Pro 'rassler gets Pinned by Pain

Sunday Dec 14, 1997
Writer Tommy Tomlinson

Arn Anderson has 9-month old son and a new house out past the Arboretum and 7-inch scar down the back of his neck. He spent 15 years as a professional wrestler, and you may have noticed that in professional wrestling things are not always what they seem. But there is nothing more real than that 7-inch scar and the message that came with it, that Arn Anderson can't wrestle anymore.

Normally, he would have been one of the stars Monday night, when World Championship Wrestling comes to Charlotte for a show at the Independence Arena.

Fans cheered for Anderson even when he was a bad guy. He never had the big biceps of the pretty boys, but he was the guy you'd want to have a beer with, knowing he'd break the bottle over some punk's head if it came to that.

Too bad for his image that he's nicer than a pack of Boy Scouts.

About 14 months ago, Anderson went to pick up a barbell at the gym and his left arm couldn't hold it. He wrestled anyway. His left hand got so numb he could barely tie his boots. He wrestled anyway. Then his boss noticed and sent him to the doctor.

In April he had surgery - a removal of some of the small bones that support the spinal cord. The pain after the surgery was worse that the pain before. He was on so many drugs that he thought the Tweety Bird on a get-well balloon was a monster out to kill him.

"I just...I just don't have the words to tell you what the pain was like", Anderson says. "I told them more than once that I wanted to die. But my son was - how old was he at the time?"

"One month," says Anderson's wife, Erin, who's toting little Brock around the living room (their other son, Barrett is 12). "That's right, 1 month. So she just said I had a lot to live for and I was being silly. She was right.

But Anderson had to retire - not one of those George Foreman retirements, but the real thing. This being pro wrestling he retired on live TV at an August show in Columbia He has always been great at the microphone but that night he topped himself. His friend Ric Flair cried in the ring as Anderson spoke.

"I didn't have the intentions of being dramatic," he says. "But it got emotional for me and the fans got pretty emotional. I think the reason was, they were cheering not so much for the love of a guy as it was the appreciation of his work ethic."

He's still at all the shows, but now he works backstage. He makes sure the arenas are set up right and the wrestlers are taken care of. He's trying to figure out what to do now, maybe announcing, maybe managing. He's 39 years old.

Anderson was a meat cutter at a grocery store in 1982 when he quit to chase the job he always dreamed of. He arrived in Charlotte in '85 with all he owned - a TV and clothes - in the back of his Toyota. Flair lent him $600 to rent his first apartment.

Once he made it big, he loved the friendships and the way he could make the crowd roar and he especially loved the money. He's still got friends and he's not hurting for money.

But the roar is gone and he sure misses that.

"For a guy with my education - limited as it is - to be able to be this successful at anything for this period of time, it's over achievement at the least," he says. "But I'm like everyone else. I wish it had lasted longer".

Copyright 1997 - Charlotte Observer

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