Suicide: Why does it plague Wrestling? by Brian Jaso
Nov 9, 2012 - by Brian Jaso
By Brian Jaso @GITRing
“Suicide only really frightens those who are never tempted by it and never will be, for its darkness only welcomes those who are predestined to it.”
― Georges Bernanos, Mouchette
With the passing last month of wrestling legend Mike Graham we are brought the topic of death again in this opera we all love. And not only death, but the unspeakable idea of taking one’s own life. Mike Graham did not pass away, Mike Graham left with a violent blast. As did his son two years earlier and his Father the legendary Promoter Eddie Graham. Each of the Graham generations connected by blood, wrestling, and lost memories. What else connects them, connects all the wrestlers that have made the choice to end their time with us.
If you look at wrestling compared to any other profession, it sets it’s self apart in suicides. The Suicide rate for Physicians is 1.87 times higher than average. Marine engineers top the charts at 1.89 times higher than average. The national average is that for every 100,000 people 12 of them commit suicide. In the sport of wrestling we have had 15 known suicides in the last 5 years. I do not have exact numbers, but there are nowhere near 100,000 wrestlers out there competing. So what is it that makes them decide there is no hope? What makes someone feel the only answer is to say goodbye?
Chris Nowinski, the former WWE Superstar and founder of the Sports Legacy Institute believes he has the answer. His institute researches the effects of concussions. I believe that there is much to come from this research. Wrestling unlike football does not have a rule where a player cannot compete with a concussion. And even if they are found to have one, nothing is stopping a wrestler from going out there, the show must go on. Chris Benoit was said to have suffered from dozens of concussions. His finishing move the flying head-butt from the top rope, did more damage to him than his opponents. So knowing this, who else has this head trauma affected? With the loss of Marvin Lambert aka Brain Damage to suicide just a few weeks ago we look into an entire different genre of wrestling. Death Matches have become hugely popular over the years paying wrestlers big money to wow the crowd with what appears to be unthinkable stunts. I believe Brain Damage’s case will soon become the norm. I think that if we do not get our hands around this now we are in for a storm of pain that this sport may not ever get over.
So how do we stop it? I don’t know if we can. And is it only from physical pain that we are faced with this plague of self-inflicted loss? I think it is much deeper. Wrestling is a sport where you are told to “job” or hold back for the good of the show. You are not always allowed to be the best you can. Many times the top guys get there more on who they know, and lucky timing rather than nose to the grind stone work and diligence. It wears on a man or a woman to change your mentality from being the best and following your instinct, to being what someone else thinks you should be. We all yearn for that ray of light, that spotlight, so when we get it, we can’t get enough. In wrestling more than any profession the window is small to be noticed. So when that window closes and they are left in the dark with only memories of what was and what they maybe should have been, that is when the mind plays tricks. It leads them to question if it was all worth it. The physical pain, the loss of friends and family. The decision to not be the best, but only the needed. I think when that comes to question we have what we see now. Warriors with no fight in front of them, only inside. There is no crowd cheering in those dark moments.
“There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors.”
― Tennessee Williams