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NEWSFLASH: Former WCW/WWE Champion Chris Kanyon, Dead at 40
April 3, 2010

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OOWrestling.com


Well, you can chalk up another one for the ass-hatted pundits who are convinced pro wrestling is evil and it kills its employees at far too young an age. Truly, the death and misery of others is music to the ears of Nancy Grace and her ilk...
But it's no music to our ears. Or at least, not mine. I wanted to spend Easter Eve with no REAL excuse for brushing off my mom and not decorating Easter Eggs. Rooting for Butler and Duke is about as much "work" as I wanted to have to do today.

No such luck, as the wrestling world today mourns the death of Chris Kanyon (real name: Christopher Klucsaritis). He was 40 years old. 

Kanyon was a singles and tag champion in WCW and the WWF in the late 90s and into the early 2000s, a fact not lost on wrestling fans during the industry's biggest boom phase. But beyond what you saw on the screen, he was perhaps best described as a solid and innovative worker who could make those around him look better. Though a valued skill, that never translated into huge breakout stardom, and Kanyon was last seen on our TVs in 2004.
Since then, he periodically showed up in wrestling headlines, making grabs for attention by promoting himself as "the first openly gay wrestler" (oddly, Kanyon first claimed this applied only to his "character" -- despite the existence of many past flamingly flamboyant characters -- before admitting he, himself, was really homosexual) and then by trying to sue the bejeezus out of WWE for any excuse he could come up with (claiming his release was an anti-gay conspiracy, and a later suit challenging WWE's misuse of "independent contractor" status). It's unlikely Kanyon was as "blacklisted" as he thought -- at least, initially -- but he did his best  as time went on to make himself less employable.
In addition to grappling with the fizzling of his in-ring career, Kanyon is also said to have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
This all came to a head last night when Kanyon overdosed on pills, and was found dead in his apartment in the early morning hours on Saturday. At this point, the belief is that the overdose was intentional and Kanyon did, in fact, mean to commit suicide.
Tweets and blogs from Kanyon's friends and co-workers display a whole lot of sadness and regret, but a telling lack of shock or surprise. To a man, they say that they knew Kanyon was always dealing with a lot of stuff in his personal life, and they just hope he's at peace, now. WWE has also officially acknowledged Kanyon's passing, albeit in a rather cold fashion that goes out of its way to make sure people know Kanyon hadn't been associated in any capacity with WWE since February 2004.
For fans who remember Kanyon's work, this marks the passing of a largely underrated perfomer. For those too young or otherwise unfamiliar with Kanyon, a quick recap of his career might be appropriate...
In 1992, Kanyon had completed his bachelor's degree at the University of Buffalo -- where he also competed on the rugby team -- but had the itch to try out pro wrestling. On a lark, he trained on weekends at a gym in Queens, while maintaining a day job. For the better part of 3 years, Kanyon slowly developed as a performer, working the sporadic small indie show and sometimes getting to appear as a jobber for the WWF when they'd tape TV in the region.
In 1994, then-Smokey-Mountain-mainstay James Mitchell encouraged Kanyon to take wrestling more seriously. For the first time, Kanyon decided to pursue his hobby as his full-time career, and underwent a whole next progression of his development with Afa and the Samoan training facility in Pennsylvania. Though the pupils at the Samoans' school tended to be placed in the WWF's pipeline, Kanyon didn't impress the company at that time.
At the same time, Eric Bischoff had just made his power play to put WCW on Monday nights, and was working with an open checkbook (Turner executives at the time though WCW was doomed to fail, and were making sure to give Bischoff enough of the proverbial rope-to-hang-himself)... Bischoff DID see something in Kanyon, and brought him in. Kanyon was a semi-regular lower-card guy for WCW's b-shows for a while, before being taken off the air to prep for something bigger.
Bischoff's brain-child and pet project at the time was to create some sort of a self-contained alternate universe of fighting characters that SEEMED (to me, anyway) to be mildly-ripped-off from the Mortal Kombat game franchise. Ultra-dramatic vignettes hyped the impending debut of "Glacier," who showed up with all sorts of silly-ass lazers and other special effects and absolutely ZERO interest from the fans. Glacier was soon followed, however, by an age-old nemesis from whatever alternate dimension he hailed from...
And thus was born "Mortis," as portrayed by Kanyon. Mortis wore a mask and an outfit that was vaguely skeleton-y.  Mortis and Glacier feuded for about 6 months, and were eventually joined by "Wrath" (aligned with Mortis) and "The Cat" (aligned with Glacier). They rarely interacted with much of anybody else on the WCW roster, which is as problematic as it sounds. The whole floptastic mess was eventually swept under the rug, and the Mortal Kombat characters were scrapped.
In early 1998, Raven was going strong as a upper-card heel who had his own "Flock" of weirdos and cast-offs. Mortis -- a grown man in a skeleton outfit -- thought he'd fit right in and asked to join the Flock... this ended up back-firing, as Raven wanted no part of Mortis. This led to Mortis taking off the mask and becoming his own man: Chris Kanyon.  Kanyon and Raven feuded, but then became allies for a lengthy stretch of time... against Raven, and then with Raven against foes such as Dallas Page and Perry Saturn, Kanyon contributed to a TON of strong mid-card matches thoughout this time, which helped prop up a WCW product that was stagnant (and often unwatchable) at the main event level.
That trend continued for another extended phase, after Kanyon turned against Raven's flock to join the "Jersey Triad" alongside Bam Bam Bigelow and DDP. The Triad won tag team gold, and were permitted to defend the titles "Freebird Style." They were eventually defeated after a lengthy feud with Harlem Heat.
