February 27, 2012
Rex King: Not dead, but in pain
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
Rex King has a lot of things to set straight, besides the fact that he is not dead -- as was widely reported last week. His real name isn't Mark Smith, but Timothy Alan Smith; he isn't 48, but 50; and, while his neck injury in 2001 during a bout in Puerto Rico ended his wrestling career, it was a broken neck a few days ago that is really causing him issue.
Talking down the line from his home in Kentucky out in the woods, away from any interfering neighbours, King is easy-going and honest.
What he doesn't know, though, is how the rumour got started in the first place.
"I have no idea what happened. I have no idea who started that," King told SLAM! Wrestling. "I was kind of hoping that Vince [McMahon] would sell my merchandise and give me some royalty money off of it. But I'm glad I ain't dead."
Indeed, there might be a lot of Well Dunn merch around the WWE vault, given that the tag team didn't get the run that many expected in 1994-95. Instead of continuing to be a successful babyface team as they were in the Pacific Northwest and Memphis, King and his partner Steve Doll (Steven Dunn in WWF, who died in 2009), were told to be heels. The size difference with them trying to get heat against massive teams like the Headshrinkers and Men on a Mission didn't work, and injuries -- King had his pelvic bone broken by Mabel and Doll blew out his knee -- had the team on the sidelines for far too long of their run.
"We would have been fine if we would have been babyfaces. We would have gotten over with that gimmick," he said.
His 16-year wrestling career ended in Puerto Rico in September 2001, on his birthday, the 8th, yet.
King was working with Mustafa Saed, ex of ECW's Gangstas. "He broke my neck. He went to powerslam me and he jammed my head straight down into the mat," King recalled. "He just miscalculated everything, I guess."
Hospitalized in Puerto Rico, his return home was delayed by circumstances far beyond his control.
"I actually had to get a hold of the wrestling commissioner to get my medical taken care of. Then 9/11 hit, and I couldn't do anything for two weeks. They had the island shut down," he said, adding that he was never even paid for the show by the World Wrestling Council promotion.
When he healed, King started driving a truck, a profession which ran in the family -- his father and uncle both drove, and his cousin owns a trucking fleet.
"I had to do something," King said, explaining the allure of the road.
"The traveling gets in your blood, and it's hard to be in just one place. I didn't have custody of my son at the time, so I just went on to work driving trucks. Now my son's living with me, and he's 21. I can't believe how much the years have passed. He's grown up and getting ready to go be an X-Ray technician, which I'm happy about. I didn't want him to be in the wrestling business. It's such a cutthroat business."
Off the circuit, he lost touch with everyone after his neck injury.
"Then you don't go to the gym anymore, and you start losing your body. Then you get to a point where you're embarrassed to even go out around the guys. I guess that happens to a lot of guys," King said.
Just a short while ago, he fell through a porch and broke his neck again.
Having never had surgery in his life, he is more than a little apprehensive about what lies ahead.
"I'm having to go have surgery in the next couple of months. I haven't really scheduled it yet. I'm still gun-shy because of what happened to Steve," he said, referring to his partner, who died on the operating table. "I've been thinking a lot about it, but I can't live with this pain anymore. I lost 10 years of wrestling. If I had jumped right in there and had my surgery, I might have been able to get back in the ring and made some more money. The way things worked out, I got scared. I've never had surgery in my life. Then when I heard Steve passed in '09, I wasn't even around, but I heard it through the grapevine. And Joey [Maggs], my old partner Joey, he passed in '06. I didn't even realize that he had passed. I was like, 'Jesus, everyone is dying around me.'"
King admitted to using steroids during his career, especially in Puerto Rico, where they were easy to obtain. Ironically, the doctors have him on steroids now to help with his recovery from the broken neck. According to King, it's helped him get in better shape already. "I've got my body halfway back in shape again, not as big as it used to be, but I've still got my look. I don't have long hair anymore, of course."
The next step is kicking the pain pills. "I'm kind of getting tired of living on them. It's time for me, I'm 51 this year and I don't want to continue the path, living on pain medicine to be able to move. I want to get to a point in my life where I don't have to do that anymore."
His close call with death (or not) has had a positive side, though -- it has brought him in touch with some old friends, like Florida veteran Bob Cook, who had a ring where King worked out when he was starting off his career, and Shane Sewell, who was a roommate and friend in Puerto Rico.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch for a story down the road where Rex King talks about his start in the business, the Southern Rockers, and why Well Dunn fizzled in the WWF.
With this story, Greg Oliver, the Producer of SLAM! Wrestling, can truly say that he specializes in hunting down the undead. The first, big zombie hunt he did was finding Corporal Kirchner, who the WWE website had said was dead: Cpl. Kirchner speaks: "I'm not dead!". Greg can be emailed at email@example.com (living only please).