September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a subject which is close to my heart. With over forty thousand lives lost to suicide every year, it’s important to open up discussions about suicidal thoughts, and wider issues regarding mental health, so I’ve decided to highlight five people from the world of pro wrestling that have overcome suicide attempts and mental health issues to show there is hope, even when everything seems lost. These are Five Wrestling Personalities That Have Shown Things Can Get Better.
After being fired by WWE in 2007, Tommaso Ciampa attempted to end his own life.
After infamously appearing as a lawyer on Smackdown in 2005, Tommaso achieved his dream of signing with WWE by 2007 at the age of just 21. By August of the same year, WWE no longer saw anything for him, and was subsequently released from the company.
Beaten up, healing from injuries, working as a waiter to get by , Ciampa was 22, and had already been accepted and rejected by the biggest wrestling company on the globe. His dreams were smashed, his world crumbled. Without being able to find a clear answer, Ciampa spiralled into depression. Dealing with reality became unmanageable, developing a drug addiction just to cope with everyday life.
As revealed by the man himself in 2014 on Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling, after ingesting a large quantity of unknown drugs, Tommaso attempted to take his own life via carbon monoxide poisoning. Late that night, he set up his car in an otherwise empty parking lot, with the intent of ending it all. However, by a complete stroke of fate, Ciampa’s car was discovered in the middle of the event.
A security guard who monitored the parking lot just happened to be in the area hours after his shift had ended, deciding to give the car park a quick check whilst he was there, only to discover a man trapped inside a vehicle filling with toxic fumes. The police were called, Ciampa was pulled out, and immediately taken to hospital where his life was spared. By his own admission, if that security guard wasn’t coincidentally walking by that evening, Tommaso Ciampa would not have survived.
After such a dark, life-altering event, he sought help and treatment for his depression and addiction. Ciampa decided that he could no longer treat his passion like a drug, but instead a career to pursue. With a fresh set of motivations, and a renewed determination in both pro wrestling and in life, Ciampa drew upon his difficult experiences to shape his new wrestling persona. Over the coming years, Tommaso developed into one of the best talents in the world today, making his way back to WWE, and becoming a world-class heel.
In July of this year, a decade after trying to end his own life over fears of never being able to succeed, Tommaso Ciampa became the NXT Champion. Seeing him now, at the top of his game, excelling in every way, it’s unbelievable that this same man once saw no future for himself in pro wrestling. In ten years, Ciampa climbed out of rock bottom, and grafted his way to being one of the best on the planet.
And that’s why I’m telling you his story, to let you know that things get better. It may be a while before Ciampa addresses this publicly, but it’s important for those in the spotlight to share these experiences. I hope that Tommaso’s story will inspire others, letting them know that when you hit rock bottom, that doesn’t mean life is over.
There is nobody championing positive discussions about mental health in the world of combat sports like Mauro Ranallo is. This 30+ year veteran of pro wrestling and MMA commentary is acclaimed by fans everywhere for his incredibly passionate, insightful and effective delivery, yet he is also championed for how open he is towards mental health issues, and promoting open dialogue about problems which can’t physically be seen.
As many of you will know, Mauro is a very vocal sufferer of bipolar. This condition has at times impacted Mauro’s work, driving him to the lowest of lows, yet by his own admission, he believes that his enthusiasm and trademark passion during broadcasts can be attributed to his bipolar, along with his life-long love of pro wrestling. Find any podcast appearance made by Mauro and you’re guaranteed that at any opportunity he would open up a discussion or make a point about mental health issues. Look at his Twitter and you will see the exact same thing (he has been promoting Suicide Awareness Month throughout September).
Earlier this year, Mauro starred in a brutally open documentary about his commentary career, which held nothing back when it came to showing the extreme lows he can suffer because of his bipolar. It is through people like Mauro laying everything bare for the world to see that helps to make mental health issues become more visible. Not only is Mauro’s voice a gift to the worlds of combat sports and professional wrestling, it’s a huge proponent in championing awareness and funding for problems that have been ignored or mishandled for far too long.
