Professional wrestling, a modern form of wrestling, is known for its worldwide popularity, money, fame, and immense entertainment. This is different from the traditional style of wrestling and it focuses more on characters, costumes, drama, story lines, and rivalries that are created. Because of this, professional wrestling is not classified as a legitimate sport. It is rather known as sports-entertainment.
The tag of being a sports-entertainment has led to a lot of false beliefs and perceptions about professional wrestling. Professional wrestling has always been accused of being a fake. It is said that the wrestling matches are not real and that the wrestlers rather than being sports-persons are mere good actors. It is said that the only requirement to be a professional wrestler is to have a good physique and be good in acting. Despite its popularity, professional wrestling has also faced a lot of criticisms. At times it has been compared to a circus and the wrestlers are said to be glorified stunt-men or even clowns who perform to entertain an audience.
There is, of course, very little truth in such statements. The wrestlers do not deserve such disparaging remarks. There is, obviously, a lot more to wrestling than just a good physique and good acting. Wrestlers go through a lot of hard work and pain in order to reach the position that they are in. People fail to see beyond the fame and money involved in professional wrestling.
First and foremost, wrestling is not a fake. Instead of being a fake, it is scripted. This means that the matches are real, the moves done by wrestlers are real, but only the results are pre-decided. Many of the moves are even rehearsed before the match actually takes place in front of the live audience. The moves that wrestlers perform in the ring require extensive training, that lasts for years, to be done safely. During the matches, wrestlers do get hurt, but the moves are performed in such a way that they do not get hurt badly. The success of a wrestler depends on his wrestling skills and style, charisma, and the impact the he has on the audience.
Despite all the rehearsals and training, mistakes happen and accidents occur during some wrestling matches. Many a times the moves go wrong and lead to serious injuries to wrestlers. The most prevalent injuries include broken necks and ribs, problems in shoulders, elbows, knees and back, torn muscles, multiple concussions, and even many internal injuries. These injuries may either put them out of action for several months or may even end their career forever. Some wrestlers, due to having injuries too often have been confined to a wheel-chair forever. A few wrestlers have even died due to these injuries.
Wrestlers like Christ Benoit, Kurt Angle, and Adam Copeland (Edge) have had neck injuries more than once. Mick Foley lost his ear during a match. Shawn Michaels could not wrestle for five years due to his back injury. Steven Williams’s (Stone Cold Steve Austin) career was shortened due to his neck and knee injuries. Bret Hart was forced to retire from wrestling after he suffered from multiple concussions during a match. Owen Hart lost his life while attempting a dangerous act, when he accidentally fell from fifty feet in the air to the ground.
Wrestlers have to work throughout the year. Each wrestling show is held in different places. Due to this, wrestlers keep on traveling day in and day out. Half of their work-life is spent in an aeroplane. After traveling miles to a different place, they have to perform live, immediately, without having any rest. All this, obviously, drains them out physically. Apart from that, they constantly stay away from their family. This causes a lot of homesickness and leads to loneliness and depression.
The life style of wrestlers is very taxing. Injuries, continuous traveling, and being away from home take its toll on them, both physically and mentally. Added to that, the stress and pressure to perform in front of a live audience does not do any good to them. There is also a lot of insecurity faced by wrestlers, because it is not at all easy to reach the top. Because of all this many wrestlers suffer from serious mental problems. They mainly suffer from chronic depression and emotional instability. Some of them have to have psychological treatment and are sent to rehabilitation centers. A few wrestlers also attempt suicide. Sean Waltman (X-Pac), for instance, was known to have attempted suicide because of severe depression caused by his continuous failure in making a proper name for himself. Also, the wrestler, Mike Alfonso (Mike Awesome) died by committing suicide.
