Dark Side of the Ring: The Double Life of Chris Kanyon
By Dave Newman on 25th September 2021
Here’s my recap of the latest episode of Dark Side of the Ring, a somewhat flawed feature on Kanyon, someone I much preferred as Mortis and as enhancement talent and seemed to not get better for rising up the card.
In the intro there’s a montage of his innovative moves with peers ranging from DDP and Jim Mitchell to the Young Bucks and Luke Hawx. A secret is hinted at, with Mitchell talking about him talking in a homophobic manner at times.
The “Who Betta Than Kanyon?” catchphrase is briefly discussed, although nobody talks about how it was originally “Who’s Betta Than Kanyon?” but they got him to change it so it didn’t show his lisp.
Childhood friend Rafael Morffi, who ended up becoming a wrestling executive, talks about Kanyon loving wrestling from when he was young. He relates Kanyon getting into trouble at school one time and blurting out to the chaplain that he was gay. As it was a strong Catholic area the chaplain tried to get him to push those feelings aside rather than giving him comfort.
Jim Mitchell met Kanyon when he was training and set him up with the Fabulous Moolah for polishing up. Moolah was impressed and took him on. Mae Young stretched him regularly in those days.
Chris Jericho talks about meeting him in WCW when he was part of Men at Work with Mark Starr. He was impressing as a wrestler but was self-conscious about doing promos because of his lisp, plus it was a goofy gimmick where he and Starr were measuring the ring and the like for no apparent reason. They should’ve brought in Bill Ding as their manager!
Speaking of managers, back to Mitchell, who recalls Kanyon getting ready to move to Memphis and a box of his gay porn fell to the ground and scattered on the floor. To hide it from his homophobic cousins who saw, he immediately made up a story of it all belonging to Mitchell and probably being a sick rib by him, so he had to come out to Mitchell on the phone and ask him to play a part in his cover story by calling up the cousins and asking “Hey, have you seen some of my stuff at all?”.
Kanyon became Mortis to be Glacier’s opponent in Blood Runs Cold. Mitchell became his on-screen manager as James “Vandenballs” Vandenberg. A great break for Mitchell, but Kanyon was really abusive to him over the littlest thing. Mitchell was thinking to himself “That’s a hell of a way to treat the guy that knows your secret identity!”, but said and did nothing and just ate it for a while.
Matt Jackson and Brian Cage talk about how gay wrestlers at the time weren’t presented sympathetically at the time, being predatory guys like Goldust or effeminate like Adrian Adonis, so Kanyon stayed deeply closeted. Mitchell talks about how Kanyon would talk to guys online and printed out the conversations and put them in a box but would get heated if anyone would ask him what was in the box, to the point that Mitchell thinks he wanted subconsciously for someone to knock over the box and the secrets to come spilling out.
The nWo becoming popular meant that characters like Mortis were no longer going to fly. Again, Mitchell became his whipping boy. Mitchell loved him as a friend, but resented the physical abuse. Mortis unmasked and became Kanyon and was kind of a darling, including being given responsibility for producing Ready To Rumble, which Nick Jackson sarcastically calls the best wrestling movie ever after DDP’s hyperbolic claims of “EVERYONE loved that movie!” in a separate clip.
As his prominence rose, so did the amount of money he was making, to the point of turning his house into a veritable nightclub. Women would be there and be all around him, to no reaction from him, to the point that one went up to Mitchell and said she thought he was gay. That made him more paranoid, so he enlisted Mitchell to make a sex tape that he could show the boys to prove that he wasn’t gay. I believe this is the famous one where the girl wore the Mortis mask and his club with the skull dangling off it was used as a toy. Kanyon never showed up to play his part, so Mitchell just fucked her when they realised he wasn’t coming. The next morning, Kanyon saw the tape and laughed at first but then flipped his top over something little. Mitchell had a gun ready this time to defend himself and says he was prepared to shoot him, but the situation defused before it got any further.
Kanyon was taken up by the WWF after WCW was bought by them and had an initial run of success, but that soon dwindled. In his personal life, he unraveled, getting into fixations like sorting piles of paper on the floor and not getting out of bed for a week. Mitchell would sit with him to support him but couldn’t understand what he had to be depressed about. Kanyon’s reaction was pretty much “No, you don’t, and you never will be able to”.
A shoulder injury really affected him, including a nasty blood infection that saw his weight drop and left him with a nasty scar. He was sidelined for a year but was finally brought back for something. Rafael Morffi, quite insincerely I thought, talks about how the Undertaker was quite high on him, so they included him in an angle with him and Paul Heyman where Heyman had him pop out of a box in Boy George clothes to sing “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” with obvious rhotacism. Taker would beat him up really stiffly with a chair and that was pretty much the end of him in WWE. It seemed like everyone knew his secret and he was the brunt of the joke for it. Morffi kinda switches position and says he doesn’t buy any story about it being a good thing for him to come back doing and Jericho puts it down to “typical WWE bullying”.
