May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I wanted to write something to commemorate the strides that I made through the years and how wrestling and my fandom has helped me through some harrowing and humbling experiences.
For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Danny Kuchler, I am a lifelong wrestling fan, I host two podcasts on the Social Suplex Podcast Network and have been making wrestling content in some form for eight years now. I feel wrestling has helped me through my mental health recovery journey. Don’t get me wrong, every day is a journey and I still struggle with my mental health. But with the growing amount of support out there and the understanding that mental health is essential, I have strived rather than just survived.
Striving rather than surviving is a theme I want to focus on when it comes to my recovery through the eyes of wrestling.
I first laid eyes on wrestling as a young naive eight-year-old. I don’t remember the first matches I saw, but I do remember Eddie Guerrero was my favorite. I always loved wrestlers with excellent technical and in-ring ability, probably because of my sports-watching background.
On July 22, 2008, I went to my first live wrestling event, a WWE SmackDown taping in Philadelphia. About two-three weeks later we went to Disney World and after my family and I got back—I don’t recall exactly know when, but things started to fall off the rails.
My dad’s drinking started again—a two-year period where he was drinking on and off. My mom started partying and dating a little more and one of her old partners introduced me to the world of torrenting.
Torrenting in 2009-2010 was the wild-wild west. In spite of all that was going on around me, I found solace in discovering independent wrestling, something that saved my life.
Discovering independent wrestling and the Summer of Punk in 2011 were the two beacons of my fandom at the time. Now sober and having custody of me and my three siblings, my dad took me to two independent wrestling shows a year apart: CHIKARA’s King of Trios 2010 Night 3 and CHIKARA High Noon. Those two CHIKARA shows kept my will to live throughout my early high school years despite continuing issues with my mom’s drinking.
High Noon is a famous CHIKARA show highlighted by Eddie Kingston defeating Mike Quackenbush for the CHIKARA Grand Championship. My memories of these shows are fuzzy at best, but I remember those being the life of my world in those years.
In 2012 though, my mental state took a nasty turn. I was struggling in high school and was depressed every day. I tried like hell as a teenager to hide it, but in December, I couldn’t do it any longer. I admitted to my gym teacher that I wanted to die. That’s the day, my life changed forever.
Before that, I was diagnosed with Aspergers, now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, and people thought my rage and depression would just cure itself.
Luckily that changed once I was hospitalized in 2012, I was taken away from the Autism system and put into the mental health system. Both my parents—now sober—did everything they could to help my mental health. In late 2013, my wrestling fandom would change forever as I saw the hyped Tomohiro Ishii vs. Katsuyori Shibata match from NJPW’s G1 Climax 23. That match instantly made me a New Japan Pro Wrestling fan and in January, my dad let me order Wrestle Kingdom 9 on PPV in 2015.
New Japan Pro Wrestling revitalized something in me that I didn’t have in years.
A passion for something.
I am also passionate about music and was doing college radio. I wanted to become a radio host in the worst way. I got an internship at 93.3 WMMR, my favorite station, in the spring of 2016, but it was a blessing and a curse. I remember in 2016 often going to the internship, watching New Japan Shows, and unfortunately… my grades slipped. That triggered another depression and a deep seed of regret for not living out as much of my life as I wanted to. I was hospitalized again, first in 2017 but then again in 2018. I took the 2018 hospitalization more seriously and got my head out of a four-year slump.
My passion for wrestling became even stronger after that hospitalization.
The aftercare plan for the 2018 hospitalization was different from the first two aftercare plans because I just transitioned entirely out of the hospital without a partial program, a step down from hospitalization to go to the hospital during the day and go home at night. I was set up with a certified peer specialist (CPS). Peer support and my CPS changed my outlook on what I could do. My wrestling fandom grew as I became more comfortable with myself. My podcasts got better, and a new passion for helping people occurred.
CPSs are paid mentors and they meet you at home or wherever you are. This outreach helped me immensely. If I needed someone to sit with me and watch wrestling while talking about my struggles… they would do that.
My CPSs have watched countless hours of wrestling with me when I wasn’t ready for the outside world. I started going to peer-run support groups at this time too. They rocked my world with this open perspective and I feel like I have the ability to thrive.
For many years, The Monster Factory was a sanctuary. Danny Cage and The Monster Factory school have seen me at my best and my worst but gave me a community when I needed it most. I started off at The Monster Factory as a production intern which led to me helping out with video production. I have gotten the chance to do camps with some of wrestling’s brightest minds and learn from people I would never have otherwise interacted with.
I have formed relationships with people like Rich at Voices of Wrestling, The Social Suplex team, my former co-host and one of my college best friends Beast Mike Anderson, Matt Porter at Montgomery County Community College, and others got me to thrive… rather than survive.
Whether halfway across the world or right in my backyard, these people have had my back, unified by our passion for pro wrestling.
I currently work at Hopeworx—a mental health organization—as a part of their Community Satisfaction Team.
I feel so alive helping people the same way they helped me. Right now, I am living independently. My parents have been sober for ten and eight years, respectively.
I am living my best life and you too have the ability to live your best life every day.
Wrestling has taught me some of my most important life lessons, whether it be respecting others or the right to stand up for what’s right. I try to stand up for what’s right in my work and my life every day. Whether it is in my advocacy for mental health, helping others or a simple conversation with someone that needs help; I feel some of those values were instilled in me through my love of wrestling. Wrestling, most importantly, taught me to value life because it’s short.
On May 7, I am walking for mental health awareness at NAMIWalks Montgomery County. If you would like to help support, please visit https://www.namiwalks.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.participant&participantID=385657