e diel, 22 korrik 2007

RIP Kronus

we lose another one

When the man known as John Kronus wasn't doing flips off the top rope or getting beat in the head with a folding chair, he was George Caiazzo, who dedicated himself to his true passion: being the best father he could be to his 9-year-old son, Gage.

So says a Lakes Region family that is mourning the loss of Caiazzo, a former pro wrestling champion who was found dead in his girlfriend's apartment at 57 Blueberry Place on Blueberry Lane in Laconia on Wednesday.

Caiazzo, 38, a 6-foot-3, 273-pound behemoth, took on the ring name "John Kronus" when he began a pro wrestling career that paired him with Perry Saturn to form "The Eliminators" — a tag team duo that won several titles in the 1990s with the now-defunct Extreme Championship Wrestling, or ECW.

Police were summoned to an untimely death call on Blueberry Lane at 2:46 p.m. on Wednesday that they have deemed not to be suspicious in nature.

Authorities are not revealing the name of the man found in the apartment but officials from the State Medical Examiner's Office confirmed on Thursday that they had performed an autopsy on Caiazzo, saying it will not produce a cause of death until toxicology results are returned — a process they said could take some time.

However, the family of Caiazzo has confirmed the death of a man they are calling a consummate entertainer and the ultimate family man.

Jenn Caiazzo Dunlop of Sanbornton, the man's sister, said her brother's death has come as a huge blow to a family that is split between the Lakes Region and Everett, Mass., where they grew up.

"It definitely came as a shock to us," said Caiazzo.

The sister and her husband, Brad Dunlop, said they can only speculate as to the cause of the death but noted that the family has a long history of heart problems that have taken lives at an early age.

Jenn Caiazzo said her brother, who preferred to be called by his ring name, John, was a light-hearted family man who got into wrestling at a young age while living in the Boston metropolitan area.

She said her father, the older George Caiazzo, was a star high school football player who later played for the New York Giants before becoming injured.

According to Jenn Caiazzo, her brother followed in her father's athletic footsteps but chose a different path when he began a pro wrestling career that suited his huge frame and natural acrobatic abilities.

"He loved sports, camping and cooking," said Jenn Caiazzo.

Dunlop and Caiazzo said the man who came to be known as John Kronus performed countless matches and rose to the top of the ECW, which took him all over the world, from Japan to Australia. They said he once got refused from an all-you-can eat buffet in China simply because of his size, which they assured was more than a little imposing to strangers.

Like many in the pro wrestling field, his sister said her brother eventually succumbed to the hardships of a sport that saw the entertainers being beaten and bloodied in an ECW that prided itself on taking "extreme" to the next level.

Family members say Caiazzo could do a flip in one step and was known as being the first big man to summersault off the top rope onto his opponents.

Popular wrestling websites list his "imploding 450 smash" and the "Kronus Krunch" as some of his signature moves which were developed out of his schooling with Boston-based trainer Walter "Killer" Kowalksi — a well-known pioneer in the sport whose students are being signed to pro contracts with the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

e diel, 8 korrik 2007

"wrestlers deserve our sympathy"

A sports columnist that I really like, Jason Whitlock, writes about wrestling.

Believe it or not, pro wrestlers are human beings, too. I swear.

I thought this simple fact was worth mentioning in light of two things: 1. the murder(s)-suicide tragedy involving WWE star Chris Benoit, his wife and 7-year-old child; 2. the sympathy-reparations campaign being staged by old NFL players.

We can argue all day about whether pro wrestling should be taken seriously in the sports world. What is inarguable is that Americans are entertained watching oversized men behave violently in groups, and the NFL and all the other professional sports leagues — just like the WWE — are nothing more than television shows.

I say all of this because I have far more empathy for Chris Benoit and professional wrestlers than I do for other athletes who risk their physical and mental well-being for our amusement.

No one weeps for the wrestler who dies way too young or lives as a cripple, addicted to painkillers by age 45. No one cares about their exploitation. It’s like the men who entertained many of us during our childhood are somehow magically categorized as nonhuman because they participate in a “sports event” with a predetermined outcome.

I’ve often argued that pro wrestling would be legitimized if Vince McMahon hired skating judges to rate the performances at the end of the match. Maybe, with that teeny bit of legitimacy, we would then see wrestlers as human beings and Congress would hold steroids hearings on pro wrestling.

Obviously what Chris Benoit did was a horrible deed. I don’t want to in any way excuse the depravity of his actions. But since he already punished himself, shouldn’t we try to make something positive out of this tragedy?

Shouldn’t we use this as an excuse to force reform on pro wrestling? Shouldn’t the performance-enhancing drug crisis/discussion include wrassling?

