Originally published in The Kingston Whig-Standard on Dec. 3, 2011. All rights reserved.
HEADLINE: What WWE does behind the scenes cannot be overlooked
I was inspired to write this week’s column after watching WWE Monday Night Raw, during which John Cena was a guest in Rowdy Roddy Piper’s Piper’s Pit. Cena sported a shirt bearing his latest slogan, Rise Above Hate — an anti-bullying initiative being undertaken by WWE.
In the society that we live in today, many media outlets seem to always focus on the negatives and all that is bad in the world. So of course, I have a media outlet now, and I am going to use it to tell the world what good WWE does behind the scenes and in front of the camera.
1. WWE has an open policy to send any former talent to rehab if they have any type of substance abuse problems. I don’t know many companies that do this for former employees, nevermind current ones.
Whenever a wrestler is arrested, or dies tragically, many people are quick to blame the industry. I have a huge problem with this.
Did we, for example, try to shut down rock ‘n’ roll music when Elvis died? Is the music industry to blame when countless musicians overdose?
Is it the fault of Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association or the National Hockey League when something happens to one of the players in those respective leagues?
Do we condemn Hollywood when an actor passes away tragically?
Drugs are a personal choice and there are only two ways out: death or total sobriety.
I have put several of my friends in WWE-sponsored rehab. The business of professional wrestling doesn’t make someone do drugs; the disease of substance abuse makes you do drugs.
Personally, I have broken my neck and back. Some mornings, I am in so much pain that I can barely walk, but I choose not to take pain medication. My own mother has never had a wrestling match and has similar pains, where she can’t walk. It is called old age.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I am no better than anyone else. Nor am I trying to preach.
Rather I am simply stating that I am happy that WWE does that to help people get sober.
2. WWE has a great medical screening process. It helps to ensure that its athletes do not have heart problems or any other medical issues that may have gone undiagnosed.
I hate hearing of a high school player or college athlete collapsing, or passing away, because of a medical issue overlooked during regular physicals. The WWE also has a concussion-screening process. Above and beyond even that, it has its own doctors and trainers on staff at all of its events.
The company also has a “wellness program” that boasts stricter drug testing than you’ll find at the Olympics. These things are done for not only the well-being of the performers, but also make WWE more socially responsible for their signed talent.
3. WWE offers royalty cheques every three months and has implemented programs to give the veterans or non-active performers ways to earn an income. I would love to see a bigger implementation of this, but legally, when your contract ends, WWE doesn’t have to give you anything, yet it offers these programs to all of its former stars.
4. WWE does more Make-A-Wish program-sponsored appearances than any other company, or individual, worldwide. Words cannot describe the feeling you get when you are part of making the life of a sick child just a little bit better. It really does put your world into perspective. I have watched and participated in thousands of wishes being granted. Whatever amount of celebrity you have, that is the way to use it — putting smiles on people’s faces.
Monday Night Raw is the longest running TV show in the history of television. Whether good or bad, it is still entertaining. It’s too bad people don’t just sit back and use it to escape their own personal realities and use it for its most basic form, entertainment. I mean, we aren’t splitting the atom here — it is wrestling. Cheer your favourites, boo the people you don’t like and sit back and be entertained.
Most of all, appreciate the hard work the men and woman do to entertain you. The outcomes are predetermined, but what the performers do to their bodies is not. There are no retakes, like in Hollywood movies or TV. There are no restarts like at some music concerts.
Rather, there are just a bunch of people that try to make you want to tune in from week to week as they follow their own dreams — just as I followed mine.
Thanks to WWE initiatives like the one Cena is promoting with his ring attire, as well as rehab and wellness programs, there is a living to be had in pro wrestling.
Thanks for reading.
Tommy Dreamer is a legendary and influential pro wrestler who has worked for World Wrestling Entertainment, Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action. Follow him on Twitter — @THETOMMYDREAMER — and check out his website at www.thetommydreamer.com.He can be booked for live appearances through his website.