Chris Kanyon, real name Christopher Klucsaritis , was found dead in his home in Queens, NY on April 2, 2010 of an apparent suicide via drug overdose. This is yet another wrestling tragedy, which is a term that has become very redundant over the last several years. It has sadly become quite common to see wrestlers in their 40s pass away. In this past decade there has been at least 10 well known wrestlers (meaning they have wrestled for the top companies even if non wrestling fans wouldn't know them) that have passed away in their 40s, and the majority have either been due to drug overdose or suicide. The unfortunate reality is this is largely ignored, because the ‘sport’ of wrestling is shunned my mainstream society because it is seen as a depraved joke, thus it is able to avoid any form of investigation or regulation (like what was happening in baseball or track and field).
At some point, I want to write a tribute and editorial type piece of the deaths of two of my all time favourite wrestlers that occurred in the ‘00s, Eddy Guerrero and Chris Benoit. I’ve avoided both because they are very emotionally draining and heartbreaking stories. In Eddy's case, it is a man who struggled with years of drug addiction and depression but was able to overcome it all after changing his life and finding religion, but unfortunately, his past lifestyle took too much of a toll, thus leading to his death (which has the added bad taste for me because it happened on my birthday). Chris Benoit is heartbreaking in a totally different way, because this was a man who seemed to be as stable and likable as any wrestle could be, but then on one fateful night, did the exact opposite of that by murdering his wife and son before killing himself. As stated before, there is countless sad tales that have occurred this past decade, where wrestlers I grew up watching and cheering (or delightfully booing) ended up dying at far too young of ages. But today, I want to focus on the wrestler best known as Kanyon.
The first time I remember seeing Chris Kanyon would be in late 1995 where he was part of a lower card tag team act known as Men At Work, along with partner Mark Starr. I remember thinking both had a great look and a decent amount of talent, despite being saddled with one of the most ridiculous gimmicks in wrestling (which is to say a lot considering wrestling’s history of stupid characters). The team was dressed up in jeans, work boots, a hard hat and a tool belt; as I am sure you can guess from that wardrobe, they were supposed to be construction workers. It must have been a down slope in the industry, thus they had to moonlight as wrestlers along with their day job. Anyway, on a few episodes, they would come to ringside during a match where they would readjust the turnbuckles with their tools, which causes one to wonder why WCW had not hired a ring crew that could take care of that problem before the show. Needless to say, the act was not a hit among the fans, and both guys were quickly repackaged.
Kanyon actually received an interesting second gimmick, where he was supposed to be a pit fighter from Bangkok with a dark and sinister past (which of course, would never ever be explained or disclosed). He actually wore a pretty elaborate and interesting outfit where his mask was essentially a skull and his suit was sort of a green skeleton (I am pretty sure it was inspired part by Skeletor and partly by Mortal Kombat which was huge at the time). Along with the unique look, Mortis had a large variety of wrestling holds to showcase that had never really been seen in mainstream North American wrestling. One of my friends, who was not a fan of WCW, would mention that he thought Mortis was one of the cooler things in the WCW at the time, then again, he also seemed to be a fan of a wrestler called Horshu (though, that was more likely just to annoy me). Unfortunately for Kanyon, despite having a cool looking character, WCW preferred to use him as a wrestler that would make others look good, and he rarely got many key wins. His entire run as Mortis, he only had one key storyline which was a feud with a wrestler known as Glacier, where they battled over his helmet (not exactly high concept or even interesting stuff).The sad reality is, the Mortis character actually was about 7 months ahead of WWF’s Kane, which was another supernatural masked monster-like wrestler (but WWF knew how to actually market Kane and made him one of the bigger stars in the late 90s). By ‘98, it was clear that Mortis was a flop and it was time to repackage him again.
After the end of Mortis, he started simply calling himself Kanyon (like Sting or Madonna, he did not need a second word to complete his name). He quickly adopted a shtick where he would ask the crowd, ‘Who was better than Kanyon?’ and the fans, because Kanyon was a bad guy, would yell back ‘Everybody’, but the arrogant Kanyon would ignore them and yell, ‘Nobody.’ It was a fun thing to watch, and Kanyon played a good arrogant but slightly dorky heel. Over the next two years in WCW, he mainly played the role of the goofy but arrogant lackey of a more over heel, he first allied with Raven and then was aligned with Diamond Dallas Page.
During his affiliation with Page, they formed a three man team along with Bam Bam Bigelow known as the Triad (because there were three, you see). Despite the rather dumb name, they made a pretty cool tag team as long as you ignore the whole ‘Yo Mama’ routine they liked doing before matches. During a time that WCW was almost completely unwatchable, the trio consistently put on the best matches on the show in their tag matches against teams like Perry Saturn and Chris Benoit or Harlem Heat. The trio only lasted about four months but they did get two World Tag Team titles out of the run.
Despite the charisma and wrestling talent of Kanyon, he never really got a fair shot at the top of the card in WCW. This was partly due to WCW rarely giving non former WWF superstars a shot at the main event scene, but also due to the fact he seemed to either be put in stories that fans didn’t care about or stories that where absolutely ridiculous (at one point, he was put in several weeks worth of hideous video sketches where he would lounge around a beach house with Raven and go out shopping for nice clothes – yeah, not sure how that promotes a wrestling match either).
