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  July 29, 2000



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No sense to it all

Wrestling's inhumane ways haven't changed



By BRET "The Hitman" HART

 During the past couple of years I've voiced my dislike for the changes in the wrestling business.

 And for that, some people have called me a complainer.

 I prefer to think of myself as an advocate.

 After being a silent soldier for 20 years, my first 'complaint' was when I expressed my distaste for the increasingly lewd sexual content in wrestling.

 I predicted that wrestling would turn into something you wouldn't be happy to have your kids watch. I wish I'd been wrong about that.

 Then I expressed my disappointment in how the appreciation for professional wrestling as an art form has been largely lost -- replaced by dangerous, sensationalistic stunts. I voiced my concern that wrestlers are not trained to be stuntmen outside the ring and that someone would get hurt.

 Mostly everyone just held their breath and hoped that no one would get hurt too badly. Then they dropped my younger brother, Owen, to his death from the ceiling of an arena. And in the senseless waste of it, all you could do is hope that Owen's sacrifice would not be in vain.

 Fourteen months later, nothing in wrestling has changed. The sad truth is that the indifference was predictable.

  The number of wrestlers who have died is disproportionately large as compared to any other group of professional athletes or entertainers.

 Hardly any of these deaths take place in the ring but are caused or contributed to by an inhumane schedule with no off-season. This continues because there is no union and wrestlers have no voice.

 I and others have wrestled 300 days per year, in as many towns I had chronic jet lag for 23 years straight.

 After the show, getting back to your hotel room by midnight is considered an early night -- and then you have to eat 'dinner'. The promoter has saved himself a few bucks by booking you on a 6 a.m. Q fare, which means if you miss the plane the ticket isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

 You're running on adrenaline so you have to take pills to get to sleep.

 Then you take pills to wake up. You have to work hurt so you take pills for the pain. Through all this you're driving rental cars on unfamiliar roads.

 Too many wrestlers have been hurt or killed in wrecks. Referee, Joey Morella, Gorilla Monsoon's son, died when he fell asleep at the wheel as the direct result of a cruel schedule. Even with Owen and Joey being the sons of two wrestling icons, nothing changed.

 I would go so far as to say that far beyond the risk of physical injury in the ring the greatest health risk in professional wrestling is drug addiction.

 I only took pain pills when I got hurt and was one of the lucky ones who didn't fall victim to dependency. I think we're in the minority.

 My brother-in-law, Davey Boy Smith, has not been so fortunate. Davey has had drug problems for years and It's not something I'd write about except that Davey himself has gone public about it. Davey has had some rough fights in his time but this is clearly his toughest battle ever and I support his efforts to clean himself up.

 For some dingbat to bring up a comment I made about Davey a year ago, taking the whole thing out of context and making it look like I'm the one kicking Davey when he's down, is shameful and unnecessarily hurtful.

 Quite frankly, Davey's situation scares me.

 An excerpt from my Oct. 11, 1997 column after Brian Pillman overdosed on pain killers read:

 There's no off season, no time out. Valor gets attached to martyrdom.

 You look for ways to endure the physical pain of a broken body and hope you don't become so numb that you end up with a broken spirit.

 In the ring you're a superhero and you search down deep inside to make that strength real. It's dangerous to forget that even Superman has his kryptonite,

 Guys come into this business with a dream that they'll hang around for a few years and make the quick bucks but then they find out it's Hotel California, 'You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.'

 They can't make it on the outside any more. And some die on the inside.

 Fatalities in the ring are rare. They die, alone, in the little square room they slept in, a thousand miles from what used to feel like home.

 And on April 24, 1999, I wrote for Rick Rude: I don't know if there's any great cosmic reasoning that can help a kid understand why dad is in another place I only know that while he was here, Rick Rude was a great role model to his kids, to kids around the world, and to those who forgot that how you play the game is more important than winning it.

  Flyin Brian Pillman, Ravishing Rick Rude. Eddie Gilbert. Louie Spicoli. Rick Quickdraw McGraw. Bobby Duncum Jr. Art Barr.The 4 Von Eric boys, if you count drug related suicide ... and the list goes on.

 It's very simple, really. I do not want to have to write any more epitaphs.

 Six months ago, Davey was in rehab and said that Vince McMahon was paying for it. It struck me as a little too convenient that he didn't pay for it years ago and instead waited until the trial, (if you've been following along then you know what I'm talking about.)

 Until the schedule is changed to one that doesn't treat wrestlers like circus animals, it is the wrestlers and their families who are 'paying for it'.

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