Source: Southern Voice Online
Ready to rumble â€¦ again
By BO SHELL
Chris â€˜Kanyonâ€™ Klucsarits comes out after years in WWE pro wrestling ring
The name Chris Klucsarits probably doesnâ€™t ring a bell with most gay men and lesbians, and only professional wrestling fans would recognize his stage names â€œMortisâ€ and â€œChris Kanyon.â€
But Klucsarits hopes his career will soon bridge the gay and wrestling worlds. For 14 years, he was a six-figure mid- to high-card wrestler for World Championship Wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly the World Wrestling Federation) and Total Nonstop Action.
Now Klucsarits is struggling for a re-birth in the super-straight world of pro wrestling after bouts of depression, two serious injuries, two suicide attempts and coming out as gay.
â€œI donâ€™t think I could have ever achieved this level of happiness, desire, focu, or motivation without coming clean about who I was, without coming out,â€ Klucsarits says. â€œI felt like I lied for 35 years, and it caused so much pain and turmoil I wondered if those who loved me really loved me, or even if they knew who I was.â€
Klucsarits, 36, is currently living in Atlanta and in counseling.
His path as a wrestler began with a fascination with the sport, or sports-entertainment as it is also known, at age six. By age 12, the boy from Queens, N.Y., committed to become a star like his idols Hulk Hogan, Bob Backlund and Ric Flair.
Klucsarits studied physical therapy in college to get his foot in the door of the industry. In 1992, he traveled as a physical therapist â€” a lucrative career earning about $70,000 annually.
In 1995, he gave it all up to wrestle for $40 a night on the independent circuit in Memphis.
â€œIt was the best time of my life,â€ Klucsarits says. â€œI knew I made the right decision, and I knew I was on the right road to making my dream come true.â€
Just three months after starting, he signed a six-figure contract with the Atlanta-based professional wrestling organization WCW. From there, his career skyrocketed.
As a pro, he earned a Tag Team Championship Belt with WCW. When the bigger WWF bought WCW, Klucsarits snagged the United States Heavy Weight Championship Belt and won a second Tag Team Championship Belt.
But as his star rose, so did his anxiety. Positive he was gay at age 11, Klucsarits lived a fearful life in the closet that led him down a path of depression. At one point, he suffered so badly that he says he was bedridden six days a week.
On Sept. 14, 2003, after moving to a beach home in Clearwater, Fla., the wrestler took 50 sleeping pills. He says he woke up three hours later, vomited the toxic dosage and immediately started psychological therapy, in which he was diagnosed as bipolar.
During recovery from two serious injuries in 2001, Klucsarits talked to several wrestlers, friends and supporters who backed him on possibly coming out while at WWE.
Toward the end of his time with WWE, hints about â€œKanyonâ€™sâ€ sexual orientation ran rampant in storylines in the ring. Klucsarits says he was asked by WWE President Vince McMahon to accentuate a slight lisp for his post-injury debut.
He says he was told to come out of a box â€”or â€œclosetâ€ â€” in the ring dressed as Boy George and singing â€œDo You Really Want to Hurt Me,â€ then take a beating from â€œThe Undertaker.â€ The match resulted in Klucsaritsâ€™ most severe concussion by way of folding chair to the head.
Shortly after the incident in February 2004, Klucsarits says he was fired. He says his dismissal may not have been caused by rumors of his homosexuality, but he thinks it might have played a role.
â€œI think Vince heard [about my sexual orientation] and wasnâ€™t happy with it,â€ Klucsarits says. â€œI took [dressing as Boy George] as a message, and few months after that, he fired me.
â€œCan I say he fired me because I was gay?â€ he asks. â€œYou can draw your own conclusions, but for me it was a message.â€
â€˜Now I just have to be honestâ€™
In past on-camera storylines, WWE used gay content to rile fans. In 2002, wrestling characters â€œBilly and Chuck,â€ also known as the â€œFlamboyant Duo,â€ were â€œwedâ€ during a match â€” to loud jeers and boos from the crowd.
Most recently, WWE released wrestler â€œJordan Orlando,â€ whose myspace.com web site admits he is bisexual. He was released surrounding rumors that he had an unauthorized male visitor backstage at wrestling events.
The WWE did not respond to requests for comment about the organization, Orlando, or Klucsaritsâ€™ claims.
After his release from the WWE, Klucsarits says he continued working with therapists to deal with coming out.
By 2006, he was ready. In February, Klucsarits announced that his character â€œChris Kanyonâ€ was gay. Klucsarits didnâ€™t reveal whether the man behind the character was gay, because he says he wanted to cause a greater stir by doing so as a signed performer.
â€œI couldnâ€™t do any damage to the character, and this was a way to milk it out,â€ he says. â€œThe theory was to get publicity grown, get signed and make a real announcement by going on Howard Stern, or going on the Today Show or Oprah or wherever.â€
Klucsarits also says his national coming out could have helped more people.
â€œIf I was young and there were openly gay people in every major sport, more regular types that were gay, maybe thereâ€™d be less discrimination,â€ he says. â€œI hope that my experiences and the way the world accepts me inspires others to come out as well.â€
Klucsarits officially announced that the man who played â€œKanyonâ€ was gay in March, but the way he came out raised eyebrows in the industry. James Caldwell, a columnist at Pro Wrestling Torch, wrote that Klucsaritsâ€™ â€œlack of clarity instantly hurt his cause in taking a supposed social stand.â€
â€œHow do you change stereotypes without people knowing about you?â€ Klucsarits asks. â€œI have the fame. Iâ€™m already famous. Iâ€™m already in a video game, I have an action figure, and now I just have to be honest.â€
Determined to succeed
After coming out in character and in person, Klucsarits continues to struggle with bipolar disorder. Just last month, he says he again attempted suicide, this time preparing to jump from the top of a building before his roommate and brother saved his life.
But after more therapy in Atlanta and a continuing regimen of â€œwonder drugs,â€ Klucsarits says heâ€™s happier and more stable than ever. He says heâ€™s selling his Florida home and permanently moving back to Atlanta, where he receives counseling at Kaiser Permanente.
â€œI knew being in Midtown and meeting so many gay people would be good, and I know itâ€™s going to be a great journey in my personal and professional life,â€ Klucsarits says. â€œMy biggest regret is that I never listened and understood the words to the Aerosmith song â€˜Amazingâ€™â€¦ â€˜life is a journey not a destinationâ€¦â€™ and the journey is going to be so cool, however long it is, and itâ€™s going to be great.â€
As for his professional career, Klucsarits says he was leaving July 19 to drop the opening puck in the Ice Hockey finals at Chicagoâ€™s Gay Games. He also says heâ€™s in talks to shoot a reality series pilot, and he continually works to build buzz for a pending comeback.
But donâ€™t ask him about a back-up plan.
â€œI absolutely refuse to have a back up plan,â€ he says. â€œThere is no other option. I will set my mind to this, and I will succeed. Iâ€™ll probably still be on meds, Iâ€™ll probably still be in therapy, and Iâ€™ll probably be further on my spiritual journey, but Iâ€™ll be smarter, wiser and things are going to happen.â€