SPOTLIGHTS: An Open Letter-slash-Plea to Professional Wrestlers

roddy_piper_in-wwe-2028461Since Hurancanrana and I returned to professional wrestling a year ago, it’s certainly been an interesting ride. We re-discovered WWE and its terrific developmental house shows, uncovered an outstanding Shine women’s wrestling community, became immersed in live FIP and ACW events, and found tremendous joy in the Ring of Honor experience.

Along the way – and thanks to this Web site, a Twitter account, and some merchandise table interactions – we got to know a fair amount of wonderful individuals along the way. It’s a pleasure and privilege to watch DVDs of athletes all over the world, following their dream. Likewise represent these individuals by wearing their creative merchandise. Finally, acquire personalized pictures that serve as positive, experiential reminders.

For those that have gotten to know us…and hopefully those we’re yet to meet…we always ensure one message comes across: “thank you for what you do, the joy you bring to our lives.” As semi-pro athletes ourselves, we know the sacrifices you all make in hopes of achieving a full time career that brings happiness to others. It’s a journey of 4-5 shows a week, endless bumps and bruises, and families/loved ones along for an amorphous ride. All the while knowing the big paycheck may very well never come.

It is for this reason I penned this piece. For our friends in the wrestling community, please take heed.

Movies about wrestlers tell of struggle but also triumph. As the Jake the Snake movie looms on the horizon, it’s yet another reminder of the alcohol, drug use, and distractions a body needs for the wrestler’s mind and commitment to not waver.

The fortunate ones recover to tell their story, become grandparents. Still, nearly all of the prior generation of wrestlers – if lucky – live old enough to die young. We pay homage to these individuals with moments of silence, compilation DVDs, charities, and/or statue. We pretend these abbreviated lives and struggles normal. Dusty Rhodes, Roddy Piper, Macho Man, The Ultimate Warrior…all left too soon. Then there’s Owen Hart and Perro Aguayo, Jr.

One layer below lies the mental anguish of the sport. The constant pounding and pain that even a performance art can’t mask. Jimmy Snuka and Chris Benoit extended their self-destruction to tragically include those around them. On lesser but still significant notes, convicted sex offenders, domestic abusers, and misdemeanors are attached to many pro wrestler biographies.

Perhaps you will disagree, but removing the secrecy veil behind pro wrestling lifestyle is a good thing. CM Punk ensured it some staying power, as he took aim at the financial and health nuances of the sport at a time when he was near-bulletproof to do so.

Still, how much of today’s wrestling community are learning from their predecessors? Its top athletes arguably still over-compete through serious injuries. Most Indy wrestlers remain paycheck to paycheck, perhaps unaware of the toll their chasing a dream is causing on their bodies. Splitting a head open, a mild concussion, a stitched up face causes sustained effects physically and mentally. Especially as they stack up over time.

Thankfully, social media provides an outlet for these athletes to connect with fans, friends and family at rough times. Opportunities to vent, seek help, and – most importantly – acquire emotional and occasional financial support. But social media is window dressing for the soul. There’s only so authentic a public entertainer should and can be within these forums.

This site is intended for pro wrestling athletes, talent, and the community. For those of you reading piece, I plead with you to take a moment of reflection on the sacrifices you are making. Don’t wait for an emergency room wakeup call for this to occur.

At minimum, do not allow the sport to consume your well-being. Take the time to ensure your health, also expect others around you to do the same. Do not accept injury as par for the course; recognize its after effects, plan accordingly for the rehab and recovery physically AND mentally. Realize your friends, family…and tertiary, fans…are along for the ride with you.

Use these movies about wrestling lives lived as lessons on how to live yours better. Follow your dream, but realize the flying monkeys and poppies will exist just off the golden path. Don’t ignore them. Prepare for them.

As a fan to all of you, friend to some, we beg you.

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