Torch Flashbacks Spotlight Article - INTERVIEW with Sean "X-Pac" Waltman - Among most in-depth, frank, first-person look at drugs in wrestling
Jul 1, 2007 - 3:36:00 PM
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The following Torch Talk interview with Sean "X-Pac" Waltman was conducted in November 2005, right after the death of Eddie Guerrero. This is one of the most in-depth, insider, frank discussions from a long-time drug addict wrestler who had been through Vince McMahon's drug testing system and was friends with many wrestlesr who have died too young. We reprint the majority of this 90 minute interview today to add to the perspective and insight necessary to try to deal with a problem permiating pro wrestling and costing too many lives - unnecessarily. This interview originally ran in three installments in Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter in late 2005.
Wade Keller: We'll talk more about Eddie as we venture into other subjects, but I want to talk about the effect that drugs and drinking have on people. You've done both to excess at various times. What is it that brings somebody from drinking recreationally or using pills for their prescribed purpose or recreationally to a point where you get a buzz out of it to the depths that you spoke out, that you've been through, that Eddie's been through? What is it that leads so many wrestlers down that pathway, and is there something unique about the wrestling business that fosters that path?
Sean Waltman: What makes people cross that line into problem drinking or becoming a full blown alcoholic or drug addict? It's hard to really answer that with one blanket for all drug addicts or alcoholics because we're all different. I mean, so different. Everybody's alcoholism and drug addiction reacts to them differently, just like our fingerprints. I say "we" because I'm a drug addict. I don't like to say alcoholic because it wasn't my drug of choice. For lack of any other drug around, I would drink a ton of alcohol and it tastes like shit and it's probably one of the worst tastes I can think of, but in lieu of getting a buzz or getting completely obliterated, I'll drink it. That's like saying I'd drink a gallon of piss just to get a buzz or get drunk. That's pretty sad. That's the definition of being sick. There are some people who were born with genetics who are predisposed to be drug addicts. Eventually, if you're given an endless supply of something, if something's always there, if there's always pills there, it's bound to happen. If that person was because of their genetics predisposed to be that, it's going to happen and there's no two ways about it. That doesn't mean to say somebody with those genetics, if they're just exposed to it here and there, it's like rolling the dice. It's not necessarily going to happen if there's not an endless supply of these things. I know I'm veering off the subject here, but it's making me think of the drug testing policy that Vince is instituting again... I can almost imagine that this will probably be just as stringent as the testing I remember. Wow, that's a really giant step for Vince to take.
Keller: You were there, so historically speaking, you can talk about this. There was all of that media pressure to talk to WWE and Vince McMahon didn't want to do it at first, but when he did it and decided to do it, it seemed he put forth a genuine effort to clean up his company. Talk about what the reaction was to it at the time, whether it was taken seriously, and how it led to changes once it started taking place.
Waltman: This is the only thing I can't relate to. I can't relate to being part of a major wrestling company and going through years where pretty much anything went - you could do steroids, whatever you wanted to - and then having the rug pulled out from underneath you pretty much over night where all of a sudden you're not allowed to do these things anymore. When I came in there, I wasn't using steroids to begin with and I never really had at the time. I tried once or twice or something, but the truth is, I don't even know if I had real steroids back then. I never touched a steroid until I was 25 years old, until I left Vince McMahon. Before I went to the WWF, I had never really taken a pain killer or any pills. So it wasn't nearly as big of a deal for me, although the sad part about it is, because they were testing for some things - when you can have a prescription for Valium, Xenix, Percocet, Oxycontin, whatever you can get your doctor to prescribe for you. You can take these things and piss in a cup and these metabolites can show up in your urine and you're okay, and you're not allowed to test for alcohol - it doesn't really show up, anyhow. It's really hard to infringe on somebody's civil liberties when you tell then you can't drink alcohol in the first place. How do I put this? I walked into a company that was full of people who were taking tons of pills and drinking tons of alcohol on a nightly basis. I got caught up in that whirlwind really quick. We weren't allowed to smoke a joint. They were testing for illegal drugs, and marijuana was an illegal drug in most states. So that was the big thing. We weren't allowed to smoke a joint. If they had only allowed us to smoke pot, we wouldn't be taking all of these pills and getting f---ed up and getting drunk every night. The testing can't solve all of the problems. I know it's a big p.r. thing, but Vince does really care. For all of his flaws, the guy does care. He does not want to keep having to go through this.
