By Mike Mooneyham
April 14, 2002
It was the hardest thing he ever had to do, but last Sunday night Charles Robinson told wife Amy it was OK to let go, that she didn’t have to fight anymore. Nothing short of death could have ever made him utter those painful words.
Amy, at the tender age of 30, passed away moments later in their Charlotte home, nearly two years after first being diagnosed with melanoma cancer. If ever two people had been meant to be together, it was Charles and Amy Robinson. They were the proverbial “match made in heaven,” a couple whose partnership served as a testament to the finer qualities of marriage. And for all the success Robinson has achieved in the wrestling business the past five years as one of the game’s most respected and versatile referees, it paled in comparison to the five years he spent with Amy, the last three-and-a-half as man and wife.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]“The thing that struck me about them was that they seemed so much in love,” says Robinson’s mentor and longtime NWA referee Tommy Young. “They had me over for Thanksgiving dinner this past year, and it was the best meal I ever had. By that time Amy wasn’t feeling that well, but she never complained. She was always smiling. I was just amazed at her intestinal fortitude. They were such nice kids. I’ve prayed a lot for both of them and will continue to do so.”
The past week has been especially difficult for Robinson, who has leaned on friends like Ric Flair and Arn Anderson for support, and in the weeks and months to come will face the task of getting on with a life without Amy. For that he will depend heavily upon a group he calls his other family, the World Wrestling Federation, where he has been employed since last July.
For now his strong faith provides him with the assurance that Amy is no longer in pain and that she is in good hands.
“I look forward to seeing her again in heaven, and I know I will. I’m sure that she’s up there rejoicing,” he says. “I’d rather that she be here with me, but she’s in a better place, and I guarantee she wouldn’t come back for all the money in the world.”
Robinson also points out that Amy, who was raised as a Catholic, was baptized on March 20 at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, which they attended when he wasn’t on the road.
“I was brought up Baptist and Amy was brought up Catholic, but she wanted to be baptized. I went and was re-baptized, and I got to baptize her. It was a very big deal for both of us.”
There weren’t many things the Robinsons didn’t share.
Even in a business like professional wrestling, where a long-standing unwritten code strongly discourages bringing one’s wife (or girlfriend) to the arena or backstage around “the boys,” Charles and Amy seemed immune to the inherent dangers, diversions and temptations. It was all a matter of genuinely enjoying each other’s company and sharing their lives, whether it be on the road or at home.
“She was always so happy and perky and outgoing,” he says. “I honestly didn’t know anyone who didn’t love Amy. She just had that aura about her. That’s what made her special.”
The two had met in 1996 at a First Union bank in Charlotte where Amy, a UNC-Charlotte grad, worked as a teller. Robinson admits he was smitten the first time he laid eyes on the brown-eyed, brown-haired beauty. But it wasn’t just her looks that attracted him.
“She was a really nice girl, and I immediately said to myself, That’s the type of girl I want to marry,'” recalls Robinson. After talking to her a few more times, he summoned up the nerve to give her a creative card he had designed and ask her out on a date.
“I said in the card that she was the reason I came by and that she really brightened up my day,” says Robinson. Amy agreed to go out with him, but before plans could be finalized she switched banks and misplaced his number.
“I tried for about five months, and I just couldn’t make the connection,” says Robinson. But nine months later he fulfilled a lifelong dream when he was hired by World Championship Wrestling. When he returned home from his first set of TV tapings at Universal Studios in Orlando, he discovered that another goal had been realized. He had a message on his answering machine. It was from Amy, who had found his note and number.
“I got home and had a message from Amy. She said that I probably didn’t remember her, but if I was interested, give her a call. She later told me that she had been thinking about me, and that she found the card with my phone number on it.”
The two immediately hit it off, dated for a year and traded vows in 1998. She was 26, seven years Charles’ junior.
“I knew right away. I just knew she was everything that I ever wanted. I knew she was going to be my soul mate,” says Robinson. “She was also a cool step mom (to 8-year-old daughter, Jessica, from his first marriage). Jessica called Amy her bonus mom.”
Surprisingly enough, though, Amy initially didn’t share Charles’ zest for the business, and her wrestling knowledge was limited.
“She knew who Ric Flair was and she had baby-sat for Italian Stallion when she was growing up, but that was about it,” says Robinson. “She wasn’t a wrestling fan, but the first show I did in Charlotte I got her front-row tickets and she had a blast. She became a fan.”
