A year ago, I bid farewell to someone I considered a friend, an inspiration, and above all, a great person. Some people questioned his methods, but most looked beyond how he died and remembered how he lived. One of the nicest people we ever knew, someone so charismatic that they could light up a room just by being there; just having the privilege of knowing this man made our lives a little bit better.
Taken from us was he; one who laced up the boots and made it to a level to which many knew and loved him. His death was announced on this very website. I was on the Columns Forum, plugging away with stories at the time, and in minutes I had a few hundred words written up that could never do this man justice. Comments flooded, video tributes followed. Edge retired later that day, and in a moment that would normally have a heartfelt effect to it, I felt nothing. The void in me had already been taken by the loss of a brother who did far more than retire, but instead left us all wondering why.
That was the story of someone who may have only been in indy wrestling, but ascended to stardom along some of the highest circuits. There are those of us who lace up the boots for smaller companies, who may not ever reach that upper level, but there is still a kinship between us. We don't step in the ring only because we have those hopes and dreams, even if they don't have a prayer of coming true. We do it because it's something we love to do. It's a passion unlike any other. There is nothing in this world like it, and when you're not around it, there is nothing that can match it. The adrenaline cannot be matched in any other way.
Those of us who have done that have a kinship. Even where there are feuds between individuals, those who have stepped in that same ring on the same night have an unspoken bond that we don't realize as strongly until we lose someone. Even if it's someone we don't know on a personal level, we experience that sinking feeling, the uneasiness in the stomach, and the urge to let loose the tears that bottle up inside our eyelids.
Another brother of ours has fallen. I cannot speak for those who loved him. I cannot speak for those who called him a friend, a child, a relative, a classmate... What I can speak is someone who saw him perform inside a wrestling ring. What I can speak is someone who shared the same locker room as one of the kindest people I've ever met. What I can speak is that there are many people who are feeling this pain because of what has transpired, and I'm doing the best I can to put into words what I'm feeling, so that maybe a few others can come to grips with what has taken place.
For a reason I will never understand, another brother was taken from us. Chris was someone who not only loved wrestling, but loved the fans on a level that made everyone else feel good just by being around it. None of us who experienced what we did in the locker room will ever forget it, especially a little boy named CJ.
CJ is the young son of a good friend of mine, Charlie. Charlie was having his first professional wrestling match back in November, and his entire family was ringside. Charlie lost the match in what may seem like normal fashion to any wrestling fan, but unless you've ever been the young son of a professional wrestler, you don't know what it's like to see your own father appear to be hurt. I don't know that feeling, and I'm not going to pretend I do.
Little CJ was brought into the locker room because he was crying his eyes out. His opponent Rikk, me, and several others did our best to cheer him up, but it was Chris who got down on a knee and started talking to him that got him to stop. As one of the tag team champions, he placed the belt on his shoulder, and I snapped a picture with him. Chris joked around with him, had the sweetest tone with the kid, and changed him from crying to smiling and laughing in just a few minutes. As my friend Paul recalled the story, "CJ never forgot how kind we were to him. This pic breaks my heart. He loved the fans so much."
There are many out there who are hurting worse than I am, and my heart and condolences go out to them. My job is preventing me from being at the show that is taking place tomorrow where the rest of my brothers will still likely be in a shock that I can't even imagine. The best I can do is try to find the only outlet that I know that works best for me; write down how I'm feeling and hope that someone out there understands why I had to do this.
Professional wrestling is not just the guys on the stage, in the ring, cutting promos and doing wrestling moves. There is something that no fan sees, no matter how smart they think they are. There is something that only someone who has stepped in that ring can truly understand. Everybody who puts their bodies and lives on the line for the sake of what they love, and to entertain anywhere from 15 to 15,000 people shares those moments. The wrestling world has lost another brother, and the world has lost an amazing person far before his time.