Wavell Starr column

Many professional wrestlers face adversity after the cheers of the fans die down and the bright lights no longer shine down upon them. One of the most publicized downfalls was that of the man once known as “Razor Ramon” to WWE fans, Scott Hall. I followed Hall’s career from his early days in the American Wrestling Association (AWA). As time went on, he eventually signed with WWF and was repackaged as Razor Ramon. He became one of the most recognizable performers on TV and later went on to be a feature of the stable that many argue changed the landscape of the industry – the New World Order (NWO). The faction pioneered by the trio of Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan turned the business upside down. Scott Hall was on top of the industry and seemingly on top of the world.

Fast forward to October 2011, ESPN ran a feature called “The Wrestler” documenting his fall from grace which included an immense battle with substance abuse and several run-ins with the law. The piece was titled as such as the story of Scott Hall was similar to the fictional story of Randy “The Ram” Robinson from the movie “The Wrestler”. I had a hard time watching the feature and seeing him struggling with life given how powerful he had once been. A sad part of the feature was when he said “All I ever wanted to be was a big time pro-wrestler. I never quit fighting, I might not win but I won’t quit fighting. Life on the razor’s edge, from the outhouse, to the penthouse, to the outhouse, to the halfway house… I dunno. I just laugh as a defence, so I don’t cry.”

The movie tells a fictional story of a broken wrestler similar to that of Scott Hall’s. In one scene the main character Randy “The Ram” Robinson (played by Mickey Rourke) gets frustrated living life away from the ring. He envisions he is walking backstage and approaching the curtain to enter the arena and he can hear the anticipation of the crowd. As he walks through he snaps back to reality and is actually walking from the back of the deli where he now works out into the front to face the customers. Many of us that wrestle on weekends and hold down careers outside of wrestling can relate at least to a certain extent. Life in the ring and in front of the crowd is exciting. Normal life can be somewhat mundane in comparison. Scott Hall speaks of this reality in the ESPN documentary. “What do you do when they quit chanting your name?”

Hall’s quotes in the documentary, and the movie though to a lesser extent, hit home. I know what it’s like to put everything you have into chasing a dream. The journey that wrestling took me on certainly didn’t take me to the heights that they did with Scott Hall (or Randy Robinson) and thankfully nowhere near the lows, but I can relate to the experience of coming from humble beginnings – driving hours to wrestle in small towns in front of sparse crowds, to flying on an airplane to perform on WWE TV in famous sports stadiums. Part of me wanted to live in those moments for the rest of my life because it was such an awesome feeling. Indeed, life away from the ring can be melancholic.

Though the stories of Scott Hall and Randy Robinson are unfortunate and sad, they certainly don’t represent the majority of wrestlers that find success outside of the squared circle. Brett Hart called the movie a dark misrepresentation of the business. “Although the film speaks superbly to the speed bumps all pro wrestlers navigate, I’m happy to report most of us don’t swerve off the road quite so severely”. Hart himself is living a good life in retirement and still draws large crowds doing personal appearances. As for myself, I completed my education and got a university degree and have been enjoying a successful career in corporate human resources in the public sector. To any aspiring wrestler, or anyone pursuing a dream, I encourage you to get an education so you are able to eventually transition into a career that will look after you and so that you avoid going down the road that Scott Hall and Randy Robinson did.

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