The Reality of Wrestling: The Wellness Policy

The Reality of Wrestling: The Wellness Policy
By Phil Clark

It is not good to be on SmackDown! right now. I know that may seem redundant, but something new has come up and it is stealing the spotlight in a summer full of nostalgia angles, returning wrestlers, and brand reforming; that thing is The E’s wellness policy. After the death of Eddie Guerrero, The E put this policy into place as a way to help wrestlers to not endanger their long-term health and so the company would not seem liable in the case of another sudden death. For a while, it seemed like that second reason was the only reason that the policy was put into place. However, this past weekend, the proverbial shit hit the fan. Bobby Lashley and The Great Khali were taken off the Great American Bash PPV for high enzyme counts in their liver. Lashley has since been put on medical suspension and a host of other wrestlers (Matt Hardy, Super Crazy, and Kid Kash) have come up with similar symptoms. With the possibility of Hepatitis C looming, this seems to be The E’s first big test with their new policy.

P.C. Says: The wellness policy is a good thing, but feels 10 years late

Taking Lashley and Khali out of The Bash may seem like The E killing another SmackDown! PPV, but I view it as a step towards putting integrity into the wellness policy. No matter how important a guy may be to a PPV if The E didn’t take him out and the high enzyme count story came out, The E would have a blatant case of favoritism and the notion of “some wrestlers are above the rules” would be undeniable instead of just one of many backstage rumors. Plus, if Hep. C is the case, it’s an even better thing that The E is taking action as this is the disease that ended Jumbo Tsuruta’s career as a credible wrestler, has no cure, and is easy to pass to another. So far, I don’t blame The E one bit for this decision

The use of the wellness policy in the suspension of Rob Van Dam seemed to me to be a smokescreen. The story itself got some press outside of the wrestling community thus forcing Vince to act as I’m guessing Van Dam’s weed habits never really were a big concern to begin with. In this case Vince had to suspend him and by using the wellness policy he was able to put the illusion up that the policy was working because they would suspend someone over the most mediocre drugs (in comparison to steroids and other over the counter drugs or narcotics). Pretty much the entire wrestling community saw through this, but since it’s on record it does look like a first step because that’s exactly was it was.

However, this policy does seem to me to be something that should’ve been in place during the 90’s. It was only after Vince’s steroid trial and the numerous sudden drug related deaths of wrestlers that U.S. fed’s finally decided to do something about it. Of course Crash Holly’s death pointed to the fact that maybe the wellness policy is something that is needed in wrestling; of course having Vince run it is something of a toss-up on whether it will be 100% effective, but that’s all that can be done as of now apparently. The reason I say that this policy should’ve been in place during the 90’s is because it seems ludicrous to me for any sport (or fake sport) not to have some sort of drug policy considering the long-term effects of all drugs on The E’s wellness program no-no list were well know back then. Also, and maybe for more selfish reasons on my part, the lives of Chris Candido and Eddie Guerrero may have been saved as their deaths were linked with their rampant drug use during the mid-late 1990’s.

Is this wellness policy going to solve drug abuse of all kinds among pro wrestlers? Of course not. However, I get the feeling as I write this that The E’s wellness policy could be the start of a bigger crackdown in the wrestling business when it comes to drug use and abuse. The fact that Lashley and Khali were taken off the show is a good sign considering that both fit the bill for what Vince has always wanted in a wrestler (their pushes prove that point). People may joke around about these suspensions (Scott Keith had a good one on his blog) and I’m not going to begrudge those who do as Vince seeming like a drug fighter seems like a joke in itself. The prescription loophole also seems to be a cunning joke on us all by Vince, but that may be the conspiracy theorist in me talking. However, the big picture hopefully will be that nobody is safe from this policy.

However, as much as I’m digging this policy and think that it will bring more good than bad in the long run, the specter of Eddie Guerrero’s death is all over it. The policy almost seems like a weird memorial to Eddie as it came about because of his death and the long- term causes of it. That being said, the big question seems to be “would Vince have even started this policy without Guerrero dying?” The answer more than likely would be no as Vince has never associated himself with his employees’ drug habits and his interview on Real Sports a few years ago would support the lack of a real policy without someone dying.

The Reality is…time will tell what happens to everyone directly involved with this policy as of this date. For most of the people—Khali and Van Dam—this will turn out to be nothing. However, for guys like Hardy, Kash, Super Crazy, and Lashley, this could be career ending. The possibility that everything will turn out fine is still there, as it does seem interesting that all of these wrestlers (SmackDown! wrestlers) would get this at the same time. But that is how these things happen sometimes. There’s not a whole lot more I can add than that.

PLUGS

Again, have to go with Ditch and his site Ditch Wrestling

If you want an in-depth article that shows that UFC is not all wine and roses right now Ivan Trembow brings the pain