Keller: When you were part of the stringent drug testing policy, describe how that worked in excruciating detail. How did you find out that you were about to be tested? How much notice did you receive? How often did it happen? What was the test like?
Waltman: Okay, we'd find out we were being tested by showing up to the arena and seeing a sign on the door that said, "Drug Test." That's when we knew. It could have been anytime. You never knew when it was coming. There was a doctor Mario DiPasquali. He was a very, very good match. He was very knowledgeable in all of these things. He was probably, in my opinion, one of the top two or three most knowledgeable people about performance-enhancing drugs and how to beat the tests, by the way. He ran Vince's drug testing policy. He was great at it. He really was. He was great at his job. He was very understanding to us because he was an athlete himself. He understood what we were going through. But at the same time, we could show up one day, take a test, and then think we would be okay for a couple of days, and bam, the next day he'd hit us with one. It wasn't just where you walk in, they give you a cup, you go into the bathroom, and you piss in a cup. The bathroom you go into to piss in, there's a guy standing there. We call him the cock-watcher. They watched the stream of urine leave your genetalia and go into the cup. I couldn't think of a way to beat the test. I mean, not very many drug testing policies require somebody to actually watch it come out of you. Even when I was in rehab, you could go and have some privacy while you were taking the test.
What happens is, there's ways to beat that, too. Nothing is unbeatable. Now they've come up with prosthetic penises that look like real penises that have a real heating system in them to heat the clean urine that you would put in there to body temperature. They'll test the temperature and the PH to be sure that you're not using some kind of a masking agent. I'm sure in Vince's test that there's a thing to detect that.
I'll tell you a quick story. We really liked to smoke our pot back then, Wade. It was a big deal because they wouldn't let us do that. I felt strongly about it. I don't know if marijuana is on his list of things he's testing for. If I were him, I wouldn 't test for it. It's a hell of a lot more benign than alcohol and we're not talking about a p.r. thing where we're worried about somebody getting caught with a dime bag of pot going through the airport or getting stopped on the road, this is a thing to save people's lives. This policy to save people's lives, it shouldn't be strictly for the p.r. of the company. I really don't think there is going to be any bad press on the company if one of Vince's WWE superstars gets caught with a bag of pot. And that's my opinion on it. It might be a biased opinion because I'm a legalization of marijuana advocate. And I do have, in the state of California, a medical marijuana permit. If I was working for Vince, I'm sure that would exempt me from being tested for marijuana anyhow. But not everybody lives in the state of California and not everybody's able to get a doctor's note, either. It's just not the thing I'd be testing for.
There was one time we beat the test. It was the Royal Rumble of 1995. It was in Tampa. We started figuring out in our drug addict minds that, okay, they test at house shows, but they don't test us at TVs because there's too much going on at TVs. Same for pay-per-views. And they don't test us in non-English-speaking countries, so if we go to Europe, we can get away with smoking a joint. We had all these things figured out in our heads, so we thought. So we went out the night before Royal Rumble to Ybor City in Tampa. By the way I remember Scott Hall and I leaning on each other walking down 7th St. in Ybor City and bumping into Lawrence Taylor of all people. He looked at Scott and me and was like, "God, aren't you guys wrestling tomorrow?" We were all pilled up and definitely in downer mode. If you want to make any assumption about Lawrence Taylor, he was probably exactly the opposite; he was probably zoomin'. So he's looking at us like we're crazy. Anyway, we get to the show the next day and that's when Lawrence Taylor did the angle with Bam Bam Bigelow at the end of my match leading to WrestleMania.
So we show up for the pay-per-view. Bam, they got us. There's signs up. "Drug testing." We're dirty because we smoked pot the night before. We're like, oh shit! So guys were going in and taking the test. I was avoiding it all day long. Finally Dave Hebner cornered me. He tricked me into going in. He said, "Somebody wants to talk to you." He had taken a sign down on a door. I walked through the door and, bam, there they were with the cups ready. So I'm telling the guy that's doing the test, "Uh, I can't really piss." He could tell I was nervous. I didn't want to get caught. Nobody wants to get caught because it costs you money and you get suspended. He goes, "Give me two hundred bucks and I'll piss for you." I'm telling you, two hundred dollars never left my wallet and went into somebody else's hands so quick in my life. I didn't even think that the guy could have been dirty himself if he was pissing into the cup. This guy actually couldn't piss for everybody, but I think he pretty much took a couple hundred bucks from several people in the company and ended up dumping their samples out. That was the only time that I could tell you that that test was beatable. It was because of a corrupt person who was administering the tests.
