If you didn’t know the name Marc Mero, you did after his video went viral. Mero’s positive message that has been seen by millions of people around the world didn’t just happen because he is a nice guy. It happened because of the journey he took.
Marc Mero started his journey 54 years ago in Buffalo, New York. As a child he felt the effects of his parents’ divorce and being raised in a single parent home where his mother worked two jobs to support the family. He found his niche in athletics by excelling in hockey, football and by becoming a Golden Gloves boxing champion. Later he became an international wrestling star with World Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation as Johnny B. Badd and “Wildman” Marc Mero.
In 2007 Mero started his non-profit organization called Champions of Choices through which he visits schools, churches and other groups to talk about his powerful story of triumph, tragedy and the choices he made. “You can get wisdom one of three ways,” Mero told SLAM! Wrestling. “You can get wisdom from a mentor. You can get wisdom from books or DVDs or you can get wisdom from mistakes. I made a lot of them. We all have a past and we can run from it or we can grow from it. I look at my life and I have grown from it. I just want to make a difference in this world. You know we are all going to leave a legacy. The legacy won’t be a building or street named after me, the legacy will be in helping someone else’s life and that is the type of joy I have now.”
He elected to take the negative situations in his life and use them to educate others. After all of the accolades and fame he achieved it would have been easy for Mero to retire to a life of seclusion, but he doesn’t work that way.
“There are two types of people, there’s the one who says what needs to be and there is the guy who says I am going to go out there and do something,” recalled Mero. “After seeing so much death in my life, seeing so many people going through such broken lives and relationships and broken hearts, I just really felt that I could make a difference and that I could go out there and do something.”
There was a defining moment that made Marc Mero look at his life and those of his friends. “Of course the thing that really catapulted me, unfortunately, was when Chris Benoit killed his wife and his kid and there was such a culture of so many of the guys that were dying,” said Mero. “At that time I just wanted to make a difference and help younger people not go through some of the mistakes that I made. I don’t point my fingers at other people, but at what I did wrong, drug and alcohol abuse, broken relationships and broken dreams. I just wanted to help other people so I started the Champion of Choices program eight years ago and it is now taken off to over a thousand schools, churches and corporations around the world.”
Becoming a motivational speaker is not easy. It isn’t as if there are schools or books that lay out how to start in this field. Mero started humbly by talking to a group of 60 football players on a local high school team. “I remember being more nervous walking out in front of 60 high school kids then I did at the Royal Rumble at the Alamo Dome in front of 80,000 people,” said Mero. “Kids have a way of just making you really nervous. When you do it over and over and over again it really becomes fun.”
Long-time friend and former world wrestling champion “Diamond” Dallas Page has been very supportive of Mero. “I watched Marc’s first talk and I thought in the beginning that it was good, but it needs a lot of work,” recalled Page. “About six months later we hooked up again, I go to see him speak every time, and he was getting a little better. Then I saw him again and again. He was getting better and better. I really loved his message and he is living the word. He isn’t speaking the words, he is living them right there so you can see it.”
Drawing on his past story, Mero has been moving the hearts of many people and he draws from his wrestling experience to help him in front of a crowd. “Putting together the story of my life the trials and tribulations, the ups and downs, the tragedy and triumph, all of the things I went through it is like wrestling, it is very visual and I used the little things that I learned from wrestling or the experience from wrestling and brought it to the stage presentation,” noted Mero.
In the last 12 months Mero and his team have performed 180 times across the United States. He isn’t a one-man show, as his ensemble includes a dance team, a singer, comedy bits and his message. His touring reminds him of his old grappling days. “It’s kind of funny, like back in the wrestling days again traveling a lot,” said Mero.
With his extensive travel schedule he found himself back in one of the towns where his World Championship Wrestling career started. “You know it was funny, I was just in Dothan, Alabama, and here we are, I think one of my first TV tapings was in Dothan,” said Mero. “The first one was at Centre Stage in Atlanta and the next one was Dothan, Alabama, so it brought back some great memories. It was so funny being in that town, we did the 13 schools in that town, everywhere we’d go people would recognize me as the character Johnny B. Badd which is really unusual for me. I look so different from when I was in wrestling. People go, ‘Aren’t you that Johnny B. Badd?’ It was really nice.”
