Welcome Shenanifans, to another edition of my weekly column. This is a topic I’ve thought about addressing for a long time, and it’s probably one of the more difficult topics one COULD address regarding the wrestling business. Before we get into it, though, I’d like to thank the many of you who sent me your picks for the rumored 2008 WWE draft. I enjoyed reading every one of your emails. It was like reading a couple dozen little columns! Some of my favorite suggestions were Triple H to Smackdown, Undertaker to Raw, and Carlito and Kofi Kingston on the same brand as a tag team – which, surprisingly, was suggested by more than one person! Are you listening, WWE?
Okay, seriously, thanks to everyone. You had some great picks. And now, it’s time for this week’s column:
“Off Seasons in Wrestling”
Pro wrestling is a tough business. Predetermined it is, “fake” it is not. Pain is very real, folks. Steroids have been deemed THE substance problem in the industry but, in reality, it often goes overlooked that countless numbers of wrestlers are hooked on pain killers. We cheer on guys and girls to bust their asses, give us more high spots, and wrestle in a more intense fashion. It gives us thrills, sure, but the competitors usually can’t go home and relax afterwards. Often, it’s off to the next town, where they’ll do the same things all over again to satiate the next group of action-hungry fans.
Are we bad people for wanting to see the high spots? Of course not. People like seeing death-defying backflips from acrobatics, sickening checks from hockey players, and slam dunks from basketball players. Still, from the fan’s end of things, what we need to understand is that high spots, like the things I’ve just mentioned, are physically demanding exceptions to the way the game is played. Simply put, we can’t expect to see a Money in the Bank ladder match every month, because it’s too hard on the wrestlers we watch to do such a thing – especially on those wrestlers who already are one the road more than they are with their families.
Concussions are harsh realities for full-time athletes. More than bone breaks, wrestlers have to worry about muscle tears brought about by constant strain and, yes, the use of steroids. Curbing the use of steroids and HGH, while testing for and monitoring concussions, will certainly go a long way in helping the long term health of wrestlers. Let’s go one better, though: wrestlers deserve an off season.
I used to be dead set against an off season for wrestlers, simply because I’ve grown so used to watching wrestling every week, several times a week, on TV. Then, in the wake of many tragic events in the past few years (and, specifically, a certain one last summer), I’ve come to realize that, although an off season wouldn’t completely obliterate poor decisions, it WOULD go a long way in helping the performers to revitalize, normalize and, above all, live healthier lives.
Probably there are some guys who don’t want to go off the road. On the other hand, most wrestlers are tired to some degree and need a little more down time than their busy schedules currently allow. WWE wrestlers work far busier schedules than most professional athletes…ditto for indy workers and TNA guys and girls. How many pulled muscles, nervous breakdowns, and other unfortunate side effects from the overwhelming schedule of a pro wrestler could be prevented, simply by giving everyone a little more time to relax?
Yes, wrestling promoters. You love money, and an off season cuts out the profits of events you might have during proposed off months. That said, wouldn’t the suspense built by the lack of wrestling during those months help to drive buyrates and attendance when the events finally resumed? WWE’s Backlash event doesn’t do very well, compared to the effective season-ender, Wrestlemania, but imagine…JUST IMAGINE…how well Summerslam might do if it were the first big event of the new “year,” with a build reaching only from July to August, but one which provides fans with the first big WWE event since March or April!
Whether or not any of what I say makes any sense from a business standpoint, though, we’ve got ethics to think of here. Probably there are some ways to preserve the well being and health of wrestlers, even on a full time schedule. Cutting down on house shows might be one way. Less physical demand on wrestlers (notably, Jeff Hardy) to deliver such crazy stunts on a regular basis would be another. There are plenty of ideas, and I’m sure that my readers might have a few of their own.
A closing thought here: we watch wrestling because we like the spectacle of it all. While we like to watch wrestlers perform stunts that are risky and dangerous (that’s, after all, part of the appeal), the last thing we want is for a wrestler to be crippled, paralyzed, or worse. Wrestlers are people trying to make a living, and they’re entitled to save their money and live a happy and healthy life during their eventual retirements. As much as I love watching all of the amazing and exciting ladder matches, Hell in a Cell’s, Ultimate X matches, and so on, I have immense respect for those in the matches. I want them to have time to rest, heal their wounds, and enjoy some of the fruits of their labor. You know, spend time with their beautiful children and spouses, catch up on their favorite TV shows, and, just for a couple months, get out of the routine of the circus that the wrestling business can sometimes be.
I really hope I’m overreacting to the dangers of the wrestling lifestyle, but I am, after all, just a young guy who wants to be entertained, knowing for sure that the athletes (which is what they are) in the ring, trying to give me my money’s worth, have long and prosperous lives ahead of them. Indy wrestlers, WWE, TNA, Japan, Mexico, and all over the world…they all work very hard, and they deserve to be treated with the respect afforded athletes in other fields. That includes proper health care and, yes, off seasons.
Kevin McElvaney is also a contributing writer for Pro Wrestling Illustrated and The Wrestler / Inside Wrestling. Send questions or comments to email@example.com.