These guys don’t start out as cartoon characters. Many of them start out as amateur wrestlers in high school and college. Long before he entered Vince McMahon’s world, Kurt Angle was an all-American golden boy, an Olympic hero.

Don’t these men deserve some protection?

I’ve watched in amazement as retired NFL players have orchestrated a beautiful public-relations campaign vilifying union president Gene Upshaw because he has little interest in forcing the current players to sacrifice more of their revenue to benefit retired players.

We all feel sorry for old, beat-up NFL stars and believe they should be allowed to rework their pension benefits for a fourth time and make it easier for them to qualify for disability benefits.

Rather than demonizing Upshaw, they should be thankful they have a strong union, especially a guy like Mike Ditka who did little to support the union when he was a player.

Pro wrestlers have virtually no rights. They certainly don’t have a union. They work year round, crisscrossing the globe and abusing their bodies for our enjoyment. Performance-enhancing drugs, painkillers and recreational drugs are all abused. They suffer depression. Their unpadded “sport” is far more physical and damaging than football.

No one cares.

This is foolish. Many young children are just as influenced by pro wrestlers as football and baseball stars. The drugged-up, overmuscled wrestler helps define manliness to a child, possibly more so than Barry Bonds’ and Mark McGwire’s home runs.

I just want some consistency. Do we really care about steroids? Do we really care about athletes getting exploited?

OK, it’s incumbent on the athletes to care first. But the handful of people controlling professional wrestling have so much power and the high-paid wrestlers are so easily replaced that we’re unlikely to hear much organized dissent from within the industry.

Those of us in the media should care enough to complain loudly. We’re the watchdogs. We’re the voice of the voiceless. We don’t have to respect the “sport” to appreciate the humanity of the performers.

e mërkurë, 4 korrik 2007

thoughts on Raw

Let's see Vince....one of your bigger stars just committed the most heinous crime in the history of pro-wrestling, and it turns out he was on enough 'roids to make a horse say "whoa". There is intense media scrutiny over the juicing of your wrestlers. So, do you pick a charismatic and athletic looking wrestler to challenge for the title? Or, do you pick someone with the charisma of a paper bag and who looks like a poster child for steroid use. I've seen this movie before, so I know that Vince is going with Bobby Lashley. Maybe Lashley will turn heel, as he isn't working as a face.

Other thoughts: Who did Santino Morella piss off? He's gone from a star in the making to Salvatore Bellomo (an old jobber for any younger readers). He's turned into a punching bag of late. Sandman and Carlito are having a nice set-up to a PPV match.

Rick Steiner: realtor?

The dog faced gremlin is now a realtor.

Lex Luger: Lives on the ropes

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has a very good article about Lex Luger.

Lex Luger doesn't mince words when asked about pro wrestling's appeal.

"People like to see freaks," said the former Lawrence Pfohl. "It's like live cartoon characters."

Not long ago, Luger was 270 pounds of romping manly aggression and animalistic sex appeal. It's what his public wanted and he gave it to them in steroid-fueled, larger-than-life doses as "The Total Package," a man who borrowed his name — sort of — from Superman's arch-enemy.

But the freak show that became Luger's life nearly killed him. The man who made millions, flew in private jets and lived in mansions is now dead broke, sleeps on a used bed and keeps his clothes in neat piles on the floor.

Luger is a pro wrestling casualty, although he considers himself lucky. He recently turned 49, an age many of his friends in the business will never see.

The latest in that growing toll was Chris Benoit, the "Canadian Crippler." The 40-year-old Fayette County resident apparently strangled his wife, choked his 7-year-old son to death and placed Bibles by their bodies before hanging himself by hitching a weight machine's cable to his neck and letting drop 240 pounds.

The Benoit family's tragic end once again exposed the sordid underbelly of professional wrestling.

Luger hadn't seen Benoit in several years but believes his old friend was in a "dark place" due, in part, to the frenetic pressures of the life and many years of drugs he took to build himself up and to keep the pain at bay. Authorities found steroids in Benoit's home and are investigating whether "roid rage," an explosive fit of aggression traced to steroid abuse, had anything to do with the deaths.

Benoit is one of many who have died early.

Keith Pinckard, a medical examiner in Dallas, started logging the deaths of pro wrestlers and ex-wrestlers after his office performed an autopsy on one killed in an accident.

"It seemed bizarre," said Pinckard, "there seemed to be a lot of deaths."

There were. He found nearly 70 who died early going back nearly 20 years. It was a rate at least seven times the rate of the general population, he calculated. The causes of deaths fell in common themes: drug overdoses and heart attacks were most common, followed by suicide and "natural causes."

Vince McMahon, owner of the World Wrestling Entertainment, the federation for which Benoit and Luger wrestled, has said the organization has instituted drug testing in response to such allegations of abuse.

