We’ve all heard the saying about the company ink, right? Personal and professional are two worlds that should be kept separate, but often aren’t. And when your personal and your professional life cross, the consequences can be disastrous. Sometimes men and women in the workplace have a way for things not to get ‘weird’ with one another while at work. While it can and has gotten messy in some instances with male and female wrestlers, it can also work out.
One of the most successful wrestling relationships, one where both members of the relationship have done more than simply make it work, but have grown as people throughout their time together, is Nick Aldis and Mickie James. They have proven that you can work together, have a personal relationship with one another, and come out the other side as better people in the process. The two have a child named Donavon and don’t appear to have missed a beat. They manage to share their likes and dislikes about the business, and driven to succeed both in the industry and outside it.
Other wrestlers met while they both worked within the industry and maintained the relationship even when they aren’t active anymore. Charlie Haas and Jackie Gayda were both employed by the WWE at one time. They are still happily married, having maintained their relationship after leaving the company. Another couple that met while they were in the ring together, and still maintained it after they left is Beulah McGillicuty and Tommy Dreamer. Both were important characters during their time in ECW, and even though ECW closed its doors that didn’t mean their relationship with one another needed to end as well. Together they have children together. Dreamer is still actively a part of the industry while Beulah in no longer actively involved.
In order for a couple to work, does that mean that one has to be out of the industry while the other one remains in it? That isn’t the case at all. One of the most successful wrestling couples today is Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. After being married for a number of years and having three children, they work together, play together and all the while maintaining a happy marriage. Couples all squabble, as it isn’t realistic for them not to ever have issues with one another. This only becomes a problem when they can’t maintain that positive relationship and everything falls apart.
One might presume that the marriage of two wrestlers would dissolve much like anyone else’s. They fall out of love with one another and their interests are no longer aligned with the person they once knew. The personal life of a wrestler whose wife isn’t involved in the industry is hard enough. Time away will often cause a rift between people, but even more so when distrust is there. Just because it worked on television doesn’t mean it would work in real life. People split up because they no longer share that same feeling for one another other, relationships end for wrestlers as well. The rigors of the road, the time and travel, will wear on anyone. An issue with any marriage is remaining faithful to their partner. Perhaps wrestlers that are married are less likely to remain unfaithful because they know what is out there? That could very well be the case. But this isn’t an absolute given, and it doesn’t mean that a long distance relationship between wrestler and spouse can’t work.
Still, for every successful story there are relationships that simply didn’t work out even when children were involved. Terri Runnels and Dustin Runnels were successful on screen as Marlena and Goldust. However, when the cameras turned off, their relationship did as well. One of the most beloved couples in wrestling history was that of “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth. Fans were thrilled when they found out the (already married) couple would be getting married on screen. But their relationship also fell apart.
The reason this column is about wrestlers being married is that there have recently been two wrestling couples have proposed to their significant other, and made it public. WWENXT wrestler Johnny Gargano asked independent wrestling sensation Candice LaRae if she would marry him.
Lucha Underground’s Joey Ryan recently proposed to his girlfriend as well. In this case, Ryan proposed to his girlfriend Laura James mid-match, and then in typical Ryan fashion proceeded to go for the win While that doesn’t seem like the most romantic thing to do when you plan on sharing the rest of your life with someone, it managed to blend reality with the fiction and storytelling of professional wrestling. In the case of Gargano and LaRae, their relationship has been a long-standing one, and fans can interact with both of them on social media about their impending nuptials. Both understand how travel and distance can impede a relationship, but it hasn’t happened with these two. They both have common goals and aspirations for the future. One is just thirty, and the other just under, and really have committed themselves to this sport and each other, which they should be lauded for. In Gargano’s case, he is actively competing not only on the independent circuit, but with the WWE’s NXT program. While it can be daunting at times, they make it work. Ryan and James’ case will be interesting as well. Ryan has slowly been making a name for himself, whether competing in North America or Japan. He is becoming a known commodity who is sure to continue to earn acclaim, for his work in the ring.
For every couple that we hear about not being able to make that wrestler/family relationship work, we hear about those that do. Another couple made up of two longstanding wrestlers on the independent circuit, people that are as talented in the ring as they are outside it, is Pepper Parks and Cherry Bomb. While the names may not ring a bell for some, keep in mind these two veterans of the ring have been together a number of years, with Parks having worked alongside Dean Ambrose while both were competing for HWA. Bomb is an amazing heel that is able to maintain a storyline and help carry on a feud. It says a lot that these two people are just as committed to each other outside the ring as they are to their craft inside it. Much like everyone else, time, travel and distance doesn’t have to be what prevents a wrestling couple from succeeding.
The challenge lies in both parties being on the same page and wanting to make things work. For couples that take separate bookings and are competing on opposite ends of the globe, it becomes a matter of ensuring they are taken care of and are surrounded by a solid support system. What would be ideal would be to coordinate bookings so a wrestling couple can travel together, but that will vary from case to case. Gargano and LaRae are in demand regardless of where they go in North America. And what happens if both parties’ goals aren’t aligned, and things happen along the way? Do wrestling aspirations take a back seat? In a number of cases, those achieving success on a grander scale are likely to keep going. However, what if one is able to achieve their goals while the other isn’t? To support your partner, you would stand by them and hope they achieve on behalf of both of you. For some, they are able to do that, while for others the sting of not reaching the same success as their wrestling husband or wife will sting a little.
The list of wrestling marriages that ended is quite vast. Whether it was Steve Austin and Debra Marshall, Eddie Gilbert and Missy Hyatt,Gangrel and Luna Vachon, wrestling has seen its share of dissolved relationships. While it isn’t fair to suggest that any one reason led to the end of their relationships, one hears enough stories that wrestlers have told over the years about the challenges of living life on the road and can presume that may be a contributing factor. Often times they may want to step away from the ring in order to see if they miss being a part of it like they think they would.
In some cases, wrestling couples prefer to keep their personal and professional lives separate. When Tracy Brooks walked away from wrestling, she was grateful for all she accomplished in the ring. While her husband Frankie Kazarian continues to wrestle, it hasn’t been a damper on their relationship in the least. Brooks understands what challenges Kazarian has to deal with on the road and having someone that knows that makes it that much easier. When Brooks formally said goodbye to wrestling in front of a hometown crowd in Toronto last year during Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore event, it had to be bittersweet. Some aren’t necessarily afforded that opportunity to say goodbye on their terms, as Brooks did with her husband by her side.
This brings us to the recent retirement of Daniel Bryan. His departure will leave a void in wrestling, but does that mean it will put a strain on his marriage? Not in the least. It was recently reported that Brie has announced she will be leaving wrestling at some point this year. Brie has achieved more than she probably thought she ever would in wrestling, and Daniel has reached the mountaintop in the WWE. For them, wrestling isn’t their only life goal. They will have the opportunity to start a family and not have to worry about the risk that being away from one another will do to their relationship. For them, dipping in the company ink worked out well.
Check out Jon Curry and me on TheMemNetwork. Check out our regular Wednesday podcast @ 8pm ET. We also welcome WWE Legend and Former Intercontinental Champion Tito Santana and TJRWrestling.net writer Howie Mandella.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @TheMarcMadison as well.