Wrestling With Mental Health: How WrestleMania 36 Saved My Life

Drew McIntyre
Credit: WWE

This week we will be publishing an article about the Hooked On team’s favourite WrestleManias. When Josh sent in his contribution it floored me. It was such a brave thing to say and a message that could resonate with so many wrestling fans that I asked Josh if he could expand it and make it a feature in itself. The message was too powerful to be buried in a lighthearted roundtable column.

So here is Josh’s story. If you can relate to this, remember it is OK to not be OK. There is always someone to talk to.

Paul Benson, Hooked On Wrestling

My favourite WrestleMania is WrestleMania 36. Yes, the empty Performance Centre WrestleMania.

I completely understand that will surprise a lot of people, but it is my favourite for personal reasons.

Before I start though, I’d like to take a moment to thank the team at Hooked On for allowing me to write this feature to promote the message that it is okay to not be okay.

I’d also like to thank the team at the mental health charity It’s Worth Talking About who have been my peer support and do great work within the mental health sector. If you need help yourself, you can find their details at the bottom of this piece.

Just over 12 months ago in February 2020 I reached my lowest point and made an attempt on my own life.

The story is one I don’t mind telling because I feel it needs to be told. I decided for some reason that I am still trying to piece together properly inside my own mind that I was unlovable and better off not here.

I often joke about it and say to my friends that I am shit at suicide.

And the truth is I am. After all, who decides to jump off a bridge and miss the very thing that they’re hoping hits them on the way down? 

Looking back now I am thankful that suicide is something I have discovered in life I am not very good at, because it gave me the answers I was looking for at the time.

The way I was feeling? Turns out I have Bipolar, and the medication that helps keeps things under control is now just a normal part of my daily routine.

But back then, it made me feel worse, made me feel like I was a statistic or someone who is just branded weird.

Around four weeks after my attempt, Covid hit and we were locked down and I felt as if I was in a never-ending spiral of bad luck and depression. 

But amongst all this darkness, WWE brought me that little flicker of light and hope with WrestleMania 36.

I think I watched every Raw, every SmackDown, every NXT, and more or less every WrestleMania on the Network, in the final couple weeks leading up to the strangest show of shows there ever will be.

Despite being pre-recorded, despite being in an empty Performance Centre, and despite the many last-minute changes that came with the pandemic, it was that flicker of light I mentioned, that dose of normality.

To see the Undertaker bow out with his best match in years against AJ Styles, to see Edge return to the ring at his very best against Randy Orton, and to see the cinematic genius of the Boneyard and Firefly Fun House matches, gave me back those memories of my childhood and teenage years.

That is what I needed and until it happened, I didn’t know that is exactly what I needed. I even watched along with the Facebook live that Hooked On Wrestling hosted during night two. 

But more importantly at that time in my life, it also did something that hadn’t happened for the months, weeks, and even days, leading up to Mania.

It made me happy. WrestleMania 36 put a smile on my face.

And I have no shame in admitting that I celebrated Drew McIntyre climbing to the top of the mountain like it was my beloved Bradford City scoring an injury time winner in a play-off final.

Then when Drew reached out to us and thanked us for sticking by him and WWE, it made me feel that despite what was going on outside with Covid, in that moment the only thing that mattered was myself and Drew McIntyre.

It helped in the process of giving me that new outlook and perspective. 

In the weeks that followed during lockdown, I binge watched the WWE Network like I’ve never binged before, and it led to stumbling across a Facebook post from HOW last summer that allowed me to turn my passion into something I can talk about now through writing for Hooked On Wrestling.

These past few months I have seen and heard on various Network documentaries, and in interviews outside of the company, the likes of Drew McIntyre, Lana, and Toni Storm, to name just a few, discussing their own struggles and mental health battles.

I have related to that so much and it helps me walk a little bit taller and feel a little bit prouder about what I overcame last spring seeing such high profile and high calibre WWE talent talking mental health.

The final thing I will say about this story is for me, quite a poignant personal note.

A lot of people probably haven’t come across an interview that Tommaso Ciampa did in late 2019 shortly after he returned from his broken neck where he discussed his personal fight against depression, how that led to a suicide attempt of his own, and more importantly how he recovered on the back of it following his release from OVW early in his career.

Tommaso Ciampa will more than likely never read this piece that you have just read, or hear about my mental health battles, but should he ever do I want Tommaso Ciampa to know that reading that interview not only inspired me, but was the start of my own personal recovery and I took little bits out of that interview to drive me on through the last 12 months.

I have no shame in admitting that WrestleMania 36 saved me from myself. Even more so, WrestleMania 36 led me to that interview from Tommaso Ciampa that has probably helped save my life.  

As wrestling fans, we are all one big, extended family. If you’re one of ‘the tribe’ then you are never truly on your own. You’ve got this. We’ve got this!

Enjoy WrestleMania week. I know I will.

Remember, we all need support sometimes and if you need to reach out to someone, the team from It’s Worth Talking About can help. You can find all the details you need right HERE.