I came of age in the 1990s. As a hormone-driven teenager, I was mesmerized by the cheeky blonde on WWF television that went by the name of “Sunny.” As I fell further down the pro wrestling rabbit hole in college, I became an “educated” fan that lauded the hard-hitting athletic style that Chris Candido brought to the ring. Both were once two clean cut kids from New Jersey. How they ended up is one of the great cautionary tales in modern professional wrestling.
Vice takes us on a whirlwind tour of Chris and Tammy’s lives, guided by some of those who knew them best: Chris’ mother, Peggy Rae, and younger brother, John Candito, wrestling promoter/historian, Jim Cornette, and their wrestling contemporaries, Mick Foley, Terri Runnels, Tom Pritchard, and Lance Storm.
Chris Candito was wrestling in Brooklyn underage, telling his mother that he was sleeping at a friend’s house. Tammy Lynn Sytch was the pretty girl sitting in the front row that became his muse. It wasn’t until Jim Cornette gave Chris a job in his Tennessee-based Smoky Mountain Wrestling that Tammy became involved in wrestling at all. Candito became Candido and Sytch became Fytch and it turned out that Tammy was as gifted on the microphone as Chris was in the ring.
It wasn’t long until they were in the big time with the WWF. And that was the start of their problems.
Originally packaged as fitness gurus “Skip” (Chris) and “Sunny” (Tammy) and eventually partnered with Tom Pritchard (as “Zip,”) the “Bodydonnas” were less than impactful. What was impactful was Tammy’s effect on menfolk and the success from that on her ego. As the tension grows between them (a previous interview with Tammy where she says that they had broken up for a time) the ring takes its toll on Chris and the attention of the top stars does the same to Tammy. They both have the same solution: opioids and muscle relaxers.
Dark Side takes us from WWF to the ’90s zeitgeist of Extreme Championship Wrestling. Chris and Tammy are reunited with each other and former Smoky Mountain alumni Lance Storm. Cornette laments how their addiction issues weren’t addressed beyond exploitation. Their stint in World Championship Wrestling isn’t addressed. A trip to Puerto Rico beleaguered by batteries and bodily fluid is, as well as Chris hitting rock bottom and getting himself back into a major promotion’s ring.
After Cornette and the others get choked up recounting Chris’ death from a surgery complication, they have to quickly switch gears to Tammy and her growing count of DUI incidents that includes a pending manslaughter charge.
Undeniable talent. Passion for their craft. Love for each other. Seemingly, all for naught.
As with many Dark Side of the Ring episodes, a public service message was aired at the end and echoed here. If you are struggling with substance abuse, find the help you need.
http://www.samhsa.gov |1-800-662-HELP (4357)