I’ve been writing about wrestling for…well, longer than I care to think about, and when you’ve been doing this for as long as I have, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid having to write about wrestling deaths. They happen far too often to people who are far too young to be written about in this way, and the crazy part is that, over time, you get numb to it. That’s not to say you don’t care, or you consciously minimize the fact that a human being is dead, but I guess it’s kind of like working in an emergency room and, after seeing your 300th gunshot wound victim get carted in, that edge you felt when you first started seeing them is gone.
The first major “wrestling death” that I can recall was Brian Pillman, I was just out of high school when that happened, and I’ll be honest, my first thought was to question if this was legit or an angle. I think it says a lot about the wrestling business that an 18 year old fan who was only semi-internet smart at the time would have that thought, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone, but obviously it was real. A couple of years after that was Owen Hart, and I don’t think there’s many people who weren’t stunned by the way that went down, not to mention the aftershocks it had on the business.
The years went on, and as more and more names piled up, it went from “Holy crap, I don’t even know what to say” to “Oh my god, did you hear about what happened to Wrestler X?” to “Ah, man, that sucks.” and eventually you get to the point where your reaction kind of sounds like “Well, there’s the third one this week.” That’s not to say there weren’t deaths like Eddy Guerrero, Chris Benoit, or the Ultimate Warrior (just to name a few) whose deaths hit people hard and/or made headlines and/or stood out for some other reason. But loathe as I am to admit it, I’m at a point where the headlines barely even faze me anymore.
All that being said, Scott Hall’s passing definitely struck a nerve with me, and obviously a lot of that has to do with the fact that I literally grew up watching the guy. There wasn’t a lot to write home about when it came to mid-90s WWF (take it from the guy who wrote an entire book about how much the WWF sucked then), but Razor Ramon was always fun to watch. He had great matches, his promos were terrific, and he made history both with the ladder matches against Shawn Michaels and as the first guy to set what then was the record for most Intercontinental Title reigns at four.
Everything the guy touched turned to gold, and just when I thought he was on track to make the big jump to the WWF Title, he suddenly pops up on Nitro before most fans (including me) even realized he no longer worked for the WWF. I don’t have to tell anyone who was a fan at the time how revolutionary the nWo was. It literally changed the way the business worked, what constituted a babyface and a heel, and as good as Scott was as Razor Ramon, getting the freedom to cut loose and let more of his real self come through just took him to another level.
Obviously his substance abuse issue held him back and caused the end of pretty much every job he had from WCW onward. It got to the point that, in much the same way Montreal has come to overshadow Bret Hart’s career, Scott’s personal issues had a tendency to draw attention away from just how amazing a performer he was. No, he wasn’t going to go out there and do anything flashy, and sure as hell wasn’t going to do any flippy-dippy indy highspots. He was just an old-school guy who knew how to work, how to work a crowd, how to tell a story in his matches and promos, and obviously how to leverage backstage relationships to his best advantage.
I was actually both pleased and more than a bit surprised that fans seemed to lighten up on him in recent years. I think seeing him working with Diamond Dallas Page to get and stay healthy did a lot to change the way people perceived him, and so did seeing a bit more of his human side when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
I don’t think anyone was particularly surprised when they heard what happened to Scott given his personal history, but that doesn’t make it suck any less. Obviously I’m not going to sit here acting like I knew the guy or was Kevin Nash close with him or anything like that, but I think to anyone who grew up watching wrestling during the 90s, we just watched a major part of our childhood disappear into the mists forever. He will definitely be missed.