A competitive bodybuilder, martial artist and professional wrestler, Steve Blackman is considered to be one of pro wrestling’s true tough guys. For good reason, too! He’s beaten a life-threatening bout of malaria, suicidal thoughts, and kicked many asses along the way. If these stories of the ‘Lethal Weapon’ don’t make you shake in your boots in fear, we don’t know what will!
Steve Blackman Discusses Catching Malaria, Almost Dying and the Longest Plane Ride of his Life
“I got down [to South Africa], and the day after I was there I started getting sicker. I just kept getting sicker. I was so dehydrated I couldn’t even breathe. Every ten minutes I was in the bathroom. I would chug waters, I would chug sodas, anything I could get my hands on because every ten minutes I felt like I had sand in my mouth and I couldn’t breathe.
I went to the hospital and they kept me on an IV all night. We went through a few bags of IV’s and sent me back to the hotel. Six straight hours later I would be so dehydrated, I couldn’t breathe again and had to go back. This went on the whole week.
At this point in time, they were just flying out of Durban once a week as this was in ’89, so if I didn’t get out on the Thursday coming up, I would have been stuck there another week and I just knew I wouldn’t make it another week. When I arrived on the one Thursday, I weighed 267 pounds. When I got home seven days later, I was 232. When I got home, I drank and ate a lot of food the night before I went to bed and went to the doctor in the morning. So probably, I lost more than 35 pounds in 6 or 7 days. It was a nightmare.
One of my friends was Gary Albright, he passed away as well. I was in Durban and I was in the hospital and I said, “Gary, you have to get me out of here. If I stay another week, I’m not going to make it. I don’t want to have my family go halfway around the world to retrieve my body so I want to get the hell out of here.” So he scheduled one of his friends to pick me up.
The guy drove me to the airport. I had enough cash on me to buy a ticket from Durban to Johannesburg. So now at home, I had my family buy me a ticket from Johannesburg all the way back home. You know, this was 21, 20 years ago and I didn’t have a bunch of cash on me. They were paying for everything but I had enough to cover the one ticket on the spur of the moment. So I got to Johannesburg and it came through fifteen minutes before the flight left. If it wouldn’t have come through, I would have been stuck there. I probably would have been there, because now I would have been in Johannesburg where I knew no one. So we fly and luckily I got on the plane there. And I was trying to keep from blacking out the whole time and I would keep a bag full of sodas and water, whatever I could find because I just couldn’t even breathe.
From there, it was like a five-hour flight to Kenya. We had a five-hour layover in Kenya on the runway with the doors open and it was about 120 degrees. From there we flew nine hours to Amsterdam where I had a 12-hour layover. I got to Amsterdam and they didn’t even let me on the plane because I was so sick. I said, “Look, I don’t think I have anything contagious. It’s dysentery or malaria or something like that, but I don’t think it’s contagious. If I die, I’m going to die in the States. I made it this far, I’m going home.”
So anyway, I was laying on the floor at the airport for twelve hours and I would just crawl in the bathroom every ten minutes. One end or the other would be coming out. As soon as I would drink, I would go in again. It was just horrible.
From there, we flew to New York City, but on that flight from Amsterdam to New York, I blacked out a few times. I know that they called a doctor on the plane and he mixed up these packs for me, maybe blood sugar packs or something to keep reviving me, so to speak. I got to New York and they had some kid wheel me off in a wheelchair. Whatever money I had in my hand, I don’t have have any clue to this day what it was. I just gave it to him and said, “Just get me something to eat,” because I wanted to see if I can keep some food and water down in my own country. He came back with a sub and a bottle of water and it was the first time I ate and drank something and didn’t go to the bathroom. I’m like, I gotta stay down. I’m delirious on top of losing 35 pounds in 6 days. I haven’t slept now in days as I’ve been flying and all this trying to get home in 37 hours. So now we’re in New York and I have a five-hour layover before I fly to Harrisburg. I didn’t care if I passed out there. I didn’t care if I went to the hospital there. I didn’t even pick my luggage up. I said, “Leave it. Just get me to my gate and let me go.” And I made it home.
I was pretty delirious, I couldn’t even remember my girlfriend’s name for the first three or four days. I went to the doctor and he said I probably had dysentery or probably had malaria from my symptoms because I was so bad.
After about two weeks at home, I started feeling a little better. Then I went down there and got shots of cortisone and with the cortisone, again, all of a sudden I was getting sicker and sicker. I was completely screwed up. Everything came alive. I had bronchitis every six weeks for three years. I was just constantly sick until they figured out I developed an infection in my intestines from all these antibiotics, dysentery and cortisone reaction and all of that stuff. About three years went by and I went to ten different doctors. I spent every penny I had on medical bills.
