"There is always death and taxes; however, death doesn't get worse every year." ~Author Unknown
With the very recent death of Luna Vachon I had a sudden thought. It has been obvious for sometime but WWE have a lack of respect for those that died in recent years. This has not always been the case but roughly around the last few years WWE has tried to ignore the face many of their past employees have died.
In a short time we have seen several former performers die tragically. Names such as Lance Cade, Umaga and Test are amongst those that are no longer with us. Despite these names being quite prominent during their time in the company, the closest thing you get to a tribute these days are online posts from WWE.
For example WWE had this to say about Umaga:
"WWE would like to express its deepest condolences to Mr Fatu's family, friends and fans on his tragic passing.
"Mr Fatu was under contract with WWE at various time periods and most recently performed under the name Umaga. Mr Fatu's contract was terminated on June 11, 2009."
This is all that was mentioned by the company. Do the people who work for WWE really believe this is sufficient? Once upon a time when a wrestler died they would at least get an on-air mention (whether Raw, Smackdown or Pay Per View). It could either be something small such as a few pictures shown and a brief narration (such as The British Bulldog got) or, in the case of more highly thought of performers, a video montage or mini- documentary was made.
So it is now established that WWE do not pay the same respects to the performers today as they did at least five years ago. WWE would probably give the argument that today's audience does would not recognise the men and women of the past and its not worth getting the younger WWE crowd upset over the passing of performers from long ago. I would still argue this. Is in necessary to mentioned when a contract was terminated?
With every performer who has died in recent years that has not been with the company at the time of passing WWE always mention when they took a separate path. WWE is desperate to distance themselves from those that have died and when the facts are analysed it's not hard to see why.
Lance Cade died at 29 from Heart Failure.
Umaga dies of a Heart Attack aged 36.
The list goes on with many dying before 50 from heart condition that logically should not happen to men and women who were as athletic as themselves. Of course we all know the truth about how steroids ran rampant in WWE and of course if steroids are abused then the heart is going to suffer worse than anything. Whilst there may be no solid evidence to link WWE to such accusations the coincidence is too much.
But the same thing was happening 10-20 years ago. Why is WWE is destermined to distance themselves than a decade or two ago. Let's go back to 1999 and the Monday after Over the Edge known as Raw is Owen. It was a tribute show for Owen Hart who had tragically died the Sunday before when a stunt went wrong. Now whether you agreed with WWE's choice to have the superstars perform on Raw was a good idea or not is up to you but it cannot be denied that it was successful.
Three more similar nights would follow. In 2001 after the September 11 attacks WWE would have a special Tribute edition of Smackdown. It followed a similar format of a light wrestling program with segments recorded before the show that showed the wrestler's true feelings.
Now this may seem a bit cynical but WWE are a company and in the end all they care about is turning a profit. WWE did not like the prospect of not airing Raw the night after Owen's death because it would have meant a loss in viewing figures. The Monday Night War was in full swing and WCW would have taken the ratings. A tribute show was an acceptable face to what would undoubtedly be a controversial decision.
As with the Smackdown Tribute show, WWE did not want to lose out on a show. A cancled show leaves a huge deficit in the finances. At least this time though it was more acceptable. The show must go on.
So now for the third instance. Eddie Guerrero in 2005. This time though a tribute show was not enough. Guerrero's death would be used in storylines for months to come giving Mysterio the biggest push in his career and the writer some of the most offensive storylines they have ever written. It was all about the money and squeezing every last penny from his name.
You see this is one of the reasons the likes of Luna, Garrison Cade and Test were never given such acknowledgement because the money for such a thing is not there. If there was a doubt this was not money influenced all we have to do is look at the latest so called tribute show.
In 2006 Chris Benoit committed a double homicide-suicide. Now whilst the facts about the situation were not clear until the Tuesday after the Raw that was in tribute to Benoit surely WWE should have held their horses. After all whilst it had not been confirmed it had been know that Benoit and his family were dead. Police had not released the detail and unlike with Owen Hart and Eddie Guerrero the situation was not fully established. WWE wanted to capitalise. In their efforts to make their last profit from Benoit's name they unknowingly gave tribute to a murderer.
I am a greater believer in keeping Benoit the performer and man separate. Still by giving a tribute it has scared WWE with associating with any performers that have passed away since. Benoit's death nearly brought WWE to it's knees and has caused major restructuring of policies.
All in all WWE want to avoid another Benoit situation. Death is well established to be professional wrestling's dirty secret. With it almost being completely blown open wide WWE now decide to stay mostly quite when yet another man or woman dies way before their time. So the answer to why WWE do not respect the dead as much as they used to is simple. They never respected the dead just profited from them. Today though it is far more safe to keep "tributes" to a minimum.
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