Sting and Wrestling with Loss

Dan Rice
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When Violent People was first conceived as an idea. I immediately dove into brainstorming topics to write about. Some materialized into published pieces, ‘C & D Counties’ and ‘Hackenschmidt in Australia.’ Some remain works in progress, despite assurances to Sam I’m almost finished, like ‘Zandig vs Lobo.’ Yet among these topics, one loomed large. I had nothing pre-written and no big ideas, but it seemed obvious I should cover it somehow, “Stings Final Match.”

The problem is, Sting has been influencing and affecting pro wrestling nerds for nearly four decades. Many more talented writers than me are covering this weekend. There are plenty of fans who have watched Sting longer and plenty of far better match reviewers covering Sting’s long illustrious career in great detail. I had decided it was best to sit this one out. Not everyone has to cover everything.

Then I watched the February 21st episode of Dynamite. 

Sting revealed, in a moment of uncommon vulnerability, that seven days prior to Dynamite, his father had passed away. It made The Icon consider his own mortality. It made him seem human. This was undoubtedly one of the more effective promos in Sting’s career. This was not a side of wrestlers we usually witness. There was a rawness and realness that only true loss can provide. 

October 2nd, 2014

Every moment since that day, there has been a hole in the world. That is the day I lost my mother. She was a single mom, a fighter, the funniest woman I’ve ever met, and like Sting’s dad to him, she was my hero. Any ounce of good in me is because of her. She was my moral compass. Without that compass, I was lost in a sea of despair. It wasn’t just the day my mother stopped breathing. For quite a while it felt like the day that I did too. Grief is a pair of hands around your throat. It is all consuming. The first second you exhale and you momentarily forget your grief and the pain, you’re immediately struck by a jolt of guilt that shakes you to your core. How dare you? Why do you get to breathe in a world without her? 

My lip quivers thinking about it. Wrestling fans, they’re in my heart. The Little Stingers aren’t little anymore. They’re adults now. We’ve all grown together. We’ve been through all of this together.

Sting via Justin Barrasso SI

The fans and Sting’s connection to them are helping The Icon through this loss. His wrestling and his career has touched so many and in return that relationship is able to lift Sting from the depths of sorrow. 

Wrestling. It’s really, really stupid. If you can’t agree with me on that, please stop reading my writings. Somehow though, trivial as it is, it manages to be so much to so many of us. This isn’t in spite of its simplicity, but because of it. Somehow in the darkness of losing my mom, there was a glimmer of light—a source of solace and healing: professional wrestling.

Following the funeral I didn’t leave the house. Sure, I went to work; I went to the store, the bank, I even tried going to a friends house. I didn’t really leave my house though. My house was the one place I could be alone with my misery. In my home, I didn’t have to engage in the facade of life. I could sit in the knowledge that mother was gone and my life was over. 

I had fallen into an agonizing routine of sleep, work, and tears; I was unwilling to break free from it. Then November 28th rolled around. It was the day of AIW’s Hell on Earth X. At this point in my life, I didn’t really skip many AIW shows. This was also AIW’s farewell to the famed Turners Hall. I had lost my mom and AIW had lost their home. There was no choice, but to go. So, despite some initial reluctance, I snapped out of my routine of despair long enough to go to a wrestling show.

I’m probably the first person to describe an AIW show with this word, but it was transformative. It sounds silly to preach the healing powers of professional wrestling, but here we are. The simplicity of wrestling is that you can just shut your brain off to everything else and just watch it. Despite what Ice Cube’s son would have you believe, you don’t need video packages for everything. You don’t need your hand held. Wrestling when done right is the story. Big guy vs little guy. Good vs evil. 

I’ve never rewatched Hell on Earth X and probably never will. It was exactly what I needed that night. For three hours all I thought about was wrestling. My heart got to take a break and I could breathe. I was mad not at the world for taking my mom, but at Matt Cross for siding with EC3 or Chris Sabin for getting the win with a handful of tights. I couldn’t be confused about the complexities of life and death, when I’m confused why AIW continued to book Veda Scott. There was no worrying about the first Christmas without my heart. All I could worry about was if Eddie Kingston was actually going to kill Ethan Page in their dog collar match. 

My greatest fear in sharing this story is that it may be misconstrued as trivializing the pain of loss. The wrestling on that show and the community of fans in that building brought me back to life. Even if it was brief, it was a necessary distraction—a temporary escape from the pain that threatened to consume me. 

I’m thankful for wrestling and AIW. It’s why I always try in vain to defend them, even in their lowest moments. They were there for mine.

Today, as I reflect on my journey of loss and recovery, I am grateful for pro wrestling. It has always been my companion through the darkest of days, a source of comfort and inspiration when I needed it most. And though the pain of losing my mother will always be a part of me, I breathe more and more each day.

As Sting prepares for his final match, I am filled with anticipation, knowing that it will be a moment of celebration and reflection. Though our experiences may differ, his connection with fans and his dedication to wrestling serve as a testament to the enduring power of this seemingly trivial passion. Sting is not me and his father is not my mother. They had their own relationship and I can’t speak for them. Sting is a hero to millions of fans out there. Sting’s father gets to live on through Sting and his connection to fans and through wrestling. This silly thing we love can be great. I think this weekend, Sting’s final match, will be one of those times.

In loving memory of Sue Rice. Thanks for always taking me to shows, sending money orders through the mail to strangers for VHS tapes, and putting up with this stupid, stupid thing that gave your son joy.

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Host of Violent Volumes, co-host of Talking Tourneys, and all around violent person.