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Enter The Dream Realm: Rebirth – Vol. Two: The Spirit Carries On

You awaken from a deep sleep as you feel yourself land softly on the mattress of your bed. The room is pitch black, and you still have the bright flash from your computer monitor in your eyes, preventing you from seeing anything. You reach over and turn on the lamp in your room, and rub your eyes to clear them. When you open your eyes, you see the man you noticed standing over you before seated in the chair next to your bed. As you open your mouth to protest, he raises a hand and says, “We’re not finished yet. You will see, in time.” He smiles and snaps his fingers, causing you to become light-headed. Your vision begins to blur, and you lay back down as you slip from consciousness, and once again begin to…

Rebirth – Vol. Two:

The Spirit Carries On

08/22/2010

“Where did we come from? Why are we here?
Where do we go when we die?
What lies beyond? And what lay before?
Is anything certain in life?”
All lyrics from Dream Theater – The Spirit Carries On

One of the universal truths that we have to come to embrace during our relatively short existence on this planet is that everything has a beginning and an end. As much as many of us may wish it were so, nothing truly lasts forever. The moment any living creature on Earth draws its first breath, the countdown clock begins to tick away the seconds leading up to its last. It is the natural order of things, and though we may rail against it at times, there is nothing that we can do to stop it. However, where the soul meets the science, there is some solace that can be taken in this fact.

Energy can be neither created, nor destroyed; it can only be transformed. The same is true of matter. The physical laws of conservation of mass and energy dictate that the amount of energy and matter present before a reaction is the same as that present afterward, even though the forms they take may be completely different. We burn wood and waste to create ash, which is then used to fertilize soils that are used to grow crops that feed an expecting mother whose child will eventually be born containing some of the carbon from that ash. To steal a very appropriate line from Semisonic, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Without such an end, there could be no beginning. This cycle is the crux of all life on Earth.

Without death, there can be no rebirth.

“They say ‘Life is too short, The here and the now.’
And ‘You’re only given one shot.’
But could there be more? Have I lived before?
Or could this be all that we’ve got?”

While every life is finite in length, the time spent in between those beginning and end points are what truly define it. What we do and say during our lives can have a profound impact on people long after we are no longer there to see it. Every one of us hopes to leave their mark on the world, no matter how small, and to be fondly remembered by our friends and family when our time with them eventually comes to an end. It is simply a part of human nature to want to leave a legacy behind that will live on after we’ve gone, and we all seek to somehow do so whether the effort is conscious or no.

The time that we’re given to make that mark is limited, and we can never know exactly how or when it will end. Life is funny that way, in that you can never anticipate exactly how it will all end up working out. My great-grandmother lived to be 103 despite battling two different forms of cancer for upwards of two decades, while a friend of mine who was in perfect health dropped dead of a heart attack at 19 years old. Both of these people, in very different ways, made an indelible mark on my life, and in that way they continue to live on through me and the others who knew and loved them.

While the nature of the soul and any religious connotations that may have are far beyond the scope of this writing, the fact remains that while the physical body may die, the spirit of a person’s life is carried on by those that they leave behind.

“If I die tomorrow, I’d be alright because I believe
That after we’re gone, The Spirit Carries On.”

Death in the wrestling world, as it is in other walks of life, is ubiquitous, but it seems that we continue to hear more and more about the unexpected or premature deaths of those we have come to know and love through their work. As the second volume in the Rebirth series, I had much of this column written a couple of weeks ago. I hesitated to finish and post it, as there have been several others in the last couple of weeks that have dealt with death in some form or another. This is not surprising considering recent news items.

A mere six days apart, the wrestling world suffered the loss of two performers at extreme ends of the spectrum. First, we saw the death of Lance Cade at the age of 29, followed less than a week later by the death of General Skandor Akbar at the age of 75. However, as both of these men would likely tell you, the show must go on, and so here we are.

Skandor Akbar may not be a name that many of us are familiar with, as he spent most of his time in the wrestling business as a manager on the independent circuit. Still, a closer look shows that his effect on the business has been quite profound, as he was heavily involved in the formative years of several future WWE main eventers, including Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, and Mick Foley, to name only a few. I won’t speak too much more about the man here, as I am admittedly unfamiliar with much of his work, but I strongly encourage you to check out Cult Icon’s Tribute to Akbar for more information on the life and times of this influential man. Akbar lived a full life, and his influence will continue to be felt in the wrestling world for years to come.

“I used to be frightened of dying. I used to think death was the end.
But that was before, I’m not scared anymore.
I know that my soul will transcend.”

