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Recent pro wrestling tragedies beg us to learn lessons as a community

Hana Kimura. Shad Gaspard. Larry Csonka. Owen Hart. Rest In Power.

Bushiroad & Stardom Press Conference
Hana Kimura
Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Content warning: this article includes discussion of suicide.

Pro wrestling hasn’t had such somber periods in recent times as it has in the last week. Former WWE wrestler Shad Gaspard passed away after directing first responders to save his son from drowning before helping himself. Longtime pro wrestling critic Larry Csonka passed away days later. Both deaths came days before the 21st anniversary of Owen Hart’s tragic death during WWE’s Over The Edge event. All of the news left the pro wrestling world reeling.

That mourning was further compounded when news broke that Stardom wrestler and Terrace House star Hana Kimura passed away, reportedly as a result of suicide on May 23, 21 years to the day of Hart’s death.

The community’s collective heart broke. The splintering furthered when it was revealed that cyberbullying of Kimura in connection to her appearance on Terrace House played a pivotal role in influencing her actions. The same social media channels that funneled messages of hate to her overflowed with poignant responses highlighting the impact of hate speech and online toxicity while preaching the need to be kind. I myself was one of those people whose initial response was one of focusing on the power of language and emotional maturity in online conduct.

Major American pro wrestling companies responded with on-air tributes as well. All Elite Wrestling announcer Excalibur stressed the “be kind” message during the company’s Double or Nothing pay-per-view event on Saturday. WWE announcer Mauro Ranallo offered a similar message during Wednesday’s NXT broadcast.

The message shouldn’t end there. On Thursday’s episode of thr=e Outsports podcast LGBT In The Ring, Fanbyte’s LB Hunktears discussed multiple issues that potentially influenced the circumstances surrounding Kimura’s death with me, like the dehumanization of wrestlers and Kimura’s portrayal on Terrace House by the show’s powers. We also spoke at length about idol culture’s history of infantilizing, sexualizing and commoditizing women from an early age has influenced women’s wrestling within Japan and beyond. More discussions must take place around these issues, along with any racial prejudice Kimura faced within Japan as a half-Indonesian Japanese citizen.

But there should also be time allotted for all affected to mourn while taking a hard look at the societal and cultural constructs that played a part in this tragedy. More than a week removed, I still find myself weeping in between bouts of anger, disappointment and resolve. I’ve found it hard to do my job during that time, with my own mental health being affected. And I know I’m not the only one.

Gaspard’s death was a lesson in heroism and sacrifice. Csonka’s death was a punch to the gut. The anniversary of Hart’s death reminded the wrestling community of how negligent practices and cultural issues within an industry we love extinguished one of pro wrestling’s brightest figures. Kimura’s death threw how we all approach social interaction under an international spotlight and asks us to focus on the structures surrounding the entertainment industries we digest.

We will undoubtedly continue to mourn last week’s tragedies, but we must also internalize the lessons these events want to teach us. We must cry and learn together as a community.

If you are considering suicide, LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 is available 24 hours a day, to people of all ages and identities. Trans or gender-nonconforming people can reach Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860.