I waited just long enough to do tonight’s blogpost that I managed to end up on just this side of the news that John Cena is now on WWE’s injured list. For those of you playing along at home, he joins girlfriend Nikki Bella, former WWE World Heavyweight champion Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Randy Orton, Sin Cara, and Tyson Kidd. I did intentionally leave out both Sting and Daniel Bryan, as I don’t particularly believe we will ever see either of them in a WWE ring again.
We’re already seeing the expected deluge of nonsense online, with people calling for the return of CM Punk, or even Goldberg. I’m not sure what these people are smoking but it seems like pretty good stuff if they think there is a planet on which Vince believes Goldberg could help him make Wrestlemania 32 the most successful of all time. I am not a booker, and I don’t have any experience running a wrestling promotion, but I am very confident in my assertion that this a bad idea for business.
What I am interested to see now is where they DO take the storylines. While there hadn’t been any actual laying of groundwork for what would eventually be Cena’s match for the Show of Shows, it’s easy to assume he had already been factored in. John Cena has been on every Wrestlemania poster for the last 11 years. In fact, the last time Cena wasn’t on the card was Wrestlemania XIX, back in 2003. As much as some of us (i.e. me) love to hate him, he is such an integral part of what WWE does that the idea of a show without him (especially one that resembles the last quarter of 2015) gives me the vapors. I am certainly not equipped to hypothesize what WWE will do with this gaping hole in the biggest event of their year, there is something about this that does set my gears turning.
It is of no great shock to anyone that I get upset when wrestlers get injured. I understand it is a hazard of the job, and that they their injuries are tended to by some of the best doctors in the western world. They rehab with top specialists and are already in peak physical conditions to bounce back faster than the average bear. But it wasn’t always like that.
I always said I would tell this story one day. I think maybe today is that day.
I have a huge problem with the way WWE treats the events that surround the murder/suicide of Nancy, Daniel, and Chris Benoit. I know this is a hot-button issue for some people, so maybe (trigger warning) before I go any further. I don’t know enough about concussions to really get into the science of a person’s damaged brain. I am very interested to see the movie Concussion when it comes out, though. The reason I bring up the particular incident involving Benoit and his family is the report that was released after a second autopsy was done. In this report, a doctor compared Benoit’s brain to that of an 85 year-old Alzheimer’s patient.
As someone who lived with a parent who suffers from Early On-Set Alzheimer’s Disease for four year while I served as her primary caregiver, I can tell you that a brain that suffers from that kind of damage is scary. It’s downright terrifying, in fact. We don’t know nearly enough about the brain to fully comprehend what happens to a person who suffers from that kind of dementia. It’s heart-wrenching to see fear register on my mother’s face when she doesn’t recognize me or her surroundings. But nothing can be more horrifying than when someone you love, someone who has always known you, someone who literally gave you life, turns violent against you.
My mother began having psychotic hallucinations in the summer of 2013, and had her last one around Christmas 2014 when she was eventually hospitalized. It started as crying and screaming fits, and eventually escalated to violence. When you have to tackle your own mother to the ground to prevent her from reaching a projectile or a sharp object, you have reached a new circle of Hell. Who knows what someone with that kind of dementia thinks is happening to them, but they surely believe they are in grave danger if their base instinct to fight to the death has kicked in.
I can not, in good faith, climb up on my soapbox and claim that WWE should apologize to Benoit’s family and wipe the slate clean. There are too many other people involved. And, at this point, Benoit’s actions are so intrinsically tied to him that any mention of him or appearance on the WWE Network causes people to chatter. Which, in my opinion, is it’s own kind of sickness. How do we turn a vicious sickness and the horrendous deaths it caused into water cooler fodder? How do we, as fans, not insist that WWE take responsibility for their part?
We know now that WWE takes concussions very seriously – if they didn’t, we would have Daniel Bryan back on television already. We also know they have been forced to take the physical well-being of their wrestlers more seriously, too. It was reported, I believe, not long ago that wrestlers would be randomly asked to prove they maintain accurate health insurance in order to take care of themselves. While I don’t doubt that John Cena would be capable of paying for any medical attention he could ever require directly out of pocket, it’s a little reassuring to know he is prepared for the toll his job takes on his body.
It will always deeply sadden me to know it took a truly gruesome sacrifice to force WWE into taking this issue into their own hands. And I will never, ever stop advocating for lifting the embargo on Chris Benoit’s name.