Can Rhino Beat His Demons - And Storm?

Friday, 22 February 2008
By Gerry Strauss

You don’t expect a man nicknamed “The War Machine” to show a lot of emotion. Indeed, a psychologist might speculate that Rhino’s biggest challenge in life isn’t his tremendously physical battles in the ring. Rather, it might be his inability to restrain his own feelings. After all, it was a feeling of betrayal that led to his long war with former friend Christian Cage. It was a feeling of disrespect that led to his long-standing grudge with a defiant AJ Styles.

More significantly, it was years of negative feelings, too numerous to recount, which led to Rhino’s toughest battle of all…his battle with the bottle.

Out of respect for Rhino’s privacy, we won’t further outline the personal issues or demons which have led to a long-standing fight against alcoholism. Needless to say, he is looking at a lifelong struggle that he will have to face each and every day of his life….a struggle that he had been winning for a very long time. While many of his peers enjoyed themselves at the local watering hole after the matches, Rhino had resigned himself to his inescapable role as a loner. Regardless, many knew of his troubles, and almost everyone respected his situation.

Almost everyone, that is, except “Cowboy” James Storm.

Ever since the days of former TNA Tag Champions “America’s Most Wanted”, Storm had built a fierce reputation among his peers for being a bully. Belligerent, brash and always eager to embarrass others for his own amusement, the “Cowboy” was a disciplinary concern from day one in TNA. For the most part, however, Storm (like Rhino) had been known as a loner… not because he needed to be, but because nobody else could stand him.

Meanwhile, after solidifying his spot as a top competitor in TNA, Rhino had finally found the time and opportunity to revel in his accomplishments. Until now, his uneven career path had always led to disappointment, trials and tribulations. In TNA, he was finally given the platform to prove himself and leave history behind. The hardships of his past had faded, and with the support of the fans, the “War Machine” had won a World Championship and proven that he belonged among wrestling’s elite.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Following a tag team match against Storm and Robert Roode, the “Cowboy” committed a supremely heinous act, pouring beer in the face of the fallen Rhino, who immediately snapped. After all this time, Storm had obnoxiously thrown Rhino’s greatest weakness in his face in front of the world, immediately revealing the once-private issues that were now quite public. In the blink of an eye, his world was once again turned upside-down, and he had Storm to thank.

For months, Rhino and Storm battled, but any measure of revenge that Rhino could get seemed hollow. Rhino had been reminded that his greatest enemy wasn’t Storm or anyone else in TNA: it was himself. With his greatest temptation and deepest insecurities now at the forefront of his thoughts, weakness and confusion reigned supreme. It didn’t help that Storm and his drinking buddy, Jacqueline Moore, were all too willing to exploit the situation, most notably with another post-match beat down at Turning Point 2007, again pouring beer down Rhino’s throat.

Although many felt that the “War Machine” was able to even the score during later battles, there was no amount of physical retribution that could repair the emotional wounds that Rhino was now harboring. On the verge of falling off the wagon for good, he somehow found the inner strength he needed…not to continue fighting, but to walk away.

While Storm and Moore continued their alcohol-fueled bullying of the likes of Eric Young, Rhino retreated to his home in Detroit. For the first time in his life, he gave himself the opportunity to deal with his problems without distraction. For the first time in his life, he was able to confront his own feelings and scars that may have fueled his addictions. For the first time in his life, he stopped avoiding his addiction, instead accepting it as a part of him.

Most importantly, for the first time in a very long time, the real Rhino was back.
At Against All Odds 2008, the “Cowboy” was prepared to finish off his long-standing, beer-fueled grudge against Eric Young to claim the “World Drinking Championship”. It looked to be Storm’s perfect night, but instead, it was the perfect time for Rhino to strike. One GORE later and Rhino was back while James Storm was down for the count.

On iMPACT, an emotional but composed Rhino was finally able to express the pain he had experienced for months. He fully recognizes that his demons are his own doing, and honorably appears to be up to the task of dealing with them like the man that he is.

That said, Rhino still has unfinished business with the man (and his woman) who tried to ruin his life. This time, however, he wants to finish it once and for all, and he knows just how to get it done: Elevation X. In this environment, there is simply nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no way to escape. One wrong move can lead to a giant fall, and maybe, the end of this war.

One must hope that “Cowboy” James Storm is proud of his actions. Because of him, Rhino experienced the biggest fall from grace of his career. At Destination X, will it be Storm’s turn to experience a fall…from Elevation X?

If so, Rhino might find himself with one less demon to worry about.

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