In May of 2000, an angle played out on the Slamboree PPV that was supposed to be his chance to finally be elevated into the main event scene, or at least that was what fans felt after seeing the angle. In what was a visually impressive stunt, wrestler Mike Awesome tossed Kanyon off the top of a three tiered cage onto a gimmicked ramp. Though most knew it would cause minimal damage to Kanyon, it still looked really impressive and in the fake world of wrestling, fans were left to be believe Kanyon’s career had ended. In wrestling terms, this should have been an angle that lead to a big money feud, as Kanyon had good reason to want revenge on Awesome, afterall, the guy tried to kill him by throwing him off a 35 plus feet structure. For a month, Awesome bragged about ending Kanyon’s career while footage was shown of Kanyon, with a neck brace on, recuperating in a hospital. If this was milked for a few months, then sympathy would have really been on Kanyon’s side and many fans would have eagerly waited for his revenge. But at the time, WCW was written by an idiot who didn’t seem to understand simple wrestling logic and had no idea how to actually make money by drawing fans into matches they wanted to see. So instead, one month after the biggest angle in Kanyon’s life, he was wheeled out in a wheelchair to support his friend Diamond Dallas Page, who was trying to gain some vengeance in a match with Mike Awesome. During the finish of the match, Kanyon miraculously jumped out of his chair and attacked his best friend Page. So apparently, falling from 35 plus feet does not hurt you and the entire attack was some elaborate attempt to get Page to lose some meaningless wrestling match. Yeah, it made less sense than pet rocks, but as I said, the writer in WCW at the time was an idiot.
So, now it was obvious the next big match for Kanyon was to battle his former friend Page. So of course, WCW decided the best plan was for Page to disappear for several months while Kanyon impersonated Page. The gimmick seemed to go into the land of crazy, as we were to believe that Kanyon actually thought he was Diamond Dallas Page. At this point, the two angles that were designed to get Kanyon elevated had been forgotten, he was now a middle of the card comedy act. Page did finally return to WCW, which would make you think would naturally lead to him wanting to get revenge on the guy who pretended to be him, but by the time Page returned, Kanyon had already taken a hiatus from WCW.
At this point, rumours were that Kanyon was sick of his treatment in WCW, and was completely ready to jump to WWF. Though he eventually did end up in WWF, it was not until the WWF bought the WCW, when it was going out of business in March of 2001. It was at this point, that many finally felt Kanyon would get a fair shot because WWF was known for giving solid talent a fair shot.
Unfortunately, Kanyon had the misfortune of being a part of WCW when it was purchased and thus was part of the biggest flop in wrestling history, the WCW Invasion. It was a storyline where WCW was trying to take over WWF, but WWF didn’t purchase the contracts of most of the WCW main eventers, thus the team was mainly full of WCW midcarders and bottomfeeders. It seemed WWF had a problem of admitting WCW was on par with WWF, thus the entire storyline mainly consisted of WWF slaughtering WCW talent in matches, and this included the few WCW main eventers that did come to the company. And the only wrestlers on the WCW side that were allowed to look good, were actual WWF wrestlers that defected over the the evil WCW team. Needless to say, this was one of the most awful storylines, and the one of the major factors that stated pushing me away from wrestling. Yeah, I obviously care enough about it to write a massive post about it, but I haven’t watched the current product on a consistent basis for many years.
As for Kanyon, in the summer the Invasion angle wasn’t all bad at first for him. He did get to be the United States champion and the WWF world tag team champion along with Page. Both title reigns were incredibly short, and he only made it on two PPV shows. Kanyon eventually was relegated to being a comedy act again, and then completely disappeared from television after an injury.
The injury seemed to be the worse possible thing for Kanyon. Not only at some point, was it actually life threatening (he seemed to have suffered a staph infection after the surgery) but when he returned, he almost never made it on the two top prime times wrestling shows (Raw and Smackdown) but instead, seemed to be annexed to the much less watched Saturday late night program. He remained shunted on the low end of the shows until he was eventually released at the end of 2003. That was essentially the end of Kanyon’s run in the mainstream pro wrestling spotlight.
The years after, he wrestled for a bunch of small regional promotions, but it was obvious he was always trying to find a way to get back into the WWE (by that point it had changed its names from WWF). Then he suddenly made an announcement at a wrestling show, which many argue was a publicity stunt, where he came out and declared he was gay. He declared he was the first openly gay pro wrestler. Many saw this as an attempt to have a marketable gimmick that would catch the attention of the WWE and get them to rehire him. When it became obvious that he would be unable to get back into the company, he started appearing on shows like Howard Stern where he claimed his sexual orientation was the reason he was released. He was trying to claim the homophobia of the wrestlers and the boss were the key reasons he was dismissed. Of course, this argument ignored the fact that Vince McMahon's right hand man, Pat Patterson, was an open homosexual. Unfortunately, the whole experience made Kanyon look desperate and bitter. The last few years, not much had been heard from Kanyon, but family now reveals he had been struggling with depression (along with being bipolar).
Kanyon was a highly underrated wrestler, who was a very solid wrestler with innovative moves. He was such a talented wrestler that WCW used him to train all the celebrities that they often hired to do wrestling matches. When WCW wanted to go into movies, they used Kanyon as a stunt and wrestling adviser. It was obvious that Kanyon was respected and recognized as a talented wrestler among his peers and employers. It was just unfortunate that circumstances never allowed him to get a fair shot at being a top star in wrestling. One wonders if more success would have allowed him to fight off depression and allow for better mental health. Despite what could have been, Kanyon still had a very entertaining wrestling career. He will always be remembered as a very talented and highly underrated wrestler.