Monday, March 25, 2019

How WrestleMania helped me grieve

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

It's funny how some dates stick with you forever. March 25, 1985, is one of those dates for me. It was a Monday afternoon when a good friend and neighbor, also 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 lives. We played baseball together, rode bikes and spent hot summer afternoons 'pool hopping' between all the pools in on our tight-knit street. 

I still remember waving to Kevin as he walked down our street, eating a bag of potato chips. 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 of life, 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 family friend had invited my family over to watch. It was the first time in six days that I didn't cry. For more than two hours, I focused on the wrestling action. I cheered for favorites like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, and Wendi Richter.  I booed villains Roddy Piper, the Iron Sheik , and Nikolai Volkoff.  

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 34 years later and often think of him, wondering what he'd be like today as a 46-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 when we're distracted and can find pleasure. I'm glad I had the support of 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 most challenging time of my childhood.  

When I first posted this blog, I tagged "Rowdy" Roddy Piper in it on Twitter. He retweeted it. Just a few months later we had lost Hot Rod too. In a weird way, I'm thankful I wrote that blog when I did and I'd like to believe he did read it and knew the impact he'd had on my young life. 

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