This Week in ‘E – Steroids Are Bad…MMMKay

The US Government tells us steroids are bad for wrestling, Vince McMahon doesn’t like “The Wrestler” and John Cena moves a bunch of merchandise…so really nothing shocking or surprising this week.

Opening Witty Banter
My Vikings got their asses handed to them in the playoffs by the Eagles, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. They probably shouldn’t have made the playoffs in the first place. Eh…enough about me, let’s see what came out Titan Towers this past week.

Let’s take some ‘E…

The News of the Week
On January 2, Henry A. Waxman, the representative to the 30th District of California in the US House of Representatives sent a letter to The Honorable John P. Walters, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, in regards to the use of steroids in pro wrestling.

Waxman, who was the Chairman of Congress’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, will be leaving that committee to become Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. On his way out he sent a letter to Walters detailing the information the Oversight Committee found while investigating the use of steroids in the professional wrestling.

The AP also picked up the letter and is starting to circulate a story about the letter and its content. I expect as the weekend progresses more outlets will run with the letter, and somehow try to tie into the much buzzed about “The Wrestler” motion picture.

This sudden charge by the U.S. government to look into steroids in professional wrestling came about last June when Chris Benoit murdered his wife and son before committing suicide himself.

To begin their investigation, the Oversight Committee asked World Wrestling Entertainment, Total Non-stop Action Wrestling and other North American wrestling companies for any and all policy information they had on file in regards to drug and steroid testing. The Committee also conducted transcribed interviews with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and other professional wrestling officials.

To little or no surprise their investigation found that steroid use is pervasive in pro wrestling. WWE reinstated their steroid and drug policy, called the Wellness Policy, in early 2006 in the wake of Eddie Guerrero’s untimely death. The previous policy was terminated in 1996. On October 25,1996, McMahon, issued a memo explaining his decision to eliminate the policy. The memo stated: “the incidence of illegal and performance enhancing drugs is so slight that group testing is no longer cost effective or necessary.” The new policy has continually been modified since its inception to encompass more policies. The fine and suspension system for performers who violated the policy has also been modified since its inception as well.

Here is some of the information found in the letter Waxman sent to the Judge to back up their investigation:
– “In the first year of the WWE’s testing program, which began in March 2006, 40% of wrestlers tested positive for steroids and other drugs even after being warned in advance that they were going to be tested.”
– “Six months after the WWE announced its 2006 steroid testing policy, it relaxed the policy to allow wrestlers suspended for steroid abuse to participate in ‘selected televised events’ and ‘pay-per-views’.”
(This is true, as performers before were completely pulled from television, regardless of their standing on the show, but as time went on some performers remained on television to continue their storylines but were still suspended financially.)
– “The WWE hired four of five wrestlers who tested positive for steroids in “pre-contract” testing conducted in2007 and 2008.
– “The WWE regularly approved “therapeutic use exemptions,” explicitly allowing the use of steroids as part of a “testosterone replacement acceptance program” for wrestlers who abused steroids in the past.”

The letter goes on to further explain what the committee found in the documents provided to them by WWE and through interviews with McMahon and others, including doctors affiliated with WWE’s Wellness Policy.

Waxman concludes through the information gathered that “illegal use of steroids and other drugs in professional wrestling is a serious problem that the wrestling organizations are not effectively addressing.” He then claims that both WWE and TNA have made efforts to improve drug-testing programs, but “these efforts suffer from a lack of independence and transparency.” Because of their findings, Waxman requests that The Office of National Drug Control Policy further examine steroid use in pro wrestling and “take appropriate steps to address this problem.”

Okay, so now this is where I stand on the whole situation. Steroids in professional wrestling are obviously a serious problem within the industry. The drugs are illegal and from most research done on the subject, it shows that steroid abuse is extremely harmful for the human body. Steroids, as well as other illegal and/or prescription drugs have been a major part of the premature deaths of many pro wrestlers who died in their early 40s.

