WWE: Hall of Double Standards by Marc Madison

On Sunday June 26th, the Cincinnati Reds baseball team retired the number 14 of Major League Baseball’s all time hits leader, Pete Rose. It was a momentous occasion when you consider that Rose has been banned from being inducted into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame due to gambling. Whether he’s admitted to it or not isn’t the point, what is the point is that the ban didn’t prevent the Reds from still acknowledging Rose, his four thousand plus hits, and what he meant to their franchise. It was no doubt a special moment that he will cherish forever.

The moment also had me wondering about the WWE, and how they have suspended talent for committing offenses, whether it has been due to domestic violence or testing positive for a banned substance contrary to the company’s wellness policy. The company has suspended talent for violating the policy, and after a number of offenses has released people from their contract. What that makes me wonder is, would the company ever ban a talent from being a part of the WWE Hall of Fame?

It isn’t as cut and dried as simply saying yes or no. There are wrestlers that have committed offenses that have led to immediate termination. However, does that mean permanent termination, or only temporary? Often times, when someone is terminated it is over a variety of different issues, including any of the following: they are not being used; they committed an offense that jeopardizes the company’s brand; or repeated offenses.

One thing that the company has stated is that all fences can at some point be mended. That mending that has seen them bring back the likes of Bret Hart, The Ultimate Warrior and Bruno Sammartino. What if the hard work to mend fences was in some way compromised by a serious act. For instance, Jimmy Snuka has been accused of murder, and has stood trial for the act. Snuka is a WWE Hall of Famer and as it stands, and though he has not been found guilty, he has been accused. As he fights these accusations, where does the WWE stand on the subject? Even if he isn’t found guilty, Snuka’s name has been linked to these accusations, and any acquittal may simply be because he is not deemed mentally fit to stand trial. Will his place in the WWE’s Hall of Fame be in question?

One case where the company has distanced themselves from a talent because he committed an horrific crime, and has essentially removed him from their record books, is Chris Benoit. Removing him from all public mention wasn’t difficult, but it’s unfortunate because he was so talented in the ring. Benoit’s career wasn’t over at the time of his awful acts and subsequent suicide, much like Rose’s wasn’t when he was banned from baseball.

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The question that persists in Rose’s case is, was his punishment a fitting end to his career? A number of current and former WWE athletes have faced suspensions due to breaking the company’s wellness policy, and yet once they have paid the penalty for what they’ve done, they are welcomed back. Whether it was Roman Reigns or The Ultimate Warrior, times seem to heal all wounds. In comparison, Hulk Hogan was immediately terminated because of an audio tape on which he was recorded making racist comments. While he won his case against Gawker, does that mean that WWE,the company that he helped bring to a new level of popularity during his run with them in the 1980s, will welcome him back to the company? Fans will note that for some time Hogan wasn’t even mentioned on the WWE’s website as being a part of their Hall of Fame. They appeared to have softened their stance and changed that, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is being welcomed back with open arms. Hogan’s actions were clearly a mistake. He has admitted wrongdoing and was clearly under the influence of something, and his actions during that tirade also reflected someone that was angry. It’s a sad state for both Hogan and WWE.

The point is, does an action necessarily warrant a lifetime ban for violating a policy or act? In major professional sports like baseball, the perspective is that the sanctity of the game is called into question if its professional athletes are gambling on the game. In the case of Roman Reigns, they have acknowledged his wrongdoing and he has come clean about it. However, what if he did something that called into question the level of professionalism that is expected from its stars? Adam Rose, Hornswoggle and Konnor are three men that have been suspended because of the wellness policy. Of those three men, Rose and Hornswoggle have been released, while Konnor has returned and is once again teaming withViktor as part of The Ascension.

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This has me wondering about Reigns. A report came out that McMahon had planned to sweep Reigns’ results under the rug as though it never happened. Whether or not that is true is irrelevant, but it has been true in the past that there have been special rules for main event talent, in order to protect their image in the public eye. A number of years ago, the infamous issue that took place between Steve Austin and his then wife Debra Marshall was brought to the forefront, when Austin pleaded no contest to charges of domestic violence. Austin is embraced as part of the company today, and is as important to the company’s present as he was to its past. Marshall has come out publicly and said that the company asked her to keep quiet about the situation because it would have cost them millions.

We aren’t saying that eventually Reigns will be the future of the company and become a WWE hall of famer, but it does make us wonder how the rules may change depending on whom the person is abusing them. Will Reigns rise above this incident and be everything the company has hoped? There isn’t any reason to think otherwise. There is just something about this entire situation that doesn’t feel like it is completely on the level, though it’s hard to put my finger on it. Perhaps it is because Reigns will remain in the main event at the upcoming event, Battleground. The questions being collectively asked right now appear to numerous too mention. One that stands out is, what constitutes a broken rule if there isn’t accountability by the performer and a step back upon their return? Reigns is immediately being thrust back into the main event. Reigns has faced an uphill battle when it comes to convincing the audience of his talent. By having him compete precisely when his thirty days were up sent a message, and the message is not that he’s above the act, but that if enough money, time and energy is invested into making something succeed then the rules could be bent slightly.

The company was right to enforce the wellness policy. However, knowingly or not they are creating a division between how they value talent. It has been said numerous times that the company is incredibly invested in their main event, and if anything was to compromise that, even on the undercard, then it would be cut. Reigns’ worth to the company is immense, and, despite the jeers he receives from the audience, he is crucial to the future, too important to have him lowered in the card. The response to his actions doesn’t show balance though, it shows that they are more concerned with his failure then some others in the company.

His mistake doesn’t appear to be anything more than an error in judgement. So this is where we ask the question, are certain talent given more leeway, not only now, but in the long-term? John Cena has never tested positive at any point in his career, but his ability to recuperate and return to action certainly has been met with speculation as to whether or not he and the company is completely on the level. The answer to that isn’t readily available now, but perhaps more will be known after Cena’s wrestling career is over and it is time for him to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

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