AS I SEE IT - 10/05/2003:
Another chapter to a never-ending story...
by: Bob Magee
I'm getting SO damned tired of writing about this subject...
I'm getting tired of reading about men and women in wrestling ruining their lives.
I'm getting tired of seeing men and women younger than I am dying.
Yet here I am again... writing about one more young, strong, talented wrestler dying as the result of drug use.
On September 25th, the bodies of 36-year-old Anthony Durante (better known as Pitbull #2), and his 29-year-old girlfriend Dianna Hulsey were found, after apparently suffering drug overdoses. Both Durante and Hulsey had needle marks on their bodies. A substance believed to be the painkiller OxyContin was found in the house.
Further, the couple's two young children, aged 21 months and 8 months old were left alone in the house with the bodies for at least 24-48 hours. The 21 month old boy, apparently trying to feed himself, had left a trail of food from room to room, with a spilled quart of milk, chicken nuggets and bits of bread he had pulled from the refrigerator. A yellow toy truck sat on the living room floor. The 8 month old was found in the crib. Both children were apparently unharmed.
Fortunately, the children are now living with loving grandparents, according to published reports.
I've seen so many of these deaths, that it should make me numb. I've known some of them personally. But for some reason... this time I'm pissed off. This one makes me so damned angry I could scream.
I remember Anthony from as far back as his days working New Jersey indies in the 1990s with Gary Wolf as The Pitbulls... and his days in ECW. Wolfe and Durante joined ECW in 1994, and left in 1997. In September 1995, The Pitbulls won the ECW World Tag Team Titles from Raven and Stevie Richards in one of the greatest matches in ECW history, a 2 out of 3 falls classic that still holds up today. In 1996, Durante won the ECW Television Title, beating Shane Douglas.
Anthony is part of what's still one of the most memorable spots I ever saw, back on July 13, 1996 at the ECW Arena in a four way TV title match with Chris Jericho, Shane Douglas and Too Cold Scorpio. Durante was ready to superbomb (top rope powerbomb) Jericho when in mid-flight, Jericho whipped Durante around in a picture perfect rana. The match was described by Chris Jericho as one of his favorite matches ever.
He was also part of another of my favorite angles ever later that same year; as Gary Wolf (Pitbull #1) had accidentally suffered a broken neck in a match with Shane Douglas, after taking a single arm DDT. Wolf had a halo surgically implanted to help heal the break. As always in a good angle, reality was written into a storyline. Thus, in a October 1996 match with Douglas taking on Anthony Durante seeking revenge for his partner, Gary Wolf was at ringside cheering him on. Douglas jerked the halo of Wolf, and nearly incited a riot at the ECW Arena, with people trying to go over the rail at Douglas.
I also remember what happened pre-show... as a handful of us that night knew what was up. We'd seen Gary Wolf's halo rather loose at the hotel before the show. I quietly asked Anthony "is something up here... that looks WAY too loose to protect Gary...". He smiled, and said "I know you're smart...so I'm not going to try and BS you. But just keep things to yourself and don't spoil the fun for later tonight". Needless to say, I obliged.
Gary Wolf and Anthony Durante were fired by ECW after their arrest on July 2, 1997 on three counts of steroid and marijuana trafficking from a Grand Jury indictment, out of charges filed in 1995. Both Wolf and Durante received three years probation and several thousand dollars in fines.
Durante largely dropped out of the wrestling business, and put his efforts into mixed martial arts with the Canadian based IFC in 1999 and 2000. Wolfe has most recently been wrestling again in 3PW, winning the promotion's first Heavyweight Championship. He was scheduled to appear on the promotion's cancelled Cherry Hill, NJ show last Friday night.
But the real issue... yet again, is drugs within wrestling.
I've talked about them so many times in the AS I SEE IT column I've lost count... with the endless litany of wrestling names who've died from drug overdoses, or from the long term effects of drug use: Jay Youngblood... Rick McGraw... David (Von Erich) Adkisson... Kerry (Von Erich) Adkisson...Gino Hernandez... Ed "The Bull" Gantner... John Studd... Buzz Sawyer... Art Barr... Eddie Gilbert... Brian Pillman... Louie Spicolli... Rick Rude... Bobby Duncum, Jr. ...Davey Boy Smith..."Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig..."Bruiser" Brian Cox... Alex "Big Dick Dudley" Rizzo... Dave Casanova... Chris Adams... and Elizabeth Hulette.
