Last night on HBO, the critically acclaimed series “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” presented their long awaited special report on pro wrestling. The segment was called “The Life”. It was a follow-up piece to a report they did 4 years ago. Since their last look at pro wrestling, over 10 performers under the age of 45 have died.
They did a roll call of the beloved performers who have come and gone – Brian Pillman, Mr. Perfect, Ravishing Rick Rude, Davey Boy Smith, Big Bossman, Eddie Guererro, Chris Beniot and countless other. They asked the chilling question – what is it about the life of a pro wrestler that leads to a death rate that is 400% higher than normal?
They showed clips of an interview HBO Real Sports did with Vince McMahon from 2003. In my opinion, Vince came off as pretty sinister. There was no confusion about Vince’s opinion regarding so many wrestlers’ inability to cope with the lifestyle: if you can’t cut it, you’re in the wrong business.
They showed the infamous clip of Vince McMahon losing his temper while being questioned and physically smacking the papers out of the reporter’s hands. Let’s hope he doesn’t try that with Congress!
They interviewed former wrestlers Marcus “Buff” Bagwell and Del “The Patriot” Wilkes. Both men had very sad stories to tell and both men said flat out – the wrestling industry fosters an environment that encourages and rewards a destructive and often fatal lifestyle.
Del Wilkes claimed that at his “peak”, he was taking over 100 prescription pain pills a day. There were times where he’d be on the road for 40 days straight. He would go to the ring “jacked up on pills and sometimes cocaine” — and that seven out of ten guys in the locker room were doing the exact same thing (?!)
Buff Bagwell said he has been friends with and wrestled over 20 guys who are now dead. The reporter asked Buff about his current drug use. Bagwell says he still takes pain killers on a daily basis. He said he popped a Soma and another painkiller right before the interview. Buff attributed his continued use of pain medication to the broken neck he suffered almost a decade ago.
Bagwell wanted to be a star and would do absolutely anything to reach that level. Despite his current health condition, he still wrestles to this day (on small independent shows) because he’s been in the wrestling business since he was a teenager and doesn’t know how to do anything else.
VIDEO from HBO Special: Vince McMahon Goes NUTS and Smacks Papers out of HBO Reporter’s Hands!