Published on June 4th, 2016 | by Pro Wrestling Stories0
The CHRIS CANDIDO Story – Part 1: The Beginnings
Author: J. Zarka, firstname.lastname@example.org
“If you haven’t read this interview Chris Candido’s brother Johnny gave, it’s basically a must-read for anyone who even remotely cares about Chris’s life (which should be everyone who cares about wrestling).”
When I got a follow on Twitter (@pws_official) from Jonny Candido (@Candido118) back in January, I found myself browsing through his page, admiring the commitment he displayed towards keeping the memory of his brother Chris alive. It did not take long for me to realize that Jonny was the type of person who wears his heart on his sleeves. Here is someone who lost his older brother back in 2005, someone who he clearly looked up to and adored.
We soon struck up a conversation, first via DM, then on the phone. Immediately, I was taken to his openness. With the recent turmoil caused by Chris’s girlfriend Tammy Sytch (also known as Sunny in then-WWF) on social media, plus the fresh pain of losing close friends Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney, Jonny understandably had a lot on his mind. It wasn’t long before he was giving me the blow-by-blow details of many of the behind the scenes stories of his life.
We had four conversations in total, one in January and three more over the span of this week. What Jonny attempts to do here in this series of interviews is put together a true and honest account of his brother Chris. We are merely the vessel that conveys these stories to the world. In our talks, Jonny shares tales from Chris’s beginnings, he tells the stories of his own experiences in the pro wrestling industry, he talks meeting and wrestling many of wrestling’s legends, he shares the downfall and retribution of his brother’s struggle with drug abuse and depression, and of course, he gives his take on the sordid, toxic relationship between Chris and Tammy, leaving no detail left in the dust. Every rumor was addressed and no page was left unturned.
This is the story of Chris Candido, as told by his brother, Jonny. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride!
PRO WRESTLING STORIES: “It’s great to be talking to former NWA Midwest Heavyweight Champion and two-time NWS Hardcore Champion, the younger brother of Smoky Mountain, ECW, WWF, WCW and TNA great, Chris Candido. Jonny, thank you for taking the time to talk with Pro Wrestling Stories.”
JONNY CANDIDO: “Of course, I love doing this stuff, man.”
PWS: “Let’s start from the beginning. Tell me about family life. What was it like growing up in the Candido household?”
JC: “To be honest, family life was the greatest thing ever. I had the ideal family. We grew up across the street from the beach, so we were always there. My brother Chris from day one was my idol. Practically all he did was lift weights and wrestle.
For the two of us, playing was: lifting weights, wrestling, doing all that in the backyard, going to the beach and catching some waves. It was pretty much ideal, man, growing up in our house.
I have so many funny stories of us growing up. You know, your website is called Pro Wrestling Stories, one that sticks out is me and my brother used to have Muta Mist Wars. Do you remember the Great Muta? He used to spit the green mist. I’d be little, maybe four or five years old, walking around the house and my brother would jump out from the corner and woosh, he’d catch me with the Muta Mist!
It was the day of my little sister’s baptism, I had my tux on and I walked up to his room to go show him how nice I looked, and the second I opened the door? Woosh! He spits green mist all over my suit. Immediately he goes, ‘Oh my God! Mom and dad are going to kill me!’
So he grabs me, picks me up, runs with me to the garage, washes it off with cleanser, Clorox or whatever, and I’m good to go.
A couple of days later, he’s in high school at this point, I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m going to get him back…’
I get a chair, I climb up to the spice cabinet, I get the food coloring and I put it in my mouth. He used to show me how to do it. ‘Just put two little bits in your mouth and spit it like this!’ I took the food coloring and dumped the blue and the green into my mouth. I ran upstairs, pushed open his door and there was this girl in bed with him. They were fooling around. I kicked the door open, I see both of their heads pop out from under the covers and I run over and just… woosh! I spit it out.
Some of it gets on him, but pretty much all of it gets on her and I just dash out of the room and he chases me and catches me on the porch and then beats the crap out of me. We used to always love telling this story about the Muta Mist.
Growing up with my brother was the best. It was really awesome.
The only other job my brother had aside from being a pro wrestler was being a locker boy at the beach. He used to work over at the beach across from my house, sweeping out the lockers. It was actually pretty much doing nothing. Me, my mom, my sisters and friends would all be there and we just pretty much hung out all of the time. It was a really ideal time to be growing up.”
PWS: “Wrestling has been around you since you were little. Not only was your older brother Chris involved in wrestling since you were four, your grandfather, ‘Popeye’ Chuck Richards was a wrestler for the World Wide Wrestling Federation. What was it like being around wrestling from such an early age?”
JC: “You know, it was tough, because I think I was three or four when my grandfather passed away. Maybe it was six or seven, but I really don’t remember him as well as my brother did.
It was cool always being around these big, larger-than-life dudes. As a kid, I was always going, ‘I want to be like one of them. I’m not quite sure what they do, but I kind of want to be like one of them!’ Do you know what I mean? That’s kind of like what it was.
Growing up, that’s what I wanted to be, and of course with my brother, I’ll put it like this: Our family house is five stories and he had the whole fifth floor to himself. It would be all him and his buddies up there watching wrestling, doing whatever. And to be honest, people have older brothers that were jerks. Chris was the coolest older brother ever. I’d be up there, for instance, you know when you have a scary dream and most people want to go to their parents? I’d go up there and chill with him. Just pretty much every night we would be hanging out and watching wrestling and doing this and doing that. He’d get all the pay-per-views and his buddies would be over and we were always watching wrestling. It was really the best.
Every day we would go to the beach in the summer. This was later on when I was six or seven and he was seventeen. He hated the Ultimate Warrior, so if the waves were really shitty that day, he’d be telling us they were Ultimate Warrior waves and then he would make a farting sound. And if there were big waves that kicked in, ‘Oh, Roddy Piper waves!’
Pretty much everything to him was wrestling. His whole life just revolved around wrestling.
These memories really were fantastic. And it came full circle because he never strayed really far from our parents or the town we grew up in. The furthest he ever lived was like fifteen or twenty miles.
Right before he died, he got a place that was two or three miles from our parents’ home. This was the last couple years of his life and this was the greatest time of our lives. It’s just so hard on Memorial Day not seeing my brother. I just miss him so much.”
PWS: “I can understand that. It comes to show how close your family was because Chris never strayed too far from the nest and you can see the love that was there.”
JC: “Oh, yeah, definitely. He was my mom’s first son, so he was the golden child! And he really was. He was a standout amateur wrestler and always got straight A’s. He was in the Who’s Who Among American High School Students, this big book of the best high school students in America. He was in that his sophomore, junior and senior year. He really was a true, blue, kick ass dude.”
PWS: “Nowadays, most fans come to realize that professional wrestling is scripted and predetermined fairly early on. When you were a kid, this wasn’t fully talked about yet. How long was it until you knew the inner workings of the business? Did Chris let you in on this when you were little?”
JC: “Well, because my brother is my brother, I knew pretty soon because he would sit there and critique matches with me.
I’ll tell you, I remember the first tape that got him hired to WWE was like in 1990. It was 1995 when he finally got signed to WWE, but he was doing jobs for them since 1991. He had this tape that he made in 1990 which had the song, ‘Round and Round’ by the band, Ratt. Half of it was him getting body slammed, taking backdrops, taking arm drags and hip tosses and I told him, ‘They’re kicking your ass the whole time!’
He’s like, ‘Woah, man… I gotta show them that I can bump around!’
That’s when I kind of realized and went, ‘Oh, right. I kind of get it.’
In the backyard when we would play, he would always go, ‘I’m Doug Summers. I’m Buddy Rogers. I’m Bob Backlund,’ and I’d always be Big John Studd and would always beat the crap out of him. So you know, I kind of got a feeling early on that it was a work, but it was also serious, if that makes sense?
Plus, he started taking me to shows when I was really, really young, so I got to meet a lot of people traveling around with him.
I was seven or eight when he first started traveling around doing wrestling. Then, when he joined WWE, I was twelve. ECW happened for Chris through my high school years, and then WCW, so I pretty much grew up in it. He would always want to take me with him. Like I said, we were really close and we could finish each other’s sentences, especially as I got a little bit older.
I remember his first night in ECW. I was over at my aunt’s house. My family calls Chris by the nickname, ‘Cook’. When I was a baby, I couldn’t say the name Chris so I would always call him Cook and so my family always would call him Cook, too. So at my aunt’s house my mom was like, ‘Hey Jonny, Cook’s here to pick you up and he’s got a limousine outside!’
So I went, ‘Alright!’ and went outside. He was sitting there in his gear.
He was like, ‘Dude, I’m so nervous. I’m so nervous.’
I was like, ‘What’s going on?’
He’s like, ‘Come on, you have to come with me. We’re going to Philadelphia.’
I’m like, ‘Alright!’
So we got there and he’s sitting there nervous and I was like, ‘What’s up?’
He’s like, ‘I left WWF. They wanted me to become a trainer but I don’t want to do that, so I’m going to this new federation tonight.’
So we pulled up to Viking Hall, which is what ECW Arena used to be called. There were all these fans looking in trying to see who it was. I was a little kid and didn’t know if these people were going to recognize him. I really didn’t know.
He went out that night, worked Spike Dudley and they had an awesome match. He beat him with the Blonde Bombshell. He then cut a promo, dropped the microphone and the place went nuts. That night was the same night as the Brian Lee / Tommy Dreamer scaffold match, so that was my first introduction to ECW. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is insane!’
From then on, I became an ECW staple. There was me, a couple of my friends and cousins and we would go to pretty much every single show with him. He’d pick us up and bring us all there and we had little jobs to do. He’d be like, ‘Jonny, New Jack needs you. He’s going to boost you up into a dumpster to find weapons for him.’
Me and my buddies used to have a backyard wrestling federation at the time, so we would bring our gear because in the back of the ECW Arena was another ring for the guys to bump around and try different shit out. So my buddies and I, with our gear, would wrestle right there.
The night the Blue World Order was formed, they were like, ‘What does Diesel wear? What does this one wear?’
I was like, ‘Look in my bag. You can use it all!’
And [the guys in Blue World Order] were like, ‘Why don’t you guys come out with us? You can carry the signs.’ So we came to the ring with the Blue World Order carrying their signs.”
JC: “Then it was time to go to Florida. I remember they did the Heatwave gimmick and my brother was like, ‘Dude, you have to come. It’s not going to be the same without you!’
So he put me on a plane to Florida with the whole ECW crew and we all went to Florida together which was awesome.
I remember going to the show and then going out to dinner with all these guys. I was sitting in-between Tracy Smothers and Tommy Rich and my brother would order a shot of Jack and throw them into my Coco Colas. I had a little buzz on. My brother was sitting next to Jericho and Jericho’s girl, Tammy was at the table, Bubba and Devon, Dreamer… the whole ECW roster.
Something happened that night and Tammy got a little gimmicked up and fell asleep in her food and we had to carry her out of the place. I will tell you about this story later.
My brother was like, ‘Let’s go back to the hotel.’
I was like, ‘No, I’m going to stay with these guys.’
So I ended up staying with Tommy Rich and Tracy Smothers, going out and hitting all these different bars. When we got back to the hotel, I saw Taz and Dreamer in the pool so I jumped into the pool. Little did I know my brother was right behind them and he was going nuts, knocking on everybody’s door looking for me, looking around town.
At this point, he had looked out the window and saw me in the pool doing the backstroke hanging out with these guys. He was like, ‘What the hell?? What are you doing? Go into your room!’ He was bugging out.
We used to always tell this story on how Tommy Rich and Tracy Smothers kidnapped me. This was one of his favorite stories to tell. I was probably around fourteen or fifteen at the time.”
PWS: “You really have some incredible stories of growing up and being around some of the biggest names in the business at the time. You must have countless memories like this. What are some other good stories that stick out for you from around this time in your life?”
JC: “It’s hard to even pick them out! Let’s see…
Me and Nova used to have a Mortal Kombat war. There was a building that had a video arcade around back.
Like I said, I used to find weapons for New Jack.
Back in the WWE days, I’d be there with them at every single show. Just hanging out with Steve Austin, Yokozuna, Shawn Michaels…
Then later on when I went to wrestle there, everybody was like, ‘Holy shit! It’s Chris’s little brother!’
I worked for WWE too later on doing dark matches and shit.
I’m jumping ahead, but it sucked because Balls [Mahoney] was pushing for me to be his tag-team partner instead of Axl [Rotten] because something had happened and WWE were down with that, supposedly, according to him. But the thing is, this was just after my brother passed away and my family wouldn’t let me wrestle. I was young at the time and they were going, ‘We don’t want to go through this again.’
So, you know, I got to see it from both sides from working in the business and growing up in it.
To be honest, I miss it like crazy.”
JC: “If you want to talk shop, we need to talk Balls Mahoney. He grew up six blocks from mine and Chris’s house. We knew him before he was in the business. Balls, his real name was John, and my brother used to put on shows at this place called Marucci Park which is this park in Spring Lake, New Jersey. Balls lived and went to high school in Spring Lake and I knew him from before when I was a kid. Balls and my brother were twelve or thirteen years old when they used to get the ring from Monster Factory and put on shows in Marucci Park.
Bam Bam Bigelow used to wrestle on them, Axl Rotten used to come down and wrestle on them, and they would go to the beach in their gimmicks, you know? Like with their masks on and their face painted. They would get everyone to come up from the beach to watch the wrestling show bringing their beach chairs.
Then the wrestlers would pass around the hat and say, ‘Donate money to Multiple Sclerosis’ or whatever they were donating money to. They used to have a bunch of people over at the park watching them do wrestling. The first time Bam Bam Bigelow wrestled in front of a live audience was at Marucci Park in Spring Lake.
They did it a whole bunch of times for the next couple summers. It was a pretty big deal for them.
You have to understand, my brother was so dedicated. When he was twelve or thirteen, he, Balls and a crew of them used to say they were sleeping at each other’s houses. What they would do is they would get on a bus and go to Brooklyn and wrestle in the underground shows at these bars that had wrestling rings. They would then come back the next day. At these bars, they would get color and they would beat the shit out of each other. I have a whole photo album of my brother as a kid wrestling at all these different arenas way before he had muscles or dyed blonde hair. He really just loved it and lived it. That’s all he ever cared about.
When Chris was fourteen or fifteen, he got his first gym membership, was on the powerlifting team when he was sixteen and kept on moving from there, never looking back.”
“Your brother was a huge influence on you from such an early age. It is no wonder that you decided to become a wrestler yourself. Was it Chris that trained you?”
“Well, you know what, to be honest, it was more like on the job training for me because I would go with him to the building and I’d bounce around in the ring. And just from taking bumps with him on the beach, in the ring, or whatever, I was able to go into the ring and take bumps. I have always been good doing flippy kind of shit, so we would just do that. It kind of just came naturally for me. I never really had formal training aside from making me run drills like up and over, drop down, leap frog, drop down, leap frog, you know. These days you do all that shit, but it was pretty much on the job training.
My first ten matches were against my brother and then I was able to wrestle Balls. He would introduce me to many different people to wrestle and before we knew it, I was up and running and we were getting booked separately on different shows and he was so happy. It just kind of happened organically.”
“Speaking of Balls Mahoney, he recently passed away. I was really sorry to hear about this. He was an absolute legend and it’s sad to hear that another ECW original is gone. Do you have any good stories that you would like to share about him?”
“Oh my God, do you want good funny? Do you want good crazy? I don’t even know where to begin! You have to understand, the two of us wrestled each other so many times.
2004 was the first time we really had an insane match. It was a tables, ladders and chairs match in Manasquan, New Jersey which is really close to our hometown, just a couple miles away. The place probably fit five to six hundred people but on this night there were probably one thousand people there, standing room only. I did the swanton off the top of the ladder into the table. He gave me the nutcracker for the finish off the top of the ladder onto the table. It won Match of the Year 2004 on the website Declaration of Independence.
Then we had these crazy cage matches where he would duct tape me to the cage and he would drop a leg from the top of the cage, or I would put him on a table and swanton off the top of the cage.
Just a funny story that sticks out is when I was the NWA Midwest Champion. I had to defend my title a few times so the promoter asked me who I wanted to wrestle. I said, ‘You know, I’d like to wrestle Balls! Me and him have been going back and forth so let’s bring him out.’
And he said, ‘Alright.’
So, I picked Balls up and we were driving to the airport and we were super hyped, listening to rap and heavy metal, drinking and having fun. When we got to O’Hare Airport [in Chicago, Illinois], Ed Chuman (long-time NWA promoter) picked us up. He had this big Lincoln Town Car and there were two dudes in the back. One dude’s name was Silas Young and the other guy’s name was Tyler Dux. I was sitting in the back with them and Balls was in the front. The guy in the front, Ed Chuman, the man who runs the company who was the booker and everything, lights up a joint, starts smoking it and passes it to Balls.
Now Balls doesn’t smoke weed. Balls takes the joint and started smoking it like he was fucking Snoop Dogg! He was like, ‘Me and Jonny are going to have a great flight. We just had a great match, we’re on top of the…’ and at this moment he just stops talking. He puts his head down and he goes, ‘Pull over, pull over, pull over, pull…ahhhh!’
He projectile vomited all over the front of this guy’s car, all up on the windshield and everything. After that, Ed pulled over and Balls now pukes all over the door. He then gets up on all fours and he’s got his ass in the air. Ed looks over to see what’s going on when Balls goes… [farting noise]. He farts right in Ed’s face!
Ed goes, ‘You farted all over my damn face!’
All of us in the back fell out of the car laughing so hard. It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It was freaking hilarious.
Balls was known for, well, let’s just say that he was a different kind of character. He would always go nuts or throw up, you know, do something like get into a fight. Me and him had a bunch of physical fights over stupid shit. It was always just something else when you traveled with Balls. But I loved the guy like a brother.”
JC: “It was funny, me and my brother would go spying on Balls.
We were sitting in my brother’s backyard one day, castin’ lines into the river. We’re just sitting there, and we were like, ‘What does Ball do? What does he do in that house? Let’s go see what he does…’
We would go look through his windows, he’d be sitting there, you know, reading a book, eating something and we would knock on his windows and freak him out.
The first time we went, we crept into the bushes and we looked in. He was sitting on a couch and he’s got a little tray table in front of him. You know, like what you put TV dinners on. On that tray table, he’s got one slice of pork roll. It’s like one single slice of baloney, and a fork and knife, on a little tiny plate. So we look at it – already, the two of us are like cracking up in the bushes, right? Cause he’s got just one little slice of baloney and a fork and knife.
So, we go over to the window, and my brother just goes (knocks three times), light little knocks. Balls stops, looks up in the air, listens, then goes back to cuttin’ his baloney. Knock, knock, knock, stops, looks up, looks around, goes back to cuttin’ his baloney. We do it one more time. Then he’s like, he starts thinking about yelling. So, I’m like, ‘Alright bro, get ready to run.’ Boom, boom, boom, and I bang on his windows. Both of us run. He comes running out. We hid in the car.
Of course, later on, he calls us. ‘Jon, Chris, there’s apparitions. They’re at my window; they’re knocking. I saw them. There’s two of them. They’re ghost or ghostly figures!’
Balls used to just go way overboard. So, we’re like, ‘No way dude, really?’
A couple nights later, we were like, ‘Let’s go back and spy on Balls.’ And we went back, and he was laying on the ground in this pair of underwear that he’d always wear that had these yellow smiley faces on ‘em. He’s laying there and he’s got the Mick Foley book, I believe. He’s lying on the ground, and we start doing the tapping on the window again. Again, we run away.
It was funny just growing up in that whole business and living near all these guys.
It’s harder to try to learn a different way of life when you’ve grown up living in that industry, you know?”
JC: “I have so many great memories of Balls. I’m going to tell you one more story.
Balls lived half a mile away from my parent’s house. Everything was really close. So Balls was like, ‘Why don’t you guys come over tonight? I’m making Chicken Mahoney,’ which was his famous chicken he used to make.
So me and my brother get over there. We walk from our mom’s house. He’s like, ‘I’m making spaghetti bolognese. I have meatballs, I have chicken. Whatever you guys want. Pour yourselves a glass of wine. Sit down. Hang out.’
So we’re hanging out. He’s sittin’ there with his smiley pants underwear on. He’s got raw chicken, he’s got egg, and he’s got breading. Before you know it, his left hand is in his pants, in his boxers, scratchin’ his nuts. He’s got his right hand picking the chicken, putting it in the egg. His left hand comes off the nuts, under the chicken, into the breading, into the pan, back onto the nuts. Chicken with the right hand, egg, off the nuts, breading, he’s doing this whole cycle.
Me and my brother are watching him, and I’m like, ‘Dude, are you serious?’ He would go from puttin’ the chicken into the egg, then taking his hand out of his underwear from scratchin’ his balls, picking it up, and then puttin’ it in the pan of oil, and putting the hand back on his balls.
After he did that, I remember he goes, ‘Chris, you gotta try this!’ He reached into the pot with the left hand that he was scratchin’ his nuts with, grabs a little piece of meatball, and then goes over and tries to put it in my brother’s mouth.
My brother turns his head and goes, ‘Brother, brother! I just watched you scratch your nuts for a half hour. I’m not gonna eat it, I’m sorry.’
Balls goes, ‘What, what? That was my inner thigh!’
My brother was just like, ‘I’m sorry, you’re not gonna put your fingers in my mouth after I just saw that.’
I loved the guy like a brother. He was the best. If it weren’t for him, I never would have had the chance to wrestle for WWE.”
JC: “I was laying on the beach one day. Me and my buddies were surfing and I just came back in, I was sitting on my towel and my phone rang. It was Balls. He was like, ‘Yo, JC. Come to the Meadowlands tonight!’
I’m like, ‘Why, what’s up?’
He’s like, ‘We’re filming Raw and I don’t want to wrestle anybody but you. Get here right now.’
It was like 3:30 and you had to be on at like six. I was like, ‘Holy shit!’
He really was just such a great guy. I really loved him.”
PWS: “Was this your first time wrestling for WWE and did this turn out to be a try-out for you?”
JC: “Yeah, it was, and I guess it was a try-out. It worked out well because they kept having me back. Then it came out in the newspaper and it said, ‘Wrestling champion honors his brother in the ring,’ and it said, ‘Wrestles for WWE.’
When my parents saw it, they freaked out. You have to remember, this was right after my brother died, so I can’t really blame them.
It’s just so weird because I can still imagine Balls’ standing outside of my parent’s house smoking a cigarette, you know? It’s pretty freaking crazy that he’s not here.
Plus, I was close to Axl Rotten too, which is also pretty weird. There was a time in 2004 when he didn’t have a place to stay, when shit was not going well with him, and my brother was like, ‘Yeah dude, come stay with me and my brother.’ So he came down and stayed at our place in Manasquan for however long he did. He was freaking great.
Me and [Axl] stayed in contact up until I went to Costa Rica, which was two days before he died. I had to turn my phone on global and when I got there, I had a DM on Twitter saying, ‘I’m leaving where I’m at. I don’t want to get into too many details. I can’t take it anymore. I’m going back home.’
I tried to call him and there was no answer. You know the whole deal. I found out he had died while I was on vacation with my wife. It was tough, man.
I guess when you’re in the sport, everyone pretty much knows everyone. I could pretty much conjure up a story about anyone. If you were to name any name to me, I probably worked them or shared a hotel room with them. Everybody just kind of knows everybody. That’s how it is.”
PWS: “Let’s go back for a moment to your first match with WWE. You got the call from Balls at 3:30 and you had a match at 6. What happened when you got there? Who did you see? Who did you talk to? You mentioned the match went well. Did you have any contact at all with Vince?”
JC: “I have known Vince since I was a kid. When I saw him, I was standing around talking with Tazz and Scotty 2 Hotty. Vince walked by and went, ‘Oh, it’s the three stooges!’ and then gave us a hug and told me, ‘Jonny, fantastic!’
As soon as I got there, Shane McMahon was also like, ‘Candido, it’s great to see you! Shake it up kid! Let me see you do it! Kick ass!’
I had a very small amount of time to talk to Balls and Axl before the match. I tagged with Damien Adams.
‘So what are we going to do?’
‘Let’s keep it simple…’
Then Axl goes, ‘Just don’t fuck up!’ on the way out.
The experience was surreal and this is what pretty much stands out in my mind. I remember sitting in the locker room putting my boots on or whatever and Shawn Michaels sits down next to me. Of course, you know my brother and Shawn had a little bit of beef.
Now I’m more of the kind of guy that will physically beat you up, but my brother was kind of a pacifist. I was always the kind of guy who was down to throw the dukes. My brother always used to say, ‘You’re going to come across Shawn Michaels one day. When you do, just don’t fucking go crazy and beat the shit out of him. It’s over. It’s squashed.’
Jericho was the first one to see me and he was like, ‘Dude, it’s so cool to see you here!’
So I sit down, Shawn Michaels sits down right next to me and I looked at him and he shakes my hand like, ‘How are you doing?’
At this point, Jericho just looks at him, smiles, nods and goes, ‘Candido’s brother.’
