LOS ANGELES, April 11, 2014 — The world of professional wrestling is still shocked and in mourning by the sudden and tragic loss of the Ultimate Warrior this past Tuesday April 8, mere days after he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. The news of the Ultimate Warrior’s passing has brought on an outpouring of well wishes and sorrowful responses via social media by fans and colleagues alike. Much like the motion picture industry or professional sports, professional wrestling has a faithful following of devoted, sometimes lifelong fans, and when a wrestler passes, it is painful for everyone. Fans are closer, in some respects to professional wrestlers than movie stars or other athletes because the crowd is there to emotionally experience the wrestler’s greatest achievements, his falls from grace and everything in between.
On RAW this past Monday night after WrestleMania XXX, the Ultimate Warrior addressed the crowd in the arena, the viewers at home, and the wrestlers listening in what would be his final cryptic words.
“No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized.”
On April 11, 2011, the world lost a wonderful talent by the name of Larry Sweeney. Born Alexander K Whybrow, on February 18, 1981, Larry Sweeney sadly never made it to the heights of stardom that the Ultimate Warrior did. He was an independent wrestler who never got the call to the big leagues. However, Sweeney was so talented that it would have only been a matter of time before he got his shot to shine. He was not the biggest guy in professional wrestling, but he was one of the most entertaining and charismatic to ever step in a ring.
Independent Wrestling Promotion, CHIKARA personality and friend of Larry Sweeney, Bryce Remsburg described Sweeney as, “Alex Whybrow was the walking, living definition of charisma. He had an unteachable, remarkable gift, and it was evident the day he walked into the CHIKARA Wrestle Factory in Allentown, PA in 2003. His promo ability immediately turned the heads of everyone in the room. Alex had that effect on people; he turned heads and had an unforgettable demeanor. Fans and wrestlers alike rarely forgot that face, that smile, and that cackle.”
Sweeney was a genius on the microphone and his voice was so unique that you could not help from being drawn to his every word in or out of the ring. Sweeney’s voice is almost a dead-on impersonation of legendary comedic actor and brother of Bill, Brian Doyle Murray. Sweeney employed his gruff layered voice for his wonderfully outlandish promos in which he was promoting his talents as a manager, or defending his most cherished possession, his ICW-ICWA Texarkana Television Championship, a championship in which he created himself. When asked about the title Sweeney said that “the ICW and ICWA were promotions that ran in the Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas area and all the history was lost in the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005…the title wasn’t seen for 20 years or so. In 2005, the title reemerged in a tournament in Shreveport, Louisiana, and the rest is history.”
American entertainer Oscar Levant once said, “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity.” “Sweet ‘n’ Sour” Larry Sweeney walked this line every day. His nickname is fitting because people would tell him he was a sweet guy with a sour attitude. Sweeney would incorporate his own brand of humor during matches, like “Strut-Offs,” where he would challenge his opponents to a dance competition to the delight of the crowd.
Larry Sweeney suffered from bi-polar disorder and suffered a mental breakdown in 2009, which he called “the absolute worst event” of his life at the time. Sweeney went through a long recovery process in 2010, and was ready to make his comeback to one of the major independent promotions in 2011. Sadly, Larry Sweeney took his own life on April 11, 2011.
Three years later, fans and friends of Larry Sweeney still mourn the loss of someone so talented, yet troubled. Currently the hashtag, #12Large, is trending on Twitter, and friends and fans are celebrating Larry Sweeney and his life with pictures and memories. The phrase, “12 Large Brother,” is one of Sweeney’s catchphrases and an inside joke describing how much money another independent wrestler said he had made that day selling merchandise.
“Sweet ‘n’ Sour” Larry Sweeney could have become this generation’s Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. His star could have been made in the WWE as a cocky heel manager who the crowd would have gladly booed, would have paid to see his butt kicked, and with a simple smile or joke, would have absolutely loved Sweeney. When he was not managing talent on screen, Sweeney’s rapid fire delivery and comedic chops would have been a natural fit at the broadcast booth as a heel color commentator for the rest of his career.
While Larry Sweeney has passed on to the great wrestling ring in the sky, he will forever be remembered as long as the fans share his story. Ultimate Warrior’s words fit Larry Sweeney and all of our fallen heroes, “By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever. You, you, you, you, you, you are the legend markers of Ultimate Warrior. In the back I see many potential legends. Some of them with warrior spirits. And you will do the same for them. You will decide if they lived with the passion and intensity. So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends, as well.”
12 Large Brother, we will never forget you, Larry Sweeney.