Over The Top Rope
I love pro-wrestling. I love the pageantry, I love the soap-opera angles, I love the gorgeous men in sparkly underwear and the strong, athletic women. I love the shoots and works, the locker room gossip and when a character I love gets a big push. I love the WWE (which will always be the WWF in my heart), although I abhor the business practices and ethics of Vince McMahon. I hate the schedule that wrestlers have to maintain in order to stay on top, and how completely and totally they have to bend to McMahon’s will. There really is no other show in town.
Unfortunately, we have seen a lot of wrestler deaths lately – today marks the death of Andrew “Test” Martin. In response to the recent rash of deaths, the WWE has instituted a new wellness policy, but I am not sure it’s enough. Test was released from the WWE , awhile ago, suposedly because he failed wellness checks – so the WWE can claim it’s hands are clean on this one, except I am not sure I agree.
Celebrities often have problems with drugs – the pressure, the influences, the fishbowl world. I am pretty sure Test could walk down the street without being mobbed, but the pressure to maintain his physique must have been pretty intense. You have that, coupled with shaky job security, tied to the whims and ideas of a megalomaniac , and it sets the scene for disaster. On top of all that? You have a grueling schedule. Wrestlers almost never get a day off – between taped shows, house shows and traveling (and finding a gym at each location.) Because wrestlers are independent contractors – they provide their own transportation. Not really glamorous stuff – and certainly shows passion and dedication. But, there is one more component – the pain. I don’t want to get into the “Wrestling is fake!!!” fight (because it’s old and annoying) but even the haters can agree – pro-wrestling takes athleticism. Sure, not all of the punches land, and I don’t believe Edge really fought his way back from hell – but those flips, running the ropes and crashing through tables (even if they have been pre cut) are very, very real. And if you are hurt – you just keep going. What are you going to do? Take a few days off to stretch, when you are in the middle of the storyline that could eventually see a strap around your waist?
So – constant pain + travel + pressure = recipe for disaster.
I wish I had the conviction to quit the WWE. How they treat their superstars goes against a lot of what I believe in terms of corporate values and ethics. And the misogyny of the Women’s Division is a joke. And yet I don’t stop. And I fear my love of the “sport” is contributing to the death of it’s stars.