"The last test that Chris Benoit took of a random nature was in April which he was totally negative," McMahon said on NBC's "Today" morning program. "That doesn't mean that he wasn't taking prescription medication and perhaps even steroids when this happened. We don't know."

Wrestling's casualties

"Ravishing Rick Rude" died in 1999 after being found unconscious in his Alpharetta home with empty prescription bottles near his bed. The death of the 40-year-old (his legal name was Rood) was ruled a heart attack. He suffered a neck injury years earlier that virtually ended his career.

In "Rude's" obituary, wrestler Curt Hennig, "Mr. Perfect," memorialized his lifelong friend as a performer who gave fans what they wanted.

Four years later, Hennig, 44, was found dead in a hotel, Authorities ruled it cocaine intoxication.

In an obit for Hennig, Atlanta area wrestler Ray "Big Boss Man" Traylor Jr. noted the mounting loss of his closest friends. "It used to be me, him and Rick Rude together," Traylor said. "And then Rick died."

A year later, "Big Boss Man" died of a heart attack.

The pressures on wrestlers to perform night after night grew as the business got more lucrative as federations such as McMahon's WWE went international.

But as wrestling exploded in reach, smaller regional circuits that gave more wrestlers a living dried up.

Atlanta resident Gary Juster, a former wrestling promoter, said the old circuits needed wrestlers, men who added a shtick to their act, but were athletes first and foremost.

Then, about 25 years ago, the sport changed. "The look of a typical wrestler changed," Juster said. "It changed from wrestler to bodybuilder, that chiseled look. There wasn't as much passion for the craft."

As "The Look" became more important, steroids became more popular. "Guys did whatever they had to do to get ahead," Juster said.

The pressure increased as jobs became fewer and more lucrative, said former wrestler Rick Steiner.

"Now there's pay-per-view every week and TV every night. There's the added pressure to look good and there's 100 guys wanting what you have, so a lot of guys take the easy way out," said Steiner, who is a real estate agent and school board member in Cherokee County. "You got to be ready to go every day — and if not, there's a lot of guys ready to step in for you in a heartbeat.

"Some guys sell their souls to be on TV," said Steiner, who came up in the business with Benoit in the mid-1980s.

Steiner said he took "every supplement I could" coming up. "It wasn't a controlled substance then." But Steiner stopped. "The benefits vs. my long-term goals went different ways."

He retired several years ago when his body started aching and he was asked to go back on the road 20 days a month. It was a scary moment. "There's no pension, it's what you save, " he said. "It's over and that's it. Once you are in the limelight and get a taste of the crowd, [some wrestlers] can't let it go. A lot of guys have trouble making that transition."

As is Lex Luger.

Seeking stability

Luger, a Buffalo native, banged around in the Canadian Football League and the United States Football League as an offensive lineman before trying his hand in a Florida wrestling circuit.

Luger still looks good as he sits behind a desk at Western Hills Baptist Church in Kennesaw. His face is tanned and heavily creased, the body lean and his biceps still resemble bowling balls.

But when he gets up to walk, he hobbles like he's 80. He has put in for hip surgery with Social Security.

Luger was as big as they came in the 1990s and rolled through millions of dollars, he said.

Life on the circuit was exciting and exhausting. Some years he was on the road 300 days a year. There were 5 a.m. flights, daytime gym work, shows at night, parties in some hotel or penthouse.

And then repeat again and again.

He needed help to keep up with the pace.

"Steroids were there as a shortcut to get size," he said. And then there's the pain from the never-ending body slams and pile drivers. "You start with a painkiller for bumps and bruises. And then you need more. It's never enough."

Those on the circuit were a family, "a dysfunctional family" he said. Everyone wants a piece of a superstar. "There's a lot of leeches, losers, cruisers and abusers."

"I found no matter how hard you chase it, it's never quite enough," he said. "Money makes you more comfortable being miserable."

Luger's fall was hard and quick. He got divorced and in 2003 he made an early morning call to Cobb County 911 saying his girlfriend, Elizabeth Hulette, known on the wrestling circuit as Miss Elizabeth, had passed out.

She was taken to Kennestone Hospital, where she died. The autopsy showed a mix of alcohol, painkillers and tranquilizers in her system.

He was arrested for possessing three kinds of steroids found in the home. Later, he got a DUI. "My life had fallen apart and I still didn't get it," he said.

A judge sentenced him to probation and revoked it in late 2005 when he went to Canada for a work appearance without court approval. An arrest and two strip searches later, the former Total Package was back in Cobb County Jail.

Luger credits Steve Baskin, the pastor of Western Hills Baptist, with pulling him from a terminal tailspin. The jail chaplain met Luger in early 2006 and sensed the former wrestler was spiritually wounded.

