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Ain't no thing like me, 'cept me
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This April, I am going to celebrate 17 years as a professional wrestler. 17 years. Even writing that makes me shake my head. It doesn’t feel like 17 years. It seems like just yesterday I was a skinny, 165-pound kid that stumbled on an independent wrestling poster in Reading, PA. At the bottom of the poster was a number of a wrestling school. I called. I made an appointment.

All I wanted to be told was no. No, you are too small. No, you are not tough enough. No, you will never be anything. I told myself that at least I could hold my head high and say I tried.

Two minutes into my first day of wrestling school I developed an attitude. Not one that you would see later and would make me one of the most hated wrestlers in the industry, but a “never take no for an answer” attitude.

I made a promise to myself that day that I would do whatever it took to become someone in our sport. And I would do it my way. While most wrestlers dream of going to New York and main-eventing WrestleMania, mine were different. I made short-term goals and long-term goals. And I knew I had to do it by myself.

The guys that broke in with me that year are all gone. Some wrestled three matches. Some wrestled a year or two. But I was the only one that went on and did whatever it took to get to the top of promotions. Over the years I noticed that many wrestlers, that fans picked to be to big stars, didn’t have that drive that I did to make it. They fizzled out or became 40-milers (wrestlers that are only good enough to wrestle within 40 miles of their homes.)

When I was 27 years old, I was the World heavyweight champion. Like many of my co-workers in that company, I could have stood still and tried to live off the name I made there. But I knew that I wanted more. I thought that is what the fans would want too. Maybe they did but somewhere along the way I lost myself. I became bitter. The person I was at home was not the person that I was in the ring. I had a disease.

Ten years later I manipulated a great young man named Kevin Steen into turning on his long time partner, El Generico. It was an amazing ride. I lived through Kevin as he destroyed people. I took joy in watching him morph from one of the best big men in pro-wrestling, to a man that’s major drive was to eliminate his partner. I was on top again. It was ECW in 2000 again. It was ZERO-ONE in 2004 again. I was on top and I didn’t care how I did it. I felt the high when he won. I really thought he was my best chance at getting to the ROH World championship.

But in November, after a ROH event in Detroit, I couldn’t sleep. I usually sleep like a baby on the road. As I got out of my bed quietly to grab my laptop and not to awake Kevin in the other bed, I saw that he wasn’t sleeping. He was sitting up with a look in his eye that bothered me. I asked what he was doing and he slowly looked at me and told me that he was dreaming about what he was going to do at Final Battle. Mind you, Final Battle was a month away. He told me that I taught him that wrestling is a war and if you die in battle, you die a hero. That was the night I lost Kevin Steen. And that was the night that I was scared for the first time in my career. What have I done?

As I sat in the lobby of the hotel, working on my book, I thought of his comment. It ate at me. Then I started sweating. I would try to get some words down from my notes, but insults that I said to fans over the years started to flood my head. But instead of me laughing them off and thinking how witty I was to be able to insult people, it haunted me. It bothered me.

At that moment, I knew I had a problem. I was a pro-wrestling addict. Much like an alcoholic or drug abuser. But my drug was being evil. I forgot about the entertainment aspect of pro-wrestling and lived it. Like an actor who gets so into his role, I became Steve Corino: King Of A-Holes. I couldn’t turn it off.

I tried not to say anything. I thought it might pass. But if you watch our World tag team title match from Toronto against the Kings Of Wrestling, you can see that I am bothered. I was out-classed and knew it. I didn’t have it in me to be evil enough to steal the tag belts. I was just Steve Corino the pro-wrestler. I was the 21 year old, 165 pound kid from my first day of wrestling school.

We all saw what happened at Final Battle. Kevin Steen and El Generico beat each other senseless. I have seen a lot of matches that can be determined “hardcore” but this was more than hardcore. This was a war. Filled with hate. Hate that I caused. I tried to talk Kevin out of it. But he was over the edge. I lost him. I lost me. It was my fault. When the bell rang and it was Kevin that was not on top I knew it was over. Kevin Steen is out of ROH because of me. Because of my manipulation. My lies. My empty promises. He should be headlining the Chicago pay-per-view against Roderick Strong, but because of me he isn’t.

I went home and cried. I destroyed a young man’s career. I was already told before Final Battle, that no matter what the outcome of Steen-Generico, I would be retained by ROH. But I didn’t want to come back. I was ashamed. I looked around the locker room and saw how the boys look at Davey Richards and Christopher Daniels. They don’t look at me the same.

I asked both Cary and Jim Cornette that if I come back in 2011 I want to help the young guys. I can never let what happened to Kevin happen to anyone else.

I have given advice to the young guys before and they take it, but they always look at me with a suspicious eye. And I don’t blame them.

Look at the young crew we have in ROH: Kyle O’Reilly, Adam Cole, Andy Ridge, Grizzly Redwood, Bobby Dempsey, The Bravado Brothers, Michael Elgin, and Mike Bennett. All of these kids are already light years ahead of where I was at their development. And all of them, with the exception of Bennett, have the attitude and drive to be the next break out star.

My goal for 2011 is to help them get to the next level. I don’t expect them to trust me right away. I don’t expect you, the fans, to trust me right away. Some days I don’t even trust me. But I take this one day at a time.

Nine years ago, the fans gave a crew of younger, lesser known guys a chance to create something special. That is what made ROH great. And the second generation is ready to create their legacy.

Finally, here is a quick bit of personal advice to Mike Bennett. Humble yourself and do your own thing before its too late. You have the face, body, and skill that are going to make you a very wealthy young man. But over confidence is a disease too. What happened in Philly I will let go. I was you once. Drop Brutal Bob and follow the path of O’Reilly, Cole, Ride, Grizz, and Bobby. You’re better than this. But if you call me out again, we are going to have a problem.

My name is Steve Corino and I am an evil person. But pro-wrestling recovery is one day at a time.
 
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