Keller: And that's not something that could be consistently done because different people conducted the tests each time?
Waltman: Different people all over.
Keller: So somebody with a major problem would not be able to get away with that even if the current testing used the same method.
Waltman: No, that was just a one time thing. I thought that was a pertinent story.
Keller: When you got to the WWF the first time, were they already testing for drugs?.
Sean Waltman: Oh yeah.
Keller: Were you there long enough to experience the reaction when the testing slowed down and eventually stopped?
Waltman: It didn't slow down the whole time I was there. You know when it stopped? They never actually got rid of their drug policy; they've always had a drug policy in place. What they did was abolish the random testing. They always retained the right to test you, even to this day. What happened was this. When Vince's business went down after Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, myself, and several other people jumped ship, Vince was losing some money at the time. Business was down, ratings were down. It was pretty much a cost-cutting measure because that was a half a million dollar a year program minimum. I think that number is correct. Basically, that's what it was. In WCW, they were drug testing, but it was pretty much hand-picked who they tested. I think I told you in a previous interview that I was never tested in WCW. And that's the first time I ever took any kind of a steroid. I was taking a little bit of testosterone.
Keller: How much of a difference do you think it's going to make visually based on your considerable experience using steroids, being around people who take steroids, and knowing also what can be taken other than steroids, whether it's HGH or supplements, when testing starts? If the testing is sophisticated enough to catch people, how much of a change are we going to see in body types and also performance? How much will it change what wrestlers can do and their recovery time?
Waltman: Well, first of all, you're talking to the wrong person if you're wanting to talk to somebody who looks at steroids in a negative light, although anything can be overdone to where they're harmful. I truly believe all of the negative things you hear about steroids, like in the Congressional hearings, all of these things they say about them in general are based on no research whatsoever, by the way. There was a great story. I was so happy when they did this story on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that actually talked about the fact that really and truly there are no deaths directly linked to steroids. Nobody has died and they have said it is absolutely, 100 percent because of steroid use or abuse. Done in therapeutic dosages, I think the guys should be allowed to take a little somethin' under doctor's supervision. Unfortunately - and I say unfortunately because the government will come down on doctors who even try to do something like that for their patients - you're going to have guys going to black market dealers for steroids and be getting stuff that could be contaminated or not necessarily what it says it is on the label and things like that. When you take high dosages of steroids, just like it makes your muscles a lot bigger, your heart is a muscle, Wade, and sometimes you'll see an enlarged heart on gosh, probably, half the wrestlers currently wrestling.
Keller: Why do you say you're not against steroids if it can enlarge your heart?
Waltman: Because I'm not against steroids. What I'm against, Wade, is people packing on a hundred extra pounds on their body that's not supposed to carry it.
Keller: So it's a matter of degree.
Waltman: A lot of guys in our industry, we're not reaching our peak until we're well into our thirties, and by that time, your natural level of testosterone is declining rapidly. And that's an important thing as far as your overall sense of well-being. Just like when a woman goes through menopause, she experiences a lot of mood swings and depression will set in. When your male hormone, testosterone, starts declining like that, a man does that, too. That's the whole mid-life crisis thing. All of that can be attributed to this.
Keller: Would you feel comfortable if at 18 years old, your son said, "Dad, I want to take steroids." Would you feel comfortable if he'd take your advice on how to take it, if he took steroids regularly for all of his adulthood for a job enhancement purpose?
Waltman: I think 18 years old can be old enough, but it can also be too young. It depends. I know when I was 18 years old - I was a late bloomer. I couldn't even grow a proper mustache or a beard when I was 18. I don't believe I was necessarily completely finished growing on my own. I think 18 is probably a little too young, for the most part. But if my son came to me at 21 years old and he was six-foot-somethin' - because I'm six-one - and he was obviously full grown and came to me with that, I would want him to know everything he could find out about it himself, but I wouldn't be alarmed, Wade. I wouldn't be alarmed. Somebody might be reading this going, "Oh my God! What a shitty thing to say in regards to your own son." I'm sorry. I know a ton about the subject. I can probably tell you that I know more than most medical doctors about it because most medical doctors are pretty ignorant to it.
