SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: Piledriver ban handicaps everyone
By JOHN POWELL -- SLAM! Wrestling
In 1997, Owen Hart put up the WWF's Intercontinental Title against "Stone
Cold" Steve Austin at the SummerSlam pay-per-view. The match itself was
going fine until Owen performed a piledriver on Austin. Austin's head
wasn't tucked in all the way and Owen unintentionally spiked him down hard.
Suffering from what is known as a "stinger", Austin lost feeling in his
arms and legs. It was almost as if he were paralyzed. Austin would later
say it was the scariest moment of his entire life. Not knowing what to do
or how seriously hurt Austin was, Owen played to the crowd to buy time so
the official could assess the situation. Barely moving, Austin weakly
rolled up Owen to win the title. Unable to stand on his own, Stone Cold had
to be helped to the back.
The piledriver, like any move in professional wrestling, can be very
hazardous if the right precautions aren't taken. Still no matter how much
care is exercised, accidents can, will, and do happen. NASCAR racers crash.
Hockey and football players leave the game on stretchers sometimes. Horses
trample rodeo cowboys. Even baseball players get hit with wild pitches on
occasion. It's horrible but that's the price paid for being in professional
sports. For fans and players alike, the ever present danger is part of the
adrenaline rush. It's part of the fun and there's nothing wrong with that
as long as the players respect the limitations placed upon them.
To lessen the chance of a very serious injury sports have adopted certain
measures over the years. Protective equipment has been brought in. New
rules are put in place and penalties for breaking them. These standards
work well providing the "powers that be" are willing to enforce them. Ain't
that right, National Hockey League or should I say the National Roller Ball
Following in these footsteps, the WWF decided not long ago, to ban the
piledriver manoeuver unless special permission is given. The WWF says too
many people were being hurt. This may seem odd coming from a Federation
that sanctioned Mick Foley leaping off the top of a steel cage and falling
through a table live on pay-per-view. Like the other federations, the WWF
has no qualm about allowing their talent to take risks and put their bodies
on the line. Again, it's what the sports entertainment business is all
about. It's why the fans respect and admire the majority of professional
But why the piledriver and why now? I believe the answer is found in the
WWF talent pool itself. It's the reason why Chris Jericho was unfairly
criticized when he first entered the Federation, why Tazz and Saturn aren't
tossing people around like rubber dolls like they did elsewhere and why it
has taken so long for any of the Radicals to be pushed hard. The
predominately North American-trained wrestlers can't deal with their
sophisticated style derived from old school training and tours of Japan and
Mexico. We've seen each and every one of these talented men "dumb down"
their usually full-tilt, uncompromising, intricate approach to "fit in" or
the bookers have paired them off with suitable opponents who have similar
backgrounds like X-Pac, Val Venis and Essa Rios.
It's the same explanation for why the WWF went outside the promotion to
fill their so-called Light Heavyweight division. Much of the existing
talent pool can't wrestle those kind of bouts. They are great characters
and a lot of fun to watch, however, some of them don't know a hurracanrana
from a plancha if they were hit with one.
Besides, if you have to take such drastic action as banning such a basic
move like a piledriver, what does that say about your confidence in the
people that make up your locker room? Not much, I would say. Either you
don't trust them to deliver the move properly or perhaps they are wrestling
with too much enthusiasm, which could be another explanation for the ban.
Mick Foley (God love the S.O.B.) along with ECW, started a frightening
trend. The more peril you put yourself in as a performer, the more "over"
you will be. It is bad advice that the likes of the Hardy Boyz and New Jack
have taken too far. Even Mick Foley knew when and where to pick his spots.
That what made him smart. Go out and wrestle that way 24-7 and you are just
asking to really hurt yourself or worse, someone else you are working with.
It used to be that part of being a skilled wrestler was that you could
proudly say that you rarely hurt an opponent. It was a distinction to wear
with honour. Nowadays, some are so desperate to "get themselves over" that
they are taking many unnecessary chances with their lives and the lives of
others. Never before have I seen or heard about so many wrestlers getting
hurt in the industry. Either wrestlers aren't being trained as well as they
were 20 years ago and being pushed into the "big leagues" too soon or they
are just trying to hard. It may be a bit of both.
