IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: One Year Removed
By Al Laiman
Apr 11, 2012 - 12:33:06 PM
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IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: Goodbye, My Friend
Written April 11, 2011
I literally just heard the news a few minutes ago that someone very dear to me, Alex Whybrow, better known to the wrestling world as "Sweet and Sour" Larry Sweeney, has passed away. Wrestling deaths have hit me hard before, but I've never experienced the loss of a wrestler that I not only knew personally, but whom I considered a friend.
One of my best friends, Chris Spiker, was even closer to him, and I can only imagine what he's going through right now. When I saw it as a Facebook status, I thought it was a joke, and I immediately checked LOP. Alas, it is not a joke, and my immediate reaction was to call Chris. Spiker had already heard, and fortunately for him, he heard it from someone who knew the both of them instead of finding out on the internet like I had to. Regardless of how I found out, I knew the first thing I had to do was write about it, as I'm sure he will do the same in the not too distant future.
When Chris and I began traveling out to southwestern Pennsylvania to attend some independent wrestling events, it was a unique atmosphere that we hadn't experienced before. Not only were we seeing top-tier wrestling right before our very eyes, but the wrestlers were accessible. Most of them were downright friendly, and we spent a lot of intermissions and after-show parties hanging out with them. Chris and I both had aspirations of getting into the business, but we saw this experience differently.
Once we got to play on the same softball team as most of the roster. We spent the entire day drinking beer and having fun with the wrestlers, and even conducting interviews with some of them for our internet show. I'll never forget the difference between Chris and me on that day, because I think he had it right. To me, this was an experience of getting to hang out alongside my heroes and be seen as an equal, if only for a few hours. To Chris, they were human, they were friends, and they were guys he respected. Spiker wasn't starstruck, he was just one of the boys; A personality trait I never got down nearly as well as he did.
That day, and every day prior to that one, there was one individual who not only stood out more than most, but treated us as friends. One guy whose undeniable charisma was incredibly fun to watch, but it was the conversations and fun he'd have with us afterward that made it so memorable. One guy who after winning three matches in one night to obtain the Super Indy 6 tournament championship, asked us to be by his side in his post-victory promo.
That man was "Sweet and Sour" Larry Sweeney.
I will readily admit that it was Spiker’s influence that began to turn me into a Sweeney fan. At first I didn't get all the hype, but at the same time, he was in a heel vs. heel match that night. Hitting the DVDs and attending live shows month after month, the man's gift on the microphone began to reach epic heights.
We became attached to the character and were cheering him, even though he was a heel. Surprisingly enough, this seemed to carry some influence over the rest of the crowd, and about seven months after we started making those monthly trips, he made an unannounced appearance with a new entrance song, "Holiday Road", and the crowd went absolutely insane.
Two months later, the eight-man Super Indy tournament took place in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Along with Sweeney, the tournament saw such rising talents as Shiima Xion and Super Hentai mixing it up with established veterans like Jay Lethal, Sonjay Dutt, Ruckus, Brother Runt, and Azrael. Outside of a drunken incident from one of the performers in the opening match, the show itself was incredible. It came down to Shiima Xion and Larry Sweeney, and when Sweeney got the pin, our group along with everyone else rose to our feet in elation! Sweeney had finally gotten the big break he deserved and was the new Super Indy champion.
As I mentioned before, after the show, we were asked as the "Sweeney Diehards" to stand by him as he delivered his victory promo. I wish like hell that I could find the video of that promo, but I'll never forget that moment, nor the time several months later when our friend Davey from England found us on that promo on a DVD he purchased.
Three months passed, and the annual Basebrawl was taking place, as I mentioned before. It was a day-long event that saw street vendors and fire truck parades, as the show was a benefit for the Ellsworth Volunteer Fire Department. One of the activities included a wrestlers vs. firefighters softball game, and they allowed a few fans to participate on Team Wrestlers, the two of us included. When you start serving beer at 10am, shenanigans are sure to be involved.
We documented all the events from that day with a video camera and produced it for a show we did called "The KAF Report." From the game itself to several random moments throughout, perhaps our proudest moment in the episode was when Larry Sweeney himself granted us an interview. Sunburned and hotter than holy hell, we tried to compete volumes with a terrible band playing in the background that drowned out most of the sound on the DVD for the actual wrestling show as well. Sweeney was candid, direct, entertaining, and most of all, he was our friend. Sweeney adamantly opposed me ever wanting to get in the business, and while I didn't end up listening to him, I always respected him for being honest with me about it. My hair is short and I'm about 60 laughable skinny pounds lighter, but who the hell cares at this point… It was our first on-camera interview and one of many moments that Larry Sweeney provided us that we'll never forget. Chris had many more, which I will not share because that's his place.
What I can share is that Sweeney was the guy who would see us at a rest stop and remember our names. Larry Sweeney went out of his way to acknowledge us when he came to the ring, even giving Chris a hug during his entrance at A Call to Arms 2007, a huge anniversary show with attendance higher than normal. Sweeney would get on the phone with someone who wasn't there and go into full promo mode to the person on the other line, making us laugh and mark out in the process. Most of all, he was always accessible, always incredibly friendly, and never failed to make you smile, even if you bought into him as a heel and jeered him, which is what he wanted you to do.
Speculation will likely run amok, but that doesn't matter to me.
This is probably the most disjointed column I've ever written, but it's out of pure emotion. Every single circumstance surrounding this incident notwithstanding, we have lost a good wrestler, a promo god, someone with whom we share a lot of memories, and a friend.
Goodbye, Alex. Rest in peace, my friend.