Professional wrestlers work under incredible conditions and a schedule that is not only time consuming, but also takes away life outside the ring because of travel and guest appearances and training and workouts and just about everything that would be considered normal. That’s why the “job” isn’t for everyone. A strong mentality as well as a strong will are paramount for success.
[adinserter block=”1″]Sometimes, however, that will and mentality takes a wrestler to the brink. Taking bumps off the ropes or from 10 feet in the air takes a major toll on the body, the mind and the spirit. The roads traveled of wrestlers of the past like Ric Flair, Terry Funk and Jake Roberts are well chronicled. Those greats dealt with demons and pain that still haunt them to this day. Roberts has put his life back together while Flair and Funk still have issues staying away from the ring that made them great.
Now that the WWE has brought back many of the hardcore rules that made superstars of Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer and the Dudley’s, can the same be said for Dean Ambrose as his schedule and amount of abuse he takes in the ring? Will this new “hardcore” legend feel the efforts of pounding after pounding each night? Wrestling the likes of Bray Wyatt has become the norm for Ambrose, who performs with chairs, Kendo sticks and tables and now televisions on a nightly basis, only to see his body battered like raw meat. Will the company that has helped to make him a star be the one that leads to his demise as a cult hero and cause damage to his psyche, his body and his soul in years down the road?
Ric Flair talked openly about his life on the road and how it affected him, allowing him to live the life of a rock star, drink each night, party with hundreds, maybe thousands of women. He talked about wrestling night after night, going 60 minutes per match and bleeding, falling off top ropes and enduring body slam after body slam. Flair’s “punishment” for his decades of performing with a world title in hand has left him a bitter man and a broken man. But in comparison, the schedule Ambrose is running right now, taking abuse with chair shot after chair shot may lead to a shorter shelf life in the WWE.
I make the analogy because the WWE may have already cost one superstar, Daniel Bryan, his career. The toll his body has taken in the past two years has led to surgeries on his neck that have rendered him injured and on the “Disabled List” for the company. While other wrestlers have suffered the same fate of injuries that could have put them out of action for good (Kurt Angle with his neck injury), Ambrose has not had the “big one” – yet.
But based on his current run it could be the defining moment that stops this “Innovator of Abuse” in his tracks. While I would love to see the company bring back the Hardcore Championship so Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt and the like could excel at what they do best, it is also the most hazardous of titles and with some much being made about head and neck injuries of late, it should not be explored.
The WWE fans are not like the fans of old. The 60-minute “Broadway” that defined a wrestler’s endurance kept our attention in the 1970s and 1980s. Wrestlers could pace themselves even through the brutality of enduring punishment meant pain over a longer period of time. Today, shorter matches mean more punishment over smaller pockets and the pain is greater over a longer haul after the fact.
[adinserter block=”2″]Ambrose isn’t the only wrestler who is feeling this crunch. The same could be said for Wyatt and any host of wrestlers who are extreme as the “Lunatic Fringe” of the WWE. The difference is we see what Ambrose does, which appears to have a more direct effect on him. When he slows down (at some point), will the games he played early in his career lead to a lack of performance late in his career?
At the end of the day, is the abuse really worth it? Only Ambrose and the WWE can answer that.