Counterfeit Pennies: Health and Wellness?

I am glad to be back in the mix on Pulse Wrestling and in the IWC now that I have finally recovered from what I have deemed post-Benoit burnout. It definitely took a long time for me to reacquire the right frame of mind to offer my opinions and commentary on the world of pro wrestling, and as I sat on the sidelines for most of this summer, it’s obvious that WWE has hit the inevitable crossroads that was impossible to avoid after a drugged-up, testosterone-raging Chris Benoit murdered his wife and child before killing himself.

The impending Congressional investigations and increased pressure from the tabloid media has created a post-Benoit firestorm that has forced WWE’s hand on the issue of the health and wellness of their superstars. As a result, the time has finally come for WWE to adjust and enforce their Wellness Policy to the point where there will be actual accountability for those wrestlers who pump their bodies up with artificial and illegal drugs. Vince McMahon and Company fired the first salvos this past week in the forms of multiple employee suspensions and terminations, and starting November 1st, all names of wrestlers who violate the Wellness Policy will be revealed to the general public. At this time, however, it is not known whether or not these violators will be forced to wear scarlet letters on their ring attire.

As you can tell, I have mixed feelings about this whole ball of wax known as the WWE Wellness Policy. On one hand, too many wrestlers have passed away before the age of 50, and it’s no coincidence that three of the wrestlers who were identified as culprits in the recent Signature Pharmacy drug investigations – Eddie Guerrero, Brian Adams, and Benoit – are tragically dead. These adjustments to the Wellness Policy will hopefully give even more incentive to the men and women in the Raw, ECW, and SmackDown! locker rooms to clean up their acts and get themselves straightened out, and if these wrestlers’ lives are saved and prolonged because they have the added motivation to show moxie and overcome their demons, then WWE’s efforts to clean up the industry should be lauded to no end.

On the other hand, I feel that WWE’s decision to go public with the names and identities of those who violate the terms and conditions of the Wellness Policy as of November 1st is excessive and unnecessary. I guess I am just not comfortable with the idea of threatening public embarrassment and shame in order to coerce behavioral change because it is foolish to think that this type of blanket approach will work for everyone, that stricter consequences are all that’s needed to get someone the help that they truly need.

Others in the IWC have argued that this is a case of “tough love” on the part of WWE, that Vince McMahon and Company are making their penalties harsher in order to proactively induce landmark changes to the industry. While I understand and on some level agree with the “tough” part of the equation, I would like to know where the “love” comes in. Are there going to be mandatory rehabilitative programs for the wrestlers who violate the Wellness Policy? Will WWE step up and provide continuing coverage at no cost for counseling and other mental health services that are truly needed in order to ensure proper treatment? And, most importantly: Will WWE give the wrestlers in recovery a chance to ease back into the grind of a full-time schedule, or will their bodies be pushed and re-pushed to the outer edges of their limitations regardless of how close they are to overextending themselves and falling off a cliff?

Ultimately, I will have to reserve judgment on this entire subject of health and wellness until we all witness how this all plays out.

But be forewarned: Until substantial measures are put in place by WWE to offer real help to their suspended superstars that are on the brink of self-destruction, the only people who will benefit from continual threats and the leaking of names are those tabloid media pundits who have had a field day fanning the flames of the post-Benoit firestorm.

On November 1st, they’ll be waiting

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