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IN LAIMAN’S TERMS #354 – Thoughts on Health, Hell Week, Wrestling
1. First things first, I haven’t watched wrestling since I wrote my last column, including WrestleMania. I got ESPN updates as the day went on, and I found myself… confused, to say the least. Seeing as it ended up being seven hours of wrestling, if you don’t include NXT: Takeover, the Hall of Fame, and the days after shows as well, I can’t say that I’m regretting the decision. Not because of the wrestling itself… Okay, not JUST because of the wrestling itself, but those who have followed the column for a long time know that this week of the year is what I call Hell Week, and participating in the product was really the last thing on my mind. Being earlier last year helped a lot with my ability to cope with this week, but falling right in the middle of it, with another brick in the wall? I’ll explain.
2. I try not to talk about myself much in the column, especially aspects that would bring about negativity and trollish comments. It’s a dissocation necessary not only to provide a column about wrestling, but to avoid being vulnerable to personal attacks. The decisions we make to be ourselves come with their consequences, both negatively and positively, and I learned a lot about that from interviewing Narcissa Wright on my podcast, which will air for the public on April 27th, thanks to Tito connecting the two of us.
3. That being said, health is a huge concern for those involved in pro wrestling, and those who once were. Athletes in general, for what they put their body through in their youth, end up with physical, emotional, and other kinds of health consequences later. One of the best explanations of the toll that being an athlete can take on your body was explained by former Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, as he decided to retire at what many would consider a young age, and explained why on his show, the Thomahawk Podcast.
4. It’s true of a lot of aspects of entertainment that fans can become insatiable. Burnout is real, and not just the physical kind. There are also those who end up disappointing you. Like, for instance, an entertainment website you’ve followed for a decade, until their business practices and behavior get brought to light. Then suddenly, your feelings toward what once entertained you are conflicted. On one hand, these are human beings who are being treated terribly at the hands of those in control. On the other, how many years of consumption, inside jokes, laughs, and good memories tug at you? Can you throw them all away? Should you even be expected to?
5. Wrestling fans went through something like this during the Chris Ben… Lord Voldemort tragedy. Could we acknowledge his tremendous wrestling career while knowing it was contributing to a legacy of head injuries that ultimately led to what he’ll forever be known for?
6. Being on the road, whether it’s every weekend or the hundreds of days a year like a WWE superstar, producer, agent, techie, cameraperson, etc., has to wear on you. It puts fans and critics in the position of knowing what they like and expecting to be entertained by what they view as escapism. The consequences of our escapism are the health of those people, and sometimes I personally feel really bad for being low on what they’re selling. That doesn’t change the quality of it, but it does make me empathetic for those who rely on it for a living.
7. However, wrestling cannot run from some of the demons of its past. Sometimes those demons aren’t national tragedies, they’re merely independent contractors who have had enough of their image being used, their career being made into a joke, or never getting the chance to fulfill the potential they believe they have. And it can’t be easy when people always want more, and there’s more programming to fill, and there are more dates on the calendar, and more countries to which to travel. Everyone always wants more, and that’s the fundamental basis of any business, but to treat it like an infinite source for all involved is dehumanizing at best.
8. Perhaps it’s because I’ve learned how not managing my health over a long period of time has begun to catch up with me. When I say managing it, or lackthereof, I’m not referring to the necessary care I’m under for personal reasons, but of what I put myself through like my body and mind were an infinite gas tank with no reserves ever necessary.
9. I was just short of 26 when I went back to college after moving across the country for a job failed. I was dealing with the effects of concussions and the pain in my hip, neck, and back. Now it has caught up to my hamstrings, feet, one of my shoulders, and my ability to sleep uninterrupted. Concussions are no joke, and anytime someone mocks them because a company has the audacity to be cautious about them instead of giving them their video-game fantasy version of smashmouth where they’re not real people, I get more and more irritated.
10. Those on the national level are not the only ones who deal with the consequences either. Maybe it’s because it’s been a running theme in my life, but I’ve watched people I love and care about in all aspects of life struggle, and many of them have not made it through. This happened again, and I’ll do my best to not get into too much detail or too personal, because once again, I know some readers hate that.
11. Another person I knew in wrestling has passed away this week. Hell Week. It seems like it’ll never go by without tragedy. Since 2011 when Larry Sweeney passed away on April 11th, I have lost someone in my life between the dates of April 6th and 14th every single year, except last year. This year, someone I worked with very closely for several years and knew from wrestling, passed away, putting 2018 on the list and another framed picture on my wall, not to mention a ten-bell in my mind. I wish I could talk about this more, but I know what results from that.
12. William was only 40, and while the national pro wrestlers no longer seem to drop like flies far before their time at the rate they were a decade ago, I can only imagine how the independent scene has seen and dealt with continuing loss. Not everyone has a wellness center, and having a doctor at those shows is only because it’s law in some places. It’s the risk you take to chase a dream.
13. Dreams were achieved this past week in wrestling. I’m sure someone even dreamed of seeing someone survive not one but five F5s. I’m not going to judge anyone’s dreams, but I do know that for everyone who got to perform or work on that show, they were achieved. Being at WrestleMania is the ultimate goal of most who ever stepped into a ring, and as much as I may not understand what the hell happened, I can respect it for that. However, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m still reeling and catching up from the darker aspect of a business that took too long to realize the effects it had on people, and on many levels never likely will.