“You know, I don’t wanna die, but I’m not afraid to. Because what’s left man? What do you do when they quit chanting your name?”Scott Hall
Trauma. So many of us experience trauma without even knowing it. We suffer abuse as children or we’re in bad relationships, or we find ourselves a victim of circumstances beyond our control and we do our best just to cope. We do our best to survive.
Scott Hall found himself in one of those circumstances as a young man, and he ended up killing a man. He shot him in the head. Hall was charged with 2nd Degree murder but was eventually acquitted, as he was found to be acting in self-defense and there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of anything. So, he never faced any legal consequences for that night in Florida. But the consequences he did face impacted him for the rest of his life.
As an alcoholic (I’ve been sober for 8 years, but the rules say we still have to call ourselves that), I’ve heard time and time again that “addiction is a disease.” And I’ve never really agreed with that. For me, addiction has always been more of a symptom. The disease is what caused me to start drinking in the first place. And that disease is trauma.
I don’t know Scott Hall. I’ve never met him, never walked in his shoes, never seen life through his eyes. But I’m willing to bet most of his well-known “personal demons” were the result of the trauma he experienced as a younger man.
Hall dealt with that trauma in all of the ways one would expect –drugs, alcohol, pills, etc. He did all of it to escape the reality of his life.
But he also found another way to escape reality, and that was with professional wrestling.
Scott Hall has been called ‘The greatest professional wrestler to never win the world title,’ and that’s a distinction that very few people are held to. Men like Rowdy Roddy Piper, Mr. Perfect, Jake The Snake Roberts and more make up the bulk of that group, but Scott Hall’s name is the one most readily cited.
Beginning his career in the National Wrestling Alliance Florida territory, Championship Wrestling from Florida, in 1984, Hall cast an impressive figure. Heavily muscled, with a Tom Sellek-esque mustache, Hall immediately gained notoriety throughout the country. He wrestled as both ‘Magnum’ Scott Hall and ‘Big’ Scott Hall in the AWA and formed a partnership and a friendship with the soon-to-be Mr. Perfect, Curt Henning.
Hall had a couple tryouts in the WWF in both 1987 and 1990, but was not signed. He was signed, however, to World Championship Wrestling in 1989. After a brief hiatus, he returned to WCW in 1991 and for a couple years, Hall wrestled as ‘The Diamond Studd,’ which served as something of a precursor to his future WWF character. Hall was managed by ‘Diamond’ Dallas Page and the two formed a bond that would, eventually, save the Studd’s life.
After his time in WCW, Hall would join the World Wrestling Federation as Razor Ramon – a ‘Scarface’ like character that channeled Tony Montana in both sound and style. Hall would wear gold chains, expensive clothes, and slicked back hair with a long, curly strand draping his devilishly handsome, scruffy face.
“Say hello to The Bad Guy,” Ramon would sneer. And audiences across the world did just that.
Ramon debuted in the WWF in 1992, and it wouldn’t be long before he became one of the Federation’s biggest stars. He teamed with the likes of Ric Flair and feuded with WWF Champion Bret Hart, Randy Savage, and more. Hall started out as a heel but he was so smooth, so smarmy, so cool that fans couldn’t help but side with Razor. So, it wouldn’t be long before The Bad Guy went good.
It was as a babyface that Ramon wrestled, arguably, his most famous match; a ladder match against on-screen foe but off-screen friend, Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental Championship.
The match has since gone on to enter the pantheons of wrestling lore as one of the best matches in WrestleMania history and even now, 27 years after it happened, it remains a classic story of man-on-man-on-ladder. Ramon would win that match and would go on to be a 4-time Intercontinental Champion. He would also forge a friendship with Michaels, Kevin ‘Diesel’ Nash, Sean ‘123 Kid’ Waltman, and Paul ‘Hunter Hearst Helmsley’ Levesque. The 5 men, collectively known as ‘The Kliq’ dominated the WWF, both on-screen and off. On screen, any combination of the 5 would typically result in good-to-great matches. Off-screen, the group caused a lot of headaches for Vince McMahon and their fellow superstars. Still, fans knew that when Razor got in the ring with Diesel, or the 123 Kid, or Shawn Michaels, it would usually end up as a pretty great bout.
Such was the case with the ladder match against Michaels at WrestleMania X.
