Steve Bradley was the standout on the New England independent scene when he was signed to a WWE developmental contract in 1998. Seemingly as soon as he showed up in Memphis, he was also being touted as the best all-around performer in the developmental system.
In Memphis, he became the regular opponent of Kurt Angle, who was being trained from scratch. Bradley was so instrumental in Angle’s development as a pro wrestler that even ten years later, Angle told ESPN that:
“Dory Funk and Tom Prichard started teaching me, but I'd have to say that Steve Bradley, an independent wrestler from the northeast, he was the guy who was with me every time, no matter where I went because WWE sent him there to help me. He was always teaching me. He was a phenomenal wrestler who really taught me a lot.”
Angle was sent to the main roster in November 1999. Bradley went from Memphis to Louisville to Puerto Rico and back to Memphis. He then went to Cincinnati, which brought him back to Louisville, since the Cincinnati-based Heartland Wrestling Association taped their TV at Ohio Valley Wrestling's school. Even with Angle being around as a top star who could theoretically be his rabbi to the office, he never got a shot and was released in 2002, around the time that WWE cut ties with the HWA.
Wrestling Observer Newsletter editor Dave Meltzer noted (subscribers-only) that while there are plenty of reasons commonly given for why Bradley was fired (knee injury, an increasingly worse drug problem, an average physique by WWE standards at the time, and his resemblance to the recently signed Rob Van Dam), the impression he was given was that none of those were the case. More likely, asthma limiting his stamina and the idea that there was no room for a “Bull Durham” type in WWE were more responsible.
After leaving WWE, his drug addiction worsened. He couldn’t manage the finances of his wrestling school and independent promotion (which had gained good reputations because of everything he learned while in WWE developmental), while also turning down well-paying tours of Japan. Eventually the school closed and he fell off of the radar of the pro wrestling business.
In 2008, he asked WWE for help and went to rehab for his drug addiction, but relapsed soon after being discharged and was arrested on a heroin possession charge. On December 4, 2008, Steven Richard Bisson was found dead in the parking lot across the street from the former location of his wrestling school in New Hampshire of a suspected drug overdose.
David Bixenspan has been Bleacher Report's WWE Team Leader and a contracted columnist since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @davidbix and check out his wrestling podcasts at LLTPod.com.