e shtunë, 30 qershor 2007

"Perils of Pro Wrestling"

Good column by Jack Encarnacao about the Perils of Pro Wrestling

Make no mistake: If professional wrestler Chris Benoit hadn’t strangled his wife and son and then hanged himself from his weight machine, no one would care whether or not he was on steroids.

And no one would care whether there was a steroid problem in professional wrestling. The track record makes this case.

As media questions took shape this past week around the idea that Benoit murdered his family in a fit of ‘‘roid rage,’’ wrestling fans couldn’t help but wonder where similar scrutiny has been over the past 15 years while wrestler after wrestler died before the age of 50 from the lethal combination of steroids, hard drugs, painkillers and a relentless lifestyle.

World Wrestling Entertainment headliner Eddie Guerrero died at 38 in November 2005 because an enlarged heart, traced to steroid and drug abuse, constricted his arteries and eventually caused a failure.

‘‘It’s just so hard to go through this again,’’ said Chavo Guerrero, Eddie’s nephew and one of Benoit’s few close friends in the WWE, on a Benoit retrospective that aired Monday night on the USA Network.

Media paid a week’s worth of attention to Guerrero’s death, but didn’t seem to catch on to the fact that it clearly illustrated the perils of the wrestling business.

In case they did catch on, WWE was ready. The company implemented a Talent Wellness Program three months after Guerrero’s death. Since then, WWE wrestlers have been subject to random drug testing by an independent agency and penalized if illegal drugs are found in their system. The company meant business: One wrestler got a 30-day suspension for getting caught with pot during a traffic stop.

Fast forward to this past week, as Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly discussed the Benoit situation on his television show.

O’Reilly lamented that wrestling is unregulated (true) and that there’s ‘‘no drug testing of any kind’’ (not true). O’Reilly was corrected on the latter point by a pro wrestling promoter he was interviewing, and had no idea what to say in response.

Here are two pieces of info O’Reilly could have used: Wrestlers are always injured so they can easily be legally prescribed steroids that facilitate healing, and the only reason WWE is testing is that one of its performers, Guerrero, died of an overdose while working for WWE.

The list of WWE alumni who were no longer with the company when they died of drug overdoes is long. To name a few: Scott ‘‘Bam Bam’’ Bigelow, Ray ‘‘The Big Bossman’’ Traylor, Mike Awesome, ‘‘Sensational’’ Sherri Martel, Curt ‘‘Mr. Perfect’’ Hennig, Elizabeth ‘‘Miss Elizabeth’’ Hulette, Mike ‘‘Road Warrior Hawk’’ Hegstrand, Mike ‘‘Crash Holly’’ Lockwood, ‘‘The British Bulldog’’ Davey Boy Smith, Louis ‘‘Spicolli’’ Mucciollo.

If NFL football players died at anywhere near this rate, at anywhere near the ages of these wrestlers, a congressional investigation would have been launched a long time ago.

But apparently a wrestler has to slaughter his family before anyone cares.

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