It has been called one of the greatest matches in WrestleMania history. It’s been called the match that made Shawn Michaels. But it made Scott Hall a little bit too. When Hall sauntered to the ring with his necklaces and his gold vest, and his toothpick, he looked like a star.
Scott Hall and Shawn Michaels put on an absolute classic at WrestleMania X, setting the stage for a match type that has been replicated, but never duplicated for almost 30 years. It will remain, quite possibly, Hall’s best match. More than that, though, it was a chance for the two friends to shine under the spotlight. It was a chance for them both to prove that they belonged, that they were the new generation, that this was their show to steal.
And that’s exactly what they did.
Hall would go on to have a good-to-great career in the WWF. He never won the World Championship, but he was most definitely viewed as a star by audiences. He’s one of the greatest Intercontinental Champions of all time. He was a bona fide legend.
When Hall left the World Wrestling Federation in the spring of 1996 to join World Championship Wrestling, he might not have known that he would be the one to change professional wrestling forever. But that’s what he did, alongside Kevin Nash and, arguably, the biggest name in all of pro wrestling at the time – Hulk Hogan.
Hall left the WWF because he felt like he wasn’t being given enough money. Given his standing in the company, it was a fair stance to have. The problem was, Vince McMahon didn’t feel the same. He wouldn’t give Hall a raise. He wouldn’t let him work in Japan during his off time. So, when Hall’s contract came up in May of 1996, he took a leap of faith.
Hall, along with his closest compadre Kevin Nash, left the WWF to join WCW. Shortly thereafter, ‘The Outsiders’ would arrive in Ted Turner’s company and they would turn it on its head. Joined by Hollywood Hulk Hogan, the three men formed the nWo and professional wrestling would never be the same.
My father was a really big shot in the army. We come from a long line of hard drinking rednecks. My dad was an alcoholic. My mother was an alcoholic. Both my grandparents were alcoholics. And I was the head of the household at, like, 15. And my dad used to tell me, ‘You’re gonna slip. You’re gonna fall. So try to fall forward.'”Scott Hall
While Hall never had the memorable matches that he’d wrestled in the WWF, he very quickly became one of the biggest stars of WCW. His ‘Hey Yo’ catchphrase quickly caught on and, like WWF, he held every championship title except for the World Championship.
But Hall didn’t need it. When watching Scott Hall, you just knew he was a megastar. He radiated coolness, charisma, and confidence in front of the television cameras. The irony being, behind the scenes, he was anything but.
Much has been said about Scott Hall’s “personal demons.” Those who don’t get it are quick to dismiss it. “Oh, he was just an alcoholic.” Or “I can’t believe WWE spent that much money on Scott Hall’s rehab.”
Scott Hall killed a man. He shot him in the head and he killed him. What must that do to a person, let alone a person who is already genetically predisposed to addiction? Hall’s parents and grandparents were alcoholics and addiction is a genetic thing.
Scott Hall never stood a chance.
But he tried. Oh, he tried. He would drink, it would get bad, he would stop for a while. Before a big comeback, he would try so, so hard to get clean and stay clean. He wanted so badly to stay sober. He did it for his return to WWE in 2002. He did it for his debut in TNA. He did it for the Hall of Fame and the Raw Reunion specials and for WrestleMania. He did it for Kevin Nash and for Shawn Michaels and for Triple H and X-Pac and Diamond Dallas Page and Jake Roberts and his son, Cody. He tried to get sober for all of them but, most importantly, he did it for himself.
“There’s gotta be some reason that I’m still here. I should’ve been dead a hundred times.”Scott Hall
For a while, we thought tragedy was averted. We thought that maybe, just maybe, Scott Hall would get a happy ending. After a particularly bad few years, Scott Hall moved in with his old friends, Diamond Dallas Page and Jake Roberts. Together, Page helped both Roberts and Hall get sober. For a long time, fans got to see Scott Hall with a clear head. But he still had such a heavy, heavy heart. And when COVID-19 hit and forced all of us into seclusion, it put Scott Hall right back into the darkness he worked so hard to escape from.
“The pandemic did him in,” Sean Waltman (X-Pac) told Dave Meltzer. “It was hard enough for him as it was, but he was isolated in his house with no social interaction. He was down to 210 pounds. We called Dally (Dallas Page) and he went over. It was really bad.”
For a long time, many wrestling fans believed that Scott Hall got a happily-ever-after. We saw the documentaries and the Hall of Fame speeches and the Raw Reunions and we thought that Hall had really, finally, defeated his demons.
