Before I get lambasted for writing this piece, let me make one thing clear: it’s pro wrestlers and talent I grew up with who inspire me most. I can’t but smile watching their older matches, likewise putting on a vintage style t-shirt celebrating their exploits from decades earlier. Our house is literally adorned with snippets of these individuals across a range of products. (Love you, Bam Bam!)
Related, I will confess that part of me gets downright giddy upon seeing these individuals enter a wrestling ring again for any reason. The yearly appearance of The Undertaker, for example, is one certainty that arguably maintained fan interest in Wrestlemania for 25 years and counting. Has there ever been an entrance and persona as engaging?
Still – and with ever increasing programming demands and the accompanying search for something new – celebrated appearances of yesterday’s heroes are becoming uncomfortable. Specifically, they’re being required to participate in physically grueling, arguably unsafe matches and for extended periods of time.
Again, please don’t misread what I’m saying. Ric Flair, Billy Gunn, Goldberg and others are freaks of nature. They’re enormous men who possess physical and agility prowess very few on this planet do. Even in their 50’s and upward, they remain incredible performers and equal athletes.
These individuals, however, do have their limitations. Seeing Sting and the Undertaker collapse post-match, profuse sweating from Goldberg’s brow following a handful of moves, and uncomfortable falls from Flair via bump are reminders that celebration of these legends must be controlled.
I’m all about Goldberg getting his due versus Lesnar in a pay-per-view main card. What I am not in favor of is seeing the former pushing his body, heart functioning, and safety well past acceptable limits. Lesnar is a professional fighter who literally can hurt people. Goldberg – while a wonderful athletic specimen – can and should use his skills in controlled doses. Yes, the man can no doubt bench press three of me. But should not be asked to tackle a mountain for 15 or more minutes.
With this being said, I’m not reasoning for neutering these individuals, rather expectations. Perhaps limit Legends matches against other Legends…to include these stipulations that in tag team matches they can only face each other. Also, break kayfabe via closer monitoring of their health following high risk moves. Fans need to understand they’re getting a treat in seeing these stars, period. Do not risk their demise.
I state this as a 40-year old man, in somewhat peak physical condition. Yes, I can MMA spar with the best of them, but not every night anymore and/or more than 30 minutes at a time. Sure, I can hold my own with those half my age, but to keep doing what I love requires boundaries. Like our Legends, this is not babying rather empowering continuance of something we hold dear.
There’s a reason Big Show, Mark Henry and Kane wrestle in smaller doses. As they should. Also in matches that keep them safe.