When his show comes to a town he wants people to take his message to heart and to learn from his experiences. “The part where I talk about choice is the part that gets people,” said Mero. “You see a lot of tears; you see a lot of people getting emotionally touched by it. I talk about my family passing away; my mom and my brother died, my brother died two weeks after my mother. He was 21 and she was 58 so it was a real shock to our family and friends. When kids hear this it makes them realize that the things we least appreciate are the things we should really cherish.”
Recently a video of Mero’s presentation went viral on the Internet. It showed him in front of a crowd of middle school children who were moved to tears by his story. This did not happen on his own, but with the help of his old wrestling buddy Dallas Page.
“Diamond Dallas Page is one of my closest friends and in fact Dallas is the one who put the video up that went viral,” said Mero with enthusiasm. “What happened is that I was presenting in Atlanta, and as you know Dallas’ yoga empire is just taking off, he has a whole film team right there in Atlanta. So I was presenting in his town and he said, ‘I am going to have the guys come out and film you.’ I said that would be great. They came out with three or four cameras, different angles and it was really done professionally. They filmed the presentation. They called me and asked if they could put it up on Youtube and it was like watching one of those clickers go by with the number of people watching it. It just started taking off and on Facebook it has over 600,000 shares. Over a million people have seen it and it all goes from that day.”
Page is certainly proud to have lent the helping hand to Mero that has really sent his message to the masses. “He is a great storyteller because he talks through emotion,” said Page. “It was really easy to capture the story about his mother. He has a few more as well, but we are saving those for later. With that one video he got more leads in one week of people who wanted to hear him speak then he ever got in the time he has been doing this.” [The video current has more than seven million views.]
Marc Mero is touching lives. When he was a wrestler he entertained people for a few minutes a night. Now as a public speaker he is affecting people for a lifetime. “Every single day we get hundreds and hundreds of letters and the common theme from the kids is this changed or saved my life,” said a humble Mero. “There is no greater joy then to know that I could possibly make a difference in a kids life that is going through a hard time.”
When asked about what makes Mero an effective and moving public speaker Dallas Page was able to draw on the whole picture of the man he has known for decades. “Marc has always been an extremist,” said Page. “The story that he is telling is all true from the good to the bad. Today he is very extreme about changing lives. It is a part of his passion. You have to really feel it. When you are up there and you are speaking and you know you are touching lives there are some people you know that this is real and that is easy to sense with Marc. When you [tell] the kids that, they are the hardest audience on the planet and he is nailing it there.”
Some of the people he helps are moved so much that they change their minds about ending their own lives. “In fact just yesterday I got a letter from a little girl who was going to take her life,” said Mero. “She said the presentation saved her. Whenever you get a letter like that you still have to be very, very careful. In other words you have to contact the school, the authorities and a lot of times they take action because even though the presentation may have helped them, for those kids all it takes is a negative comment from someone else and they could spiral out of control. We have been very careful to get kids into the counselling they need. That has been a real blessing to talk about their adversity and what they are going through and that is the cool thing about it.”
Mero does hope to reconnect with his wrestling roots in the future but not in the ring. “The one thing that I hope comes out of it, and if it doesn’t I’m okay with it as I am busy, I would really like to reconnect with the WWE in a sense of working with them on their school programs,” said Mero. “I see their school programs; of course, you put a wrestler in front of kids and they just go crazy, but they don’t really walk out of there changing a life. Sure it is great to see a superstar, but they are not delivering the same message that we are at schools. I would really hope someday that Triple H or someone in the upper echelon would come out and see one of our presentations and see the value of what we’re doing to associate with WWE once again.”
Marc Mero has been to the top of sports entertainment and the bottom of the emotional well with the choices he made with alcohol, drugs, relationships and seeing death. He could have elected to hide from the world. He could have lived a quiet unassuming life, but that wouldn’t be like him. He finds joy and fulfillment from helping people.
MARC MERO STORY ARCHIVE
- Feb 4, 2015: Marc Mero still on the road, but delivering a new message
- May 12, 2000: WCW beckons for Marc Mero
- Jan. 13, 1999: Mero enjoys carrying Sable’s bags