…As you can see, it was surgically repaired. In the tweet he sent with it, William Regal (age 47) warns against unneccessary risks involving the head and neck. Four former WWE superstars who immediately come to mind of course being Daniel Bryan, Hall of Famer Edge, Christian and Hall of Famer Mick Foley. All four were forced into retirement due to a series of head or neck injuries. It’s not a stretch to say their decisions to retire from in-ring action may have saved their lives.
Before I talk about the whole Scripted vs. “Fake” debate that broke out again when this tweet was released, I feel the need to say thanks to extensive research, far more is known about specific types of head injuries common in Pro Wrestlers and Football Players than was known just 10 years ago. Folks may remember Seth Rollins’ original finisher the Curb Stomp was banned last year:
That said, WWE has be conscientous in not…”suggesting” Superstars and Divas take unncessary risks for crowd reactions. Chair shots to the head have also been banned for those who might not have realized it. You will notice chair shots target the back and even then, they’re only allowed to take a certain number of shots for safety reasons. Those who take said risks do so understanding the potential consequences even if said risk is correctly done.
Now let’s get back to this whole “Wrestling is Fake” shit I’ve been hearing for 20 years now. As WWE finally went public with at the end of the Attitude Era, the storylines and match outcomes are mostly scripted but the risk of serious bodily harm IS real. Efforts are made to mitigate serious bodily harm but as the saying goes, shit happens. Not just accidents but shit–you’ll notice in recent years WWE no longer switches to black & white when a superstar gets busted open for example.
I had a philosophical conversation on the topic with some of my coworkers in 2014. One of my colleagues, who doesn’t even watch Pro Wrestling put it like this: Pro Wrestlers are basically actors who do all of their own stunts. The scripted side of Pro Wrestling is basically soap opera for guys. The match outcomes are scripted, yes but the matches still need to happen. Efforts are made to match the hits “look” painful, for the action to feel “real”. Why? For entertainment. Sheamus’ “Are You Not Entertained?!”, which is also the famous line from the movie Gladiator is the epitome of this.
Why does the Pro Wrestling industry exist and why do folks willingly pit themselves in harm’s way for sport? Because there’s a market for it. Is it fucked up there are people who get off on the suffering of others for sport? Absolutely. Do the fans know Pro Wrestling’s scripted? For the most part, yes. In this way, it’s no different from Boxing or UFC. This is also why there’s been an increased crossover between the three promotions: Brock Lesnar had a run in UFC and Rhonda Rousey is a huge WWE fan who had a Wrestlemania moment appearance at Wrestlemania 31.
Getting back to UFC and Boxing, there ARE rules to help mitigate permanent injury. Why the double standard for Pro Wrestling? Boxers wear gloves and MMA fighters are not allowed to do certain things in the octagon (ring outside UFC). So in short, the way I see it you can’t hate on Pro Wrestling but be ok with Boxing and/or MMA.
In all 3 promotions, the participants DO hold back. Let’s be honest: If everyone went full power, there’d be a revolving door of talent to swap with folks getting career-ending injuries every pay per view. All that training isn’t just for offense but defense, too. To paraphrase Rocky Balboa in the movie Creed, it’s not about how hard you can hit but how hard you can get hit. Those who can take alot of punishment–like The Undertaker for example–tend to have really long careers.
…Speaking of The Phenom, on the record he actually does have a very high tolerence to pain. Even so, it wasn’t until last year he only competed once a year at Wrestlemania: Last year was the first time in several years he competed in matches outside Wrestlemania, and to push Brock Lesnar and Bray Wyatt too. I’m getting a bit too off topic so I’ll talk more about possible storyline changes in a separate blog post.