Former pro wrestler Steve Doll died yesterday, March 22, 2009, following a long run of declining health.
Doll’s good friend Reno Riggins was at his former tag team partner’s side at the time of his passing, which he attributed to kidney and heart failure.
“At one point, he was on blood pressure medication. The doctors were pumping blood pressure medication in him to keep his blood pressure up, but it kept falling,” Riggins told SLAM! Wrestling. “He was on a ventilator for his breathing. I’ve read on a couple of websites that said his family had to make a decision to take him off life support. That’s incorrect — he passed away before that had to come to pass.”
Riggins added that Doll was in fact 48 years old at the time of his death, not 44 as has been widely reported.
In 2007, Doll was hospitalized after suffering an intestinal blockage-related seizure.
“He had back surgery before that. And after the back surgery, he started having organ problems and during that time he had the seizure and they took him into the hospital, they removed about five feet of his intestines,” said Riggins. “Basically during the last couple of years he kind of lived as a recluse, just him and his wife.”
Born in Dallas, Texas, Doll debuted in 1985, and first experienced widespread fame with the World Wrestling Federation as one half of the tag-team Well Dunn, wrestling as Steven Dunn alongside Timothy Well. (Well had previously wrestled as Rex King when he joined Doll to form the Southern Rockers in the late 1980s.) Doll also found himself in the spotlight in WCW when Scott Hall entered the ring to stop his match and basically start the nWo angle in 1996.
Riggins and Doll teamed up in the late 1990s, wrestling as the Tennessee Volunteers in Music City Wrestling. But they met while both were undercard tag teams in the WWF. (Riggins was teaming with Barry Horowitz at the time.)
“Where he and I really became good friends was on an overseas tour in Asia,” Riggins said, explained the two bonded over drinks at a Planet Hollywood in Hong Kong. “We were laughing at the same jokes, had a lot in common, our views of the wrestling business were pretty much identical. So from that point on, we became real good friends.”
The best part about their partnership was they never exchanged a cross word, Riggins said.
“Steve and I never had an argument. We would talk about different finishes in a match, we would debate things, but we never raised our voices to one another… if you’re with somebody long enough, you’re eventually going to get on each others’ nerves. But we never had that — everyday was like a fresh day with us,” said Riggins, who served as best man at Doll’s wedding. “It was fun going on road trips and the wrestling matches — it wasn’t like a job because you were there with your best buddy.”
One of the most memorable nights came in a cage match in Nashville when Riggins and Doll were wrestling as heels. They had themselves locked in the cage with a babyface who was handcuffed to the ropes, while the other faces clamored to make the save. Of course the latter could not open the door, and the duo were having their way with their opponent. But then out of nowhere, a security guard got caught up in the emotion of the goings on, stomped down to ringside, pushed the wrestlers out of the way, and jerked the cage wide open.
“No one had told this guy to do that,” Riggins said, laughing. “So you’ve got all these big strong babyfaces who couldn’t get the gate open, and this little skinny security guard rips the door right off the hinges! So at the end of the night, Steve is steaming, he is hotter than a two dollar pistol. He’s back in the locker room and he’s cussing and snorting, foam’s coming out of his mouth. And then that security guard comes back there because he’s bringing somebody’s jacket or something to the locker room, and Steve cussed that guy from one end to the other and just wouldn’t stop.”
Afterward, Doll went and had a shower, but still continued letting loose a torrent of abuse. The security guard, who had left, returned to tell off Doll. Doll shut off the water and jumped out of the shower to go after the guard, who now turned to flee.
“And here comes Steve out of the shower… butt naked, all soaped up from one end to the other, and he hit that slick concrete floor and busted his ass right there. He’s laid out, sprawled out naked as a jaybird, and I bent down and said, ‘Well, you told him!'”
Riggins fondly remembered Doll as a kind, decent man who did not mind taking a young wrestler aside to help him improve, and also as someone who loved a good time and who could drink his challengers under the table. But Riggins noted that as Doll’s lower back problems worsened, he became more reliant on pain medication.
“He was going to a pain management clinic, and to me, those places just mask the problem by keeping you doped up on pills. And Steve, since he was getting prescriptions for those things, felt that they were legitimate. And I told Steve, ‘I think you need to seek other ways to deal with this,'” he said. “Everyone’s got their demons, and I’m not saying I’m an angel or anything like that, but I think that was just one thing that had a grip on him, that he chose that over some other things in his life. Sometimes you don’t always make the right decision on things.”