(Bump in the Road is a multi-part story detailing my attempts to get into wrestling school and the wrestling business. Part One discusses my growing up on wrestling and some brief backyard wrestling. Part Two dives into my brief time in Halifax, Nova Scotia and a burgeoning wrestling school.)
After my nervous breakdown at the end of 1999, I moved back in with my parents. By this point, they’d moved to Fredericton, New Brunswick. As I said in Part 1, that’s where I’d attended St. Thomas University. So I had some familiarity with the city. Honestly, I struggled to find reasons to even get out of bed as depression hit me harder and harder. For a while, I worked overnight shifts at the local Ultramar gas station. It got me out of the house, but that’s about it. My girlfriend broke up with me during the Christmas holidays, leaving me for a guy she only knew online. That’s a long story. I also didn’t really have much in the way of a social life since I didn’t know many people in Fredericton.
My depression only worsened. At that point, the most inane, tiny thing would finally break me. That silly, mundane thing that broke me occurred on February 27, 2000, the night of WWF’s No Way Out.
As a wrestling fan, my two biggest inspirations were Bret Hart and Mick Foley. For Bret, it was the Superman-like level of integrity that he presented, at least on screen. He also wrestled a safer, more technical style than other wrestlers who would do some of the most insane things to get over.
It’s ironic, then, that my other inspiration was Mick Foley. Here’s a guy that for all accounts and purposes doesn’t have the “look” of a wrestler. He wasn’t muscular – quite the opposite. He wasn’t clean cut, tall, or handsome (at least to some, including himself). But he had the heart and the guts to persevere and make it in the business. Unfortunately, he did so by severely harm himself. He took insane risks to get over with the audience. Injuries included more than half a dozen concussions, countless stitches, broken limbs, and even losing a part of his ear. Around this time, Foley had published his first autobiography, of which I voraciously read. Some of my friends didn’t think I looked like a wrestler, but then they’d say neither did Mick Foley. In terms of look – short, kind of pudgy, not really great looking – I was compared with Mick. But my passion for the business mirrored his, my friends said. It was those kinds of comments that made me think, “Okay, maybe I can make it in the biz.”
So on February 27, I managed to get off early at work, race downtown, and watch the Royal Rumble at a local bar. Back then, watching pay-per-views at the bars was still an option, much like today’s bars showcase UFC PPVs. I miss those days, honestly. Either way, there was no way I was missing Foley’s potentially final match.
See, at the time, Mick was retiring. It was inevitable. His body was broken down and his memory wasn’t as sharp (when he flew home, he sometimes had to call and ask his wife for directions from the airport). I could understand that. However, before this PPV, the story was this: if Mick lost, he would retire. If he won, he’d retire the following night, forfeiting the title. WWF would then hold a tournament to crown the next champion. Personally, I was stoked for the latter option because one, we would see Foley win his last match (his most memorable matches aren’t filled with wins) and I love a good tournament.
Any knowledgeable wrestling fan knows this didn’t happen. The match itself was fantastic (I think; I haven’t re-watched it since), but I was completely deflated when Foley lost.
I drove home that night, but not before going for a drive around town. For me, it wasn’t just the silly thing of an onscreen character losing. This was a guy who I knew a lot about on a personal life through his behind-the-scenes interviews and autobiography. This was a guy I not only saw a lot of myself in (especially things like being unpopular and bullied in school), but idolized as an inspiration.
And I just watched him lose his very last match (which wasn’t his last match; I should’ve known since his mentor was Terry “I retire every two years” Funk). After everything else I’d been through and everything that I felt – or didn’t feel – it was that last thing that finally broke me. If I wasn’t already in a very bad place in my life, I would’ve been disappointed, but shrugged and accepted it. There are things in my entertainment that have disappointed me or upset me before (and since), but this was one final camel-breaking straw.
I went home for a short while, having a depressive rant while chatting online with Shawn, an old friend from PEI. From what I remember, he seemed to know just how far gone I was because he was almost begging me to just go to bed. I’d feel better in the morning, he said.
Instead, I left the house again – by now, it was around 2:00 AM – and drove to the Princess Margaret Bridge. I got out, left my wallet in the passenger seat (so the police could identify who went missing), and straddled the wall. I looked down at the water and considered over and over why I should just let go and jump. I shivered in the cold night. The water swirled under the ice, little unfrozen pools of water scattered around. I wondered if the ice would break and I’d drown or if it wouldn’t and I’d just die bleeding on the ice.
At one point, someone slowed down in their car and shouted, “Hey! Are you okay?” out the window. I didn’t respond. Or maybe I did and shouted, “Leave me alone!” back. I don’t remember. The next thing I remember was seeing red and blue flashing lights. I remember two officers getting out and walking towards me. I definitely remember not even looking up, crying, and telling them to leave me alone. Then I remember one of them grabbing me from behind around the waist and pulling me away from the bridge’s divider wall. I didn’t fight. I broke down into heavy sobs as they led me – uncuffed – to their car and to the hospital.
I spent two weeks in the psychiatric ward. The funniest thing is that during that time, I started doing some creative writing. Sort of. I asked my parents to bring in some role-playing books to have something to read. They were part of Palladium Books Heroes Unlimited series. I started creating characters for what would later be my own superhero universe. My first novel is loosely set in that universe. It took over a decade to get from there to here, but the ideas started forming there.
As far as wrestling school? The dream was gone. I gave up on trying and tried figuring out something else I could do with my life. Eventually, I met a girl. We fell in love, and moved in together. I went back to school and started studying English Literature, where I met one of my biggest inspirations and mentors, John Muise. He helped hone my writing skills and inspired me to write my first novella, which would be the first major leap in my superhero universe creation (and eventually, almost a decade later, the creation of Dilbert Pinkerton).
In a lot of ways, that night wound up being one of the best things to happen for my writing. It not only started what would later become my own superhero universe, but would eventually inspire what many call my best piece of writing to date: The Never Ending Battle.
I still watched wrestling, but my interest faded. Owen Hart’s deadly accident occurred the previous year. A slew of wrestlers that I grew up watching in the 80s (and some even more recent) died. Then infamously, Chris Benoit killed his wife and son, then himself. On top of hearing about all these deaths, I learned how dirty the business was behind the scenes (I learned that a bit from Halifax). All this played a role in my growing distaste for the business as a whole. I still watched it, but it wasn’t with the same passion as I had before.
Of course, I didn’t realize that by 2007, my life would get a major overhaul when I moved to Toronto, Ontario.