And then after all that, one doctor in Maryland finally figured out what it was. He said, ‘The problem is you’re going to have to take medicine for as long as you were sick,” because it was through the entire of my intestinal track. That’s two to two and a half years on medicine. Then, one day after five and a half, six years, whatever it was, I woke up and it was like, ‘My God I can see clearly today! I can think clearly today!’ And then that was it. I spent ten minutes at the gym. The next day fifteen, and so on. And after about a year, I said, “I’m going back.” But, I never thought I would be going back after all these years. For a few years, I thought I was going to die every night I went to bed.”
Steve Blackman on his Long Road to Recovery from Malaria
“[Before catching malaria in South Africa] I came down to [Titan Towers] and I was pushed to go. I had a trial with them and said, “I want to wrestle with you guys.” It was my ultimate goal. But I said, “I gave this guy my word that I would wrestle in South Africa and he’s already got the fliers out.” I hadn’t even worked a main event, but back then it was no big deal.
I was talking with Pat Patterson and one of the other guys in the office. They were like, “Let us know when you want to start when you get back.” They didn’t care. So anyway, I came back and some time went by and they put me on a show. I was just so sick that it took everything I had not to black out in the match. I had a fairly good match, but I just couldn’t do it. I was just fighting to keep from passing out the whole time.
About a year or two later, they put me on another one. I said, “Pat, I appreciate this.” And I had a good match. I wrestled Mike Sharp the one night and I forget who I wrestled the other time, but we actually had a pretty good match but they were pretty good houses. Even Gene Okerlund came up to me at the time and he goes, “I’m pretty sure we have a spot for you because your matches went pretty well.” And I told Pat, “Pat, I feel like livid hell. I’m still sick. I will never bother you again until I feel like I can come back.”
So then around the end of ’96, ’97, whenever it was, I showed up to one of the events and talked with a person and said, “I think I’m ready to come back.” I remember, but Vince may not remember, he was a little bit reluctant because I was out of the ring for six years. Pat and they gave me a chance and put me on the road for a little while and my matches went well and they put me back in Stamford in the ring over there for a week or two. I just spent a few weeks just polishing up and I, fortunately, got a shot and I was back on the road for a while.
I didn’t feel too bad with [getting back in the gym, getting muscle tone, athleticism and coordination back] and believe it or not, when I was sick, and I don’t know how- I actually just stayed large. I gained weight, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t look overly heavy but I did gain some weight. I was about 290 at one point when I first started going back to the gym. I just kept pretty good strength because my brother was in the gym with me each week. I’m like, I don’t understand. I just spent two or three years, or whatever it was, in bed. My strength was about the same! That was kind of bizarre. All I did was eat and sleep. I probably slept 18-20 hours a day for two and a half or three years. I couldn’t really function much, I was just exhausted.”
Steve Blackman on Being Sick and Contemplating Suicide
“I couldn’t stand it because I had been working out from the time I was just thirteen years old, so not being able to train was eating at me. Not being able to bang on the heavy bags and wrestle people was driving me crazy. I couldn’t do anything physical. If I dropped down to the floor and did 50 pushups, I would be tired for two or three days. I will never forget, I had an 85-pound dumbbell at home. I would pick it up and do one set of curls on this arm and another on the other arm and I would just sleep for two or three days. It was just awful.
There were many nights when I would have to keep thinking of reasons not to blow my head off. When you are sick for years, for me an infection in my stomach and my vision was being distorted so I couldn’t even read a book. It’s one of those things, you know? There were about twenty times where I had to come up with reasons with my family not do something drastic.”
Stories on Steve Blackman from Fellow Wrestlers
‘The Lethal Weapon’ Steve Blackman Inadvertently Saves X-Pac’s Life after Finding Him on Meth:
“I remember one time [on meth], I was standing up for so, so long. So many days. Steve Blackman lived with me out in LA and he was with me and he was out of town. Thank God he came back into town, he probably saved my life because I had been standing there for probably two or three days. My fucking feet were all swollen up and my cowboy boots I was wearing were busted on the sides.”
Teddy Long Talks about the Time Steve Blackman Took out Big Show
“Steve Blackman, you know, he was a karate expert or martial arts, guy. Well, he was laying on his back on the floor. I mean, just laying on his back. And Big Show walked up in front of him and said something to him and Steve told him, “Get fucked,” or something like that. I saw Steve Blackman lay on his back, took both his feet, hooked Big Show and took him down and he never got up off the floor. That’s how tough and how bad he was.”
