This week marked 12 years since the untimely passing of Chris Candido, who passed away after complications from surgery to repair a broken ankle that he suffered at the TNA Lockdown pay-per-view in 2005. Candido was an underrated talent that spent nearly his entire life in the wrestling business, earning praise among peers and fans.
However, long before “No Gimmicks Needed” strutted down the apron to the tune of ACDC’s “Back in Black,” professional wrestling was a family tradition. His grandfather, Chuck Richards worked as a preliminary wrestler in the early 70s for the WWWF, allowing Candido early access to the industry. As a youth, while some played basketball or baseball, he decided to follow his wrestling heroes. Through being a fan, he became friends with John Rechner, who went on to become Balls Mahoney in ECW. The two wrestling enthusiasts staged their own version of backyard wrestling, drawing a crowd in the process. Eventually, the two friends began to set up rings around the New Jersey independent scene to find a way into the business. Larry Sharpe, a competitor that often worked WWF house shows in the 70s and early 80s, gave the pair of young grapplers a chance to learn the craft. At just 14, Candido began training at The Monster Factory, the school that introduced Raven, Bam Bam Bigelow, and many others.
Within just a few years of wrestling the regional circuit around his hometown, Candido was invited to work a tour for Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling in Japan as “The Blonde Bomber,” preforming nearly a dozen matches in 1992. The international exposure boosted his career, as he won the NWA championship during one of the organization’s attempts to relaunch itself, and was signed to Jim Cornette’s Smokey Mountain Wrestling in 1993. SMW became somewhat of an unofficial developmental system for the World Wrestling Federation when several of the talents that Cornette discovered went on to sign national contracts. After three years of working SMW nearly full-time, Candido signed a WWF deal with Sunny in 1995. The real-life pair formed The Body Donnas, a fitness type gimmick, and Candido went under the name “Skip” for the duration of his WWF run. The following year, Dr. Tom Prichard joined the team and the duo won the tag team titles.
An injury led to his departure, but he soon returned to ECW, where he worked previously, and it led to arguably the best run of his career. A multiple time tag team champion, Candido was also a member of the Triple Threat stable with Shane Douglas and Bigelow. The group was a staple of the promotion and he was featured for many pay-per-view matches. Quite simply, Candido delivered bell-to-bell and always performed quality matches, which made him a valuable asset to the company.
After two years as one of the most well-rounded and solid performers on the roster, rumors of drug problems surfaced toward the latter of 1998. His appearances in 1999 were sporadic as he only worked a little more than two dozen matches before he left in October of that year. He worked briefly for XPW in early 2000 prior to signing a deal with World Championship Wrestling. The speculation of drug problems persisted and he was released from the Turner contract just three months later in June of 2000.
After ECW folded, Candido worked a few tours of Japan over the next few years and the independent scene. He took most of 2003 off to resolve the drug habit that had affected his career, and resurfaced sober on the indy circuit in 2004. The rejuvenated athlete had overcome the drug problem and returned to the form of the prime of his career. At just 34, the nearly two decade veteran had the experience, but was also young enough to have another major run in his career.
His renewed efforts were noticed and he debuted for TNA in January of 2005. His time in the promotion solidified his status as completely recovered from his previous problems, and many were optimistic about the next chapter of his career. As mentioned, just a few months later, Chris Candido tragically passed away at the age of 33.
I had the chance to meet Chris Candido a few times the year before he passed away and he was extremely polite. It was a major accomplishment that Candido completely turned his life around before he passed away. He left too soon, but he deserves major credit for the comeback he made in his career. Instead of becoming another precautionary tale of the wrestling business, Chris Candido was a success story. Chris Candido proved himself to be as much of a champion outside the ring as he was inside the squared circle. Even more than a decade after he died, Candido is remembered for his stellar in-ring performances and he’s undoubtedly an under rated legend.
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Until next week
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