Former pro wrestling superstar Scott Hall admitted in an ESPN documentary last week that he "should have been dead 100 times."
Some might argue that's a conservative estimate.
Hall's sad and tragic story was profiled in a gripping 18-minute segment on the sports network's award-winning "E:60" show Wednesday night.
The wrestler's fall from fame didn't happen overnight.
Hall, who lives with a pacemaker and is on numerous medications for pain and anxiety, has engaged in years of rampant drug and alcohol abuse. At this point, he admits, there isn't even a glimmer of hope that he can overcome his addiction.
"I tell my kids this, 'I can't tell you not to drink and do drugs, they are fun. It's fun. They work,'" Hall told ESPN. "But what sucks is when you want to quit and you can't, and pretty soon you alienate or you hurt everyone around you. It's a family disease and then you can't keep a promise to anybody. What sucks the most is when you can't even keep a promise to yourself."
The damage Hall has inflicted on his own body was glaringly apparent as clips were shown of his glory days in the ‘90s as WWE breakout star Razor Ramon and later as a charter member of the wildly popular New World Order. Footage of Hall working independent shows before sparse crowds earlier this year showed him being helped to and from the ring, at times not even knowing where he was, a striking departure from the charismatic, larger-than-life character he once portrayed.
Hall has been to rehab numerous times. WWE executive Stephanie McMahon said the company has spent more on Hall's recovery than any other wrestler.
"I just want Scott to get help and to decide for himself that he needs help. It makes me sad. I don't want anybody to pass away prematurely or otherwise really. Scott was an incredibly talented performer, larger than life, charismatic. He's a father, he's a friend. I'm sure he means a lot to a lot of people and it would be a shame for him to pass away," she told ESPN.
To some, like Eric Bischoff, wrestling's not to blame for Hall's downfall.
"His demons are killing him," said the former WCW executive vice president.
Since ESPN completed the piece, things have only gotten worse for Hall.
His 20-year-old son, Cody, is no longer living with him after becoming disillusioned with his father's lifestyle. Cody, who was being trained for a possible wrestling career, has returned home to live with his mom.
"I gave Cody my room and I sleep on an air mattress in the living room," says Dana Hall. "The three of us (including daughter Cassidy) live in a two-bedroom townhouse. Cody works two jobs, and we are all struggling financially as before."
She says her son has not returned to wrestling school since he left, and has had only a few brief texts with Scott "after he calmed down from him leaving, but nothing after, until his birthday."
"I'm sorry he had to go through such an emotional thing, but I guess it's just something he had to see for himself," she adds. "Hopefully there can be some type of healing."
Scott's physical condition also has worsened. He was hospitalized for a week after suffering additional seizures, and was released one day before the ESPN show aired. Thursday marked his 53rd birthday; friends and family are concerned that it could be his last unless drastic measures are taken.
Dr. David Reiss, a psychiatrist and Interim Medical Director of Providence Hospital in Holyoke, Mass., says it's a difficult question as to how family and friends should proceed in a very delicate situation.
"Obviously many, many people have been trying to encourage Scott — but for someone like this, if encouragement, support and confrontation didn't work before, it's unlikely to work now. As to why ... in general we can talk in lay language metaphorically about ‘demons,' but there would need to be a full evaluation of his history, family relationships, youth, etc. to understand his personality structure."
Speaking in general terms, since Reiss has never personally evaluated Hall, he says the prognosis for individuals in Hall's situation is "very poor."
"It's not impossible to have a turnaround, but not likely," he says.
Hall was charged in 1983 with second-degree murder when he shot a man in the head during a bar fight. The charges, however, were later dropped due to lack of evidence. Hall said in the ESPN piece that he has been unable to forget the incident and that it still haunts him.
"There is the unresolved guilt he talked about that he certainly has never resolved ... and guilt over killing someone may not be resolvable," says Reiss.
Reiss says the best advice was given indirectly by Sean Waltman (X-Pac). "I've been preparing to deal with Scott's death for years," Waltman said in the ESPN episode.
"While I never say to give up hope," says Reiss, "friends and family must realize that the most reasonable course is to prepare oneself for his death, and if anything is going to get through to someone in this position, it would be actually seeing people reacting to him in that way — being supportive, giving some encouragement, but with the direct message: ‘I hope and pray for you, but I'm realistic to know that you're probably going to kill yourself, and I have to protect myself and keep a reasonable distance.'"
