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OOLD SCHOOL  
The Death of Crash Holly:
Echoes of Louie?

November 13, 2003

by Rick Scaia  
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

[NOTE FROM THE PRESENT DAY: Crash Holly's unexpected death exactly one week ago today remains shrouded in a bit of mystery.  No official cause of death has been released, and interviews with Crash's widow have yielded nothing besides her preference to not discuss the cause of Crash's death.  And yet speculation and rumors persist that drugs and alcohol likely played a role in his death; in the absence of other explanations, those rumors certainly do go a long way to explaining how a 32-year-old man in good physical condition could expire so suddenly.

And with those rumors gaining so much momentum, discussion among fans invariably turns to the issue of the pervasive self-medicating done by wrestlers, and where the responsibility for this glut of too-soon deaths should lie.  At present, a very spirited debate on this very matter is STILL going on in the OO Forums.  But it's not a new debate.  In fact, it's one I first weighed in on following the death of Brian Pillman just over six years ago.  And one that I found myself involved with again in February of 1998, when Louie Spicolli died under circumstances not unlike Crash Holly's.  It's odd to look back, having now eulogized upwards of a dozen wrestlers whose deaths were likely expedited by past or present chemical abuses, to see how I presented my opinion back when covering drug-related wrestling deaths was virgin territory for me.  Some things have certainly changed for me.  But many have not.]


The Death of Louie Spicolli
OO Coverage, Originally Published February 16/18, 1998

This item originally appeared as a OO Update on 2/16/98
Louie Spicolli, Dead at 27

Early Sunday morning, Louie Spicolli was found dead at his suburban L.A. home by a guest who had spent the night. Currently, police are investigating this as a possible accidental drug-related death. Corroborating stories, which are discussed in depth on Mike Samuda's MiCasa Wrestling News page, seem to support this line of investigation.

Spicolli, a 9-year ring veteran who just turned 27 last month, was on the verge of a major break-through in WCW. After quietly debuting with Turner in late 1997, Spicolli took advantage of his ties to "the Clique" to earn a spot as Scott Hall's lackey. Spicolli's actions during Hall's feud with Larry Zbyszko resulted in intense crowd reactions. Louie went on to capitalize on several guest announcing opportunities, where he proved himself clever and capable (perhaps even more so than some of the WCW personalities currently being paid to be announcers). By all accounts, Spicolli's recent successes were not going unnoticed, and he was set to have his role expanded in coming months.

Unfortunately, Louie's untimely death means that this will instead be go down as just another one of the "almost big breaks" that had punctuated his career.

Beginning shortly after his pro debut in 1989, Spicolli started showing up on WWF TV as a semi-regular jobber. It was fairly clear, even at that early stage, that Spicolli was a notch better than the average enhancement talent. During the early 90's, he began to live up to expectations both south of the border in Mexico and in several U.S. based indie promotions. In Mexico, he wrestled as "Madonna's Boyfriend" and was a heel sensation. In the U.S., he would eventually begin teaming with Chris Candido as the Suicide Blonds.

Louie's first chance at stardom came in late 1994 when he signed with the WWF. Adopting the character of "Rad Radford," Spicolli was about two years too late to cash in on a "grunge rocker" gimmick, and wound up as primarily a mid-carder. In 1995, his most memorable WWF run began when Spicolli was "scouted" by Chris "Skip" Candido and Sunny as a potential Bodydonna. After teaming on a few occasions, Skip and Sunny turned on Radford. Before much of anything could be done with the burgeoning feud, however, Spicolli was found unconscious/passed out either in a hotel room or backstage at an event (of suspecting substance abuse).  He spent some time in the hospital recovering, but even after getting a clean bill of health, all that mattered was that the Fed had lost faith in Spicolli's reliability. Tom "Zip" Pritchard went on to become a tag team champ as a Bodydonna, while Spicolli was quietly released from his WWF obligations in early 1996.

Louie began appearing in ECW later that year, entering the ring to "Louie, Louie" and working hard to get over as a babyface. ECW, realizing Spicolli's potential, still had difficulty finding a direction for him. Over the course of several months, Spicolli's ring work deteriorated as he languished as a mid-carder. Fans cooled to Louie as 1997 began. It was at this point that Spicolli's hottest run in ECW kicked off, as he turned heel and marked Tommy Dreamer as his major target. Mimicking Dreamer's look and style, Spicolli feuded with Tommy through much of Spring, 1997. But for whatever reason, Spicolli never seemed to catch the crowd's imagination, and he was sent packing from ECW -- in what was reported to be a less-than-amicable split -- shortly before ECW's second PPV event in August.

It was not long before Louie agreed to start with WCW. He was first rumored to be a part of the "Raven's Nest" angle, though that never materialized. After several months of sitting the sidelines, Louie first appeared on WCW TV reprising his Tommy Dreamer knock-off gimmick. It didn't take long before that was dropped in favor of the Hall/NWO angle that seemed to catapult Louie to the next level.

