A lot can change in ten years.
Ten years ago, the wider wrestling world was starting to notice a marked reduction in the number of premature deaths, as the WWE’s wellness policy was beginning to yield results. In its place though, was a growing discussion over head trauma, on the heels of the Chris Benoit murder/suicide. Linked to that was the seedlings of a debate over mental health – something that (thankfully) is no longer as much of a taboo as it was back then. Ten years ago, I was in the middle of editing a podcast. Back then, I used to co-host a weekly podcast alongside Adam Firestorm, a wrestler from the Pacific North West who’d been forced to retire following an elbow injury in 2005. The podcast was called Ringside Live… which was an ironic name then, because we’d shifted the show to a taped format, well away from the early days of BlogTalkRadio (remember that?) and more than the odd few prank callers.
That particular week, we’d recorded an interview with Irv Muchnick to promote his upcoming book on the Chris Benoit murder/suicide. It went well, falling in with the new schedule of recording on a Wednesday evening ahead of the show dropping on Friday night in its usual time slot. Usually myself and Adam would re-record anything that’d need doing the night before release – that week didn’t need any such work, but even if it did, it’d have been tough to re-do anything, as Adam wasn’t online. So, the show was uploaded, and set to go out on Friday night… and I went to bed thinking nothing of it.
Waking up the next morning to an email from a mutual friend headed “CALL ME” was a worry. Getting an engaged tone, I waited and went online, wondering what on earth was going on, when I saw a post on the Figure Four Weekly message board that made me feel sick to my stomach. Repeatedly trying to call on the phone, I finally got through, and found that message board wasn’t a hoax: Adam had passed away.
A month earlier, Adam had had a scare related to wrestling. Remember that retirement? Of course, this being wrestling, it didn’t completely stick. Adam did a handful of matches, most recently in September 2009 against Disco Fury for All Star Wrestling. That trip back from Campbell River, BC almost ended up deadly after Adam’s van collided with an elk, shattering the windscreen and totalling the truck. While the crash left wounds that required treatment – both physical and mental – I had no idea how these would ultimately manifest themselves. Whatever happened on that night of November 5 robbed us of someone who was so much to a lot of people.
In the years that’s followed, I’ve replayed a lot of situations in my head, and blamed myself a lot for missing cues, not doing more to help. Stuff like the last call. Like perhaps not being more nosey about the meds he’d been given after the accident. Like not asking more about that time he’d “whited out” and was unreachable for a little while. Or things like the chat we had while I was on holiday, talking about Adam’s plans for the future. All of those plans, gone, just like that.
Speaking to a bunch of Adam’s friends for a memorial podcast a few weeks later just reinforced how respected he was… and just how big of a hole was left behind. Ten years on, I still miss Adam. The hole is still there – it’s one that seemingly can never be filled. One that you walk around every day, trying not to fall in and face those feelings all over again.
I’m not the sort of fan who collects selfies or meets wrestlers at merch tables. I know, a wrestling fan being an introvert in real life… but the connections are there, and in the weirdest places. When El Phantasmo started his run in the UK in 2017, I spoke briefly with him and brought up the connection (not realising Adam had managed him early in his career – ELP would go on to appear on some of the memorial fundraising shows for Adam’s family thereafter)… while Daniel Makabe had traded tapes with him in years gone by. Small world, huh?
Thankfully, in the decade since, the discussion over mental health – along with head injuries in general – has moved on in leaps and bounds. No more is it the taboo it once was. In wrestling circles, folks like Mauro Ranallo have really brought the issue to the forefront, while wrestlers like Jaxon Stone and Terra Calaway have been raising awareness through YouTube shows and wrestling shows. On both sides of the equation, it can be hard – to deal with mental health issues, or help those who are struggling. Even if it feels like it – and believe me, having been there myself, it’s real – there are people to talk to. You are not alone. You are loved. If you need someone to talk to – there is always someone.
- In the UK, the Samaritans can be reached by calling 116 123
- In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255
- In Canada, there’s a SMS text service, called the Crisis Text Line, which can be reached by texting CONNECT (for English) or PARLER (for French) to 68 68 68
- For a list of other support services around the world, check this Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines