Saturday, April 4, 2015

How WrestleMania helped me grieve

WrestleMania's first main event
Photo by WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents

March 25, 1985, is one of those dates I'll never forget.  It's the day a very good friend and a neighbor named Kevin died in a horrible ATV accident at the end of our street.

Back row left is me.  My friend Kevin is on the right

We were both in sixth grade and had known each other most of our young lives.  We played baseball together, rode bikes and swam in each other's swimming pools.  I still remember waving to him as we walked down our street, eating a bag of potato chips.  It was a sunny Monday afternoon.  Less than two hours later he'd flipped the three-wheeler he was riding and did not survive the accident.

I was crushed.  In my 12 years on this planet, I had never experienced so much pain.  I cried a lot in the days following Kevin's death.  Children aren't supposed to die.  I had a hard time understanding why it happened and wondered if I'd ever get over this loss.  

Wendi Richter & Cyndi Lauper
Photo by WWE
As that emotional week winded down, I had something to look forward to.  The very first WrestleMania was going to be broadcast via closed circuit television and a friend of the family had invited us to his house to watch.  It was the first time in six days that I didn't cry.  For nearly two hours I focused on the wrestling action.  I cheered for my favorites like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and Wendi Richter.  I booed villans Roddy Piper, the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff.  My attention was diverted and it's exactly what this pre-teen needed.

After the main event was over and we headed home, the reality set in again.  I couldn't help but think about Kevin and his family, just a few houses down as they were still mourning the loss of their son and brother.  I still miss him 30 years later and often think of him, wondering what he'd be like today as a 44-year-old man.

WrestleMania main event
Photo by WWE
When I think back on the first WrestleMania and write stories about it, I always associate that week of grieving and remember how much I appreciate being able to get lost in the moment. We never truly get over such losses, but there are moments we're distracted and able to find pleasure.  I'm glad I had supportive family and friends during that time.  It may sound crazy, but in addition to those loved ones, Wrestlemania helped me through what I consider the toughest time of my childhood.  

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