Welcome to another edition of “On The Ropes” by yours truly. I would like to thank everyone who sent feedback last time. Thanks guys. I have been unbelievably busy during the last few weeks and have had hardly anytime to relax and watch wrestling. I did, however, catch this weeks Raw and Smackdown, and I managed to watch a little bit of Ring of Honor. This week Ladies and Gentleman, I am going to talk about a topic which is very close to me so please get ready, as I am about to put you “On The Ropes”.
On The Ropes – Retirement
Over the past several months, I believe wrestling has become better. Although other people I know complain of the complacency in wrestling, I must admit that I am loving every minute of it. I’m hooked on the adrenalin and although I’m not watching hours upon hours of wrestling, the times that I do watch it, I am genuinely impressed with what I watch. There is, however, one thing that concerns me.
At Backlash, we saw the return of Hulk Hogan, in a match which he teamed with Shawn Michaels, against the team of Muhammad Hassan and Daivari. The match, in itself, was nothing more than a spectacle in trying to promote Hulk Hogan’s “last match”. But you see, it’s not his last match. Despite Hogan having surgery, I will guarantee that Hogan will be around the wrestling business for another ten years and I guarantee that in this time, Hogan will wrestle maybe five or six times. So much for the “last match” of his career. The fact that I know Hogan will wrestle again, despite having surgery, is one that makes me sad.
Ric Flair defeated Christian two weeks ago on Raw in a situation that I find it unbelievable, sorry but I do. How can WWE book a 56 year old man, who’s been in this business since 1974, to defeat one of the most over superstars in the WWE right now is beyond me. Granted, I love Ric Flair, but at the same time, I will never understand why Flair is wrestling every week (either on Raw or house shows), especially at the age of 56.
Even still, guys like Terry Funk, Sabu, Roddy Piper, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and more are still wrestling, granted maybe part time, but they are still wrestling well into their 40’s and 50’s. This brings my biggest fear. If wrestlers aren’t genuinely going to retire then one day, we are going to see accidents in the ring. All the above have had some sort of surgery in the past. If they were getting injured in the past, imagine what chance they have when they are much older and less mobile. This brings my only solution. Wrestling needs to have a retirement age. No doubt about it.
Several years ago, GAEA in Japan used to have the exact rule, whereby talent must retire when they became 25. Now I’m not necessarily suggesting that such a rule in wrestling should be that extreme, but maybe a retirement cap of say 45, would stop wrestlers like Ric Flair wrestling for the next 15 years, and it would stop wrestlers getting seriously hurt, something which I genuinely believe is going to happen.
Such a move, would allow younger guys to make the step up and it would allow the older guys to go out in a believable storyline and with a proper standing ovation as a send off. Look at it this way, if Hulk Hogan had retired when he hit 45, he would have stopped actively wrestling at the height and prime of the nWo era. What would this have meant to WCW? I think it would have kept WCW as a company around today. Randy Savage would have retired in the year 2000 and others like Kevin Nash, Ric Flair and Scott Hall wouldn’t have been wrestling. From here, it would have allowed WCW to push superstars like Billy Kidman, Lance Storm, Shane Helms and Rey Mysterio to the next level of their careers. Unfortunately, because the likes of Hogan, Nash, Savage, Hall and such stayed around, WCW became stale as we never saw new stars develop. From here, WCW became a company based around a tiring stable which nobody cared about. The rest is history really. With the lack of new blood, WCW fell apart with unrealistic booking and ridiculous gimmicks. Its main stars, such as Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner, which had been occupying the top spots for the past four or five years, were still competing in the top spots despite only putting on average matches. If they had retired early, they would have been replaced by wrestlers such as Lance Storm and Rey Mysterio, wrestlers who could have potentially rescued WCW.