However, unlike in other competitive sports, like baseball, steroids are used in pro wrestling primarily as health regenerators and body enhancers, not performance enhancers. Athletes who use steroids in legitimate sports gain an unfair competitive advantage against their competitors. In wrestling, they are used for cosmetic or image purposes. It’s more like if a model were to take steroids to help shape their body in order to gain an advantage in photo shoots.

I’m not saying steroids in wrestling are a good thing (they’re not); I just don’t think it should be looked at as an aid in athletic performance. Rather it should be looked as a huge health risk for those who abuse the drugs.

This whole investigation came about because of the horrific Chris Benoit tragedy of last June. After the Benoit murders, pro wrestling became a media sensation for the entire summer of 2007, and the steroid investigation became part of the sensation.

There’s no denying pro wrestling is a shady business. It always has been. The very concept of “professional wrestling” in the sense of knowing it today started out as the idea to put on a show that cons the fans and viewers into thinking the performances they were seeing where legitimate competition, not a form of post-modern theatre. It’s a live-action traveling circus where performers are used until they are no longer able to be used, at which point someone else is there to fill their spot on the show. A lot of those performers feel they need to use steroids and other drugs to keep their spot on the show.

Steroids abuse is a big issue that needs to be discussed in the pro wrestling industry, but that’s not the only issue plaguing the business. Travel conditions that keep athletes on the road over half the month, which is much more humane than it was the ‘80s, need to be addressed. The constant wear-and-tear these men and women put on their bodies each night is doing irreversible, and no company or industry-wide health care is available. Plus there is no union or group to represent the welfare and well-being of these hybrid athletes/actors/stunt men/entertainers.

Basically it’s gotten to the point that pro wrestling is pretty much an industry that you enter at your own risk.

New Divas Champion Maryse dislocated her kneecap last weekend at a house show in Raleigh, North Carolina. She was teaming Natalya Neidhart against The Bella Twins. Apparently she collapsed after a botched Irish whip. It still isn’t known the extent of her injury as of right now. No official word has come down from WWE in regards to her newly won Championship and whether she will be stripped of the title or whether she will remain champion while she recovers from her injury.

This couldn’t come at a worse time for the young Maryse. She has improved so much since she began wrestling regularly on SmackDown! It’s incredible to think she’s actually the same chick who used to “host” SmackDown! from a bubble bath in the summer of 2006. She is a natural heel and just exudes evil charisma. Plus she’s hot as hell with the long blonde hair and glorious rack that WWE loves in their divas. Here’s hoping this injury won’t derail all the improvement she has shown over the past few months.

WWE released their official statement on what they think of Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler.”

“While ‘The Wrestler’ is a very engaging movie, it portrays how wrestling was conducted in some independent wrestling circuits, unlike WWE, which is a global brand with millions of fans.”

It was also noted that Vince McMahon wasn’t a big fan of the movie himself, which is what most expected. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I can imagine that the company wouldn’t want to be associated with it due to the hardcore gritty nature of the film and the seemingly unflattering portrayal it paints of how the industry treats its performers. Especially since McMahon has spent the better part of twenty-five years trying to sanitize pro wrestling into his own family-friendly image. I really believe McMahon thinks pro wrestling is his industry and anything not associated with his company isn’t good for the business, or isn’t up to the level of what he thinks wrestling should be.

In what is seemed as merely a cost-cutting measure, WWE released Barry Windham from his backstage producer position. Windham was hired in 2006 after his father was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

It seemed as if this was an amicable split so I would expect Windham to be back working with the company sometime in the future.

WWE will be releasing a book entitled “The History of DX,” sometime in 2009, which will apparently be told by both Triple H and Shawn Michaels.

Well I guess we can expect many more “one-night only” reunions of DX through 2009 I guess. In all seriousness if they write this book as kind of a backstage story of the group it could be interesting, but if it’s happy fun Hunter and Shawn telling dick jokes the entire time it will be terrible.

