Gay grappler’s sad tale in print

Chris Kanyon beat long odds to achieve his childhood dream of pro wrestling stardom.

Chris Kanyon beat long odds to achieve his childhood dream of pro wrestling stardom.

What he couldn’t conquer were the mental health issues that contributed to Kanyon’s 2010 suicide at the age of 40.

His sad tale is told in a new autobiography that Kanyon was writing with co-author Ryan Clark at the time of his death. Wrestling Reality not only chronicles Kanyon’s grappling career but his battle with depression, bipolar disorder and the personal struggles faced because of his sexual orientation. Kanyon (real name Chris Klucsartis) spent most of his life trying to conceal the fact he was homosexual from friends and fellow wrestlers because of concerns with how such news would be received.

Clark, a former newspaper reporter, met Kanyon five years ago when covering a “National Coming-Out Day” event at Northern Kentucky University. By then, Kanyon had finally become comfortable with revealing his secret publicly and was encouraging others to do the same.

“I’m not gay and wasn’t a wrestling fan, but when I listened to Chris speak I thought his was an amazing story that anyone could identify with,” Clark said. “At some point in our lives, we’ve all been outsiders or had that feeling of not belonging.

“At that point, Chris had really overcome his demons. He was trying to help people deal with their issues whether it was manic depression or being honest about their sexuality.”

Kanyon realized he was gay while in junior high school but never made that admission publicly until wrestling on a small independent card in February 2006. By then, Kanyon’s time in the grappling spotlight had ended.

Injuries and a lack of promotional push in WWE had kept Kanyon from reaching the same heights he did in World Championship Wrestling, which used him as a prominent mid-card performer from 1997 to 2001 because of his outstanding in-ring skills and innovative maneuvers.

Kanyon was so talented that he was hired as stunt coordinator to provide technical advice for two movies featuring wrestling scenes: Ready to Rumble and The Jesse Ventura Story, a made-for-TV biopic about the colourful grappler who later became governor of Minnesota.

Kanyon joined WWE in 2001 when that company purchased WCW. After making a strong debut — he enjoyed two different title reigns in a three-week span — Kanyon quickly moved down the WWE ladder. Then he was sidelined by a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

When he returned, Kanyon was asked to dress in drag and sing like Boy George before a match against The Undertaker. Kanyon, who had a lengthy history of concussions, suffered another when violently whacked with a chair in a lopsided beat-down. Kanyon, who believes he was set-up by WWE management as a form of humiliation for being a closeted homosexual, was never featured prominently in WWE again. He was released in February 2004.

Kanyon had hoped to reinvent himself as an openly gay grappler without the stereotypical effeminate and sexual mannerisms long associated with such characters in pro wrestling. Kanyon claimed to have pitched the idea to WWE brass but it was rejected.

To this day, no major grappling companies has ever promoted that type of performer. Gay wrestlers and promoters also have long decided to remain closeted because of concerns about public backlash and negative reaction among their peers.

Clark hopes that Kanyon’s story can help change how homosexuality is perceived in pro wrestling and also erase some of the stigmas associated with seeking treatment for psychological disorders.

“Maybe this book can open some minds a little bit,” said Clark, who noted that “Chris would have absolutely loved” wrestling to have the kind of gay character he’d proposed.

“For those questioning their sexuality, it’s OK,” Clark continued. “Be honest with yourself. For those suffering from bipolar disorder, take your meds. You can live your life and be OK.”

Kanyon’s mental-health problems proved too much for him to overcome. Kanyon, who opened the book recalling an aborted suicide attempt in 2003 following The Undertaker incident, overdosed on prescription medication last year in his apartment in Queens, N.Y.

Clark said Kanyon’s erratic behavior made it difficult for him to complete Wrestling Reality.

“It was all about starts and stops,” said Clark, who is now the new media editor at Northern Kentucky University. “We only met face-to-face two or three times. When Chris felt good, we could work. We would have these epic seven-hour conversations He was a great storyteller.

