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Wrestling: The redemption of Sailor White

Grunts, roars and the smack of flesh on canvas have, for generations, echoed from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland. Pro wrestling is a gritty world populated by heroic "babyfaces," dastardly "heels," outrageous managers and outraged fans. We tackle some of the most colourful stories and characters to come out of the wrestling scenes from coast to coast.

He lived his dream. Ed "Sailor" White became a bona fide star. "I had it all -- money, fame. I was on a pedestal," he tells CBC Television in this clip. Soon, however, he was repeating the destructive behaviour of the father whose love he desperately wanted but never got. A nightmare of booze, drugs and wife-beating led him to jail, the still-imposing figure says through tears.

It was behind bars that Sailor White hit bottom and began looking for a way up. He found it in the Salvation Army and God. Now, in 1992, he's been clean of drink and drugs for three years. At the Ottawa hostel where he lives, he counsels men who followed the same heartbreaking path. And he can say, for the first time in many years: "I'm happy today." 
. Ed "Sailor" White was born May 18, 1949 in a gritty neighbourhood in St. John's, Nfld. Naturally big, he started wrestling in eastern Ontario in 1972. He chose the Sailor moniker because he had worked on ships and it reflected his Newfoundland heritage. He developed his bad-boy character while wrestling in Japan and South Africa after training with Gene Kiniski in Vancouver.

. White became famous as a hulking, gap-toothed maniac who ended virtually every match drenched in blood. He hit the jackpot in the World Wrestling Federation as Moondog King, one half of a tag-team with Moondog Rex. The Moondogs won the WWF tag-team championship in 1981, shortly before the popularity of the sport exploded.

. Sailor White's signature move was "the splash." He'd launch his 360-pound bulk from the top rope and crash down on his opponent like a fleshy cannonball. Night after night he would also use a hidden razor to cut and bloody himself, leaving deep scars on his forehead. His career was chronicled in the 1994 book Sailor White by Dave Elliot.

. White returned to Newfoundland a year after this clip aired and lost $40,000 trying to get All-Star Wrestling off the ground. He then helped train fledgling grapplers and, in 1998, started working with a new promotion called Cutting Edge Wrestling. He announced he was quitting the ring in 1999 after Bell's palsy paralyzed the left side of his face. He's also diabetic and has suffered several heart attacks.

. With the blood sport of wrestling behind him, White made a bid for a second career in politics. He ran under the Extreme Wrestling Party banner in a March 2000 federal by-election in St. John's West. He finished last out of five. White said he wanted to raise the profile of Newfoundland on Parliament Hill. He also wanted to publicize his efforts to open a youth centre.
Medium: Television
Program: Here & Now
Broadcast Date: March 18, 1992
Guest(s): Ray Braddock, Ed "Sailor" White
Reporter: Juanita Barry
Duration: 9:18

Last updated: February 3, 2012

Page consulted on January 31, 2014

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