Whenever possible, Robinson would arrange his schedule to include Amy, who traveled with Charles to a number of major cities. “Everywhere from Las Vegas to Baltimore to Los Angeles. She loved it. She got to see what it was like. I wanted her with me.”
In between shows the two would sneak in skiing trips to such locations as Utah, Nevada and Canada. And while Charles recovered from a collapsed lung and cracked vertebrae, compliments of an errant elbow drop from Randy Savage during Robinson’s memorable stint as “Little Naitch,” he and Amy took advantage of his time off to vacation in the Cayman Islands. “We probably did more traveling in the five years we were together than most people do in a lifetime.”
It was during a skiing trip in Canada two years ago when Amy’s physical problems first surfaced. The two were on the slopes at Mont Tremblant near Montreal when Charles noticed that Amy was coughing heavily. A chest X-ray failed to show anything out of the ordinary, but when the two returned to Charlotte, further tests revealed a spot on Amy’s left lung. In February 2001, doctors removed the lower section of her lung, following up the surgery with interferon and other treatments. Amy was confined to an ICU ward for a week, receiving a powerful dose of the drug every eight hours.
“It was hard on her, but she remained in good spirits,” says Robinson, who several months earlier had watched his close friend and fellow WCW referee, Brian Hildebrand, die of stomach cancer at the age of 37.
Making matters worse was that Robinson was losing his job at the same time. WCW was purchased by the WWF in March 2001 and, unlike many of the higher-paid wrestlers on the roster, referees – even one as good as Robinson – had no guaranteed contracts. He and Amy also had moved into a new home several months earlier, and a new mortgage compounded the problem of mounting medical costs. The Robinsons, however, continued to make the best out of an increasingly bad situation.
“The house was good therapy for her because she loved plants and flowers,” says Robinson. “It gave her something to do. And my time out of work was a blessing because I was able to be there and take care of her.” Although out of a job for three months, Charles landed a spot with the WWF on July 2, his birthday.
After several months of favorable check-ups, doctors were confident the cancer had disappeared. But during a later examination, another spot was detected, this time on Amy’s windpipe. She again underwent a series of treatments, with the same temporary results.
It was during another skiing trip, this past January in Vancouver, British Columbia, when Amy was again stricken.
“We (WWF) had a show there, and Amy and I went out five days early to go skiing. We had a great time, and everything was wonderful. She was a little winded on the hills, but she wasn’t sick. After I did the Vancouver show, she wasn’t feeling good and started getting stomach cramps. I had a show in Seattle and flew her back home that day. She had a doctor’s appointment Tuesday. She called me and told me they were putting her in the hospital for surgery.”
Doctors conducted surgery on Amy and removed a foot of her intestine, but were unable to remove the growing lymph nodes surrounding her stomach. After she underwent a grueling week of chemotherapy, the cancer returned two weeks later.
Only four weeks ago Robinson was assigned to officiate one of the biggest matches of his career: Ric Flair vs. The Undertaker before nearly 70,000 fans at the SkyDome in Toronto.
Although very ill at the time, Amy not only insisted Charles make the show, but she asked to come along as well to watch her husband referee one of the top bouts on the biggest wrestling event of the year. The two spent the entire week in Toronto, going out for a couple of walks and even making it to a movie. But most of their time was confined to their motel room due to Amy’s condition, and she had to return to the room at the conclusion of his match.
“Ever since I got the job with the WWF, I had talked about working Wrestlemania,” says Robinson. “Looking back I think she knew she was too weak to go, but she held that from me. But she was very happy that she went.”
With her condition progressively worsening, Charles decided to take Amy to an alternative treatment facility in San Diego the day after Easter. But with the chemotherapy weakening her to the point that she couldn’t eat or take medication because of the discomfort, they were forced to delay the trip, since the treatment program was nutrition-oriented and Amy was now unable to hold down any food.
They still remained hopeful until the end.
“It was only our faith in God that allowed us to get through this,” says Robinson. “We really thought we would beat it. Amy was always very positive; she never complained about pain. She was something else.”
Their last good-byes were said Sunday night.
“I told her that everybody loved her and that nobody would ever forget her. We told her that it was OK to let go, that she didn’t have to fight anymore, that we’d see her in heaven.”
“I guess her job here on Earth had something to do with me,” he adds. “She helped me to open up and learn to be loved and care. She changed my life. I certainly took life and people for granted before. I placed money high on my tree of priorities, and certainly she showed me that those things mean nothing.”