For nearly all reading this site, professional wrestling has a warm spot in his/her heart. It’s the sophisticated simplicity of an art form: a beautiful brawl…one at a maestro’s pace, to captivate viewers at crescendo moments. There’s no greater ovation to its prized conductors than a thunderous “this is awesome” from house show faithful.
This art form, however, certainly has its ups and downs. As the sudden deaths of Roddy Piper and Dusty Rhodes plus isolation of Hulk Hogan can attest too, it’s a warm bedfellow… but a cruel one at that. The trials and tribulations of pro wrestling often far outweigh longshot opportunities for triumph.
This dichotomy of chance is perhaps most obvious in indy/regional pro wrestling circles, one where small venues, also loyal PPV and merchandise sales are the difference in a booming versus quick exit career.
Throughout this journey, family and friends are the foundation and crutch. I discovered this in an unlikely source, the excellent ‘The Sheik’ documentary, one telling the shamelessly blunt tale of Iranian super athlete Khosrow Vaziri. A modern-day twitter star and WWE infancy legend, this sandwich of excellence was filled with tragic death, injury, and professional downslide.
The Sheik pulls no punches. On-camera drug and alcohol addictions, injuries to mental breakdown, a family torn about by death and career downturn. It unintentionally likewise presents a constant reminder of how one unintended, bad decision can undue literally decades of gain.
For indy wrestlers, this reminder is critical. At the peak of his profession, the WWE cut ties with Vaziri, its premium star. Let alone the miniscule room for error a non-guaranteed income and career indy wrestling holds.
Vaziri’s tale likewise offers a simultaneous additional reminder, however: the power of a loving family and friend network.
Pro wrestling is vicious on the body. Injuries will mount from excessive shows. Pain and lack of recovery time will wreak havoc on the mind. A nomad lifestyle offers little chance for grounding. Fan support can be fleeting. Bigger promotions fickle on whom they tab for a shot at greatness.
I’m confident athletes and talent reading this site will see some of themselves in ‘The Sheik.’ The self-reflection of why they do this is a terrific reminder, as is the need to form aforementioned networks of value before they need them most. Vaziri’s tale is a true American success story: he’s seemingly a great person, loving husband and father, and a terrific athlete. Still, he’d be yet another tragic tale of a person lost too soon if not for said networks.