Unfortunately, that’s not how real life works. In real life, addiction and sobriety require a lot more than 12 steps. There are steps forward, steps backwards, steps to the side. There is progression and there is relapse. And guess what?
None of that made Scott Hall a bad person.
Addiction can ruin a lot of things; it can ruin friendships, and marriages, and careers. It certainly did for Hall. And when you “fail” as a husband, or a father, or a friend, or a wrestler it becomes very, very easy to believe that those failures are because you’re a bad person. But that’s simply not the truth. That’s the drugs, that’s the drink, telling you “You’re not good enough. You’re not worthy. I am your only friend, the only thing you need. Nobody loves you but me.” And after a while, you start to believe it. So when you are locked inside your house, isolated from your friends, your family, your loved ones – your brain starts to turn on you. And suddenly, the bottle beckons you, eager to reunite because it knows that it can make you believe it’s all you have left.
Kevin Nash, Hall’s best friend, wrote that Scott never believed he was worthy of the afterlife. For somebody so confident in front of the television cameras, behind them – he was the exact opposite. Triple H would remember the times that Hall would jokingly-but-not-really say “Oh, I’m just a big dummy.” These quips, these little Scott-isms weren’t just jokes. They were confessions. They were cries for help. They were insight into a man who hid behind a toothpick and bravado. Outside, Scott Hall was a multi-time champion. He was the founder of the nWo. He was ‘The Bad Guy.’ But inside? Inside, he was a guy who didn’t believe he deserved any of it.
“All I ever wanted to be was a big-time pro wrestler. I never quit fighting. I might not win, but I won’t quit fighting.”Scott Hall
Scott Hall died on March 14, 2022. According to Dave Meltzer, he fell and broke his hip a few days prior. He couldn’t crawl to a phone. He couldn’t move. So he lied there, in his home, alone, fighting for his life. Eventually, Dallas Page checked on Hall and took him to the hospital. During his hip surgery, Hall suffered a blood clot which caused three separate heart attacks. Hall was put on life support; the fight was almost over.
On that day, a year ago to the day, thousands upon thousands of wrestlers and wrestling fans paid tribute to Scott Hall, even before he was declared officially dead. Each offered their own tribute, whether it was a paragraph or a simple 140 characters. Each tribute spoke to the performer that Hall was, and the man that Hall was.
Scott Hall was eventually pulled off life support, but he still didn’t want to stop fighting. He held on, by himself, for a few more hours. Eventually, however, his heart stopped.
His death took the wrestling world by storm. People cried. People wrote. People lamented. Everybody from The Rock to Bret Hart offered their condolences and their memories of a man gone too soon.
For a long time, people thought that Hall had defeated his personal demons; that he had won the fight against addiction. That didn’t turn out to be the case, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Scott Hall tried, hard, to overcome his addiction. But sometimes, trauma is too hard to overcome. Sometimes, the voices in our head are screaming too loud and the only way to quiet them is to drink until we can’t hear them anymore. I don’t know if that’s how it was for Scott Hall in his final days, weeks, months, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it resembled that for him.
Still, that’s not how I choose to remember him. I remember Scott Hall as my first favorite wrestler; the character I always played in WWF Raw for the Super Nintendo. I remember him as the innovator of the ladder match. I remember ‘Hey Yo’ and ‘Survey Says’ and ‘Say Hello to the Bad Guy.’ I remember the matches and the moments and the jokes and the quips and the interviews. I remember the performer, but I remember the man, too. And I accept him, flaws and all, for the person that he was – not the person I wanted him to be.
Scott Hall may never have felt like he deserved to be loved. He may never have felt like he was worthy of it. But throughout his career, the people in his life proved otherwise. It was Kevin Nash continuing to fight for Hall to keep his job in WCW. It was WWE continuing to pay for rehab stay after rehab stay. It was Diamond Dallas Page taking Hall into his home and starting a crowdfund to pay for his surgeries. It was the fans raising more than $100,000 for him to get those surgeries. It was all of these things and more that showed Scott Hall what he meant to so many of us. I hope, he realized that, as he laid in the hospital bed with his eyes closed and his family by his side. I hope that with his last breath he felt deep in his bones, in his heart, that he was worthy. That he was finally safe. That he was loved. And that he didn’t have to fight anymore.
In my life, I’ve learned that hard work pays off. Dreams come true. Bad times don’t last, but Bad Guys do.Scott Hall