Shawn at this point makes these eyes like he doesn’t know if I’m going to sock him or what.
He then was like, ‘You know what, kid? Your brother was really great. I gotta tell ya, if you want to make it in this business, you have to be out for yourself. You kind of have to be a jerk. I’m really sorry about what happened to your brother.’
I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’
I didn’t like blow him off, I was nice to him as at this point it was after [Chris] had passed.
So I geared up and we talked a little bit and then the most nerve-wracking part of it all was you go to what they call the Gorilla Position behind the big titantron and Sergeant Slaughter is back there, Shane McMahon is back there, and he’s freaking out. They’re doing the highlight reel to get everybody amped and he’s like, ‘Let’s go kid! Let’s see those bumps! Let’s do this man!’ He’s trying to hype me all up.
And then they were like, ‘Five minutes until it starts.’
‘Ten, nine, eight….’ and then: BOOM! You know, all this pyro and all that shit went off.
Then we walked down to the ring. What totally put me at ease was when I got to the ring and started jumping around, I looked over and there were all kids from my area in the first row. They were shouting, ‘Jonny! What the hell?’
It was all the kids I was surfing on the beach with a couple hours ago. They were yelling, I was yelling. You can see me pointing at them and it completely put me at ease. It made it feel like any other show. It was really cool, that really put me at ease and I had a great time. And everybody there was totally cool. I thought it was great.
To be honest, the best part was after the match was over. If you didn’t fuck up, you just felt like you were on top of the world.
You have to think, I was still pretty green. I wasn’t like my brother. I lifted weights and I’d train and all that stuff, but I wasn’t as insane as he was with the wrestle, wrestle, wrestle all day, all day. Growing up, I pretty much played every sport and all that stuff, but my brother was just wrestling 24/7. That’s all he really cared about. I liked basketball, baseball, football, amateur wrestling, boxing, lifting weights, but for him it was wrestling, lifting weights, protein shakes and that’s it. I was nowhere near as dedicated as he was. He was just insane about wrestling. I was just happy that match went so smooth, especially for Balls and Axl. I was hoping everything would work out there for them. It was definitely a crazy, crazy trip.”
PWS: “What an incredible accomplishment to have been able to wrestle in front of a WWE audience like that for the first time on such short notice and do so well, in front of your hometown friends and the guys in the back. Aside from this experience, what are some of the biggest wrestling accomplishments that you are most proud of?”
JC: “I have to say, working at the ECW Arena was really, really awesome. I got to do that a bunch of times. Working out in Puerto Rico for Carlos Colón was really cool, too, because me and my brother were out there doing that together. And then I got to wrestle a ton of the legends. I came from the school of thought like my brother where we would just make our opponent look good. You know, just bump and feed, bump and feed and take big, high back drops and do all this shit. So any time when I was wrestling for the NWS, if a legend would come to town, let’s say, Lex Luger or Jimmy ‘Super Fly’ Snuka or Tito Santana or Brutus the Barber or King Kong Bundy or Kamala or Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, it would be me and them in the main event because I would always feed and bump and make them look good. I wrestled so many of the guys that I grew up watching. It really felt good that they trusted me to make sure that they looked good.
Not only did I get the chance to wrestle a lot of those guys, I then got the chance to wrestle a lot of the next generation of legends like Sandman, Raven, Steve Corino, Spike Dudley, Balls, Axl and pretty much all of the guys in ECW. So it was really freaking cool. I got to tag with Dreamer, I got to wrestle my brother, plus I got to wrestle Balls a thousand times.
I really have had so much cool stuff that has happened to me. Honestly, had I not been my brother’s brother, this never would have happened to me. Luck of the draw, I guess. I just kind of followed the way my brother taught me.
I remember always coming up with all of these different finishes and these different spots I wanted to do and he was always like, ‘Dude, slow it down. What do I do for offense? I do a suplex, a leg drop off the second rope and that’s pretty much it. Stop worrying about doing all this crazy shit and just wrestle. Just slow the fuck down.’
That kind of made me slow down and stopped me from wanting to do too much. You know, you wrestle some guys like Rhett Titus who has so much shit in his repertoire and I was always happy as hell to wrestle him because we would always have these great matches, going spot for spot. He would be like, ‘Give me a Michinoku Driver and I’ll give you the double stomp.’