"Here's a guy who would have died or gone to prison," said Baskin. "He didn't have the skills to negotiate through his probation." Baskin said Luger had never learned to think for himself well enough to handle "regular" life experiences.

After Luger was freed, Baskin's friends — Doc Frady, pastor of Clarkdale First Baptist, and his wife, Jan — invited Luger to their home for a birthday party.

Luger learned the couple had been married 54 years and had lived in the same house for much of that time.

"It brought tears to my eyes," Luger recalls. "I didn't even know people like that existed anymore."

Luger lives in a spare bedroom in Baskin's apartment and is trying to figure out a path in life.

He'd like to help counsel those in trouble. Or maybe be a fitness coach. He even said he'd take clients out to the supermarket and show them what to buy. He's eager. He's uncertain. To him, regular life is a new business.

e martë, 3 korrik 2007

They shouldn't be alive

Maybe it's in bad taste, but I don't give a damn. Funny piece from Maxim about wrestlers to take in your dead pool. Sample:

Dusty Rhodes
Age: 61
Odds that he'll die before 2008: 10 to 1
Why he should be dead: Even when Dusty was in his prime, his man boobs suggested that the American Dream spent as much time with Bit-O-Honeys as he did with barbells. Now that he has no reason to exercise, he has a regular seat in every rib joint south of Delaware.
How he'll die: Can you overdose on barbecue sauce? If anyone can find out, it'll be Dusty.

e diel, 1 korrik 2007

Jack Brisco: "The guys in my era are still alive"

Good interview of Jack Brisco in the Orlando Sentinel

True confession: I am a recovering pro wrestling fan.

My favorite athlete growing up was a faker, but it didn't matter. Jack Brisco was Clark Kent in tights.

That's why my hand shook as I called him the other day. I wanted to get his thoughts on World Wrestling Entertainment.

"I don't like it," he said. "I don't watch it."

My hero.

Now everybody is looking at WWE after the murder-suicide of Chris Benoit and his family. They're discovering Vince McMahon's freak show isn't just harmless schlock. Wrestlers are dying at alarming rates, though nobody cared enough to get alarmed until last week.

When McMahon came to City Hall in March to announce next spring's WrestleMania 24, it was all hoorah and handshakes and jokes about Ashley the Dirty Diva's silicone anatomy. Yes, it's all fun and games until a superstar kills his wife and son and then hangs himself.

Now the Benoit story has become Natalee Holloway on steroids. Just don't say that word around McMahon. He insists steroids aren't to blame, and the media feeding frenzy is totally uncalled for.

Poor Vince. He reportedly lost $21 million as WWE stock plummeted last week. He lost a star performer. At least he hasn't lost his shame.

Of course, how do you lose what you've never had? McMahon long ago turned pro wrestling into a pimped-out joke.

Sure, rasslin' was always a charade. But if you ever saw Championship Wrestling from Florida, you know it was honorable fakery. Wrestlers actually knew how to wrestle. The women didn't all look and act like porn stars.

For a kid in the '70s, there was no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Gordon Solie was wrestling's Walter Cronkite.

The WWE is Paris Hilton. Paris gets ratings, of course, and McMahon has turned America's appetite for drivel into a billion-dollar business.

That doesn't mean we have to like it. Would the great Jack Brisco make it in today's rasslin' world?

"I wouldn't be employed," he laughed.

He was at his auto repair shop in Tampa. It's hard to believe the king of the Figure Four Leg Lock is 65. Brisco got into wrestling because he could wrestle, not because he could preen.

"We had a lot more real athletes with amateur backgrounds," he said.

Brisco weighed 200 pounds when he started in 1965. He hit the gym and started a diet heavy on potatoes and beer. All that, and he still never got heavier than 235 pounds.

McMahon would have looked at him and laughed. Though wrestling pre-Vince has one advantage.

"The guys in my era are still alive," Brisco said.

By one account, 55 wrestlers under the age of 45 have died since 1985. Congress would shut down the circus if that many elephants dropped. But Benoit, Rick Rude, Eddie Guerrero and all others were people, not just WWE characters.

Each death had different factors, from drug abuse to mental breakdowns. But if you believe steroids aren't rampant, you probably also believe Paris Hilton is a virgin and pro wrestling isn't fake.

Naturally, McMahon wants to move ahead and begin "the healing process." We'll know he's serious if wrestlers start looking more like Brisco than Bluto.

Don't count on that. I just feel sorry for any kid brought up watching today's wrestling, assuming their parents are irresponsible enough to let them.

I at least got to reminisce with my childhood hero.

If somebody tries to call one of McMahon's stars in 30 years, there won't be anybody around to answer the phone.