So, at 33 another wrestler is dead.
Andrew Martin (who worked under the name ‘Test’ for much of his career) was found dead in his condo(minium) in Harbour Island, Florida 4 days short of his 34th birthday.
Although the police confirmed their was no foul play involved (ruling out murder) the cause of his death will not be known until the toxicology reports come back. Given the similarity to most other early wrestling deaths it’ll be due to a heart attack. Either that or painkiller overdose combined with alcohol.
But seriously? A heart attack? At 33? How is that possible?
One word: Steroids.
If you’ve ever seen a picture of Test when he was in the ring (or the one above) you can pretty much guarantee he was on steroids. He was huge.
Most wrestlers are.
They’re conditioned to believe that ‘bigger is better’ by their boss,Vince McMahon, who is the owner of WWE, the largest, most successful pro wrestling company in the world.
Vince has been a dedicated bodybuilder all his life and even now has the kind of body that 64 year olds just do not have without rampant drug misuse.
He gets away with it though due to not being a wrestler (so doesn’t get drug tested under his company’s laughable ‘Wellness Policy’), being the boss and being able to say “do as I say, not as I do”.
Vince McMahon has done a lot of good things for the wrestling business though.
He introduced wrestling to the world stage as ‘entertainment’ rather than a serious athletic contest. He made it more about the personalities and the glamour rather than purely two men competing in a match to determine who was the better wrestler. He gave us the All American Hero vs. The Monster Bad Guy.
In the early to mid-eighties (after buying the company from his father, Vince McMahon Snr.) Vince put in motion his masterplan and quickly rose up from relatively smalltime regional promoter to nationwide conglomerate by raiding the best talent from rival organisations and taking his (then) WWF worldwide with a ruthless business sense and Hulk Hogan as his main marquee attraction.
While the WWF thrived it basically put most of the old regional promotions out of business and ultimately narrowed the playing field, meaning there were less and less places a worker could make decent money for sacrificing his body every night if they weren’t in the WWF.
In my opinion Vince McMahon has done more bad things for the sport than good.
Although even calling it a ‘sport’ these days will make most people laugh. McMahon has branded his form of wrestling as ‘sports entertainment’ and his workers, while historically known as ‘wrestlers’ or ‘workers’, were rebranded ‘Superstars’ in the 80’s and are now to be referred to as ‘Entertainers’.
His wrestlers must never be referred to as ‘Wrestlers’, for whatever reason they’re now ‘Entertainers’.
Vince’s attitude toward talent and steroid abuse are his two main sins though.
He has a proven history of promoting and rewarding those men who go to extreme lengths to achieve that cartoonish muscular physique, regardless of actual wrestling ability or personality. Here’s 10 guys from the past & present off the top of my head who were (or are) known to be huge steroid abusers; Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, ‘The British Bulldog’ Davey Boy Smith, ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude, Lex Luger, Chris Benoit, Scott Steiner, Triple H, ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham, The Dynamite Kid.
Click here for more, mostly steroid enhanced, wrestlers that Vince McMahon has promoted through the years. Be warned though, this site is very complimentary to these freakish physiques and whoever runs this site doesn’t address that 90% of everyone on it are juiced out of their minds on steroids.
It’s a very good example of the attitude most people have toward the ‘bigger is better’ mantra.
Although comic book characters are fictional (and therefore exempt), it’s no co-incidence that the nearest comparable physical specimens to wrestlers are bodybuilders.
Bodybuilding and wrestling seem to be utterly dependant on two things; the first being steroids. The second being the sunbed. Damn those guys are orange.
One of the main problems with steroids when it comes to human physiology is that they distort the natural limts of what your body is capable of doing.
If you’re lucky enough to be born with great genetics then you’ll achieve some impressive results by staying clean (i.e. off the drugs). If you then take those good genetics and combine them with a shitload of steroids & human growth hormone (HGH) you’ll have veins and muscles on top of your veins and muscles.
All very good for bodybuilding competitions where you have the luxury of designing a steroid cycle and training plan so that you peak a week or so before the contest, but when you’re a wrestler and have to maintain that body all year round with no ‘off season’ it’s a different story.
Steroids basically allow you to push back the boundaries of what your body can naturally achieve and, while the ability to increase your ability and get results you never dreamed were possible sounds like a good thing, it really isn’t.
That’s why injuries occur so often; the bones, ligaments and tendons are forced to carry, extend and contract far more muscle than they are able to naturally cope with. Eventually something has to give, which is why seemingly small things can cause massive muscular injuries in steroid abusers.
This is why there’s so many muscle tears in wrestling these days.
Vince McMahon himself tore the quads (thigh muscles) in both legs when he did nothing more than run to the ring and banged both knees on the side of the ring when trying to slide in under the bottom rope. This was live on pay per view and watching him try to get up and buckling was enough to make anyone wince.
Apparently it was his effort to stand up that caused the second quad to tear completely. He just sat there, unable to use his legs, cutting a promo on the guys in the ring in what must’ve been complete agony. He was then helped from the ring and basically carried to the back.
In addition to the muscular problems steroids present there’s also the other side effects;
“Reports indicate that use of anabolic steroids produces increases in lean muscle mass, strength, and ability to train longer and harder.
Many health hazards of short-term effects are reversible.
The major effects of anabolic steroid use include liver tumors, jaundice, fluid retention, and high blood pressure.
Additional side effects include the following:
shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, development of breasts;
growth of facial hair, changes in or cessation of the menstrual cycle, deepened voice; for adolescents growth halted prematurely through premature skeletal maturation and accelerated puberty changes.