Keller: A lot of medical doctors need to know a little bit about a lot of things.
Waltman: You'd be surprised at the average medical doctor's ignorance toward drug addiction. Of all things they should be up on.
Keller: Let me back up to this question then. How will steroid testing, based on your knowledge, change the look of WWE? Are there enough other legal supplements and other ways to work around it where there won't be a huge drop-off? Or is it really going to be a dramatic change?
Waltman: I think you're going to see a big, dramatic change. I think you're going to see a big, dramatic change in some of the guys. I think you're going to see some of the guys you assumed were probably taking a shit-load of steroids, you're going to find out they necessarily weren't because when you look at somebody, you think you can tell, okay, this guy must be doing a ton of shit and this guy must not be. I'm not going to name names, but of people I know throughout my career, the guys I know who have taken steroids, the guys you looked at that you didn't think necessarily were taking steroids were taking more than the (huge) guys. Like Lex Luger back then, when we were getting drug tested, he looked pretty damn good for a guy who was getting tested for anabolic steroids.
Keller: I've heard that from wrestlers over the years that you can't tell from looking. You can be 80 percent right by looking, but you can't be 100 percent right by looking.
Waltman: You might be able to tell for sure that somebody is taking something by looking at them. A muscle tissue looks a lot different when it's enhanced with certain steroids. There is a different look to it. But that doesn't mean you can tell whether they're abusing it or not.
Keller: You think the look will change. Will their performances change? Will this make it more difficult to handle the schedule, especially if they're unable to abuse prescription pills if the tests work.
Waltman: How are they going to tell a guy he's not able to use prescription medications?
Keller: Vince was asked that specifically, and he said they will be able to tell in the tests if a larger than prescribed amount of a drug was being used. Now maybe he's saying things that are unrealistic, but he said the tests were so sophisticated, they'd be able to tell what drugs were taken, how much, and even the time they were taken.
Waltman: Provided guys aren't trying to take counter-measures, if they're flushing their bodies with things that can act as a natural masking agent.
Keller: But they'd have to do that constantly in order to beat the tests if they're frequent and random.
Waltman: Wade, a person's drug habit is very important to them. I mean, I say that and we can chuckle about the statement - and you should. However, it's so very true. So very true. I remember when Dr. (Joel) Hacket, who was one of the doctors who showed up at the arenas and just wrote scripts left and right, got caught. One time when I broke my neck the first time and was at TV and in a tag match with Scott Hall, we were wrestling Jeff Jarrett and Bryan James. I landed wrong and I was out. I was unconscious and couldn't move. The assumption was, and it wasn't an unfair assumption, that I overdosed or something. They were ready to fire me and everything until they found out from the doctor that I was sitting there with a broken neck. In the mean time, Dave Hebner, who was an agent at the time, was instructed by J.J. Dillon, who was head of talent relations, to search my belongings and go through my briefcase and everything else. They found script bottles from Dr. Hackett in my possession. There was a big backlash because of that. I remember the first time I showed back up, I had some guys looking at me burning holes through me. They had such a pissed off glare at me. They were pissed at me because I was f--ing their drug supply up. God forbid, I damn sure wasn't going to do something like that on purpose. It's not my place to do it. It's not something I would have done, although it was a good thing he got caught because there were several guys who have died who were getting medication from this one doctor. Louie Spicolli comes to mind. I can think of several. There were a couple of doctors who would come around when I first started there. They would give out samples and things of that nature and would write prescriptions.
Keller: For profit or because they were...
Waltman: ...jock sniffers. Do you know what I mean?
Keller: I was saying the same thing as you said it.
Waltman: Did you? (laughs) They loved to be able to (be back there). I'll tell you what. During our time on the road, we were on the road so much, any free time we had on the road was very cherished. So when you got the entire click, minus Hunter Helmsley, who wasn't there at the time, going out of their way an hour and a half to a particular doctor's house for a cookout, and that cookout involved pictures and meet and greet and all of that, as much as we thought the guy was a nice guy, we went there to ensure that we were going to get our frickin' pills.
