An Honest Conversation w/ AIWF Champion Chief Attakullakulla.
By Nick “The Sickness” Wilkinson
Nick: Chief, over the last few months we have seen both deaths and suicides in the world of professional wrestling. I’m not going to sensationalize this conversation by posting names and causes of deaths but I wanted to sit down and speak with someone who has been in this business for a number of years and reflect on these recent events.
Chief: It is unfortunate that Pro Wrestlers seem to be stuck in this cycle. You would think that after all of the people we have lost over the years in this business, that we would learn from that and break the cycle.
Nick: Sitting here and looking back on some of the most recent deaths I often wonder what brings a man to the point where ending his life is an alternative to continuing the daily struggles of life that we all go thru. Professional wrestlers more than most tend to be some of the strongest and toughest men I have encountered, yet something inside seems to break and at times these warriors struggle to continue with life.
Chief: I can’t pretend to be able to understand this. I have been fortunate in my life to have been been relatively drug free. I don’t have an addictive personality. Things have been tough at points in my life, but there has never been another choice for me but to keep plugging along.
Nick: Having traveled the road, suffered through injury and loss, taken beatings no man should endure let alone sign up for voluntarily has the battle every been to tough for Chief Attakullakulla and if so how do you find the strength to keep going?
Chief: Like I just said, there is no other option for me but to keep moving along. That is my mindset.
Nick: In a sport where we call each other brothers and talk about the sacred brotherhood of professional wrestling is there anything that we could do to reach out to someone who may be struggling with these thoughts or actions. Can tragedies like these be prevented or are these just the dangers of the business that we love?
Chief: I try to be aware if someone around me is troubled. If I sense that they are, I try to talk to them and just let them know that I am there if they need me. In the end, this is all that we can do. We all make our own choices.
Nick: Do you think weakness is a factor. I don’t mean physical weakness but perceived weakness. Are workers afraid to reach out to fellow workers, promoters & friends for fear that they will be perceived as weaker and therefore inferior when it comes to performance and ability?
Chief: I think that can be a problem. This is a business that is full of egos and machismo. But we are also a family. We need to be able to trust each other.
Nick: Inevitably in cases of both death and suicide drugs come into play more often than not, has this always been the case or have you seen in increase in this as the level of competition increases and the need to out perform increases?
Chief: There has always been recreational drugs and alcohol in one form or another in this business, just like any other entertainment business. In the mid to late 80’s steriods became a major problem.
Nick: How can we come together as a brotherhood and help fight back when in comes to things like substance abuse, depression, anger and suicidal thoughts? Can we at all?
Chief: We can try to be more aware of what is going on with the people around us, but in the end, we can only do so much. It all comes down to personal choices.
Nick: If you could leave an open message to the fans, global pro-wrestling community and fellow in ring performers regarding this topic what would that be?
Chief: I know that Pro Wrestlers are looked down on because of all of the young deaths and the circumstances surrounding them. I know that some fans look at us as larger then life. I just want the fans to remember that in the end we are just human beings like them. We have everyday problems and we make mistakes. To all of my fellow performers, think about the choices that you make. We are a Brotherhood. I don’t want to lose anymore Brothers per-maturely.
Nick: For anyone struggling with depression, drugs and alcohol, suicidal thoughts, or anything else AIWF, Chief Attakullakulla and I would like you to know that there is help out there, there are brothers who care and a community that will support you. Below is a list of confidential phone numbers where help can be found. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-662-HELP Drug and Alcohol Rehab/Treatment Referral Service
1-800-356-9996 Al-Anon & Alateen crisis line
1-800-COCAINE National Cocaine Hotline, 24-hour counseling and referral
1-800-9-HEROIN National Heroin Hotline
1-888-MARIJUA National Marijuana Hotline
1-800-273-TALK National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-WORKPLACE Drug-Free Workplace Help