As I See It: Remembering Chris Candido
It still sucks to remember that fact, even years later. Like so many wrestler's death, the news of his death came on my computer screen early one morning.
Chris was so full of life and so full of love for the wrestling business... that the fact that a blood clot resulting from an injury he suffered in the ring taking his life seems so especially unfair.
I knew Chris back since the early 1990s, when his claim to fame was working for Philadelphia independent promoters Joel Goodhart and Dennis Coraluzzo... with his claim to fame being that he was the grandson of former WWWF preliminary talent Chuck Richards. As Richards's grandson, he grew up around wrestling; and hung out as a teenager in New Jersey with Balls Mahoney. The two started as backyarders (before the term even existed) until starting with formal training at Larry Sharpe's Monster Factory. Candido then worked for the colorful promoter Dennis Coraluzzo in shows around the state of New Jersey.
I especially remember the Larry Sharpe shows at a place we nicknamed the "Clementon Coliseum" which was nothing more than a converted K-Mart. We also noticed a hot looking young Tammy Sytch hanging around Candido, in the section where the girlfriends, and um....assorted hangers-on.... sat. Needless to say, she wound up being a helluva lot more than just another wrestler's girlfriend.
I also remember a Wayne, NJ show with a double main event of Terry Funk-Eddie Gilbert and Sabu-Chris Candido...and realize how long ago that it took place. God, does that make me feel old.
Candido then moved on to work ECW during the Eddie Gilbert era, together with Johnny Hotbody as ECW Tag Team Champions in 1993; before going to his first full-time territory, Smoky Mountain Wrestling in 1994.
Jim Cornette has loved telling the story over the years of the night when Candido pulled out every high spot he knew...to the sound of crickets chirping in the crowd. Cornette sent him back out in another match (this was a TV taping), and told him to come out and sell the first bump he took like crazy. He learned to do this kind of thing quickly, with such spots as his sort of goofy Dick Murdoch/Curley spinaround on your side, and his whiny heel promos that could infuriate in a matter of minutes...like they were supposed to.
Candido and learned quickly what it took to get a reaction in the last great territory...and began to develop his trademark old school "no gimmicks needed" persona. In SMW, Candido was then teamed with Brian Lee, with the pair managed by Sytch, who had moved from New Jersey with Candido; and was turned into an on-air "Northern feminist" valet/manager.
Candido won the NWA World Heavyweight Title in November 1994 in a tournament, needed after the belt was won, then vacated, in the infamous ECW Arena swerve by Shane Douglas in August 1994.
During 1995 and 1996, Candido worked as part of the Bodydonnas, and girlfriend Tammy Sytch began her climb to become one of the hottest female characters in WWF/E history. I was never fond of the gimmick at all. Mark Madden spoke for a lot of us, when he said "I have an idea...why don't they just put trunks and boots on him and call him Chris Candido?" But even with the lame gimmick, Chris put everything he had into it.
I remember the day in 1996 I was on vacation in San Francisco, and took in a WWF show at the Cow Palace, not so much to see a WWF house show... but mostly to see the historic wrestling venue which had featured Roy Shire's promotion and names like Pat Patterson, Leo Nomellini, and Ray Stevens. So I'm standing around the parking lot, waiting for the doors to open with the locals and kids milling around... and a car screeches to a stop, and goes into rapid reverse.