I loved doing that but I also loved learning how to actually wrestle and executing it, not just learning how to do it, but doing it in front of a crowd, getting it over and getting everybody to love it.
But I’ll be honest, my favorite matches were the ones with me and Balls, when the two of us went balls-to-the-wall in hardcore matches. Those are my favorite because you get so many cheap pops because it looks so insane when somebody jumps off a latter and crashes into someone on a table. Those were absolutely some of my favorite matches because we just did so much off-the-wall stuff. Both of us were pretty much fearless when it came to anything. Like I would go find the highest place in the building, places people wouldn’t even think about, and I would go, ‘I’ll just do this swanton, you move and I’ll just take the bump.’ It was stuff like that that I really loved. I really loved those kinds of matches.
My whole time in the wrestling industry was great. I loved it so much. And like I said, I miss it all the time. I wish I could go back.”
PWS: “You’re still a young guy at thirty-three. Surely you’ve still got something left in the tank, right? What’s stopping you from wrestling right now?”
JC: “Oh, my family, my wife, all of them. They hate it. You have to understand, they’ve seen a lot of the bad sides of shit. For a while there, stuff was messed up. Like when my brother and Tammy were going through it, obviously there were drugs and there was crazy stuff, people showing up gimmicked up [on drugs] on Christmas, people showing up gimmicked up on Thanksgiving. [My family] just didn’t like it. They just didn’t like the lifestyle. I’ll leave it at that.
And plus, I was kind of falling down that lifestyle too until my brother woke the fuck up and pretty much stopped doing everything cold turkey.”
PWS: “You and I talked back in January and in our conversation you mentioned that Chris went through some depression. Of course, I respect it if you don’t want to talk about it…”
JC: “I can talk about it. I just don’t want to say the wrong shit, you know, and offend or get into an argument with somebody.”
PWS: “What you say is completely up to you and we respect that. Chris was very close to you. Your Twitter account is dedicated to him and I think it is absolutely wonderful what you do to keep his memory alive.”
JC: “That’s my brother.”
PWS: “It must have been quite hard for you to witness many of the things that he went through, especially with his relationship with Tammy. We haven’t really talked about that much, but he was with her from high school. They went through so much. They got into wrestling together, and then, of course, the relationship changed. They were introduced to drugs and a different lifestyle, and things changed.
What was their relationship really like? From what is out there already, to put it lightly, it wasn’t pretty.”
JC: “An average night, like when I was in high school and I would stay over at their house, it would be normal. We would be having dinner, me and him would be watching TV, those sorts of things. Then I’d go to sleep and in the middle of the night I would hear her screaming, I’d wake up and he’d be passed out on the couch. She’d be raining punches down on his head. She’d go grab a knife from the butcher block and try to fucking stab him while he was sleeping. I’d try to block it. He’d come to, she’d run away, she’d grab the phone, she’d lock herself in the car, he’d break the window, she’d jump out of the car, start running down the street, I’d chase her. Dude, it was madness. It was fucking madness! To be quite honest, it was insane.
I just want to clarify: The shit I am about to say, all the crazy, traumatizing shit, is what sticks out most of all. Growing up though, you have to understand, Tammy was really cool. She’d babysit me and my sisters. And even later in life, after Chris passed, after all of that crazy stuff happened, we still stuck together through a lot of shit. She managed me [while I was wrestling]. I would always have her back. If anybody fucked with her, they fucked with me. So it wasn’t always so fuckin’ terrible.
So, I just wanted to put it on record that I do really have some closeness with her. Even though, you know, obviously we’ve been through a lot. Of course, she was a part of my life since I was seven years old. I don’t want it to come off like I’m being cold, trying to bury her.
It’s like this: you ask me the questions and I will tell you what happened!”
This concludes part one of ProWrestlingStories.com’s exclusive interview with Jonny Candido.
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Catch part two entitled, ‘The CHRIS CANDIDO Story: Drugs, Deception, and Betrayal.’ In this, Jonny opens up about the relationship between Tammy and Chris, giving many tales of drug abuse, infidelity, and deceit. Shawn Michaels is brought up, as is the rumor revolving around Chris leaving WWF. Did Chris really leave WWE after renting out Tammy to Ahmed Johnson for the night in exchange for drugs? All of this is addressed and so much more. You will not want to miss this!