Lance Cade was never a main event player in the big leagues, but he was a solid performer who had a few Tag Team Title reigns with his partner Trevor Murdoch. Cade was trained by Shawn Michaels in a class that included Brian Kendrick and Bryan Danielson, and went on to spend time in the independents where he racked up a few titles on his way to the WWE. He was released from the company following an incident involving prescription medication that led to him having a seizure on an airplane. He was eventually rehired by the company, only to be released again in April of this year after entering WWE-sponsored substance abuse rehabilitation.

Since his release in April, he has been working on the U.S. independent circuit once again, as well as spending time in my neck of the woods wrestling for All Japan Pro Wrestling. Again, while he wasn’t tearing the house down in main event matches, there is no denying that he was talented and capable of entertaining in the ring. He has left behind two young daughters who will no longer have their father in their lives. While we have yet to learn the precise cause of death, it is an unfortunate fact that the wrestling world has lost yet another of its own long before their time.

These two men were both intimately involved in the wrestling world, and yet their deaths are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Cade, at 29, had his whole life ahead of him yet and had only begun to scratch the surface of what he would do with it. Akbar, at 75, had lived a full life and had accomplished more than many people his age could ever have imagined. One man taken too soon, and one man allowed to see it through to the end. Both of these men, however, continued to be involved in the business they loved right up until the end.

With all of the wrestler deaths that have been tallied up over the last decade, there is no doubt that two in particular stand out as being the most profound.

“I may never find all the answers. I may never understand why.
I may never prove what I know to be true,
But I know that I still have to try.”

Chris Benoit will go down in history as one of the greatest wrestlers ever to grace the squared circle. From his early days performing in Canada and Japan through his final days in the WWE, it was clear to see that he was gifted in the ring and could outwork just about anyone he was put up against. Few people displayed the kind of intensity that he was known for; intensity that earned him the nickname of “The Rabid Wolverine.” Of course, that wasn’t the only nickname the man had under his belt. He was also known as “The Canadian Crippler,” which was a name he earned when he broke Sabu’s neck in ECW years before he went to the WWF.

I have been a huge Chris Benoit fan since I first saw him wrestle in 2000 as part of the Radicalz group that included Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko, and Eddie Guerrero. Truth be told, all four of these men quickly became some of my favorite wrestlers during this time. They all displayed a level of talent in the ring that few could boast, and they went out each and every week to prove why they were the best. Chris Benoit, though, was at the head of this pack and quickly rose above his fellow Radicalz on the card.

Benoit went on to win numerous singles and tag team titles over the ensuing years, including a much-lauded run as World Heavyweight Champion in 2004. He was never the best on the microphone; in all honesty he was actually one of the worse mic workers in the main event scene. However, he was the absolute best where it counted: in the ring. Every time he stepped through the ropes, you knew you were going to be in for something special. The passion he had for the business showed in every chop, every head butt, and every suplex that he executed. No one could rival the skill and intensity that he brought to the arena when he stepped out from behind the curtain.

If you asked Benoit himself, he would say that he was only idolizing and emulating who he felt was the best wrestler in the world in the Dynamite Kid. However, in so doing, he himself went on to become one of the greatest wrestlers in the world. This should have been his legacy. This is how he should be remembered.

“If I die tomorrow, I’d be alright because I believe
That after we’re gone, The Spirit Carries On.”

Unfortunately, most of that legacy has been eradicated from the minds of wrestling fans because of the circumstances surrounding his death. When Benoit killed his wife and son and then hung himself in his home, the legacy he had worked so hard to build was torn asunder by the brutality of his final hours. Even now, three years later, most wrestling fans still find it hard to speak objectively about Benoit without thinking of the events at the end of his life. I have had difficulty separating Chris Benoit the wrestler from Chris Benoit the murderer when watching some of his matches, and I know many more people who to this day refuse to watch any of his work.

It is sad to think that many newer wrestling fans will never be exposed to his work because of his final acts. The wrestling world has done its best to distance itself from him, and wipe the stain he has left behind from their hands, but in so doing they have lost contact with some of the greatest matches in history. Benoit fell from grace and destroyed his own legacy with the senseless killing of himself and his family, leaving the wrestling world grieving, mourning, and hating their fallen hero.

But not every ending is a fall from grace.

“Move on, be brave. Don’t weep at my grave
Because I am no longer here.
But please never let your memory of me disappear.”