Keller: Do you think that it's a good idea what Vince is planning, or is it a matter of personal choice and people can learn from Eddie Guerrero and it's not Vince's job to do anything in response? Is this morally almost at the level of being an obligation for him to do this?
Waltman: (deep breath, pause) Wow. I think it's a kneejerk reaction, for sure. Whether it's the wrong reaction, I don't know. You're never doing something wrong when you're trying to prevent people from hurting themselves. I think it's the right thing to do, Wade. Even though no drug testing is going to be completely 100 percent fool proof, and even though Vince is saying, "Well, we can tell the levels of a certain medication" - because some medications have different half lifes and some are in and out of you a lot quicker - it can't do anything but help some people who might be there who are in big trouble right now and they're slipping underneath the radar. I always said in the past that a random drug testing program wasn't really necessary because those people who are going to have problems are going to stick out like a sore thumb anyhow. If you went back and looked, you'd probably find me saying that word for word. But, sometimes in our lives we change our minds. You know? Our opinions aren't always the same now as they were before, just like some people when they're younger, are left wing liberals, and when they start making money, all of a sudden they become Republicans. I haven't been there in a while; I think there's probably a few guys up there that need this.
Keller: What do you think of the term "death watch" (when a wrestler is considered in a rough enough physical state to be potentially near dropping dead)?
Waltman: Well, I've been on it. Shit, I've been high up on that list before. You know what I don't like is when I go on the Internet and see on some message boards where people are taking bets on who's going to die next. That type of thing where it gets so trivialized that "so and so is going to die next." But, I mean, how did it get that name? Because there are people worried about somebody dying.
Keller: What does the term mean to you?
Waltman: That means that someone is in trouble and in a place where they're probably not able get themselves out.
Keller: It means their friends and colleagues, when they look at them, any given time that they're around them, it crosses their minds that this might be the last time they see them. That's the depth that they've reached.
Waltman: If somebody's on death watch, you need to do something about it. I can tell you this much. I'm not going to tell you the particular wrestler this is concerning, but there is one in particular - one guy who to this point as far as I know has done the best job of sobering up and staying sober, and he may or may not even know that I did this. There was one instant in particular. It was kind of toward the end of the run with the whole DX thing. God, I almost want to tell you who the guy was. I can't imagine he'd mind. I was in a position where I had to decide whether I was going to break the age-old code of the gladiator of being the stooge or pretty much not doing anything while I saw somebody who was going to die without a doubt. When I say somebody was going to die, you can f---in' believe that's the point they were at because I've seen everything, Wade. I'll just say it. During William Regal's first run in WWE, he was a complete mess. I would be driving and he and Road Dogg would be in the back already passed out by the time I got into the parking lot. So Road Dogg is lying in bed totally overdosed on pills. I just listened to him go off on his wife on the phone. It was very, very disturbing because at this point I was doing well. I was smoking my weed every night, so I wasn't doing anything serious. I hadn't taken pills at that point for probably five years. I was pretty much sober, not drinking or anything. This night in particular it got to the point I was crying. I was so upset with what I saw. I decided I was going to live with it. If I was being a stooge, I'd live with being a stooge. I called Vince and said, "This guy going to die, Vince. He need helps." I don't know to this day if Regal knows it was me who alerted Vince to this. Vince should have known anyhow, when guys are passed out at TV. After that, (Regal) was upset they were making him go to rehab at the time. He didn't have a problem as far as he knew. We all are in denial at that stage. And there was one other person I said something about, too. If somebody wants to look at me know as a stooge, (go ahead) - even if Regal looks at this and gets pissed at me and is just finding out; I don't think he would be pissed. It was very hard for me do that, Wade. It was so hard for me to get on the phone and call Vince McMahon and tell him that.
Keller: I don't think a lot of people relate to that. In the cover story I wrote on Eddie Guerrero's death, I said: "It's one thing to show how much you care about a colleague by crying on the air after he dies. It's another to care enough about someone to do what it takes while he's alive to keep him from dying - even at the expense of box office receipts, storyline interruptions, and being deemed pushy, nosy, or a nark." I understand the locker room mentality, but there comes a point where the honor code is leading to guys dying.