The Triad disbanded, and WCW tried to come up with something else for Kanyon... a brief stint as "Champagne" Kanyon is best left forgotten, and was an abysmal failure that segued nicely into Kanyon taking a lengthy break from weekly TV to coordinate the wrestling scenes in the movie "Ready to Rumble." (Kanyon also had gigs consulting for the made-for-NBC Jesse Ventura movie, and had other stunt coordinator jobs over time; his work in this area was very well-regarded, as he managed to make untrained actors look fairly plausible in wrestling and fight scenes.}
Conveniently enough, the triple-stacked cage structure from said movie crossed over into WCW at the time of the film's release, and as part of the whole wacky mess where David Arquette wound up winning the WCW Title, Kanyon made his surprise return to try to aid his old buddy DDP, and in so doing managed to take a few big bumps/high spots using the very cage structure he helped design (and choreograph scenes for).
Said bumps landed Kanyon in a wheelchair, a gimmick he milked for months until suddenly rising up to turn on DDP for not visiting him in the hospital or some such. He then adopted a DDP-rip-off gimmick as "Positively Kanyon," and feuded with DDP for pretty much the rest of WCW's existence. Kanyon defeated Page at the final WCW PPV ever in February 2001.
Kanyon was one of the handful of WCW employees whose contract was picked up by the WWF when they bought the company. Kanyon was seen in Shane McMahon's luxury box at WM17, and was on the front lines when WCW finally began their "invasion" of the WWF later in the summer. Kanyon was also named the reigning WCW US Champion at this time (the US and WCW Titles had been unified by Booker T upon the demise of Nitro, but were re-split by the WWF by "Alliance" boss Stephanie McMahon), and started using the catchphrase "Who better than Kanyon?"...
Kanyon was also one of a very few men to simultaneously hold two titles, as he and DDP beat the APA for the WWF Tag Team Titles, which they would later lose to the Undertaker/Kane. The inVasion angle, as a whole, pretty much started bombing at this point, and though the blame for that rested squarely on the shoulders of Vince McMahon, he prefered to pass the buck. Those associated with the Alliance were handed the blame, and as the inVasion fizzled to an end, Vince removed many key members of the WCW/ECW group and replaced them with proven WWF guys such as Steve Austin and Kurt Angle.
Kanyon was one of the victims of this decision, and was practically irrelevent to WWF fans by October of that year, after such a hot start during the summer. His situation got worse, and Kanyon suffered a serious knee injury before the conclusion of the inVasion angle at Survivor Series. 
He was out of action for 8 months, and in one of his very first rehab matches for OVW, suffered ANOTHER injury, this time to his shoulder. Another surgery and another 8 months of inactivity followed. In February 2003, Kanyon made his debut on the SmackDown roster, but quickly fell down the totem pole after failing to latch on again with fans. For the next year, Kanyon was primarily seen on the b-show, "Velocity."
In late 2003 and early 2004, Kanyon pitched an idea to bring back the Mortis gimmick, in an effort to score himself more TV time. The idea was even tested on house shows and in dark matches, but WWE decided it wasn't gonna work out. In February 2004, Kanyon was released and wished all the best in his future endeavors.
In the months that followed, Kanyon made a decent living on bigger indie shows, and even made a splash by facing DDP in a "Loser Must Retire" Match. Kanyon lost, and stayed retired for all of 6 months or so. He continued making the rounds, though, including a brief (maybe even one night?) stint in TNA in 2006, where he faced his old nemesis Raven.
Relegated to the fringes of the wrestling industry, and battling his own mental health demons, Kanyon started lashing out against WWE whenever the opportunity presented itself. When the company was thrust into the limelight upon the death of Eddie Guerrero, Kanyon was an ex-wrestler more than happy to discuss his experiences. Over time, this morphed into Kanyon using any chance he got to proclaim that his firing from WWE was solely due to his sexual orientation, which he'd decided to make public in an attempt to drum up more indie work as "The First Openly Gay Wrestler."
That attention-grab didn't exactly go over well, and Kanyon remained on the fringes until he joined a lawsuit initiated by Scott "Raven" Levy, in which he accused WWE of mislabeling their employees as "indepedent contractors" for various tax and financial gains. The case -- in a purely theoretical/common sense sort of way -- has a TON of merit and this is one area where those holding a grudge against WWE (or the wrestling industry) have a very valid point... however, in a purely LEGAL sense, the case didn't have merit, as the statute of limitations for such misdeeds had expired in the years since Levy, Kanyon, or their third litigant Mike Sanders had had valid WWE contracts. The case was tossed out by a judge at some point last year.
Kanyon's in-ring gigs began drying up, and had been sporadic over the past 3 years, but he continued to dabble in the business by making personal appearances and providing soundbites to any "wrestling journalist" who was interested. At one point, I believe he even tried to propogate a story where he had been personally told by Bret Hart that Bret was in on the Montreal Screwjob, and had initially intended to go back to the company after his 3-year WCW contract expired for a HUGE pay-off against Vince, but that Bret's animosity towards the WWF turned very real after Owen's death, and those plans went out the window.
Well, until last Sunday, anyway. Ahem.
But I digress. Kanyon was living in Queens these last few years, and that's where he was found early this morning, dead of an apparently-intentional overdose at the age of 40.
Condolences go out to all of Chris Kanyon's family, friends, and fans on this sad day.

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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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