I've often told a story in AS I SEE IT about an incident I personally witnessed about an ECW worker handing out percosets at the door of the Stadium Holiday Inn hotel bar like they were candy in front of fans, bar employees, and security guards. This (at the time) well-known worker has largely disappeared from the wrestling business. What's worse is that I know of at least one wrestling writer that has a column in the can, already written for what they assume will be this wrestler's eventual death due to drug use.
Or this story... about the independent wrestler known for previous drug/alcohol use who came up to a worker "in the office" at a small indy show who had some sort of stomach medicine. The wrestler came out of the locker room, looked at the office worker taking the pills... and said: "What do those do to you?". Those of us standing there were uncomfortably silent. Even he stopped and took a step back and realized just what he'd said.
It's hardly news to anyone reading this that too many wrestlers (and people outside wrestling for that matter) who think they're immortal. They think they can use painkillers or muscle relaxers to ease the very real pain of working night after night...or use various growth-enhancing substances to get big and stay big... or use any one of a dozen other "recreational" drugs... and think that nothing will happen to them. It's always someone else it happens to.
Making this worse is the fact that painkillers are so readily available that it's scary. They're so easily available online that nearly every day I get 5 or 6 spam e-mails promising me easily available Ambien, somas, Xanax, vicodin, or other addictive painkillers and tranquilizers. No doubt many of you get these spam e-mails as well. There seems to be little or no real attempt to control this sort of thing online, which allows those who are addicted yet another easy way to get these drugs, a perfect solution for those addicted to them.
Hell, even right-wing talk show host and political commentator Rush Limbaugh... is being investigated for allegedly buying thousands of addictive painkillers from a black-market drug including , Lorcet, hydrocodone... and OxyContin, the very drug that is reported to have killed Anthony Durante.
PWBTS's Eric Walker said it well in his report on Philadelphia independent wrestling last week:
"...Do you need a trip to the emergency room to get your stomach pumped? Do you need to wake up and not know where you are or how you got there? Do you need to WATCH someone die in front of you?
I have one. Imagine an arena. 1000+ fans. The lights, the music, the signs, everything. Then imagine the locker room clearing out and surrounding the ring. Then imagine this... "Ladies and Gentlemen, recently wrestling lost one of it's greatest stars. (Fill in your name) passed away last week at the age of (your age). The world of wrestling mourns his passing. Please rise, as we honor (your name) with a ten bell salute."
Then imagine all the people you worked with, standing there with their heads bowed, as the bell tolls 10 times FOR YOU!! Imagine a ten bell salute in YOUR honor. Then imagine that the show will start as scheduled, as you start to become a distant memory.
Is that the legacy you want to leave behind? Being in your 20's or 30's and getting a ten bell salute because of a choice you made?
If you are having problems controlling your usage of legal or illegal drugs, you can get help. Go to The National List Of Treatment Facilities find one in your state AND GET HELP!!!!
When I've suggested that State Athletic Commissions do something to justify their existence besides telling wrestling promoters what they can and can't do in the ring, or sucking up the State's percentage of the evening's gate (as well as grabbing "tips" from promoters)...that they do something useful and actually start testing wrestlers for performance-enhancing and painkilling drugs, I'm told it's impossible...that it's a violation of personal freedoms... and so forth.
Then give me another solution.
Vince McMahon has shown he isn't going to do it... except in a handful of cases.
Independent promoters struggling to pay their workers each night aren't going to do it.
And it's become all too obvious that wrestlers won't stop the use of the drugs that all too often kill them. Names like Eddie Guerrero and Steven Regal, wrestlers who acknowledged their addictions and dealt with them are far more rare than the names I listed above.
So unless this is done by State Athletic Commissions... I'll be writing about another wrestler found dead. I'll be writing about his or her fans and friends mourning his loss, and I'll be asking yet again why someone isn't doing something about this problem.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)