Waltman: Yeah, where the f--- is the honor in watching your friends die because you don't want to break the code of the gladiator and don't want to be a stooge. Tattoo the word "stooge" across my forehead for all I care if it means (saving) my friend - or even if he's not a dear friend of mine, if you're in the wrestling business, even if you're the biggest asshole, you're still a brother.
Keller: Many of the people who shed tears for Eddie during the Raw Tribute show knew for a while something wasn't right about Eddie.
Waltman: Yeah, a lot of those tears may have been tears of guilt as well. Who knows? I'm not the one to say. This has been a hard one. When we talked about this before, I said the younger generation of guys haven't been showing this type of problem. Eddie was one of the last guys of a thowback era, a guy who came up through the business with all of the pills and the drugs and the drinking and all that... I just want people to remember that.
Keller: I don't know if you've heard this, but WWE.com published that Nick "Eugene" Dinsmore was suspended and sent to treatment for overdosing on Somas. He's not part of the older generation.
Sean Waltman: There are always going to be exceptions.
Keller: You were around during an era when there were a lot of guys who were being helped up to their hotel room because they were pilled up. There was a lot of stuff going on in WCW and a whole generation for whom it was a lifestyle. Ten or twenty years earlier it was booze; excessive drinking and driving going from one town to another. But this generation, the 30 and under generation, doesn't quite have the same problems the previous generations did. Not that it's perfect, but I think they've learned from the past.
Waltman: Yes, that's true. One last thing regarding whether you'll see a difference in wrestlers on TV. Will you see the incredible shrinking wrestler? There are clinics, like anti–aging clinics - there's an age (minimum) where you can go to these clinics and they'll put you on a therapeutic dosage of steroids and growth hormone that will help them. I'm sure that's probably an option for some of the guys. There shouldn't be a problem with that.
Keller: Would it be enough to make a difference in bodytype if they had a testosterone patch or a shot once a month?
Waltman: The patch isn't a very good option. But going to your doctor every couple of weeks and getting 200 milligrams - basically a CC of testosterone injection - is probably the best way to do it. Testosterone is a natural substance in your body. There's testosterone and there's epitestosterone, which is a mirror image. If you're taking testosterone injections, taking too much, your testosterone will go up, but your epitestosterone will stay the same. So there's a ratio they test for. So there's a way of doing it. There's a way the guys can still get some of the benefits of these drugs, and do it safely and do it legally and ethically.
Keller: How are you doing at this point? The last people saw of you was a disappearing act leading up to the TNA PPV and an unofficial suspension of TNA. Where do you really stand? What happened or what do you care to talk about?
Waltman: I'll tell you this. Without going into exact detail. I was doing great, obviously. People were talking about how I was making a great comeback in my career. I had good matches. People were going, "Waltman still has it." Yeah, he still does, but guess what? He still has the disease of drug addiction, too. No matter how you're doing, as soon as you let your guard down, something will be there. I fell. It took one time, Wade. One time. It caused me to miss a show. And the truth of the matter is, I'm almost glad I did not show up in the condition I was in. I'm working hard, Wade, on this. It's never, ever going to go away. That's what a lot of people don't realize about addiction. It's a f–––ing life–long addiction. Once you cross that line, there's no going back.
Keller: Describe what it is? How can someone not addicted to drugs relate to what it's like to be a drug addict who is attempting to remain in the recovery stage, the clean stage?
Waltman: It's considered a disease. It's more of a mental illness. It's like manic–depression. There is a physical, genetic part to it. There's a physical addiction. It doesn't take long to get rid of the physical part. It's the psychological part. If you want to compare it to something else, it's like somebody getting cancer - an aggressive form of cancer, but they get to remission. If they're not careful, it will relapse. The cancer will come back. And when it comes back, it comes back full force and it does not take very long for it come back. You can be as bad off in a week as it took you years to get to. It's just such a complicated thing to talk about. It's hard for me to really sit here and break it down in a limited amount of time.
Keller: But what is it at that moment when you make a personal choice to take a drug as a drug addict when you've been away from it for a while, what is the mental state?
Waltman: Do you want to know what it is? Your mind will trick you. In rehab circles and AA and the 12 step circles, they call the disease cunning, baffling, and powerful. It will override your rational thought, Wade. You've got to keep yourself out of situations that you know are dangerous.
