Tammy Sytch was once one of the biggest names in wrestling – and beyond. In 1996, she was named AOL‘s most downloaded woman, which mattered back when AOL mattered . At the time, Sytch and her partner Chris Candido were in the World Wrestling Federation, going by the names Sunny and Skip, in a team named the Bodydonnas. They portrayed “health nuts” and “fitness gurus” who bragged about how great they looked and mocked the crowd for being out of shape. However, in reality, they were far from healthy.
And that’s where season four of Dark Side of the Ring begins…
Dark Side of the Ring: Chris Candido Summary
A Love Story & A Cautionary Tale
The first episode of the season, Chris and Tammy, starts with Jim Cornette saying their story was “a love story, it was a cautionary tale, it was a success story, it was a failure story.”
Chris was a talented performer who was called a “natural”, but it was Tammy who would become a huge star in WWF. As Sunny, she is often credited as being the company’s first “diva”, and her popularity was off the charts at one point.
Of course, you can’t talk about their situation without talking about their history of drug and alcohol abuse.
However, as Mick Foley puts it in the episode, Chris Candido’s “biggest addiction was to Tammy.”
The two met at a wrestling event, while Candido was in a headlock. They were friends at first, but soon started a romantic relationship. Chris’ mother mentions how Chris left his prom date stranded after Tammy showed up in a convertible, the two driving off together. They would remain a couple for many years, as Candido tried to become a wrestling superstar and Tammy went along with him.
Chris Candido Loved Wrestling
From his days in the “Eastern Kids Wrestling Federation”, making his own title from a weightlifting belt and wedding platter, to the bright lights of WrestleMania, Chris Candido hit the highest highs. He also reached the lowest lows.
Chris’ brother Johnny said that, if you had told Chris that he would die at 36 and never have children, but he would get to be a wrestling champion in many different companies and remembered for his wrestling, he would have taken the deal.
He sent Jim Cornette tapes, trying to get a job in Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Cornette didn’t want to tell Chris to move to Tennessee for a low-paying job, so he came up with the idea to have Tammy manage Chris. This allowed him to pay them both and make it worth their time. Chris applied and was accepted by the University of Tennessee so that his mother would allow him to move there and wrestle for Smoky Mountain – wearing a baby bonnet and a diaper. Yes, his character was a wrestling baby.
Even in Smoky Mountain, Tammy Sytch seemed destined to be a bigger star than Chris. As Tammy Fytch, she portrayed a Hillary Clinton supporter and a feminist – which made her a heel at the time. It was in Smoky Mountain where her egotistical Bodydonna persona started to develop as well. By 1995, the pair signed with the WWF.
Many of the guests on the show mentioned that the WWF was where success started to get to Tammy’s head and she started to change. Candido’s career in the company wasn’t going great, despite an initial push. His fitness guru gimmick began to wear thin, even after being partnered with “Zip” (Dr. Tom Prichard). Things were changing fast in the 90s and fans didn’t want to see this sort of character. But they did want to see Sunny.
It wasn’t that her gimmick was good, it’s that she was good. She looked great, had a great personality, could cut promos, and was generally the “total package.” She quickly became a sex symbol as the internet and the “attitude” of the late-90s grew.
Mick Foley stood out from the other guests by saying that being ambitious isn’t a negative, “but it can be if you’re a woman in a man’s business.” Many of the other guests on the show seemed to disagree, painting Tammy in a negative light, such as Tom Prichard saying she went “off the rails.”
It was then time for Jim Cornette to share a very “charming” story about how Tammy was treated at the time. When it came time for the Godwinns to slop Sunny, they left the bucket in the locker room for the boys in the back, who did the kind of disgusting things you’d expect from the mid-90s wrestling locker room. This story isn’t shared with outrage, anger, regret, or shame. It’s instead told in a “funny” way that the locker room got back at Tammy for her “attitude.”
Drugs, Alcohol & Shawn Michaels
Tammy Sytch and Shawn Michaels had a sexual relationship while the two were in the WWF and all the guests seem to agree that Chris knew. Terri Runnels speculates that Tammy wanted to be loved and being loved by the top guy (Shawn Michaels) felt better than being loved by her boyfriend who wasn’t very high in the pecking order in the WWF.
As if this situation isn’t difficult enough, Candido couldn’t confront Michaels about the issue since HBK was a big star and Chris wanted to be successful in the WWF. However, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t tension between Candido and Sytch and they eventually split up, though would end up being on-again and off-again for the rest of Chris’ life.
After Candido broke his neck, he turned to painkillers. Soon an addiction formed. Combined with how poorly he was treated by several members of the locker room, this was a very challenging time for him. At the same time, Sytch found more success.
Struggling physically, emotionally, and with his career, Candido decided to leave the WWF and join Extreme Championship Wrestling. While he found success there, he also found pain. Lance Storm talks about how a doctor once thought Candido had been in a car accident after checking out his back.
While Sytch didn’t have the same pain, the culture did mean that she started to use drugs socially.
When Sable came to WWF and outshined Tammy, Stych left the company herself, joining Candido in ECW. This is where the drug issues became too bad to ignore. Paul Heyman took advantage of this, having Tammy record a tell-all video for ECW TV about her abuse issues.
Chris and Tammy had several domestic problems during this time, fighting and arguing and even getting violent with one another. Guests on the show talk about how Sytch would even be with other men while Candido was wrestling. Eventually, they were suspended from ECW. While they were suspended, they worked for the company’s front office, managing travel. Of course, since this is ECW in the late 90s, money soon ran out and the couple found themselves deeply in debt as the company stopped reimbursing them for the travel they arranged for other wrestlers. They ended up losing their home.
But they still managed to get drugs from shady pharmacies. Eventually, Chris suffered a seizure at one of these pharmacies, ending up in the hospital.
Trying to Get Back
As they attempted to revitalize their careers, Chris and Tammy joined a promotion in Puerto Rico, which did not go well. They were abused by the fans, found even easier access to drugs, and much more. It was at this low that Candido realized he needed to clean up his life.
He began to try to right himself, getting clean and training for a wrestling return. He would join Total Nonstop Action where he found happiness and success. Unfortunately, he broke his shin during a match that required surgery. Despite the recent surgery, he went to a TNA event days later, then flew home. Shortly after, he would be hospitalized and soon die. The wrestling world was shocked.
The Legacies of Tammy Sytch and Chris Candido
The episode ends with a talk about the legacies of the pair. Jim Cornette says that Candido would be a big star today because the style has changed and wrestlers like him are more accepted. While this wasn’t specifically mentioned, the culture of the average mainstream wrestling promotion also seems to have changed. Lance Storm agrees with Cornette, saying that Chris’ legacy will be bigger than Tammy’s since “the road he helped pave is now the road most traveled,” while the “diva era” seems to have come to an end.
The Vice episode focuses primarily on Chris’ life and death and only briefly mentions Tammy’s legal problems – which included several DUIs and jail sentences – at the end. Unfortunately, in 2002 Sytch was driving without a license when she was involved in a fatal car crash that killed a 75-year-old man. Not only was she unlicensed and speeding, but her blood alcohol content was about 3.5 times the legal limit. She remains in jail.
The show concludes by saying Chris Candido loved wrestling, but that he got into problems with the locker room, drugs, Tammy, and the wrestling business and this combination ultimately ended his life.
Header photo – Vice. Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. Catch Dark Side of the Ring on VICE, with new episodes airing each Thursday at 9 PM EST.