From Velvet Jones:
“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet” - Aristotle
The wrestler known as Sabu is known the world over. His high-risk style was one of the biggest bricks in the foundation of the influential Extreme Championship Wrestling. Sabu would catch a mysterious virus that left him temporarily paralyzed. A benefit show was held in his honor on his birthday in 2004 to help him cover the medical bills he incurred. The proceeds were given to him. Five months later, he made a full recovery and was back in the ring.
12 years later, a GoFundMe page was created for Sabu. Many people from the pro wrestling community have asked wrestling fans for their help as Sabu needs hip surgery. How active Sabu is nowadays is anyone's guess. But two things are certain. At press time, Sabu's page has generated over $26,000 - a little more than half of its $50,000 goal. Plus, the hardcore veteran turns 53 years old this year. And if history is an indicator, he'll be wrestling after he completely heals from surgery.
Ricky Morton was known in the 80's as a part of The Rock-N-Roll Express tag team with Robert Gibson. Their double dropkick finisher led to four of their NWA World tag team titles. Morton fell on hard times after the prime of his career. Legal fees and back payments to his ex-wife were the motivations behind at least two benefit shows in 2006 that raised nearly $2,500. Morton was rearrested a year later for the same charges and a website to raise his bail was established. Today, Morton runs his School of Morton and is a WWE Hall of Famer (and rightfully so). However, it's safe to say he learned some hard lessons a decade ago.
Lance Hoyt has wrestled all over the world. He is probably one of the few wrestlers to have held the NWA World tag team championship twice with two different partners. Hoyt has given his all to pro wrestling. So much so that he needed to have back surgery recently. A benefit show was held in his honor to with the proceeds helping him until he “goes back to work again”. To the best of my knowledge, Hoyt is the only one of the three men I've mentioned with a college degree (English).
Three men who have seen things that most indy wrestlers only dream of. They've traveled places most of the weekend warriors will never go. Three men who have given their all to a business that can easily take years off of your life.
I became an active indy wrestler much later than most people in this business - a month shy of my 30th birthday. In the years before that time, I got the first of my college degrees and worked my way up to a supervisory position at my job. I will say this: I'm not saying that a college education is a guarantee that you'll be successful in life. In fact, I learned more by simply living than I ever did in college. Still, a college education can make a huge difference in where life takes you.
Recently, I watched the 2017 WWE Business Partner Summit. Several of WWE's EVP's (Executive Vice Presidents) took the stage. The Summit was anchored by Paul “Triple H” Levesque. One of HHH's biggest contributions to the business has been the creation of the WWE Performance Center. Most people think that the Performance Center only manufactures pro wrestlers and performers. However, something HHH said caught my attention and did not let go.
"We train these athletes at the WWE Performance Center to not only become successful performers.. ..but also in life. WWE offers advanced education, including the opportunity to earn a degree, learn new languages, life skill training – all while using social media platforms to promote WWE, to promote our partners as well as their own individual brand” - Paul Levesque
WWE has transformed in so many ways over the past two decades since becoming a corporate entity. Like so many other businesses, they have a program in place to help pay for employees who seek higher education. In hearing that, I wished that HHH would have spoken a lot more about WWE's personal development programs for talent. But understanding the true purpose of the event, I can understand why that didn't happen. Several of the sport's greats have learned many a lesson over the years by simply living life as a wrestler and a wrestler only. Examples like the ones used at the beginning of this article proves that those lessons don't always translate into being beneficial outside of wrestling.
On the smaller scale of indy wrestling, there are guys and gals who have been active and have found ways to give back to the sport outside of the ring like Morton. There are men and women who have left the business completely after getting their fill for a decade or two who have made great strides in fields far removed from sports-entertainment.
Then, there are those weekend warriors whose 20 years in the business will be celebrated by others and punctuated by their desire to give 20 more years to the business. Not because wrestling is what they're good at, but because wrestling is all they're good at.
The moral of the story is if you are pro wrestler, the ring lights go out on all of us sooner or later. When that happens, you've got nowhere to go but home. Make sure you have the knowledge and resources to keep the lights on there. It makes life after wrestling a whole lot easier.
If you think life is a work, you should probably work on your life.