invalids who know nothing aside from what they are told by others; a slaughter house, raising and cultivating cattle, sucking the cattle dry of all its value before sending it off to be pulverized, processed and forgotten.
The sad part is, the bartender/alcoholic analogy doesn?t even work in comparison to WWE because the WWE/drug/wrestler connection isn?t even as strong or clear as the saloon/alcohol/alcoholic connection is. It’s not like WWE personnel set up a little area backstage each show to sell alcohol, steroids, painkillers, cocaine, etc…, whereas bars across the country willingly distribute alcohol to anyone who has cash and seem to match the arbitrary age requirements, regardless of past history or current problems (health, mental or otherwise). Therefore, to even use the bartender/alcoholic analogy that I began this piece with is to be unfair to WWE.
Truth is, when an alcoholic dies because of his drinking problem, the bar that he frequented is never subjected to criticism or ridicule for acting as an enabler. Responsibility lies, as it should, with the alcoholic and the choices he made. So, when a wrestler dies (retired, active, current WWE wrestler, former WWE wrestler) of substance abuse problems it is not WWE’s fault. The blame, the responsibility, the onus lies with the dead wrestler.
There are hundreds of substance abuse related pro wrestler deaths attaching blame to WWE that I could chronicle but let me focus on the most recent, the passing of Andrew ?Test? Martin.
By choice, I made no mention of Test in my column immediately following his death. Why? Because I like to know what I?m talking about before I speak. In the week or so following his passing, everyone sent their condolences, or cursed WWE for letting another one of ?their? wrestlers die so young. However, I wanted to wait until the toxicology reports came in so there was no doubt where the blame should lay. I wanted to wait a month or two, wait until people forgot about him, or at least stopped talking about him, because I didn?t want my column to join the dozens of farewell columns. And before you call me insensitive for insinuating that people would forget about, stop talking about or stop caring about Test, I just want to say that I?m sure when some of you read the synopsis for this week’s Sharp Shooter you thought to yourself something along the lines of ?A little late to be talking about Test.? Or ?Oh yeah, I forgot, Test died.? Or even ?Oh God, another Test column.?
I?m splitting this column into two parts due to page length, as I?m sure the majority of you would find two three page columns an easier read than one six page column. Part two will look at former WWE creative team member, Seth Mates? column following Test’s death where Mates claims that ?WWE, once again, has blood on its hands.? I?m going to refute that assessment by showing why and how WWE’s hands are clean in this case, much like a bar is clean in an alcoholic’s death. I?ll also look at what Andrew Martin’s responsibilities were to himself and what he could have done differently while also examining exactly why people like Mates love to haphazardly blame WWE for a wrestler’s death while clearing the dead wrestler of any negative role in his own demise.
If you want to read up on Mates? column before next week’s Sharp Shooter is published, check it out here and feel free to offer me your thoughts and opinions on the subject: click here!
In closing, the last two sentences of Mate’s piece will be used to close the first part of my article. Mates? closes his piece with ?My heart goes out to Test’s family and friends. No 33-year-old should ever die. Especially one with as much talent and potential and passion as Andrew Martin had.?
Talent, potential and passion, showcased during his time in WWE, snuffed out by Andrew’s inability to control his addictions. Mates is semi correct with his second sentence, no 33 year-old should ever die?that is, if he is not addicted to drugs or alcohol and lives a healthy life. Truth is, 33 year olds die all the time of cancer, undiagnosed heart disease, diagnosed heart disease, freak accidents, etc? Yes, 33 year-olds are wrongfully pulled from this earth before their prime on a daily basis. Test, on the other hand, began digging his early grave when he became addicted to drugs, digging deeper as he failed to kick the habits, finally shutting the lid on his coffin when he accidentally overdosed on Oxycodone on March 13th, 2009. Mates makes it seem like God needed a sacrificial lamb for his own selfish pleasure and chose the most healthy, well-to-do, easy-going human he could find, when the truth is, Test was not taken from this earth early, rather, his actions dictated that he would be taken away from this earth early.
Pt 2, the conclusion, coming next week?