So, Kanyon was let go. Mitchell says he told him it was punishment for being gay, but later reneged on it and said it was info he was keeping in his pocket in case he needed to sue them later. Mitchell couldn’t tell fact from fiction when it came out of his mouth by this point. There was also the thing of Orlando Jordan possibly being promoted as the first gay wrestler over him.
The Young Bucks met Kanyon on a show in 2005 and became friends with him. Same with Brian Cage, who Kanyon put over on a local show he promoted. Kanyon had always been good to young wrestler, and this continued with those guys and Luke Hawx, who has a Mortis tattoo on his forearm and was taken in by him when his home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Unfortunately, the bizarre behaviour continued, including one time where Kanyon had been up for three days and told a stories of how he had headed out to the Scientology HQ but apparently got stuck on a bridge for hours and was stopped by aliens, so he had to get into the building because that was where the aliens were. Only trouble is that it was a delusion and he’d been home all that time. Hawx and his friends had to restrain him physically to stop him from going and getting into trouble until he fell asleep, slept it off and came to. Soon after, he went into treatment for bipolar disorder.
The treatment was very helpful and he finally came out to his friends. He expected people to hate him for it, although there was no reason to. Cage does get quite honest in that it made him initially feel differently about him, but he realised soon that it was still the same person and it helped him be more understanding.
DDP and Kanyon had a match at a legends show where he came out on the mic after the match after teasing it for a while online. He wanted to be a positive gay role model and wrote a letter to Stephanie McMahon proposing a return where he could be that, but Mitchell, while acknowledging that the ship had already sailed on something like that, reveals that she sent him a pithy, one paragraph reply with no commitment to him and never followed up on it. It didn’t help that he’d done some stunts years before where he turned up in the crowd with signs and even jumped in the ring after the cameras had turned off for WrestleMania XX. He even did a Pillman-esque hug of Vince at a backstage party where he thanked him for inviting him to it “even though you fired me!”.
Matt Jackson received a call from Kanyon in his later days where he was crying his eyes out and talking about how he was going to kill himself. Forty-five minutes later he’d talked him off the ledge, but it left little doubt that it wasn’t a permanent fix.
Kanyon managed to get himself on the Howard Stern Show to talk about his sexuality, including saying that he was told to “sing like a f*gg*t” when he was doing the Boy George thing backstage. John Cena later appeared on the show and denied any homophobia towards Kanyon and that he was let go “because he wasn’t good”. Ric Flair also called in one time that was Kanyon was on and backed that up. Cage thinks that Cena took a massive shit on him from a big height. Getting snubbed by his childhood hero as well hurt him massively. Both guys do come off as cold in their comments, although they were right in that Kanyon only brought up his sexuality later.
The last public appearance of Kanyon was on an independent show for Mikey Whipwreck in early 2010. He absolutely stunk the joint out, but later on he was holding court at the bar and everyone loved him. A gay wrestler went up to him and thanked him for inspiring him. Back at the hotel, Kanyon told Mitchell he’d tried throwing himself in front of a car a few days before. They proceeded to have a massive argument, but Kanyon closed it down and switched it to a trip down memory lane, which left no doubt in Mitchell’s head that he’d probably seen him for the last time.
DDP and Jericho also share that they knew the end was coming. Kanyon refused multiple calls from Mitchell for two weeks straight until he received a call at six in the morning (never a good time for a call) that he’d taken an overdose of antidepressants at his childhood home, ruled a suicide. His friends talk about how hard it hit them, but also being relieved that he was out of pain. Hawx and Mitchell especially get emotional about how much they owe to him and how much they miss him. Jericho talks about how he really was one of the rare good guys in wrestling despite the things he was going through. They finish on the impact he had with it being a different world for sexual minorities in wrestling now.
Melting it down: A sad, sad story about a tragic figure in wrestling who appeared to have nothing but good friends around him, but still couldn’t achieve real happiness. I don’t think we’ll ever have answers on whether it was his sexuality causing his mental illness or his mental illness being exacerbated by his sexual paranoia, but it does seem like a case of a guy who even if he was a decade younger would probably still be around and in a better place.
Some missing things or faults include how at times he’s not really presented sympathetically, including his treatment of the Sinister Minister, and also there’s not really enough to back his claims of homophobic treatment. Cena and Flair are presented as the callous dicks of the piece as far as snubbing him, but I suggest rather than defend that talking like that to people had and has become a way of building the entertainment bucks, as Simon Cowell and obviously Howard Stern thrived on.