Reiss admits that approach could be risky, and adds there should be counseling for all involved.
"It could be seen by the person as permission to kill themselves. On the other hand, psycho-dynamically, it releases them from the sense of burden of having to do it for others which at times — especially when there is ambivalent anger and guilt — leads some people to passive-aggressively be self-destructive to spite that burden. Sometimes, it's only by lifting the burden of doing it for others that a person feels emotionally freed up to decide whether to try to survive or not, rather than to impulsively stay on the destructive path."
WWE Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross commented on his blog at JRsbarbq.com that the ESPN feature put a spotlight on a plight shared by a number of performers.
"What more can be said about the compelling Scott Hall piece that ESPN E:60 did this week on the former WWE/WCW star? Addiction is so deadly and dangerous and why some individuals seemingly can't get away from alcohol and drug abuse perhaps will always be a mystery. The obligatory emails and Tweets about Scott going into the WWE Hall of Fame or perhaps becoming a broadcaster in WWE feel so untimely as the only thing that Scott should focus on is getting healthy via being clean and sober. I sincerely and truly hope that he succeeds."
Dana Hall says viewing the ESPN piece, watching her son weep as he talked about keeping his father alive a day at a time, was like reliving a nightmare.
"He had hoped he could make a difference with Scott, keep him sober, bond with him, make him proud of him," she says. "I think he sees now it is not possible, and he tried his best. He was in over his head."
"Scott's son must be gently confronted that he cannot save his father or re-live his father's life ‘the right way,' and if he expects to do so, consciously or unconsciously, he's setting himself up to go down the same path when he inevitably fails at doing the impossible," says Reiss.
All Dana Hall prays for now, she says, is help for a damaged family.
"I wish that just even one of the guys who were there right beside Scott through all this, doing it with him, or the people who enabled it at any point, would be man enough and decent enough to step up and come alongside Cody, since Scott clearly can't. It's the very least they could do to make things right."
-- Here's wishing a quick and full recovery for wrestling great Gerald "Jerry" Brisco.
The WWE Hall of Famer, younger brother of the late Jack Brisco, suffered a minor stroke on Wednesday.
Brisco, 65, who works as a talent scout for WWE, suffered three strokes back in 2009.
-- Longtime WWE Spanish language announce team figure Hugo Savinovich has been released after 14 years with the company.
Savinovich, who was once married to women's wresting star Wendi Richter, also has served as a minister in recent years after having overcome drug and alcohol addiction. He credited the McMahon family in a 2009 interview for not giving up on him.
"After my troubles the McMahons really fought for me and had faith in me," said Savinovich. "My work that I do is about showing my gratitude to them and the others who supported me."
-- Jim Ross posted on Twitter last week that he is "done" with weekly WWE TV.
Ross is expected to play an integral role in the launching of WWE's new network scheduled for next year.
-- George's Sports Bar, 1300 Savannah Highway, will air WWE's Vengeance pay-per-view at 8 p.m. today. Cover charge is $5.
The 50 Yard Line Sports Bar, 10150 Dorchester Road, Suite 221, Summerville, also will carry the Vengeance pay-per-view at 8 p.m. today. Cover charge is $5.
-- A fond adieu to a childhood chum, John Johnston, who passed away recently at the age of 57.
John, whom I'll always remember as an ever-smiling lad with a wink of mischief never far away, left a lasting impression on me at an early age. We were mere middle schoolers at the time, but he proved his tough-guy mettle back then at a pro wrestling show, of all places, by spitting in the face of a 300-pound mountain of a man aptly named Bull Ramos.
To a couple of impressionable 12-year-olds, this menacing villain with cold, piercing eyes and a long, shaggy mane had it coming. He was a rulebreaker who had used nefarious means to defeat a local favorite, and he was making a speedy exit back to the dressing room. My friend saw his opportunity and seized it, directing a gob of spit in this monster's general vicinity, and with remarkably accurate aim, hitting his intended target right between the eyes.
Fortunately we escaped the wrath of the steaming Bull that night and lived to see another day. And I knew I had found a friend who would be as fearless as anyone I'd ever see in a wrestling ring.
Mike Mooneyham can be reached by phone at 843-937-5517 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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