WWE Wellness: Where Does the Line Get Drawn Between Personal and Corporate Blame
When I was five years old I loved standing on chairs. I would wiggle around and rock the legs of the chair back and forth and jump from chair to chair on my grandparents' enclosed porch.
One day I was doing just that and my grandfather told me to get down or else I'd fall and hurt myself. I climbed down, waited for him to leave and then hopped back up on the chair and continued to wiggle it around.
Sure enough, I tipped the chair and it hit the window, went through and shattered it, taking me with it and dropping me about two feet down onto the broken glass. I cried and cried and my grandparents came out and the first thing my grandpa did was tell me "Didn't I say keep your ass off the chair?" He was a sailor and had a mouth like one but that is a whole different story.
To this day in my family it has been argued whether or not my grandpa should have made me get down from the chair, blaming him for my fall or whether or not it was my fault for breaking the rules and not listening. It can be a blurry line between what we do to ourselves or what is a direct result of others actions or lack of.
With Sean "X-Pac" Waltman's recent arrest for hydrocodone making headlines, I found myself thinking this was all too familiar. Another former WWE employee, another arrest and another addiction to pain killers. The only part that surprised me was that it was not a death and it wasn't his heart.
So who is to blame? Sean Waltman is a grown man capable of making his own decisions. WWE is a profitable corporation that houses a hazardous work environment that leads to the need/use of pain killers such as hydrocodone.
It's a hard problem to diagnose. In his career, Waltman put his body in harms way on a nightly basis. Bumps, scrapes, bruises, etc were par for the course.
He injured his neck on more than one occasion and was no doubt prescribed something for the pain and his recovery. More and more research is uncovering how addictive these pain killers can be and when you are constantly using and abusing your body, what starts off as simple pain relief can turn problematic quickly.
We have all heard about WWE's infamous Wellness Policy that was put into play after Eddie Guerrero's death had came under scrutiny after the murder/suicide of the Benoit family.
Some doctor, somewhere gives pills to guys like Waltman, Hardy—and it isn't just pain pills.
Steroids, performance enhancers and who knows what else were given out as well.
WWE has cracked down on this and taken somewhat of a zero tolerance approach and recently started offering rehab to past and present superstars, but I guess I am left wondering if they had less demanding schedules, better doctors with better chronic pain management strategies, would situations like this be avoided?
The business is a kill or be killed atmosphere. There are a million guys dying to take your spot at any given moment. That is an immense amount of pressure.
Not only do you have to go out there every night and give it 110 percent, you need to watch yourself to avoid injuries or avoid injuring someone else.
Time is money and when you have to sit out six months to recover, you are risking being filed away in obscurity. Superstars fight hard and push hard to return from injury A.S.A.P and sometimes even ahead of schedule.
The last time I saw Chris Benoit wrestle was at a SmackDown taping shortly before that whole tragedy unfolded. It was a dark match against Jimmy Wayne Yang. He looked tired and beaten down.
After that he was moved to ECW and just seemed to be moving farther and farther down the ladder. Here was a hard working man, a man who had taken many a chair shot to the head, and who gave all he had to this business. A man that reportedly was trying his hardest to move back up the ladder, including turning to steroids that were found in his system upon his death.
Now I know this is a heated subject but I truly believe in my heart that man did what he did because his brain was scrambled between pain killers, steroids and the scientifically proven brain damage he suffered as a result from the years of head shots. It was unthinkable and unforgivable what he did and we will never know why it happened.
What bothered me was that WWE played a part in everything he did up until that moment. They knew about the steroids and odd behavior and did nothing, yet the moment it was revealed he was behind the murder of his wife and child, they sprang into action and erased him completely. From the website, the encyclopedia, etc.
If I work at McDonald's and am working the deep fryer day in and day out and my skin starts to break out because of it, I can go to the doctor to get treated and it would be paid by my employer and my position would be altered to shield my sensitive skin. That is workman's compensation and that is a company taking responsibility.
Injuries are part of wrestling, hydrocodone helps the pain of injuries (getting you back in the ring faster) but is highly addictive. The sooner you recover, the better for your career, and the cycle continues.
So I ask you fellow bleachers, where is the line drawn?
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