Researchers report that users may suffer from paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.”
With side effects like that why would anybody want to take the risk?
Long term abusers’ bodies often also lose the ability to naturally produce testosterone. After so many injections that provide loads of it, they don’t need to produce it anymore – it’s all in the steroids.
Thing is, what about when they stop taking them?
Well, that’s when the breast growth, testicle shrinkage and reduced sperm count will worsen. When this happens they are often prescribed HRT in the form of testosterone replacement therapy to help them get their bodies back to some sort of normality.
This can go on for years and even for the rest of their life if the users’ body is particularly wrecked.
Basically, when steroids are abused that’s where the problems arise but, like most things, they are of great medical value when used right.
It’s easy to see why people can’t get off them though. The rapid loss of the results they achieved and the subsequent depression that can cause is understandable, but not insurmountable.
Ironically, the wrestler’s stage name who died at the weekend was ‘Test’, which was believed to be an inside joke as it was short for ‘Testosterone’.
After Test was let go by the WWE a few years back he drifted around for a while working independent shows and wrestling pretty much when it suited him. He didn’t blow the money he made in WWE on the celebrity/partying scene so he could afford himself a good lifestyle after his stint at the top.
As if to prove the point about McMahon having an obsession with muscleheads he was hired back into the WWE when he had created a (probably steroid fuelled) bigger-than-ever physique.
While he may have looked like McMahon’s almost Aryan vision of a perfect wrestler (tall, blond & muscular) he was eventually released once again.
Unsurprisingly he failed a drug test but he also made a right mess of a promo he was supposed to deliver live in the ring.
He’d previously been heard rehearsing it and all around him were said to be amazed at his new-found ability to ‘work the microphone’, so to speak.
However, when it came to delivering it live and under the pressure of a crowd and the TV cameras he forgot most of it and trailed off at the end.
Thing is, this was his first drug test failure and would have been his first strike in a ‘Three Strikes And You’re Out’ system (the WWE Wellness Policy).
He would’ve been suspended without pay for 30 days and that would’ve been that, until the next test by which time he would be expected to have sorted himself out (or it’s then 60 days suspension without pay, the third strike is dismissal).
So, they didn’t actually fire him on the basis of the wellness policy, they fired him for screwing up his promo and disappointing the people who thought he could’ve been a breakout star.
WWE will no doubt spin it to appear like the wellness policy did it’s job, although how could it have done it’s job?
A man is still dead (and almost definitely from a steroid related heart event). If all the wellness policy does is fire the mid-carders for being on steroids and 6 months later they die in alone in a room when they’re working indie dates it’s not much of a ‘wellness policy’ is it?
More like a ‘let’s get rid before they die on our watch’ policy.
Although the other side of the argument is that the WWE did pay for his rehab last year and theoretically he would’ve been ‘clean’ after that so any decision he then made to go back on the ‘gas’ was down to him and him alone.
The root cause of the rampant steroid abuse still must come back to Vince McMahon & WWE only wanting ‘big guys’. That’s how they’ve conditioned wrestlers to look if they want to make it big (no pun intended).
Ok, so ultimately it’s the decision of the individual whether or not they ‘get on the gas’ again it’s easy to see why many feel they have no choice. Vince sends a powerful message to the rest of locker room when he pushes only the biggest and most muscular men to the top of the pile.
When faced with that evidence what does a guy do if he wants to make it to the top? Stay as he is and hope that being a good worker with an OK body is enough? Or does he shoot up some decca-durabolin and nandrolone and get the kind of body that Vince likes to promote in main event matches and the money that goes with it?
In an industry where one bad injury can end a career instantly and the window of opportunity is very small these guys will usually do everything in their power to get to the top of the ladder.
Famously, Vince has (apparently) never directly told anyone to do steroids as that would be encouraging illegality, but he did nearly spend a very long time in prison from a court case in the early 90’s now known as ‘The Steroid Scandal’.
Dr George Zahorian was the go-to man for an entire pharmacy of illegal drugs aimed at helping the wrestlers create and maintain their ‘He-Man’ physiques.
Vince was investigated for allegedly providing steroids and other illegal drugs to his workers via Zahorian.
In the end the case fell apart when it was decided that, as Dr. Zahorian was not an actual employee of the WWF, McMahon could not be held responsible for what an independent Doctor was providing to his guys. Despite the fact that Zahorian was operating fully in view of Vince and he knew all about what was going on.
Ironically Andrew Martin had gone on record saying he’d seen what had happened to many of the guys he’d worked with that are now dead because of the drugs and the lifestyle and he always swore his wouldn’t be another name added to the list of premature drug deaths.
The fact he knew the risks but did it anyway (while claiming he wouldn’t go that way and that I wouldn’t happen to him) is perhaps the most telling thing about the choices you have to make to get ahead in the dirty wrestling industry and what you are encouraged to sacrifice in order to get to (and stay at) the top.
If the toxicology reports return a different result other than a steroid related heart event I’ll be very surprised. It could be the other main cause of death amongst wrestlers; accidental drug overdose (be it pain pills or recreational drugs). It could even be a completely natural cause of death that steroids had no bearing on.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m wrong if that does turn out to be the case, but it’s unlikely.
I’ve been a wrestling fan for too long to not recognise that if it looks like a steroid related death it probably is a steroid related death. And it will sadly be only one in a long list of names and probably not the last name of 2009.
The truly sad thing is the deaths of relatively young guys like Andrew Martin are completely unnecessary and entirely preventable but there’s no sign of steroid related fatalities stopping, despite any supposed ‘Wellness Policy’.