Injuries in wrestling are the normal. Wrestlers are always on the road, wrestling with the headaches, wrestling with the pain and wrestling with the physical hurt on their bodies. In WWE, wrestlers travel around the world with such injuries, but at least in WWE, they know that if a problem gets so bad (such as Rob Van Dam’s recent knee surgery), then the problem can be addressed immediately by some of the best doctors in the world and the advantage is, they are still getting paid throughout rehab. In the indies, it is completely different. Wrestlers must work injured, because if they don’t, they don’t get paid. If a wrestler is unfortunate enough to break a finger in the indies, they will have to carry on wrestling for a few months, just to get stability, just to earn a living, just to pay for surgery. You have to wonder, how will these injuries affect these wrestlers in five or ten years time and in particular, how will it affect their performance in the ring. Look at Kurt Angle now. Many see him as the future of this business. I certainly think, right now, he is in line to be one of the best in the business and carry this business for the next ten years. Physically, Angle is a wreck. Nine years ago, Angle won the Olympic gold medal with a broken neck. Today, Angle only has 30 percent strength in his left arm and 50 percent strength in his right arm coming off the back of a number of surgeries on his back and neck. This isn’t a guy who should be carrying the company for the next ten years, this is a guy who should be retiring now, before he ends up seriously damaging himself, if he hasn’t already. The exact same thing was said about Mick Foley. Everybody said that Foley would be in a wheelchair and such before he was thirty. However, Foley now looks a much healthier person now and having met Foley, he sounded pleased because his body had now moved away from the beatings he used to take every night and his body has actually healed from the bumps and bruises. If Foley was still wrestling today, who knows what injuries would have happened to him. By retiring relatively early (compared to others), Foley was able to recuperate his health before many peoples predictions were proved correct.
Does this necessarily mean that we no longer have to see Ric Flair on television? No, not at all. Ric Flair could be a successful manager, a competitive manager and a great leader, just as long as he didn’t wrestle. The wrestling world is crying out for old school managers, serious managers, not comedy acts (such as Rico) or female eye candy (such as Stacy Keibler or Miss Jackie). Wrestling needs managers like Jim Cornette or Bobby Heenan and I honestly believe that if Flair was to become a manger, he would push his employee to the moon. Let’s face it, Flair can be a heel, yet he still is loved by the wrestling fans around the world. If he was to manager a rookie, such as Chris Masters, I would guarantee that the fans would embrace this character better than these stupid “Masterlock Challenges” and the wrestler would actually mean something. I believe it would also get Chris Master more over than he is now, and it would actually improve Chris Masters as a wrestler. The last serious wrestler to have a successful manager was Brock Lesnar. Maybe if the likes of Flair, Nash and Funk completely retired, we could see wrestlers like Mark Jindrak and Garrison Cade mean something, instead of being confined to weekend shows.
Wrestling isn’t rocket science. Instead of people flapping over the backstage politics, the IWC and the other stuff, we should look at wrestling professionally. Realistically, no man or woman should be competing at 50 years old. They don’t compete at this age in the Olympics, or NFL, or baseball. They don’t even allow the working class to work over the age of 55. At the age of 50, a person should be enjoying the last 30-40 years of their life, not running around in a wrestling ring. As much as I enjoy Ric Flair, I can honestly admit that the Ric Flair today is an embarrassment on the Ric Flair of the 80’s and mid 90’s. Flair always genuinely believed that he was “The Man”, and he had reason to. Flair won nearly every title around during the eighties. However today, with Flair copying practically everything Triple H does, it would be hard for any youngster new to this business to imagine Flair as “The Man”. If wrestling was to install a new retirement age, fans would be able to watch Flair during his glory days and whilst he was in peak condition.
Honestly, it’s a subject that worries me. Wrestling has lost some of its most loved friends and relatives in the last five years that it saddens me so much. In my opinion, a rule to stop wrestlers working over 45 would be brilliant. Of course, many will doubt it’s potential. Over in Japan, wrestlers like Genichiro Tenryu and Mitsuharu Misawa are wrestling in their 40’s and 50’s and selling out arenas with some great performances. However, I believe their name value alone, is probably what is attracting an audience, not the actual matches. In the USA, the likes of Hogan and Flair can still be used to draw a buyrate, but they don’t need to be used actively in the ring.
Let’s hope that in the next couple of years, we get a true retirement stipulation. The fact is that wrestling has never had a true “wrestling retirement”. We’ve seen Foley retire only to return 22 days later, we saw Savage retire in 1991, and Terry Funk first retired 15 years ago. It’s not funny anymore. It’s about time wrestling realised the potential danger, and finally decided to honour the stipulation. They can do this by giving the wrestlers a true send off, an ultimate payoff and a moment they will really, never ever forget.
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Finally, I would just like to wish you guys a good few weeks. My next column will be published in about 2 weeks, but until then, thanks for reading and take care.
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