After the third season of Dark Side of the Ring had completed, and especially following a notorious episode about a notorious plane ride, the future of the show seemed in doubt. VICE TV (and Crave TV in Canada) seemed to move on to Tales from the Territories, and VICE TV even aired a documentary on Chyna that felt just like a Dark Side episode — except that it wasn’t. Well, as you might hear in the movies: don’t underestimate the power of the dark side. The series is back and kicks off its fourth season with an episode with barely any controversy, but a lot of sadness.

Jim Cornette cues us up, promoting the tale of Chris Candito and Tamara Lynn Sytch as a story with a little bit of everything. High school sweethearts who chased a dream, one that was at one time only Chris’ until it roped both of them in, only to see them ravaged by the business in many ways.

Candito’s brother Johnny suggests that if Chris had been presented with a chance as a kid to accomplish what he did in wrestling, but die at the age of 33, he thinks his brother would have said yes. Chris’ mother, Peggy Rae, never would have wanted him to follow that path, but by the end of the show she marvels at what he accomplished in such a short time. She recalls seeing him in a match on the night he met Tammy, admitting that “I thought in the very beginning that she was lovely.”

Johnny describes his brother’s drive to get his name out there — travelling around at the age of 13 years old to get started, sending tapes to promotions and catching the eye of Cornette. Jim puts Tammy in the spot of Chris’ manager — upsetting the “hillbilly fans” of Smoky Mountain Wrestling, in the words of Cornette, by playing a Hillary Clinton-esque role. Chris, however, was really meant to be the star. Enter Mick Foley who calls Candito one of the greatest wrestling “jerks” he’d ever worked with.

It’s not long before Chris and Tammy reach the WWF and, and Candito — going by “Skip” — teams with Dr. Tom Prichard as “Zip” to win the tag titles (though Prichard hated the run). Sytch, meanwhile, has transformed into “Sunny” and has become, as recalled by Terri Runnels, eminently downloadable by wrestling fans on AOL.

Cornette and Prichard start telling stories of Sytch rubbing people the wrong way, which Foley credits to her ambition and nothing else, capping it with a story of the Hogg farmers’ slop bucket, which was tossed onto Sunny on a particular night, being filled with about twenty different DNAs from the locker room. Cornette doesn’t elaborate, perhaps all for the better.

Next, there’s talk about Lytch and Shawn Michaels having a “liaison” which, according to Runnels and Prichard, was obvious to everyone. In older, voice-over recordings of Sytch (a note appears at the end of the episode explaining that she was advised to not give interviews for this show), she explains that she and Chris had hit the seven year mark and she had “that itch”, and they split up while she was seeing Michaels.

With all of this going on, Candito is hurt at Madison Square Garden, breaking his neck and, as Foley explains, is also not well-liked by some people in the locker room. Seeing his stock in the WWF fall, Candito leaves the company and joins Paul Heyman’s ECW where he fits the style like a glove. During this time, especially after his neck injury, Candito finds his way to drugs, which both his brother and Foley explain happened for him out of necessity, and that beforehand Chris had been squeaky clean.

Meanwhile, Sytch’s rise in the WWF has similarly reached its peak, and she also leaves the WWF to join Candito in ECW. By this point, both of them have severe drug and alcohol problems, and their relationship with each other has become chaotic and violent. They end up in debt with the money they were owed by ECW for things like hotel bookings, when there was no money from ECW anymore. This causes them to lose their home and look to start fresh. They travel together to Puerto Rico in 2003 to try and build their star power again, but it’s more of the same as their drug use continues.

Reaching a breaking point, Candito gets himself back in shape and lands in TNA in 2005, but an injury in the ring after breaking his leg in multiple places during a tag match stops his momentum once more. Most everyone has a story about the last conversation they had with Chris, which was shortly after his surgery, breaking down talking about it, but his brother has the most harrowing story of going to see him in the hospital and realizing he was already gone.

After his surgery, and likely brought on by flying shortly after to appear on TNA television, a blood clot from his ankle found its way to his lungs and he died of pneumonia.

Sytch’s legal troubles have piled up since and, according to the interviewees, her legacy doesn’t add up to as much as Candito’s does with the changing style of wrestling for both men and women. The episode tiptoes its way around a theme of lauding Chris and sympathetically vilifying Tammy, but it also paints a clear picture of two people who likely would have stuck together, or at least kept coming back to one another, seemingly destined to play pivotal rules in each other’s lives.

Stay with for reviews of future episodes of Dark Side of the Ring.

Slam Wrestling’s “Sunny” Tammy Sytch & Chris Candido story archive

Slam Wrestling’s Dark Side of the Ring story and review archive