John Cena’s merchandise sales numbers for 2008 were better than anyone’s in company history, except for Steve Austin’s run during his prime in the late ‘90s. Cena’s 2008 sales were bigger than Hulk Hogan’s during his peak in the 1980s.

That’s interesting to see as the wrestling business is in a down period right now, whereas Austin and Hogan were the forefront of the two biggest booms in modern wrestling history. Are Cena’s numbers adjusted for inflation however? Because of course he’s gonna have higher numbers than Hogan just based on pure price if things aren’t adjusted.

Kizarny is already getting heat for his in-ring work, and Johnny Ace is also catching the heat due to his support of Kiazarny. During this past week’s house shows Kizarny and MVP were booked against each other, with MVP dominating the matches, and then losing via a fluke to keep his “loser” gimmick alive.

WWE has been real quick to judge their new gimmick wrestlers recently. I think Kizarny just needs a few weeks to get comfortable with everything before real harsh decisions are made about him and the character. That being said, I also wouldn’t be surprised if he was pulled off TV by WrestleMania.

Speaking of MVP, management has told him that his “loser” gimmick will result in a face turn, which MVP is accepting. Because of this gimmick, he is taking less physical risks and is protecting his body.

I still don’t get why people are in such an uproar about MVP’s gimmick. Despite losing every week he is consistently on television each week and involved with a storyline with a logical conclusion. A guy like Paul Burchill or D-Lo Brown is worse off because they lose every week too, but it isn’t made into such a big deal.

After The Brian Kendrick got his push squashed due to his rampant marijuana use, the company continues to crack down on its performers’ marijuana use. Drinking is not covered anywhere in the Wellness policy and of course painkillers are legal with prescriptions, so some of the heavy marijuana users, who have been warned to cut back, are beginning to drink and pop pills once again.

Last time I checked marijuana is still illegal in the United States…

The Road to…Royal Rumble
30 Man Royal Rumble Match
Participants:
Triple H
Vladimir Kozlov
The Big Show
Shelton Benjamin
The Undertaker

World Heavyweight Championship
John Cena (c) v. JBL

WWE Championship
Jeff Hardy (c) v. Edge

Women’s Championship
Melina v. Beth Phoenix (c)

Wrestler of the Week
Week of December 29 – January 4: JBL
It was kind of a middling week on WWE television as there was some decent action all around the “Universe” but nothing that really stood out. ECW, which usually has the sleeper match of the week, fell flat this week too, so I’ve got to give love to JBL, who came out the four-way elimination match on RAW as the number one contender for John Cena’s World Championship.

JBL also starts up the countdown for a new year of Wrestler of the Week. I have been handing out this very prestigious (ahem) award since the first week of June and looking back on who previous WOTW winners over the past six months it’s no surprise who would be my choice for WWE wrestler of the year – Chris Jericho. I pegged him as WOTW four times over the past six months, for the weeks of September 1 – 7, September 15 – 21, November 3 – 9 and November 24 – 30.

RAW’s On Tonight!
With JBL set as John Cena’s rival for the Royal Rumble expect some fireworks between the old rivals, only with the added element of Shawn Michaels included as JBL’s “employee” it adds an extra dimension to the long-standing feud. Plus CM Punk will finally get his chance at William Regal’s Intercontinental Title. Will this be the night Punk walks out with another Championship or will this just a be a chapter in the burgeoning feud?

On Last Week’s Episode…
Norine pulls double duty and covers both RAW and SmackDown!

How They Rated
SmackDown! (12.26.08) – 2.0

A.M. RAW (12.28.08) – 1.0

RAW (12.29.08) – 3.5

ECW (12.30.08) –

This is Boring, What Else is There to Read?
Check out Kirschner’s continually fantastic adventures into the land of CHIKARA.

For more relevant wrestling information from your truly, check out my other gig as the Pro Wrestling Examiner over at Examiner.com.

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