It becomes very difficult for wrestlers to cope with such a strenuous life. This forces them to get into substance abuse. The most widely used drugs by wrestlers are performance enhancing drugs, namely anabolic steroids. The initial use of steroids has a lot of positive effects, which include a feeling of being unconquerable and extremely happy. No doubt it is widely used by wrestlers. But, the continuous use of anabolic steroids has many adverse side effects. The most common side effects are extremely high blood pressure and harmful rise in the cholesterol level. Anabolic steroids also cause serious damages to the heart. It causes alterations in the structure of the heart, such as enlargement and thickening of the left ventricle, which impairs its contraction and relaxation. These alterations cause hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, congestive heart failures, heart attack, and sudden cardiac death. These effects are, without any doubt, extremely harmful and life threatening. Many wrestlers have died due to excessive usage and an overdose of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. For instance, the wrestlers Davey Boy Smith and Scott Bigelow (Bam Bam Bigelow) died by heart attack caused by excessive use of steroids. Similarly, Eddie Guerrero died of heart failure caused by excessive use of steroids and other drugs.
Another notable side effect of anabolic steroids is roid rage. Roid rage is known to be a very aggressive and extremely violent behaviour that results from large doses of steroids. Steroids cause serious mood and behavioural changes. The constant use results in more and more aggressive and hostile behaviour. Because of steroids, some people may also manifest symptoms of schizophrenia, mania, and deep depression. Anabolic steroids are also known to cause suicidal tendencies.
All these symptoms are found in many wrestlers. There have been quite a few incidents in which a wrestler has been involved in road-rage, brawls, and even domestic violence. Ric Fliehr (Ric Flair), for instance, has been involved in incidents of road rage. Steve Austin has been involved in assaulting his wife and even faced a lawsuit for that. Roid rage has been known to be the prime cause of such incidents. There is also the controversial case of Chris Benoit, known to be the greatest controversy of professional wrestling history, in which he murdered his wife and son and later killed himself. Reports say that he was in a highly unstable state of mind and was suffering from severe depression. Not much is known about the cause of this behaviour, but experts say that this could possibly have resulted from an excessive use of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.
Apart from steroids, some wrestlers are also known to be involved in using other hard and soft drugs. Some are also involved in alcohol abuse. Wrestlers like Aurelian Smith (Jake the Snake Roberts), Eddie Guerrero, and Scott Hall have been notorious for their alcoholism. Eddie Guerrero has also been known to be addicted to pain killers. Scott Hall, in fact, has known to have skipped a few live events due to severe depression and emotional instability caused by alcoholism. One of the major reasons for him not being able to achieve the kind of success he deserved is because of alcohol abuse. The wrestler Mike Lockwood (Crash Holly) died due to an overdose of painkillers and Curt Henning (Mr. Perfect) died due to an overdose of cocaine. Another wrestler, Lawrence Pfohl (Lex Lugar) has been arrested for drug possession and consumption.
Although the prevalence of substance abuse has decreased in recent times, it has undeniably known to be a big menace in the life of professional wrestlers. But, wrestlers cannot be blamed for all this. A life with so many insecurities and unpredictability can take anybody to the wrong path of substance abuse. Companies like the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) have now introduced a wellness program in which there are random doping tests as well as counseling sessions to help them cope with their miseries.
All the problems of wrestlers, which include substance abuse as well as psychological and various other problems, prove to be very fatal and cause a lot of unnatural deaths. The average age of death of wrestlers is between the mid forties and early fifties. The death rate of wrestlers at a relatively young age is truly alarming.
It is evident that the life style of wrestlers is not what it seems to be. Apart from the fame and money, professional wrestling has a very dark side to it. The alluring life style of professional wrestling is marred by frequent injuries, substance abuse, and other psychological problems.
Professional wrestling may not be a legitimate sport, but it is definitely an art. It is an art that is extremely difficult to learn and requires a lot of skill and courage. It is not at all easy to become a wrestler. The kind of mental trauma that wrestlers go through, is heart warming. They make a lot of sacrifices to entertain their audience.
Contrary to popular belief, there is a lot more to wrestling than just the glamour, glory, bling-bling, and superstardom. Professional wrestlers, truly, deserve a lot more respect than they usually get. They should get a lot more credit for the things that they do.