Off The Ropes: WWE Injuries Are Sky High But Who’s To Blame? by Hab Rich

Unless you been living under a rock, you know that WWE superstar injuries are through the roof, right? Okay, so we’re on the same page so far. Having watched professional wrestling on television for more than thirty years, I love looking at today’s hot button topic of injuries through somewhat of a historical perspective with some special attention paid to certain intricacies. There might still be more questions than answers by the time I’m done, but whatever, this is fun to me.

Let’s look at the role that high-risk maneuvers play in contributing to higher injuries. We love high spots, like baseball fans love home runs. Monday Night Raw just isn’t complete without a suicide dive or three, right? Of course not. In your best Jim Ross voice, say with me, “They call it high risk for a reason!” Every week our favorite superstars put their bodies on the line and occasionally, they pay the price.

But are they cutting careers short? Who’s to say Edge wouldn’t still be wrestling if he were healthy enough? Maybe one Tables, Ladders & Chairs too many? Again, who’s to say?

Daniel Bryan, who I predicted in TJRWrestling Staff Predictions for 2016 would NOT wrestle on WWE programming this year, has announced his retirement. Most times, I’m happy to be right, but not here. Did injuries do their part to cut his career short? You betcha.

I feel as though it’d kinda make sense to call it the perfect storm of superstars maybe trying too hard to please the fans or outdo one another and wrestling fans with short attention spans. Having grown up in an era of professional wrestling where suplexes, sleeper holds and high crossbody blocks were finishers, I’ve seen just how far superstars have upped the ante on higher risk moves over the last two decades. That said, I can legit envision the sheer vitriol of the IWC if a WWE match ended with a slingshot suplex a la Tully Blanchard.

But what’s happened though, is that they’ve watered down the impact of old school power moves like the Power Bomb and Jake’s DDT, but I digress. All these things combined don’t always produce instant injury, but they’re useful to keep in mind.

As far as short attention spans go; QUICK, STOP READING THIS COLUMN AND CHECK YOUR FACEBOOK! Okay, where was I?

Let’s also bear in mind that concussions are a really hot topic in the news. Pro athletes in contact sports like wrestling, football and hockey have to give their future well-being plenty of thought when deciding on whether or not to compete with or after head injuries. Pay close attention to how retirement ages are dropping. I totally understand the nature of the competitive beast that resides in most professional athletes, but I also believe they’re becoming smarter and seeing how concussions are affecting their peers. In terms of the WWE, after John Cena retires, it’ll effectively end the era of the 15 to 20 year superstars.

Could the higher risk taking and more tame storylines be an Attitude Era trade-off? WWE becoming a publicly traded entity certainly had a lot to do with it. But notice, if you will, the contrast: Attitude Era storylines were like the wild west, anything goes. Sure, they had their share of dangerous matches, but not at the rate of today’s WWE superstars. They also didn’t have to use so many high-risk moves to mask creative shortcomings.

Today’s WWE superstars are fighting an uphill battle in terms of creative direction. The plots (if you can even call it that) are so poorly written that the superstars (I feel) are almost compelled to pull off so many high spots to cover the lack of sizzle in the backstage segments. None of what I’m saying is infallible; I’m just speculating.

Let’s contrast the in-ring styles of The Rock and Dolph Ziggler. The Rock, for most of his run, was a largely ground base striker who rarely attempted to pull off many high risk maneuvers. Dolph, on the other hand, takes huge risks throughout his matches. Missile dropkicks, top rope dives, inside out dives, you name it, Dolph puts on a show. If you adjust for inflation, you might say that Dolph is just as over as The Rock was. Where this road splits in two is the fact that The People’s Champ never had to endure a storyline centered around a love triangle with Lana and Rusev. Seriously, how bad is the creative when Rusev and Lana both say, “hell with it,” by breaking kayfabe and announcing their real life engagement?

My personal philosophy won’t allow me to dwell on where to place the blame. I’m all about solutions, but in this case, entertaining a few questions of blame won’t hurt.

Are wrestling fans to blame? With our short attention spans and desire to witness a real life train wreck in the ring…Are we not entertained?

Are superstars to blame? Is it the nature of the competitive beast? Disregarding their bodies to reach the elusive brass ring…hmmm?

We could always blame creative. Not utilizing enough of the roster and an accelerated in-ring work rate for the most high profile superstars is a bad combination…a combination that’s most recently gifted us with the Social Outcasts. I’m a huge fan by the way.

If we’re keeping it real, a large percentage of wrestling fans just kinda stick to blaming Vince, almost by default. I’m not his paid attorney, but I honestly think he gets too much of the blame and not nearly enough credit. I’m in the minority on that one, so I’ll just shut up.

I don’t have the answers. There may never be any answers, but I relish the opportunity to bring it up for discussion. So, what do you think?