Marc Mero was one of the WWF’s biggest acquisitions in the late 90s. By all accounts, Vince McMahon was extremely high on this former Golden Gloves boxing champion after seeing his charismatic character Johnny B. Badd in WCW. In 1996, Mero signed one of the company’s first ever guaranteed contracts and was immediately put into a great spot on the show.
However, things with Mero didn’t quite plan out as brightly as first hoped, and over time, it was his then wife Sable that would become the on-screen superstar, overshadowing Mero’s in-ring efforts. During this time, Mero actually overdosed on drugs three times, almost ending his life. By 2003, Mero’s body was destroyed from pro wrestling, he was left with no remaining family, and his wife had left him for somebody else. With no hope remaining, Mero grabbed a gun from his nightstand, took it to the bathroom, held it against his head and went to pull the trigger.
Thankfully, Mero couldn”t go through with it, and decided he needed to turn things around for himself, and his life couldn’t be much better for it. After his struggles with mental health and suicidal thoughts, Mero became a motivational speaker, setting up his own charity, Champion of Choices, and is even the number one school speaker in the United States.
Mero’s non-profit organisaiton aims to make people aware of the dangers of bullying, raise knowledge of mental health, and highlight the worrying suicide rates around the world. Even on Facebook Mero is regularly posting videos about suicide prevention, along with a lot of other serious issues.
After several surgeries and a change in attitude, Marc Mero couldn’t be much better mentally or physically. His story is the perfect example of how your demons don’t have to bring you down, and you can instead use your negative experiences to inspire others.
Sean Waltman is one of the most recognisable pro wrestling stars from the 1990s, however years on the road drove the man known as X-Pac to a heavy drug addiction, along with many other wrestlers during that decade. As time went on, Sean’s mental and emotional state deteriorated, until one day whilst working in Mexico, Sean decided to hang himself.
Miraculously, Sean was discovered by his girlfriend at the time, who managed to get him down from the noose. According to Sean, who is extremely open about the troubles he has faced, he did actually briefly die, but against all odds was brought back to life despite a fifty-minute ambulance wait.
Years on, X-Pac seems to have gotten his life back on track. He’s healthier, he’s fitter, and he can still go in the ring. Sean even hosts his own popular podcast where he interviews some of the biggest wrestlers in the world. He’s recently been a part of WWE events such as the Hall of Fame ceremony, and regardless of the occasion, he now brings his beloved pet dog with him everywhere he goes. If that doesn’t endear you towards somebody, I have no idea what will.
Dwayne Johnson is the biggest movie star on the planet. Known as both a professional wrestler and a hulking actor known for his roles in action movies and generally playing that tough guy role, The Rock is one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood, yet rather than shy away from sensitive issues as most uber masculine stars tend to do, The Rock has used his status to bring to light some very important issues.
Earlier this year, in an extremely open interview with the Express on Sunday newspaper, Dwayne spoke about his battle with depression that he suffered when he was witness to his mother attempting suicide as a teenager. When he was 15, his mother stepped out in front of oncoming traffic on Interstate 65 in Nashville shortly after they were evicted from their apartment, forcing him to pull her away and save her life. This sparked a multi-year depressive episode in his life which was difficult to recover from.
Thankfully, both Dwayne and his mother became far more financially and emotionally stable, with him going on to be one of the biggest celebrities in the entire world. Despite his success, Dwayne has not forgotten the struggles he faced in earlier life, as shown by a tweet he sent to his millions of followers earlier this year, which read: “Depression never discriminates. Took me a long time to realize it but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone.”
The more people with a spotlight as big as Dwayne’s open up about issues like this, the less of a problem they will become. Dwayne Johnson is living proof that rock bottom (pun intended) doesn’t last forever.
Samaritans UK 116 123
Mind UK 0300 123 3393
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline USA 1-800-273-8255