“But we could only talk when he was feeling well. Sometimes that wasn’t for weeks. I wouldn’t hear from him when I would try to call and text. I wondered if we going to finish. He was spiraling. I would talk to some friends of his and Chris would sometimes talk to them about dying.

“You knew that in some ways this was not going to end up well and there was not going to be a happy ending. When I got the call about his death, I was shocked — but at the same time I wasn’t. I’ve asked myself if there was something I could have done even being so far away. I don’t know. Those are questions I’ll always ask.”

Clark did know that it was important to Kanyon’s family that Wrestling Reality was published, which is why he is especially grateful to ECW Press for obliging.

“In a lot of ways this is a beautiful story,” Clark said. “There are some funny moments in it. Chris was very honest and had a story to tell.”

Alex Marvez takes a ringside look at the latest in professional wrestling in LIFE on Thursday. Contact him at alex1marv@aol.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

A recent investigation by the RCMP Central Alberta District Crime Reduction Unit led to the arrests of 24 people. (Contributed photo)
24 people arrested following RCMP investigation in central Alberta

Twenty-four people are facing a combined 235 charges following an investigation by… Continue reading

Photo from Town of Sylvan Lake Facebook page
Sylvan Lake communities band together on development plan

Sylvan Lake Intermunicipal Development Plan expected to be approved next spring

Tribe restaurant owner Paul Harris, left, consults with manager Brandon Bouchard about how to proceed under pandemic rules that make it hard for eateries to be profitable. (Contributed photo).
New pandemic rules deemed workable for Red Deer retailers

Stricter COVID-19 reduction measures introduced in lead-up to Christmas

Quentin Lee Strawberry
Man accused in 2019 Red Deer murder will stay behind bars

Quentin Strawberry going to trial next year on second-degree murder charge

Hockey Canada suspends world junior selection camp after positive COVID-19 tests

Hockey Canada suspends world junior selection camp after positive COVID-19 tests

Justice Minister David Lametti responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Liberals to present bill on single-game sports betting

Liberals to present bill on single-game sports betting

Bayern, Man City win to advance to Champions League last-16

Bayern, Man City win to advance to Champions League last-16

FILE - In this March 26, 2006 file photo, former soccer player Diego Maradona smokes a cigar as he watches Argentina's first division soccer match between Boca Juniors and River Plate in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)
Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona dies at 60

Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona dies at 60

In this July 1, 2020, photo, Salt Lake Tribune data columnist and Utah Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen poses for a photo. Larsen is a sports writer, but with much of that world sidelined during the pandemic he's been digging into coronavirus data and its sobering implications. So when he found himself with a cache of spare change, partially from his childhood piggy bank, he knew plenty of people could use it. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
Tweet on spare change generates big money for virus aid

Tweet on spare change generates big money for virus aid

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 18, 2020 file photo, a view of a 'Matterhorn-Express' gondola lift in front of Matterhorn mountain in the Zermatt ski resort, in Zermatt, Switzerland. Restrictions to slow the curve of coronavirus infections have kept ski lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP, File)
As season nears, Europe ponders skiing during pandemic

As season nears, Europe ponders skiing during pandemic

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2015 file photo, actor John Boyega, right, pose with Star Wars characters during the Japan Premiere of their latest film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in Tokyo. Boyega stars in Steve McQueen’s “Red White and Blue,” the third film in the director’s anthology of West Indian life in London from the ‘60s through the ’80s. The five-film series will debut Dec. 4. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File)
John Boyega isn’t going to ‘take the money and shush’

John Boyega isn’t going to ‘take the money and shush’

The Hockley Motel in Mono, Ont., is shown in this undated handout photo. An Ontario motel that served as a backdrop for the beloved CBC sitcom "Schitt's Creek" is up for sale. The Hockley Motel in Mono, about an hour's drive northwest of Toronto, was listed for $2 million today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Colliers International
Calling all eccentric millionaires: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ motel up for sale for $2 million

Calling all eccentric millionaires: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ motel up for sale for $2 million

Most Read