Eddie Guerrero had a very long history with Chris Benoit. They both spent time wrestling in Japan, then ECW, WCW, and WWF/E as both opponents and partners. Eddie may not have displayed the intensity that Chris Benoit did in his matches, but the talent level was on par. Eddie more than made up for any shortcomings that Chris had on the microphone, playing the crowd exactly as he wanted whether working as a heel or a face. Eddie worked a very different style than Benoit, and there are few in the world who would dispute that Eddie was one of the greatest wrestlers who ever employed that style. Eddie’s passion for the business was evident in everything he did, but it also took its toll on him.

Eddie had his demons. The road life, drugs, and alcohol all had their way with him, and resulted in Eddie losing his job and his family. Everything he had worked so hard for was suddenly gone, and he found himself alone. But thankfully the story doesn’t end there. He fought his way back up from the bottom, defeating his addiction and regaining both his job and his family in the process. In so doing, Eddie went on to achieve greater success than he had before, becoming WWE Champion in 2004. The fact that the company had enough faith in him to place their title around his waist speaks volumes about his character and his path to redemption.

In the end, little brother Eddie became the most successful of all of the legendary Guerrero wrestling family. His passionate ring work and top-notch promos kept him counted among the best wrestlers in the WWE. Whether he was working as a heel or a face, he was always one of my favorite parts of the show. To this day, Eddie is still in my top five all time favorite wrestlers, and with good reason. He never ceased to amaze and entertain in the ring, and his story was a truly inspirational one that helped me get through some dark times in my life.

While Eddie went back and forth between the mid card and the main event over the year leading up to his death, he always put on a show-stealing performance. Few people could compete with his athletic ability, and even fewer could compete with his passion. The company had once again seen fit to make him their champion, but sadly, on the morning he was slated to win the title, he was found dead in his hotel room. At the age of 38, this was another example of a life taken from the wrestling world far too soon.

“Safe in the light that surrounds me,
Free of the fear and the pain.
My questioning mind, has help me to find
The meaning in my life again”

Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit have always gone hand in hand for me. They are two of my top five favorite wrestlers of all time. They were best friends through the years as they travelled from one part of the world to the next working for different companies. They both worked harder than anyone else around them to become the best at what they do. They were both smaller men that set the wrestling world on fire and showed that you don’t have to be freakishly huge to be a believable champion. Now, they are united by the fact that they died while employed by the WWE.

It is their deaths, however, that separate them. Chris Benoit worked hard his whole life to become one of the best in the industry and solidified his place in the hearts and minds of wrestling fans around the world. Then, in one fell swoop, he decimated the legacy he had labored so hard to build by murdering his family before taking his own life. His is a story of a fall from grace.

Eddie Guerrero also worked very hard to be the best, but he struggled with the life he was leading, eventually causing him to lose it all. He came back from his defeat, however, and took back his life, his family, and his rightful place as one of the best wrestlers the world has ever known. He managed to turn his addiction and loss into an inspiration for people the world over, and solidified his legacy as one of the greatest to ever lace up the boots. His is a story of redemption.

Chris Benoit had a lifetime of excellence and achievement destroyed in an instant with the horror of his actions at the end of his life. Eddie Guerrero managed to overcome the demons and adversity in his life to go on to reach new heights. One man remembered for his death, the other remembered for his life. If I could choose, I would go out like Eddie Guerrero. I live every day trying to be the kind of man that I want to be; the kind of man that my friends and family would be proud of.

“And now that I’m here, it’s perfectly clear.
I found out what all of this means.”

I have spent a lot of time over the last several years thinking about exactly what my legacy would be. These years have been full of health issues and life-changing events, so I’ve often turned my thoughts to what would still remain of me after I’m gone. These thoughts are intensified now as each day draws me ever closer to being a father. There is still so much that I have left to do in my life, but as I look back on it now, I am happy with what I have done thus far. The one conclusion I have come to after all this pondering is that it is important to live each and every day the way you want to be remembered. Not just most days, but every day, as you never know which one may end up being your last.

Death is but a beginning. When your life ends, the spirit of your life carries on. In this way we are reborn and continue to live on. It is up to you how you will be remembered after you’re gone. Don’t wait until tomorrow, because tomorrow may be too late. Say the words you want people to remember you saying. Do the things you want them to remember you doing. Most importantly, be the person you want people to remember you being. Your legacy is up to you. How will you be reborn?

“If I die tomorrow, I’d be alright because I believe
That after we’re gone, The Spirit Carries On.”

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Sunday, August 22nd, 2010 at 11:41 pm • ETDR, WrestlingRSS 2.0 feed Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Enter The Dream Realm: Rebirth – Vol. Two: The Spirit Carries On”

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