Keller: Do you think it would help anyone at any stage of their career - whether they're non–users, just starting to use, or addicted to pills - if Vince McMahon mandated systematically that every wrestler took three months off per year either three or four week periods several times a year or a three month stretch at once? It could be rotated where at any given time five or six guys are at home?
Waltman: I think for the overall physical health and state of mind and health of a guy's home life trying to keep a family together, it's a very prudent thing to do. In the long run, it will save Vince a lot of money. It will save Vince a lot of money from a selfish standpoint. As for guys who are currently using, who have a habit but may not be addicts, I'll tell you that I'd use as much when I was off as I did when I was on the road.
Keller: Are there guys who use pills because they need a release from the pressure on the road. It becomes an escape. You know as a wrestler, the only end in sight is getting fired. And the only way to avoid getting fired is to stay on, get up when you're supposed to and get to sleep when you're supposed to.
Waltman: Or getting hurt. Seriously injured.
Keller: Sometimes you get hurt and then you get fired. And if you knew coming around the bend that there was light at the end of the tunnel, and it wasn't 18 years from now or six years from now of grueling non–stop life on the road, but for the rest of your WWE career you were going to get two or three months off in big chunks throughout the year where you can be with your family, go away on vacation, skip going to the gym for a few weeks before having to get ready to get back on TV - would that be a major factor in guys mentally going, "I don't need this artificial substance to make it through the next week because I have time off coming up soon"? That's one of the biggest things that can be done, and I've written about it for more than decade.
Waltman: I'm in total agreement with you on that. I'm not going to go so far as to say it will make this humongous difference in the whole drug issue. But it will make a difference in the guys that are kind of teetering on feeling like they need to take this, but they're not guys who would otherwise be a drug addict. In that case, they could only benefit, Wade.
Keller: Vince McMahon throws the word "family" around a lot, especially when wrestlers die. I don't think how Vince treats his family is a good example because he had a family of workaholics - but when you talk about people as family, with it comes a certain responsibility. I think that means giving wrestlers more than two–and–a–half day sustained time off the road to be with their families unless they're injured. And when wrestlers are injured, they're stressed out and worried; it's not the same thing as a systematic vacation and break from your job.
Waltman: I do know this about Vince. If you go to him and say, "I'm really burned out and I need to take a break," he's not going to say to you, "Sorry, you're drawing me too much money." In all fairness to Vince McMahon, it's a thing that guys have in their heads where their afraid to ask for it.
Keller: That's why I say it should be mandatory. Because wrestlers are going to say, "No way, I don't want this. It cuts into my pay. I'm going to lose my spot." But if everyone had to do it, and everybody's pay went down equally...
Waltman: And then it would give them a chance to adjust storylines accordingly.
Keller: If it was Steve Austin at his hottest, when he had the title, yeah, there would be an exception for say only the World Champion. But then they'd get an extended period of time off after the title reign ends and rematches take place.
Waltman: Look at Undertaker. Do you know why he has longevity? Because he takes these breaks. He's on one right now. And he's all the better for it, too. I remember ten years ago when he was thinking he wouldn't last another two years. That was ten years ago.
To kind of finish out what you were asking about myself personally, when I missed that show, I just had this feeling of not only did I let myself down, I disappointed everybody in my life. My children. I felt like what I worked so hard for in the prior months in getting the faith back from people in the industry, I flushed it down the toilet basically. I had to start from scratch again. I accept that, Wade. I can't expect anybody to be able to rely on me. It's a tough thing to have to live with. If I keep on, hopefully I can. I still have a lot to offer. I'm a long way from being f–––in' washed up physically. I can still go out there and do the same stuff. Not if I'm going to be a f––– up. I pretty much have f–––ed up some of the best opportunities anyone has been given in this wrestling industry. That's me. That was me. God willing, I'm not going out like this, Wade. I refuse!
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PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. PWTorch.com launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.
He has conducted "Torch Talk" insider interviews with Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Eric Bischoff, Jesse Ventura, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, Mick Foley, Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Bruno Sammartino, Goldberg, more.
He has interviewed big-name players in person incluiding Vince McMahon (at WWE Headquarters), Dana White (in Las Vegas), Eric Bischoff (at the first Nitro at Mall of America), Brock Lesnar (after his first UFC win).
He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)
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