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SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, February 25, 2000

Injuries mount as expectations too high

Eric Benner
By ERIC BENNER
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
SLAM! Wrestling
Editorial Column

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It's not a little-known fact that wrestlers get injured. Aside from the obvious fact that any sport with as much impact as wrestling is bound to have injuries all around, there are so many wrestlers out with injuries right now or returning fresh from injures that it's impossible to avoid. Wrestlers get injured.

This phenomenon, though, is increasing, wildly and rapidly, causing said injuries to get worse and more frequent. Wrestling is fast becoming deadly.

Unfortunately, the death of Owen Hart cannot be ignored, because though that didn't happen while 'wrestling', it certainly must be counted anyway. That kind of stunt would have been far less common before the Attitude: Can You Top This? era of wrestling. So forget it, I am touching on the death of Owen.

If people weren't jumping off the sides of cages, or senton-bombing and swan-dive-head-butting its unconscious occupants, then maybe Owen wouldn't have had to perform such a stunt to make a splash with his Blue Blazer character.

After all, he was the Blue Blazer in the '80s, too, and he never jumped from the rafters of the arena then. It must, however, be understood that that was not supposed to be an Evil Knievel-style death-defying stunt, so don't take the argument for more than it's worth.

While we're on the subject of steel cages, and especially with this Sunday's No Way Out looming around the corner, I think we must all realize at this point that the Cell really is Hell for the wrestlers who fight within.

Mankind got the crap knocked out of him by the Undertaker at their first Hell in a Cell match, and as badly as he was beaten, he was very lucky that nothing worse happened to him.

But he wasn't the first injured wrestler to walk out of a cage match, and he won't be the last. The antics of the Hardy Boyz, especially around cage matches, is such that they're sure to get themselves injured. They already have, twice in fact. Minor injuries, fortunately for them.

Even maneuvers from the top rope can - and have - cause and caused severe injuries. Or, in the case of the Macho Man or Superfly Jimmy Snuka, long-term debilitating effects.

Hardcore matches certainly aren't the asylum from injury, as chair shots, trash can shots, pile-drivers onto concrete, and all the rest have to be done a certain way to look real. That certain way involves a lot of pain as well as injury for the victim.

But I don't have to lecture you about wrestlers getting injured. This isn't something you didn't know, and it's not something that requires explaining. It's more of a reminder.

And if you still don't follow, then let me ask you to remember something - or someone - else. Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Undertaker. The Macho Man. Shane Douglas. Rey Mysterio Jr. Scott Steiner. Shawn Michaels.

I could go on and on, but to be honest, it took a lot of thought to come up with these guys, they've been out for so long. All with wrestling-related injuries, all with the pain and debilitation of the injury seeping out of the wrestling ring and into real life. The 'Taker is healing half a lifetime's worth of injuries. Shawn Michaels still feels back pain, as better as he may feel right now. Steve Austin was still wearing the neck brace only a month ago. Shane Douglas has had gimpy injuries keeping him down for almost two years. Scott Steiner's back, well, let's just say I hope my back never ends up like that. Rey Mysterio propped up a whole division in WCW and now look where he is. The Macho Man's knees are so bad he's had to lean all the force of his elbow drops onto his elbows - and onto his victim, causing him to injure them. So much for fake wrestling.

Now, granted, some injures are just unavoidable. The Undertaker's have accumulated over time and really, they aren't so bad, relatively. But then look further.

Shawn Michaels was crippled by an endless string of matches in which he played the Incredible Bump Machine, making his opponents look good for the cameras and fans. Bumps like his were nearly unheard of years ago. Today, they're the standard.

Steve Austin's neck injury, though it's been aggravated by many things, is considered by many to be caused in part by Owen Hart's piledriver some two and a half years ago. The piledriver used to be an illegal move used sporadically by heels to show how bad they were. Now, it's a staple, used as a finisher by at least six individuals, by my count, and many more in their repertoire.

Shane Douglas' story follows Shawn Michaels.

Rey Jr.'s bumps, at least the ones that injured him, were insane. What that guy does to put smiles on the fans' faces will never cease to amaze me - which is saying something since he may never be able to do it again.

