Tuesday 18 September 2012

Have Recent Events Shown Wrestling To Be A Safe Business? By Robert Shade

We all know of the events surrounding Jerry Lawler in the WWE on the recent live RAW show, debates I guess will rage forever in terms of what the WWE should have done in terms of carrying on with the show or stopping it, taking Michael Cole off commentary etc etc, for what it is worth Jerry I am sure would have wished the show to continue so I believe that they did the right thing but that is not really what the body of this article is about.

There are two incidents which have occurred in world wrestling in the past week which I would like to discuss, one is Jerry and the other surrounds a young UK wrestler who got injured on his competitive debut in a small UK indy promotion.

How do these relate? Well in their different ways they relate pretty directly as I believe that in both instances the promoters were irresponsible and their actions could have led directly to serious injury or in Jerry’s case something worse.

If we look at Jerry first, but we cry the WWE were heroes they had a doctor there who reacted instantly, they did the right thing in getting him backstage so that they had space to treat him properly, they had him whisked off in an ambulance and I am sure that they have not been tight with helping to fund Jerry’s care in hospital as of course there is no NHS system in the states.

But let us examine the situation more closely, let us look at the events building up to Jerry’s collapse, let us look at the cold hard facts of the situation, Jerry Lawler is 62 years old, yes a fantastically fit and athletic guy for his age but his body is that old, Jerry had wrestled on an indy show on the weekend prior to RAW, he had also flown for many hours in the previous seven days, why do I mention the previous seven days, well because when Michael Cole mentioned that Jerry had chest pains on the previous RAW I understand that was not a work, Jerry had also complained of chest pains to his close friends and family in the previous week.
Despite this all being information that the WWE were aware of they still put him into a match on RAW and also of course had him commentating both before and after his match.


I have no doubt that Jerry himself insisted upon wrestling, rumours are already coming out of the hospital that Jerry’s main questioning of the doctors is when can he wrestle again, it is in his blood, it is his life and I understand that BUT where was the responsibility and maturity of the world’s leading wrestling promotion in this instance, what took precedence? Jerry’s wellbeing or the continuation of a storyline along with the always popular pop of Jerry in the ring?

This raises some questions for me:-

- Do WWE have medical examinations for wrestlers prior to shows or should they?

- Should there be either a limit upon the age someone can wrestle at or if not more stringent checks as even in the fittest you are at more risk of injury/illness at 62 than you are at 22.

- What measures (if any) did WWE take when they were aware of Jerry’s chest pains before they put him onto the place to Montreal let alone into a match once there?

- If the worse had of happened and I appreciate we shall not know the answer to this thankfully what would the WWE’s approach have been? Would they have taken any form of responsibility or done their best to absolve themselves of having anything to do with his collapse?

- What would the damage to wrestling have been worldwide if Jerry had passed away? I realise that by far the bigger issue would have been the loss to Jerry’s family and friends but it is an important secondary issue.

I do not give a tosh about Linda’s political campaign and the negative effect events would have had upon that but I DO CARE about wrestling worldwide and the fallout from this which would have been created.

Moving on…..

In the UK last Friday a young wrestler who to be fair to him and his family I shall not name had his first ever competitive match, during that match he fell badly after a botched move and ended up being taken to hospital, the most up to date news I have is that he will recover which is obviously great but he was wrestling for as I understand it a relatively new small indy promotion and in their wisdom they put this guy into the ring for a match after he had received only approximately 25 hours of training.

I do not wrestle so I have had to rely upon others to inform me that 25 hours is absolutely nowhere near enough to be anywhere near a match even for the most advanced of students, this came to me from one of the leading wrestling schools with a long held reputation and they were adamant that none of their students would ever be put into this situation, in fairness they absolved the wrestling school that this young guy attends from blame and put it squarely at the feet of the promoter who I understand has apologised for his actions, basically he approached this kid with the offer of a match on a show and being young and excitable he naturally and understandably accepted and got injured as a process.

Now credit when it is due, the promoter did have in place St Johns people who reacted quickly BUT again totally irresponsible actions by someone looking to not necessarily make a quick buck but certainly trying to avoid being out of pocket and putting on enough matches to make a show put a young guy’s whole career in jeopardy before it even should have commenced, in theory it could have been even worse than that.

I have been fortunate enough to never have been to a poor UK Indy show, people keep on telling me that plenty of them do exist and it is nearly always because of the promoter when it is a poor show, now as I’ve written previously I have total admiration and respect for the guys who put themselves on the line to put on shows for us but when a promoter pulls a stunt like this in my opinion no matter what apologies come out of it it has to be debatable as to whether or not he should ever promote another show in the future.

This leads us onto a big question.

Should there be formal and legal legislation in place to govern UK wrestling or alternatively should there be a form of a licensing system ran by a UK wrestling governing body who run checks on promoters such as previous shows, what H&S issues did they deal with, what safeguards do they have in place etc and if satisfactory when advertising a show they are allowed to put a recognisable logo on their various adverts evidencing the fact that they are cleared as a ‘safe’ show, if not then they are not allowed to insert such a logo and at least then wrestlers can check for themselves if is a new promoter to them or even set up something on a website where wrestlers can check to see if the promoter is cleared or not simply by typing the promoters name into a search box on the appropriately set up website?

I know from speaking to people within the UK indy scene that amongst some of the reputable promoters there is an appetite for the legal approach, when I voiced concern that it would all be very costly and would probably put most indy promotions out of business instantly the response was yes but it would leave 10 - 12 highly reputable promotions across the UK where wrestlers and fans know that they are absolutely 100% safe in terms of the promoter being responsible.

I realise that some of this is dry stuff but you know it will only take one incident like the one on Friday resulting in something more serious and before you know it legal action is happening from the injured wrestler or someone on there behalf and before you know it the whole indy scene is shut down whilst they await the outcome just in case it could affect them OR even worse someone will be permanently disabled or even worse due to an irresponsible promoter so it matters!

The talent as in the wrestlers need and deserve protection, I have a 13 year old son who soon will be having his first ever time in the ring at an excellent wrestling school local to us, I trust the people who run that school to not only look after my son when he is with them and training but also in the future if he ever does progress down the line and reaches the point of trying to work on promotions as they have the right connections and they are absolutely responsible in everything they do but I am helped by knowing some of the people there and knowing of others there, not every parent is in the same fortunate situation.

Whilst the two discussed incidents are as different as they could be from each other in so many ways they are both equally important and in some ways very closely related, at totally different scales we have the largest promotion in the world and a new tiny UK promotion making the same mistakes borne from irresponsibility to their talent which in both cases caused significant distress and in both cases could have been far worse.

Where do we go from here?

I have some ideas but would love to hear those of yourselves.

Please follow me on twitter @Shadetheshoot

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