Alex Whybrow, 29, known to independent wrestling fans as wrestler and manager Larry Sweeney, was found dead today of what F4WOnline.com is reporting is a suicide. He had hanged himself at a wrestling school in Lake Charles, Louisiana some time between last night and this morning. Whybrow had been openly dealing with bipolar disorder for years (and privately dealing with drug problems according to F4WOnline), which he and friends have said stemmed from a head injury that he suffered in a car accident as a teenager.
Whybrow was trained by Mike Quackenbush and Chris Hero (as well as occasional guest trainer Jorge "Skayde" Rivera) at the Chikara Wrestle Factory and started his career in the affiliated Chikara Pro Wrestling. Unlike most Chikara trainees, who adopted bizarre masked gimmicks, he patterned himself after various flamboyant old-school wrestlers as "Sweet 'n' Sour" Larry Sweeney. He created the fictitious "ICW/ICWA Texarkana Television Title" and traveled all over the country defending it to get experience outside of the relatively homogeneous Pennsylvania indy scene. As part of his travels, he also stopped by the wrestling school run by the late "Playboy" Buddy Rose and Ed "Col. DeBeers" Wiskoski in the Northwest, which complimented his Chikara training and made him a more well-rounded performer. At one point, he even appeared on WWE Monday Night Raw as an impostor Nick Hogan in a segment during Randy Orton's feud with Hulk Hogan.
He started to make more of a name for himself when he debuted in Ring of Honor. Then-booker Gabe Sapolsky didn't feel his in-ring work was up to the standards of the company (which was controversial among some fans, to say the least), so he was made a
manager "agent," leading the "Sweet 'n' Sour Inc." stable. Over the course of his run in ROH, the stable included Chris Hero, Sara Del Ray, Tank Toland, Bobby Dempsey, Matt "Evan Bourne" Sydal (who Sweeney "signed to WWE" in an attempt to get more heat on him from the fans), Daniel Puder, Adam Pearce, Brent Albright, Shane Hagadorn, Eddie Edwards, Davey Richards, and Go Shiozaki.
He did his job well, but this created its own problem: ROH's fanbase was too entertained by him to boo him. Sapolsky seemingly got too desperate, as he booked an angle where Sweeney interviewed Allison Danger, she was attacked and knocked out, Bobby Dempsey fell on her, and Sweeney made him forcibly rub his groin against here while he yelled lewd remarks over the house microphone. Not only was it in bad taste and too over the top, but a sizable portion of the crowd cheered his actions. They moved past it and he eventually got heat through better, more creative angles (like the aforementioned one with Matt Sydal), but unfortunately it's one of the most well-known moments of his career. He gained more positive attention via a memorable feud with Figure Four Online/Figure Four Weekly editor Bryan Alvarez, who moonlights as an indie wrestler. They cut numerous promos on each other on YouTube and had a well-regarded series of matches for various promotions, including Fight Sports Midwest. With the Allison Danger angle considered a blip that wasn't his fault, his ROH work garnered him the Wrestling Observer Newsletter "Non-Wrestler of the Year" award in 2007 in 2008.
His ROH run was going well, but he suddenly started acting strangely and was suspended. It turned out that he decided he didn't need his medication for bipolar disorder anymore and stopped taking it. He spiraled badly while manic, doing everything from wrestling with fans outside an arena in Houston, Texas hours before a WWE Wrestlemania 25 to showing up suddenly at an indy show looking like a mess with dried blood noticeably on him to making bold claims of running pro wrestling street fairs in the near future. After a long stretch where many peers, friends, and fans were worried about him, he somehow ended up hospitalized and back on medication.
He returned to ROH for one night as a commentator, but it didn't stick. He went back to Chikara last year for several months. During this period, a rumor surfaced that he was in charge of the ring for a Dragon Gate USA show in Chicago, Illinois, only to claim the ring truck stolen from him when he mugged, but DGUSA booker/executive Gabe Sapolsky (who ended up in charge here after being let go by ROH) said in an interview that Sweeney was never in charge of the ring. It still worried a lot of people, and he hadn't really been around wrestling since then. His friends also lost contact with him.
Chris Hero posted the following on Twitter today:
We lost a dedicated friend and an overwhelmingly talented performer this morning. Alex Whybrow aka "Sweet & Sour" Larry Sweeney has passed. We spent a few yrs together on the road & Alex was gifted beyond measure. He could enthrall you with colorful stories from his personal life or he could captivate thousands with his undeniable charisma. I loved him & my heart is with his family, friends & his countless fans. First he was my student & he transcended that almost immediately. I will forever cherish our in depth conversations & time spent together.
Love you man. Miss you. Rest in Peace.
Later, he added these posts with links to videos of some of his favorite Sweeney moments.
First, he tweeted a Sweeney-One Man Gang/Akeem dance-off that everyone should watch:
Sweeney & I both loved Jive Soul Bro. Way too much. We met Akeem in San Fran & the following year this came to fruition http://bit.ly/DZGqH
A few minutes later, he tweeted a link to this video of the two of them together in Chikara.
Rest in peace Sweet 'n' Sour.
If you're having suicidal thoughts, please don't act on them. Think of your family and friends and either go to an emergency room, call 911 if you can't get there on your own, or at least call a suicide hotline. SuicideHotlines.com has a good directory.