Demons At Bay, Dreams Within Reach

Word of Honor is an occasional series of first-person feature articles written by ROH talent.

By Sledge

Sitting home alone in the dark mired in a haze of alcohol and pain pills, I couldn’t understand why no one was returning my phone calls or text messages, not even those closest to me.

Wallowing in my depression, I was falling deeper and deeper down a dark hole.

I finally got a call from my best friend. Holding a beer in one hand and with pain pills within arm’s reach, I listened to him tell me I was going to die if I didn't get help.

The reason no one was returning my calls or texts was because no one wanted to be around me. I wasn't the person they had met, the friend they had known. This was the wakeup call I so desperately needed.

I put my friend on FaceTime and had him watch me dump everything down the drain. The beer in my hand, the pills, the alcohol in the house, all of it. I told him to check on me every few hours.

I knew it wasn't going to be an easy road. 

***

Some of my fondest memories of professional wrestling are of my father introducing me to it. I remember sitting on his knee watching some of the greats. Because of his love for wrestling, I began to dream of becoming a professional wrestler.

In 1997, when I was 11, my father passed away, and soon after that the trouble started. My family fell apart. He had been the glue that held us together.

I was lost and angry. I started acting out and getting in trouble, cutting class and fighting. I come from a long line of alcoholics, so I started drinking at a very young age. It was the only way I knew how to handle the depression of my dad passing.

When he died, my mom fell apart, so I basically lost both parents. In high school I moved in with an aunt and uncle in California. My uncle was a heavy drinker and was spending a lot of time at parties, making it easy for me to make all the wrong choices.

This is when I first got in trouble with drinking and with the law. This is how I lost everything, even to the point of being homeless. 

After my mother slammed the door in my face, I reached out with a collect call to my older sister, and she soon moved me and my trash bag full of clothes up to San Francisco. I still held that rebellious mind frame, though, and continued drinking.

My sister threatened to kick me out multiple times due to the way I acted under the influence, and she would have if I hadn't met a girl and moved down to San Luis Obispo with her.

I kept on with my bad habits, but I soon got into MMA. I competed in a couple amateur fights, and then found my way into the world of wrestling again. That's when I knew I was going to be a professional wrestler.

My girlfriend at the time kept telling me I'd never make it and needed a real job. That relationship took a turn for the worse after the birth of our daughter and ended badly soon after. While continuing to party and play in a band, I found myself falling further and further away from my dreams of professional wrestling.  

Eventually, fate intervened. I won tickets to a wrestling show from a local radio station, but I couldn't go because of a gig,so I gave the tickets to a coworker. He came back and said the promotion had a wrestling school and that I needed to go.

I was doing promotions for a nightclub at the time, so I set up a deal for the wrestling company to hold a show there and give me a month of free training. A few weeks into training, I was out partying with friends when I suffered an injury to my lower back. I continued wrestling, and my back went out completely during a match.

I couldn't get up from the mat on my own and had to be helped out of the ring. Instead of going to the emergency room, I drove the hour back home, but when I arrived I couldn't get out of the car. My back had locked completely up, so I had no choice but to drive myself to the ER after all.

The doctor prescribed me pain pills and sent me on my way. After the effects of the pills wore off, I experienced the worst chronic pain. Alcohol alone wasn't enough to ebb the pain, so I started getting pain pills wherever I could.

My personal life also took a turn for the worse. I lost custody of my second daughter and went through a sudden divorce. I started drinking even more and mixing the alcohol with pills. This was a deadly combination

I was spinning out of control. I didn't care if I lived or died. 

***

In 2014, I showed up for a match in no condition to compete. It was unprofessional and the worst match of my life.

Despite my bad judgment, there was a silver lining. The incident led to the phone call from my friend that put me on the road to recovery.

The day that I woke up clear of mind and sober is a day I will never forget. But I soon began trading two vices for one. Food was my new antidepressant, and I gained weight quickly. I was shunned from training and unwelcome in the professional wrestling world.

The people in that wrestling knew I wasn't where I needed to be and most of them didn't trust that I could stay sober. I found a good paying job and remained sober, but I was miserable. The ring is where I always wanted to be. Wrestling was my life. I felt empty in my new life.

I watched as everyone I had been working with on the indie scene began getting swooped up by major companies. If I wasn't an addict, I could have been one of them. I was watching my dreams slip away again. So now I had to get my new addiction under control. It was time to shed the weight.

I got a gym membership for Christmas from my new support system and reached out to those of my old gym buddies who would still train with me. I started listening to a lot of motivational speakers through podcasts and YouTube. I needed to surround myself with positivity if I was going to achieve this new goal, this new way of life.

I had to get my mind and body in balance. I quit my full-time job for a part-time job so I could focus on wrestling. I started hitting the gym multiple times a day, focusing on strength and cardio. I researched healthy eating styles and started doing meal planning by the week.

I was turning wrestling into a career and a lifestyle change. I dropped 140 pounds and put another 30 back on in muscle. It was hard, excruciating work, but I wanted to show the world the real me. This was everything to me. It was the only thing I wanted in life. 

***

I reached out to promoters and started working the indies. I did an international tour in England with WAW and the Knight family dynasty. I found myself on Steve Austin’s podcast, which opened a lot more doors for me such as Impact Wrestling, which in turn got more eyes on me.

I started flying to multiple states for shows, making a new name for myself and meeting new contacts. When I heard Ring Of Honor was coming to Sam's Town in Las Vegas in March 2019 for the 17th Anniversary show, something in my gut told me I had to be there.

So I flew myself to Las Vegas on my own dime and volunteered my services for the event. And with that, I was invited to do ring crew. I jumped at the opportunity to work behind the scenes just to get my name under their noses. ROH was a company I had always dreamed about working for. 

I must have done something to catch their eye, because ROH invited me to do ring crew at Madison Square Garden for G1 Supercard the following month. It was at that show that I got offered a tryout, which then got me a spot at the ROH Dojo in September.

But in order to accept it, it meant relocating my entire life from California to Maryland and leaving my family and support system behind for an unknown amount of time. All for the slim chance of working for ROH.

I had to sacrifice everything and put my full self into it. This was my chance to finally prove to myself and everyone who knew me that I was worthy of this opportunity. And after just six months of training at the Dojo, driving the ring trucks state to state and putting in all the extra work behind the scenes that I could get my hands on, I signed my official deal with ROH.

Finally, I was one step closer to achieving my dreams. And then COVID-19 hit, canceling all of ROH’s live events and preventing me from getting to officially debut with the company.

Despite the frustration of once again feeling lost, I was allowed to go back home to California permanently with the promise of travel compensation. I was able to reunite with my loved ones and friends, something I thought I would be unable to do for years.

I was able to use that down time to start up my own motivational Twitch show (“Coffee with Sledge”) and focus on my physical and mental health.

I'm happy to say I'm six years clean and sober. I still wrestle my demons daily, but my new lease on life keeps them at bay.

My future is bright with Ring of Honor. I’m just scratching the surface. Wait and see. 

 

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