R.I.P. Larry Sweeney: A Poignant Look on the Dark Side of Pro Wrestling

ChinmaySenior Analyst IIApril 11, 2011

What life can’t manage, death does sometimes. News that has broken out some time back tells the same truth.

A 29-year-old former ROH performer, Larry Sweeney, committed suicide by hanging himself. While all the details of his death remain unknown, it will be a topic of discussion for some time to come.

The sadder part of the story is that his death has made him much more famous than he would have been alive. I, for one, had no knowledge of who he was or what attributes he possessed as a performer. After reading about his death on Twitter, I checked his work. I am not proud of my ignorance, but I am just one of those ignorant millions who have made him a trending topic via social networking.

Despite all the support we may offer to his soul, his death will not create uproar since he is not from WWE. A small promotion guy’s death does not really bother socialites and corporate honchos. It is a sad truth and cold-blooded business.

This, however, does not prevent me from digging deeper into his demise and its cause. The reason is this:

His death may have a lot to do with the dark side of this painful industry.

According to the reports of websites like Wrestleheat.com or F4WOnline.com, he had a Bipolar disorder.

According to National Institute of Mental Health, Bipolar disorder essentially involves drastic mood swings and some terrible bouts of depression. Mania and depression are the two extremes that the patient oscillates between.

According to U.S. National Institutes of Health, it may be inherent to the patient. It may run through a blood-line. However, there are some outside factors that stimulate this problem. Out of some that are there, I will name just two:

1. Periods of sleeplessness

2. Recreational drug use—consisting of prescription medicines

Now, the story is clear as crystal. These are two aspects directly related to the Pro-Wrestling industry. The harsh business just managed to take another life.

Here you have a young man who chased his dreams. He worked his butt off to realize it. The industry he chose was severe on body and rough on mind. He worked out during the day, performed at night. For all the pain his body went through, his mind had been taking an equal amount of punishment.

He found himself deprived of sleep, and painkillers were his respite. Both ultimately triggered his disorder. This cannot be more tragic.

It is another reminder to all the promotions and fans alike. It is high-time now that Indy leagues and TNA take a queue and put a wellness policy in place. WWE has done well no doubt, but still it is not enough.

Every wellness policy that is in place at the moment is missing one major aspect and that is psychological assistance.

I will elaborate on this point a little bit. Although pro-wrestling is synonymous with the physical pain, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The pain comes from deep within. Every single night takes a tremendous toll on soul. The body has a way to let its pains be known. The mind does not have the same luxury, and yet there comes a moment when even a soul would cry.

There are some more aspects that wear the mind down. An aspect of a pro-wrestler’s life often forgotten by all of us is family. Many of the performers do have a family. However, the kind of schedule they hold makes it complicated to be with them.

Domestic issues often arise. It is not an exception in the business to have "Domestic Violence" charges levelled performers. It all adds to more frustration and despair of an already gloomy mind.

I have not even scratched the surface of the matter here, and this is not the place either. We have to remember that a strong mind can drag a weaker body a long way, but a weak mind can never carry a strong body. Some battles like these are won inside, not on the prescriptions.

This is why I would appeal to the WWE and all other leagues to put a comprehensive wellness policy in place to help prevent such incidents.

In the end, I just want all of us to remember a few things as well.

Not everybody is John Cena or the Undertaker. There are many faces who wander around without their identity. They work for many hours and earn few dollars.

They are the ones to fall prey to vicious resorts like painkillers and other drugs. Their soul cries for respite, for serenity. They can heal their bodies somehow, but cannot console their minds. They are the ones, who in the moment of numbness lay their hand on a pot. It is someone of them, who out of sheer despair choose to end the life.

And, most tragically, it is someone of them, whom his death makes famous.

R.I.P. Larry Sweeney and all those almost forgotten names.