Louie Spicolli was born Louis Mucciolo on January 10, 1971. He died on February 15, 1998, at the age of 27. My condolences, as well as those of all OO Readers, go out to Louie's friends, family, and fans.

This editorial appeared as a OO Update on 2/18/98
A Wake-Up Call?

When word of Louie Spicolli's death got out on Monday, it wasn't long before the whispers started. Even as we realized it was the "right thing to do" to stay quietly respectful and try to pay tribute to a fallen star, some were drawn to the morbid, seedy details of Louie's death.

It started out simply enough: we found out the police were investigating the death as a possible accidentally drug overdose. Where we stand today is a bit less clear. Indications -- ones a bit more reliable than "rumors" but which lack the certitude of confirmed "facts" -- are that Louie died in a pool of his own vomit after mixing four times the recommended dosage of the pain-killer Soma with alcohol.

Is that blunt enough for you?

The worst part is that for some of you, not only is the above blunt enough, it's also all you seem to care about. When I noted yesterday that WCW's handling of Spicolli's death was "inadequate" and "inappropriate," I got about a dozen e-mails from people saying that because Louie was a guy who died a self-inflicted, drug-overdose death, all he "deserved" was the 10 second graphic and thinly veiled kayfabe comments from Zbyszko. You thought it was reasonable that the company would want to distance itself from a guy who OD'ed while in their employ.

That's bullshit. Louie was a part of the show. Now that he's not part of the show, it's only fair to acknowledge in some MEANINGFUL way that we've lost something. Louie went from impressing us with 30 minute stretches of commentary to being a 20 second afterthought between last Thursday and Monday. There may well be other, good reasons for why WCW handled things the way they did. But the rationalization provided by most of you folks is poor, at best.

But that's neither here nor there. The issue that most people have chosen to pick up on is that Spicolli's death should be a "wake-up call" to the companies the tacitly approve the sort of drug abuse that led to Louie's death. That's what bears the most discussion at this juncture.

Bob Ryder penned what will probably be the most widely read editorial on this subject at 1Wrestling.Com. Many others, I'm sure, will endorse his point of view that the major feds need to take more responsibility for "cleaning up" their boys. It's no big secret that in a business where your job is basically to go out and get your ass kicked every night, you're going to have more aches and pains than the average joe. So many workers turn to pain killers -- prescription and otherwise.

But to me, the view that the front offices need to take this on their shoulders is a naive one. Could Vince, Eric, and Paul clean up the sport with strict drug policies? Probably. But at what cost? Firing a guy because he won't quit an addictive drug won't clean the guy up; he'll just go work somewhere else where he and his little monkey-on-the-back can get along (or worse, he'll end up unemployed and depressed like Kerry Von Erich). Keeping him on the payroll while he "tries" to get clean sends the wrong message; suddenly, you'll have guys getting multi-month paid vacations while they make half-hearted attempts to get better.

As much as it feels good to try to take the big dogs of the major feds to task, the fact is that no matter how good their intentions, they won't make a dent in this problem. The contributing factors are so varied and so compelling that the ultimate responsibility lies in one place only: the individual worker.

In a situation where the medical underground makes it possible to get nearly any prescription filled, as long as you can afford the price tag, how are Vince, Eric, and Paul supposed to make a dent in the problem? In a situation where the fans are rapidly demanding a more physically punishing style, can Vince, Eric, and Paul really convince the boys that their bumps and bruises don't exist?

These aren't really rhetorical questions... I'd like you all to think about them and try to generate an answer. Once you do, it may become more obvious why I think the feds themselves can't shoulder this particular burden by themselves. It's more up to the individual to decide to use only reputable medical professionals, or to work a style that affords the possibility of a pain-free retirement. Once those choices are made one way or the other, it's still the individual's choice whether or not to use these pain-killing drugs in a dangerous manner. Only after this choice is made does the fed come into the picture; Vince, Eric, and Paul get the worker after he's made his choice. They can't do a whole lot to shape the environment in which he made that choice; they aren't the ones writing up bullshit prescriptions, they aren't the ones getting in the ring and putting a hurting on the boys. And most importantly, they aren't the ones popping the pills.

Where's it leave us? I really don't know. I do know that I can't, in good conscience, lay this one off on Vince, Eric, and Paul. They may be able to improve the environment in which the workers make certain decisions, but only to a small extent. Ultimately, those decisions are made by the Louie Spicolli's of the world, not by Eric Bischoff (or any of Louie's previous employers).

So I guess my exhortation is to the wrestlers themselves. We like what you guys do. That's why we tune in, show up at the arenas, and spend parts of our days talking about your latest escapades here on the internet. We don't need to lose any more of our favorite performers. So do us ALL a favor, and take a look at the decisions you've made. If they're bad, don't make them again.

 

E-MAIL RICK SCAIA  
BROWSE THE OO ARCHIVES

Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.


  
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