All these and many other injuries are caused not by what wrestling is, but by what wrestling has become.

The fans' expectations are so high now that as soon as a steel cage goes up, the fans expect someone to either (a) be pushed off or (b) to jump off willingly, with the intention of harming the opponent but often harming oneself. Unless it's Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan inside. Then we expect nothing.

The time may not have come to tone down wrestling, but it will. It's only a matter of time before the injuries of wrestlers like Steve Austin combine with the freak accident that happened to Owen Hart and someone snaps his neck in the middle of the ring, as the direct result of a wrestling move. At that point, I don't think anyone will be able to argue that wrestling hasn't gone too far.

In fact, we may already have seen the coming of such an era, as Droz' injury at the hands of D'Lo Brown. Droz is a very big guy and D'Lo was expected to do a power bomb against him. Only a month before that, at a pay-per-view match against Mark Henry, he pulled the same stunt and botched that move, too. Kevin Nash did the same thing to The Big Show, then The Giant, by performing a power bomb on a man he clearly could not lift.

As long as these sorts of moves remain the norm - moves that can injure the wrestler's head, neck, and back, all areas in which an injury can be life-threatening or debilitating - then I think it's inevitable that a wrestler will eventually die in the ring while wrestling.

What I don't know is whether we'll ever recover. I know the athlete in question won't.

And if that athlete is one of my favourites, I don't know if I will, either. I didn't have the chance to see Owen Hart's unfortunate accident, and I only heard about it a week later when I returned to Canada. I can only imagine how it would feel if I had witnessed it live, on television, or worse, in person. And I can only imagine how it would feel if it were to some flashy wrestling maneuver, something dangerous but by default not too dangerous (since no one had been crippled by it yet), something becoming increasingly common in wrestling. Something lethal. I hope never to have to witness that at all.

If anything can break my love of this sport, I think that would be it.

Until then, I can only hope that these moves riddle the WWF and WCW with a roster full of slightly-injured wrestlers, injured just enough not to wrestle, and they decide to take it easy. Until then, I will sit on the edge of my seat every time Jeff Hardy does a senton bomb or that bloody cell is lowered from the ceiling.

But I'll be on the edge of my seat for all the wrong reasons.

Here's the mailbag. Ed Tafaro, from e.tafaro@worldnet.att.net, writes:
"Eric, In the news and rumors section on CANOE it states the following: 'In case you haven't guessed, the new member of Harlem Heat used to be "4/4" in the short-lived No Limit Soldiers gang.' Isn't he the guy who used to be Ahmed Johnson ????"

No, actually, but I can understand your confusion. These guys aren't exactly well-introduced. I assume you all know who Booker T (or Booker, the smaller, more skilled of the former Harlem Heat tag team) and Stevie Ray (the larger, generally regarded less skilled half) are.

Well, Tony Norris wrestled as Ahmed Johnson in the WWF, and rose to some amount of fame before he injured all the other wrestlers and eventually left the federation. He's 'Big T' in WCW.

That 'new member of Harlem Heat' we spoke of in our news and rumors section, who now appears to be called Cassius, was a member of Master P's 'No Limit Soldiers' stable in WCW sometime within the last year. He wrestled as '4x4'.

I hope that clears things up.


Chris Jurkschat, from chrisj@istar.ca, writes:
"You forget a few things...First of all, if you're only counting 1999, then Shane Douglas didn't leave WCW... that was at 2000, same time they lost the Radicals... also, WCW lost (and ECW gained) Raven and Sandman... two pickups which were huge for ECW (if only because they brought to their show a couple of guys who other wrestling fans have seen on national TV before). - CJ"

A lot of readers brought that up. True, Shane Douglas wasn't a WCW loss in 1999. And I did neglect Raven and Sandman heading to ECW. To be honest, my article was more about WCW anyway, and though they did represent losses, they were such non-factors at the time that I forgot the move. Thanks for correcting me, everyone.

That's all for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading, even more so for writing, and have a fantastic week.

Send email to ebenner@hotmail.com.


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