JBL vs Steve Blackman at an Airport
“WWF was in between shows at the local airport in late ’99, early ’00, and the wrestlers were waiting by the baggage collection bay when Bradshaw decided to dick about trying to push Steve Blackman onto the moving luggage belt. Blackman turned around, unflustered, and planted a crescent kick flush on Bradshaw’s jaw, knocking him clean out. Blackman just picked up his bag and walked on.”
Bob Holly on the Most Dangerous Man on the Planet, Steve Blackman
“JBL liked to fuck with people. One time, he pulled up beside me at a stoplight and I knew something was up. At the next stoplight, I was looking at a map when John pulled up behind me and rammed my car right through the stop light into the middle of the intersection. Cars were speeding through but John kept on pushing. I took off pretty quickly. Steve Blackman was in the car with me and he was pissed. I thought it was funny but wanted to get back at Bradshaw so, after he got ahead of us, I did 95 down the highway and hit his back bumper. After that, John stopped fucking with me because he knew I’d retaliate.
Steve did not like that sort of thing at all but we were good traveling partners. We had the same schedule — wake up early, eat, work out, and go to the show. We didn’t like staying in expensive hotels. It’s very important to be on the same page when it comes to where you want to eat and stay when you’re traveling partners. I traveled with Sid, Billy Gunn, Scotty 2 Hotty, Kane . . . all great guys. But Steve was the most fun to fuck with. He could never stay mad at me. I can run faster than him anyway, and he can’t kill what he can’t catch.
As I said before, Steve Blackmon is probably the most dangerous man on the planet. If you piss him off, you might just end up going missing. Somehow, though, I got away with it. When we rode together, I would drive and scare him on purpose. One time, we were heading to Chicago late at night in pouring rain. As we were crossing the Illinois state line, we came up on three semi trucks. It was hard to see because of the spray but I was fixing to pass them anyway. Steve looked at me and there was definitely fear in his eyes. He asked, “How can you see when I can’t see?” I told him, “I can see fine on this side.” The closer I got to the semis, the more worked up he got. It was a four-lane highway and I sped right between two of those trucks. Steve was scared to death. After we got past them, he said, “I couldn’t see a damn thing.” Then I told him I couldn’t either. He was hot — I just laughed at him and said, “What, are you going to hit me? I’ll wreck the car and we’ll both die right here.”
Steve got really mad at some other people though. At Kansas City airport, Steve and I were waiting around when Bradshaw came over. It was an early morning flight and John was still drunk from the night before. He started patting Steve’s ass. Steve said, “John, I don’t play that shit, knock it off.” John patted him again. And again. Steve was getting brutally pissed. He told him, “John, next time you do that, I’m going to knock your fucking teeth out.” So, of course, John did it again. Steve whipped around and backhanded Bradshaw, popping him with jabs in the face. John started swinging and missing, and his head was snapping back with each of Steve’s jabs. Steve stepped back, planning to kick Bradshaw’s knees out, but he got his leg caught in a bag handle. Al Snow and I grabbed Steve, Ron Simmons grabbed John, and we pulled them apart. John was walking back and forth like a bandy rooster, looking to fight. Before we left, Steve told him, “I’m going to fucking kill you.” He meant it too.
We got our car and got on the road. Ken Shamrock was riding with us. Me, Blackman, and Shamrock. That’s a dangerous car, and I’m the warm one — a teddy bear compared to the other two. That whole journey, Shamrock was poking and prodding Steve, telling him that Bradshaw was going to beat his ass. Steve wasn’t saying a word. And who did we see when we checked in to the hotel? Bradshaw and Ron were right there. The boys don’t always stay at the same hotels, so it was a complete coincidence and not a good one for John. He came over to apologize and Steve said, “No apologies, I’m going to finish you later,” then walked off. We found him in the gym, still boiling mad. Once we were in the arena and had sat down in catering, John walked in. Everybody went silent as Steve stood up. He said, “If you’ve got something to say to me, you say it now or I’m going to finish you in front of everybody.” Bradshaw walked over, apologized and said, “I shouldn’t have fucked with you,” and shook his hand. That was the end of it. Steve sat down and said, “Bob, if it wasn’t for that bag, John would be in intensive care right now.” Trust me, I believe it — if anybody can put Bradshaw in the hospital with one kick, it’s Steve Blackman.”