AS I SEE IT - 1/28/2000
by: Bob Magee
Welcome this week to Bad Blood Wrestling, The Most Electrifying
Newsboard, and the UK site The Chair Shot, all of which have begun carrying AS I SEE IT
"Growing up a boy in the Duncum family meant being tough, whether it was standing up to bullies who questioned whether they were as tough as their professional-wrestling father, or surviving a 20-foot fall into a creekbed that left a gash on the head and a leg broken in four places. It meant sucking it up and moving on.
Today, it means it more than ever. Monday morning, Bobby Duncum Jr., who followed in his father's steps as a college and pro football player and a pro wrestler, was found dead at his home outside Leander. Duncum, who was on medical leave from World Championship Wrestling to rehabilitate a shoulder injury at the time of his death, was 34 years old.
'I'm still a little shocked,' said brother Duane, 18 months Bobby's junior and his only sibling. 'It hit me hard this morning. It's not easy to go over and set up a funeral for a 34-year-old. It seems like such a waste....' " (Austin American-Statesman, January 25th)
Such a waste. Indeed, such a waste.
I am so sick of writing this kind of column again and again and again.
Yet another wrestler, Bobby Duncum, Jr. joins the list of those who have died young as the results of drug use. Yet another wrestler leaves a wife and young children. Yet another wrestler's death leaves friends and fellow wrestlers saddened.
The following quote from last week's column is eerie, when I talked about how important it was to appreciate wrestlers and what they do. It was eerie because its prophecy came true again.
"...Or think about the stories you read about wrestlers who develop addictions to somas or other painkilling drugs, in order to deal with the physical pain of working night in and night out...the pain of being away from families...the pain of not having a normal life.
Think of those who died (directly or otherwise) as a result of that drug use: Jay Youngblood, Rick McGraw, David (Von Erich) Adkisson, Mike Adkisson, Chris Adkisson, Kerry Adkisson, Buzz Sawyer, Eddie Gilbert, Art Barr, Brian Pillman, Louie Spicolli, Rick Rude, and more..."
Indeed, one more. According to reports on Monday night on the Pro Wrestling Torch website, as well as the Wrestling Observer's site, Duncum was found dead at 5:00 am Monday as the result of an apparent drug and alcohol overdose.
Reports from stations KEYE-42 and KTBC Fox 7 in Austin mentioned that Duncum recently had gone through a divorce, with the KTBC report stating that Duncum was under suspension from WCW. There has been no official confirmation and denial of the validity of that statement from WCW.
Since I started writing this column in 1997, I've had to write about the deaths of Eddie Gilbert, Art Barr (in the past), Brian Pillman, Louie Spicolli, Rick Rude, and others who died as the result of drug use. I've written about friends in the wrestling business, both in front of the camera and behind it, who have dealt with drug addictions.
I've written about seeing percosets handed out by a wrestler (which were identified as such while the wrestler was doing it) openly in the lobby of a hotel, in front of hotel employees, fans, and anyone else who cared to look.
Each time I ask what it is going to take to get the wrestling industry to show some degree of responsibility. I'm getting tired of reading and writing the obituaries of men far too young to die.
It's time for WCW, the WWF, and ECW to make an effort to enact REAL drug testing. NOW.
By that, I mean LEGITIMATE drug testing. I don't mean the farce that results in stars being conveniently leaked times when testing will take place, but REAL honest to God testing. I don't mean the farce that allows dirty tests to be ignored if it will interfere with a major storyline and PPV main event.
It's time to start a policy of universal random testing within wrestling companies for the use of somas and other muscle relaxers, for painkillers, for cocaine, for Nu-Bain and other narcotics; as well as for steroids and other growth-enhancing substances...testing for the drugs being used by wrestlers today on an all too frequent basis.
Somas are one of the most widely used drug by wrestlers, used both to relieve physical pain from ringwork, as well as for "recreational" purposes. The question is whether or not WWF, WCW and ECW have the WILL to test for them, not whether many drugs can be tested for scientifically.
As one example, contrary to what Eric Bischoff once claimed in a PRODIGY chat two years ago, after the death of Louie Spicolli, somas CAN be tested for. After Bischoff made his outrageous claims two years ago, Fritz Capp of PWBTS and I found, quite easily, (through online research and a few e-mails) companies that DO testing for somas, how much the tests cost, and the means by which the presence of somas are detected. One has to wonder why two people on a wrestling website can discover information readily available to anyone, but a major conglomerate such as Time-Warner-Turner cannot.
Firing or suspending someone so they won't "die on my watch" (a phrase uttered by a promoter about a wrestler he fired who wound up employed in another major company shortly afterward, and died from a soma overdose shortly after that) won't help one bit. It'll just cause a wrestler to deny that he or she has a drug problem and more effort in concealing it than in ENDING the drug problem; just to save their jobs. It'll just cause more wrestlers to die.
It is time for Time-Warner-Turner, WWF Entertainment, and ECW to enact an employee assistance program to allow for drug/alcohol counseling of workers and office employees. Employee Assistance Programs are a common practice all over corporate America. These programs involve making counseling services available through a third-party who will not disclose the nature of the counseling to the employer, but will provide services that may save a life.
If these companies wait any longer, it will finally happen: the night when one of the major names of the business dies live on a major TV show or PPV. The business will be changed forever, and it will be too late.
The mainstream advertisers will scramble away as fast as they legally can. The media will train their guns on the business. Government agencies will be breathing down the neck of the wrestling industry. The days when Phil Mushnick and the Parents Television Council were the worst enemies wrestling had will be memories of the past.
If wrestling won't handle this problem, then I have a suggestion that many people won't like. If wrestling won't enact random universal drug testing, it's time for states to consider re-regulating professional wrestling under athletic commissions or any other appropriate professional regulatory body under the law of its state; much as the state of Oregon does.
Wrestling fans will undoubtedly say, that if states do enact such regulations, that WCW, WWF and ECW won't run shows in their states, as has happened with WCW and the WWF in Oregon. If such a strategy were attempted, the key to any possibility of success would be getting states like New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Georgia, and California to enact such regulations.
WWF, WCW, and ECW won't stop running shows in states like New York and New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Georgia, and California. Period. There is too much money to be made.
While states like Oregon can be boycotted by these companies with a relatively small financial loss as an attempt to blackmail them into dropping regulations; there is no way the same can be done in these states. If the wrestling business continues in its present path of refusing to police drug use within its locker rooms, it may be time for states like the ones mentioned above to step in and do it for them.
Further, stockholders of AOL/Time-Warner-Turner and WWF Entertainment ought to start asking why these steps aren't being taken. Stockholders who don't like the answers that they get, should consider if they wish to continue owning stocks of these publicly held companies.
It's up to the wrestling business, once and for all, to decide if it will get serious about drug abuse. It's time for them to decide if they give a damn about their employees. It's time for them to decide if they give a damn about their companies and their long-term futures.
It's time for Bill Busch, Vince McMahon, and Paul Heyman to decide if they will by their inaction, let another wrestler die.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)