I don't want this to be some big silly thing where I go on about the personal virtues of a guy I didn't even know. I talked to Candido a couple of times at IWA shows - that's really as far as it goes. He was very cordial, though, and for whatever reason, I always liked Chris Candido for as long as I knew who he was, starting with his WWF run through his ECW run (when I really became a big Candido fan), and going back to some Smoky Mountain stuff and all the way up to his IWA Mid-South run where I got to see him perform live, up close and personal, several times.
I don't want to be that guy that's sending out some heartfelt tribute to a fallen hero. Candido wasn't a hero to me or anything. I didn't get into wrestling because of him or anything like that, he never really personally inspired me to DO anything, but I liked him a lot as a fan. I'm not going to write him a poem and bemoan the loss of another in "our" industry, because it is not my industry. I don't even watch wrestling all that much anymore, save for IWA Mid-South live shows I can make it out to. And Chris Candido was, with God as my witness, a huge reason I kept going back.
For me, Candido was a very good worker and a tremendous personality. He was a runt, and to use a great cliche, "was never afraid to be the chickenshit heel." He conveyed such emotion as a wrestler when he was really on his game, though. He was fantastic in tags as the guy you wanted to see get the hell beaten out of him, and he was a very good singles wrestler for the same reason. The first time I really noticed him was the Barry Horowitz angle in the WWF. I also really liked the Bodydonnas. I thought Candido, Pritchard and Tammy were very entertaining, and since I've always been a real mark for tag wrestling, I enjoyed Candido and Pritchard because I thought they were a very good tag team.
Candido went to ECW full-time about the time I started having the ability to watch ECW, and the guy won me over for good. I loved the Triple Threat, mostly because of Candido, because I was never a Shane Douglas fan. I would look at them, and as a 15-year old, thought Candido was the real money there and was carrying the group. He had a ton of fun matches, a good tag run with Lance Storm, and just really seemed to be in his element around that time. It was almost enough to make you wish he'd never go back to the WWF or sign with WCW, because Candido was so much fun in ECW, and I thought the environment fit him perfectly. As I got older and saw some of that SMW stuff, I realized that Candido - and I say this kindly - was perfect as a big fish in a small pond, somewhere that would allow his personality and his work to shine, instead of not doing much with him because he was short or whatever the problem was.
I didn't care much about his personal business or any drug problems he or Tammy had. Mostly, I thought it was a shame that someone as talented as Candido got caught going down that road. Honestly, I counted him out. I never thought I'd see him doing anything worthwhile again. Sure, maybe he'd clean up for a while and headline some shitty indy shows with Buff Bagwell or something, but then he'd probably be lost to addiction again. It's just that we've seen a lot of wrestlers get clean only to fall back off the horse.
But when I was at the TPI and Candido burst through that door and attacked Ian Rotten, my reaction was, "Holy fucking shit, it's Chris Candido!" He got this big "whaaa?" kind of a response, and a few people chanted "Holy shit!" at his presence. From there, Candido would go on to have a run that I don't think anyone was expecting, and I certainly wasn't. Every time you went to an IWA show and Candido was supposed to be there, he was there early, mingling at the gimmick tables, dressed like a star, and talking to anyone that wanted to talk to him. I remember one instance in particular, a young child asked him if he was "Skip or Kip." He responded, "Uh...I was Chip." The kid left, and Candido sat there and sold disbelief at the absurd question, making everyone near him laugh. He also once sold my friend a hot dog, and when the guy behind him in line asked what they had, Candido replied, "Just carrots and celery sticks, bro." There was another time we were eating after a show, and Jim Fannin and Thunderbolt sat down at a table across the restaurant, and Candido came in wearing a t-shirt, fanny pack and beach towel. No pants. I doubt he noticed how hard I was laughing when I glanced over and saw him walk in like that. He just sat down and went about his business as if he were wearing pants of any kind.
Perhaps my favorite performance from Candido that I saw was in December of 2004 in Highland, in a six-man tag with Candido, BJ Whitmer and Steve Stone against Terry Funk, Danny Daniels and Ian Rotten. Funk and Candido paired off for a lot of the match and were electric personalities together, particularly with Candido doing his whole Funk impersonation deal, with the bandana and the pants and everything. I remember Funk smacking him in the face a lot and calling him a son of a bitch, and Candido just sort of stumbled into us, and then ended up in a trash can just behind us.
Candido's IWA run is what I'll most remember about his career, because I was right there for so much of it. You looked at him and thought, "There's a pro." He always drew heat, always got the crowd going by showing his ass or just being a dumbass, and never failed to entertain me. If at the end of the night we were eating and talking about the show, and it wasn't that good, we would always, always say, "Candido was fun, though." Because it was true. Candido was always fun. He never failed to give me my money's worth when I went to a show he was on.
I thought it sucked when I heard he got so badly injured at the TNA show, partially for selfish reasons as I probably wasn't going to get to see him work for a long time. And it sucks a lot more now that he's gone. There'll never be Candido having a great feud with Cactus Jack, or Candido getting another shot at the big time, or Candido showing his ass to piss people off/make them die laughing, or stories about Candido eating dinner in a beach towel. He'll never strut on the apron to "Back in Black" again. I looked forward to seeing him and every time I did, I looked forward to the next time I'd see him.
I think the worst thing here is that Chris Candido changed his life for the better, was really getting back into the swing of things, making believers out of those who doubted his ability to come back for any real length of time, and then this happens, and he's gone. And yeah, he's "just a pro wrestler" to me, and I didn't know him, but he was also someone's husband and brother and son and friend. I was just a fan of Chris Candido's. I'll miss watching him do what he did best.
Good stuff, as always, Matt. It just struck me that it'd be neat if you were doing Smackdown at the same time (although I know you have your reasons why you don't want to). A Satire version of the Heidenreich promos would rule.