RBTR – Our Sacrifice

Mitchell Gadd

Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of Reading Between The Ropes. Since the name of Eddie Guerrero was added to a tragic list of wrestlers who have been taken from us much too soon as either a direct or indirect result of substance abuse, things have never become more surreal in the wrestling world. Take, for instance, the video of Vince Mcmahon announcing a new drug testing policy in the WWE in a meeting which was made available for public download. I have never seen anything more surreal in the wrestling business, and the fact that the video was made available for download for the general public is still one of the most shocking things I can ever recall seeing.

Reports are that Vince is extremely serious about this new policy, and that measures such as heart exams will be introduced. If he is serious about this then this is one move on Vince Mcmahon’s part that I fully support. Time will tell just how serious he is, however, as wrestlers who clearly abuse steroids (you know the guys, you only have to look at them now, compared to what they were) would be removed from the title picture, de-pushed, removed from television, or even sent to rehab clinics. This is something that Nick Dinsmore is now confronting; a session or two at rehab. The timing of Dinsmore’s overdose was appalling, so it’s no surprise that the WWE took the action they did. However, will they continue to take such a firm stance against drugs? Can we really see Vince willing to give up his big stars over substance abuse? If that does become the case then this would probably be the gutsiest move by any promoter in the history of the business.

But where does that leave the fans? Where does that leave those who go out and spend their hard-earned money on wrestling tickets, DVDs, t-shirts, etc.? Would they be willing to give up their favourite athletes, or possibly see them less often or at a level of performance which could not possibly match the ones they achieved when they had the aid of drugs? From a personal perspective, this writer would applaud any move by Vince to help wrestlers with a drug problem. During the, now infamous, drug meeting Vince was questioned about prescription drugs by none other than Kurt Angle. Reports were that Kurt was in seriously bad health, and even went as far as suggesting that he may be on “death watch” amongst the wrestlers in the back. In my last column I speculated that Angle may not be given the WWE Title because of the fact that this drug policy would put a cloud over his future. If Vince is serious about helping those who rely on substances, then surely Angle’s history of neck problems (and a heck of a lot of others), unfortunately, means he could not rely on the pain-killers which has definitely helped him get through such obstacles. Angle, upon hearing this speculation, went as far himself to respond to such rumours by releasing a statement to his fans through the PWTorch that he was doing just fine in terms of his health. If that is indeed the case then that is fantastic news for wrestling fans, and for any compassionate human being (take note ESPN “experts”). However, whether he is healthy or not does not change the fact that if Vince wants to crack down on any form of drugs, even prescription drug-taking, then people like Angle may not have quite as long left in the business as fans would hope.

Again, where does this leave the fan? I want to see great athletes like Kurt compete, but not at the expense of their lives. If any wrestler’s health is in danger then no one should risk that for the fans. As a good friend of mine, Alan Counihan pointed out, we may see a Wrestlemania 22 main event consisting of CM Punk vs. Trevor Murdoch. Let me just say that both of those, particularly the former, I am big fans of, but you get the point nonetheless. The wrestling business or, more specifically, the WWE could have a drastically different roster pool if Vince goes full-pelt with this policy. Would he go as far as to release his own son-in-law should evidence suggest the need after tests? Well, that is usually a case for the sceptics to highlight. A case of “We’ll believe it, when we see it,” and so forth.

As a fan it would take a lot of time to adjust to the whole-scale changes that a full-scale implementation of the policy would result in. However, we need to think of the greater good as fans, but, more importantly, as human beings. We need to think of the sacrifices these men are making, and how they are too great a price to pay to entertain us. It shouldn’t come to this. It should never have got this far.

Those sacrifice vignettes are never more appropriate than right now. While us, as fans, want to see fantastic moves and great matches between great athletes, maybe it is our turn to make sacrifices. Maybe it is our time to think of the bigger picture and face the fact that some wrestlers should be getting help, or getting as far away from this business as possible, before the unthinkable happens.

We often hear of fans wanting to see guys like Bret Hart compete again and come back for another match, and Hart has often said how it would be an extreme risk to his health to do so with his concussion, apparently, being life-threatening if he took more bumps to the head. While, in a perfect world, Bret’s in-ring career would have come to an end less abruptly and at a time that suited him, we need to realise that sometimes we are asking too much of these wrestlers. Most of those asking Bret, or any other former star for that matter, to come back for one last match do not do so with any malicious intent, but just a love for the wrestler’s craft. However, there is a difference between wishing and asking. We wish these guys could come back, but we should never ask them to.

The wishes and wants of such fans today can vary greatly. A desire to see a more extreme Cage of Death Match at CZW boarders, in my opinion, on the ridiculous. Such desire to see wrestlers become more and more like stuntmen and top something crazy and completely hazardous with something even more crazy and completely hazardous is sick. While the aforementioned fans who wish for a star to return that would compensate their health may be a little naive, the fans who bay for more blood and violence, or more dare-devil stunts are despicable. This is not what wrestling should be about.

So, where do the fans of men like Kurt Angle fit in? Is it wrong for us to want to see him come out and perform each week knowing that his family life and his physical health is becoming more and more unstable? Well, there is nothing wrong with wanting something, but we have to realise the consequences. We need to think outside the box. Yes, it is okay if we mark out for an Angle slam or a Benoit headbutt from the top rope or the top of a cage. After all, it’s what the athlete would want. It would be our way of repaying him for the risk he has taken. It is also important to note that is it a risk that athlete has CHOSEN to take. However, maybe the cries for “more, more, more” or the desire to see spot monkey-like, dare-devil manoeuvres are what has perpetuated such a decision.

Men like Brian Pillman, Curt Hennig and Eddie Guerrero made the ultimate sacrifice for us fans, and guys like Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit continue to make sacrifices, as well. We loved them, and we continue to love them for it… and rightly so. However, it is time that we became willing to make sacrifices too, and that we, as fans and human beings, prepare to give up on seeing the high-risk manoeuvres, the 50 extra house shows a year, the worldwide tours, and the dare-devil matches. This new drug policy could change a lot about this business, and we need to be willing to accept the changes with it… after all, it could save lives.

Until next time,

Mitchell L. Gadd

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