Wednesday, February 11, 2015

WHO DESERVED BETTER? My Thoughts on Chris Kanyon's Autobiography

Professional wrestling can be awesome. It's fun to watch and most of the guys who work in the business absolutely love it. But at the same time, like any performance industry, or hell - life in general, it has it dark sides. It's no secret that many wrestlers have died young. Accidents, drugs, health problems and other causes have taken many wrestlers away from the ring before their time. Suicide has also claimed the lives of several wrestlers, including Chris Kanyon.

Who was Chris Kanyon? He was a professional wrestler from Queens, NY. He trained in small promotions throughout the East coast, eventually ending up in the now defunct WCW. He had mid-level success there and when the WCW closed its doors he had a short run in the WWE. But in 2010, Chris Kanyon died of a drug over dose. His depression lead him to take that final step. And that depression was exacerbated by living life as a closeted gay wrestler.

I didn't know this until last year. When Kanyon was actively wrestling, it was mostly on WCW. I've always been a WWE mark, so other than the big names, I didn't pay too much attention to what was going on in WCW. I knew who he was of course. I remember his pretty dark hair and his catch phrase, "Who better than Kanyon? Nobody!" But that was pretty much it. So when I came across his name in an article listing deceased wrestlers I was surprised. One, because I didn't know that he was dead. Two, because other than Pat Patterson and Darren Young (who came out in 2013), I'd never heard of any openly gay wrestlers. I did a little Googling and discovered that he'd co-written an autobiography, Wrestling Reality: The Life and Mind of Chris Kanyon, Wrestling's Gay Superstar. I ordered it, not sure what to expect.

What I quickly realized, was that Kanyon was an awesome story teller. Yes, the book is co-authored by Ryan Clark who did an amazing job. But I couldn't tear myself away from Kanyon's stories. I know that it can be incredibly painful to be a gay youth in America. I see examples all the time and have some small personal experience with it because of a beloved family member. I don't pretend to understand that struggle. But reading Kanyon's experiences as a confused gay teen touched my heart. His recounting of confiding in a member of his church made my face hot with anger. And the story of his first kiss with a boy and the events that came after made me sad, both for him and the boy he scared away.

I did laugh a lot as I read Wrestling Reality. It was interesting to read his journey from kid who idolized wrestlers to becoming one himself. And I groaned at some of the backstage wrestling idiocy he revealed. But overall I was just ... sad. This man lived his entire life in the closet just so that he would be accepted and able to pursue the career he loved. He was so terrified of people finding out his secret that he went years without being in a relationship. That loneliness must have been awful. I couldn't imagine having to make a decision like that: be who you are in your personal life or have the career you want. He couldn't have both, so he sacrificed who he was in order to perform.

Were there other gay wrestlers in the industry at the time? Oh, I'm sure there were, percentages alone tell you that there have to have been. Were any of those wrestlers partially out - where their wrestling buddies but not the general public knew? More than likely. But Kanyon felt he wasn't able to come out, and when he tried to do so, it seems as though he were punished for it. After that, he hit a low patch in his wrestling career, his depression worsened and finally, he committed suicide.

After I finished Kanyon's book I felt so bad for him. So I decided to do a small thing in his name. The first book in my M/M professional wrestling erotic romance will be dedicated to the memory of Chris Kanyon. And a portion of the proceeds from the series will be donated to Out Athletes, a nonprofit organization that helps build inclusive sports organizations. It may be silly and perhaps some might not approve of involving his name with the type of books I write, but it makes my heart feel better.

Chris Kanyon's book, WRESTLING REALITY is available on Amazon. I invite you to check it out. If you do, be sure to tell me what you think.


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