Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic – Rest in peace, Mr. Martin.

Four days before his 34th birthday, former WWF/E superstar Andrew “Test” Martin was found dead in his Tampa, Florida condo. Authorities suspect no foul play, which unfortunately means that we can all guess what caused his untimely demise. Unless something incredibly unusual was responsible, Martin most likely died of a heart attack brought about by years of abuse to his body in the form of drugs. It makes me sick to my stomach to realize professional wrestling has suffered yet another loss of such a young man, and I can’t understand why these wrestlers aren’t learning the lessons of their brothers who’ve died before them. If the tragic loss of a beloved colleague were to have one shred of a silver lining, it should at least be that others walking the same path are forced to take a hard look at the choices they make and stop before it’s too late. I wish that were so…

TODAY’S ISSUE: The tragic loss of Andrew Martin.

The death of Andrew Martin is not merely “another” tragedy, and he is not just the “next” in this horrible procession of young men who were famous wrestlers to pass away far too soon. This is a tragedy, period. For the people in Martin’s life, he’s much more than the most recent entry on a tombstone etched with the names of his friends and coworkers, so we must be careful not to simply add Martin’s death to a list that grows at a terrifying rate and includes names like Brian Pillman, Michael Hegstrand, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, the Von Erick brothers, Owen Hart, Louie Mucciolo, Chris Candido, Rodney Anoa’i, Mike Lockwood, Rick Rude, Davey Boy Smith, Mike Alfonso, Curt Hennig, Scott Bigelow, and so many others. Too many others.

I could discuss how quick and agile Test was for a big man, his pivotal role in the InVasion storyline, his victory in the Immunity Battle Royal, or his Intercontinental, Hardcore, European, and tag team championship reigns. I could reminisce about T & A, his marriage angle with Stephanie McMahon, his membership in the UnAmericans, or the Testicles, but this isn’t about a wrestler’s in-ring accomplishments or storyline happenings. It’s about the fact that a community of performers has lost a brother, and my heart goes out to any of Martin’s friends who are grieving the loss of a beloved fraternity member today.

Martin’s enormous, muscled-up and cut physique made it easy to speculate that he used steroids and/or HGH, and I believe he probably did, but there was likely more to it. Pro wrestlers fall into a trap of requiring unhealthy amounts of painkillers to survive the beatings their bodies absorb night after night, the endless miles of travel in cars and airline seats not designed for their bulky frames, and too many nights of sleeping in hotel beds. They often need a little chemical help to get their long days going or to get “up” for a performance before another hungry crowd who paid to see the whole show, and won’t accept a marquee name sleepwalking through his match. Then after the show, many wrestlers party like rock stars for hours, drinking and using whatever recreational substances they might choose. And finally, too many wrestlers have been known to swallow scary quantities of somas, an often habit-forming muscle relaxer, just so they can try to get some sleep after being amped up, beaten down, and having partied after the show. Lest we forget, the next day will either be more of the same, another day of back-breaking travel after which they must search a new town for food, a gym, and maybe a tanning salon, or perhaps they’ll endure a long road trip home for a few days of rest before it starts all over again. The life of a professional wrestler is certainly not easy.

On top of all that, add in the stress of getting hired and fired at the whim of tyrannical, egomaniacal promoters, trying to get bookings, brainstorming for a gimmick or catchphrase to connect with fickle fans, attempting to improve in the ring or add new, exciting moves to their repertoire, looking over their shoulder for the established veterans who cling to their own “spot” so tightly that they will literally sabotage any good, young performer who can make the fans react, and the strict locker room protocols and rules under which they are forced to live. The result is often a man whose body, mind, and spirit are all wound so tightly that he couldn’t possibly handle one more stressor before losing it and going off the deep end or disappearing in substance abuse. Then there’s always the “real world” on top of their universe, whether it be issues concerning family, relationships, pets, property, or the rest of the stuff we face on a daily basis, which is often enough to make us “normal folks” need a drink or something. I wonder how so many of them have survived as long as they have in the business and managed to maintain any semblance of what you and I might consider a normal life. It makes me sad to think that a man whose name is chanted by thousands of paying fans one minute could feel so alone hours, days, or even a year or two later. The wrestling industry and its fans can really chew a person up and spit him or her out when they are no longer the hip, new thing.

Since Martin was back in the indies and no longer enjoying the superstar lifestyle he lived as a television star with WWF/E (and for a short time in TNA), and having recently separated from girlfriend and WWE diva Barbara “Kelly Kelly” Blank, I can only speculate about his emotional state at the time of his death. I prey we don’t discover a conscious choice was involved in the ending of his life. In fact, I hope that as the story of Andrew “Test” Martin unfolds in the coming days and weeks, we find his death was not another wrestling tragedy, but instead a sad loss caused by some unknown medical anomaly. However, recent history tells us that this isn’t likely. Sadly, we likely already know exactly what happened, and now we simply wait for confirmation of those facts wrestling fans have become all too familiar with recently. I’d love to be proven wrong, but we all can see what Martin’s appears to have been caused by at this point.

Godspeed, Mr. Martin, and may you rest in peace. My sincere condolences go to your family, friends, and loved ones who mourn you now and will miss you always. I’m sorry you are no longer with us…

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – “The hour of departure has arrived and we go our ways; I to die, and you to live. Which is better? Only God knows.” – Socrates

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