Compared to the other Big Two, the WWF doesn't have a history for putting
on wildly technical matches anyhow. Attracting more "mainstream" or "fair
weather" wrestling fans than either of the other promotions, it shouldn't
be a total shock to longtime observers that the WWF banned the piledriver
or buries technical wrestlers. Watch the audience at a live show or WWF
pay-per-view carefully and you'll see The Worm and Stink Face get more
cheers than a wonderful series of difficult holds and reversals by the
likes of Benoit and Guerrero. In the past there have been the obligatory
exceptions to the WWF rule like Ricky Steamboat, Bret and Owen Hart, Shawn
Michaels and the Dynamite Kid but they are the minority. The McMahons have
traditionally preferred pushing imposing behemoths like Yokozuna, Hulk
Hogan, Lex Luger, Andre The Giant, The Undertaker, Big John Studd and The
Ultimate Warrior over smaller and better wrestlers.
With the inclusion of technically-sound wrestlers like Jericho being thrown
into the mix, the WWF is at a loss at what to do. Instead of insisting
their talent improve themselves and maybe being more cautious by toning it
down a couple of notches, they handicap everyone. That's not the answer.
What's going to happen when a powerbomb or a brain buster injures someone?
Are they going to ban them too until we are left with just kicks, punches
and headlocks? If so, you won't need wrestlers any more. The WWF can hire a
bunch of Hollywood stuntmen and give them gimmicks. The solution isn't
prohibiting manoeuvers. That's just plain silly. It's making wiser talent
choices and establishing an environment where mutual respect supersedes
July 13:Blind loyalty hides the dark side
I would like to show my appreciation for your recent article. I
thought it was written with great sensitivity and justice. There are
many things about Wrestling that many people do not understand. But you
do. And I'm glad that at least there is one more person who is willing
to look at the sport with a clear mind and a straight conscience. Many
people are more than willing to overlook the ugly sides of wrestling and
would rather delude themselves. Maybe the truth is too harsh to handle.
Anyway, thank you and good luck.
This has to be one of the BEST Mat Matters that you have written. And the
reason I say this, is because what you have written here, MATTERS.
As a long time wrestling fan, I have seen many wrestlers come and go, far
too many before their time. And those wrestlers who do retire after 20, 30 years, well you just have to read the story that was recently printed on SLAM!, about Superstar Billy Graham
, to see how their "retirement" so often turns out.
Seeing Bret Hart on Jim Rome, should open up the eyes of us fans. These
wrestlers, who we fans cheer and enjoy , have no coverage as employees , when it comes to injuries. All "Pro-Sports" cover their employees, as do employers such as yours and mine. Wrestlers are employed by the promoter / promotion, they should have the same.
As a fan, I have been greatly distressed by the deaths in wrestling and the
struggles of ex-wrestlers, over the past few years. Unless a wrestler has invested very well or has another source of income, they are in trouble in later years, when all the slams and bumps that they had taken over the years, cause the body to break down.
Do we fans think that the McMahons are paying Superstar Billy Graham's
medical bills ? Or those of so many other great wrestlers, who
have been used up and thrown away.
I really want to thank you for writing this article, I hope it opens the
eyes of those who haven't yet seen, what has been going on in
We are all fans of this great sport, I just hope that change can come, to
wrestling, so that we fans can enjoy our favourite wrestlers,
for years to come, and that they and their families, are safe guarded, just
like yours and mine, by their employer ( promoter ) with proper
insurance, medical coverage, retirement benefits. The wrestler works
just as we do, they should have the same, as we do.
Bob Johnson, Tullahoma, Tennessee
While I found your recent SLAM! Wrestling article interesting and
informative, I have to take you to task on the following quote:
"Owen Hart plummeted 75 feet to his death on a WWF pay-per-view. The WWF
sent EMT's down to ringside to pry Owen's body off the canvas and carted
him to the back....."
I know you are trying to make a point here regarding the death of Owen Hart
in Kansas City and the continuation of the PPV but c'mon. They did not
wheel the stretcher into the ring, throw him on
it and wheel him out of the arena all in one motion. The EMTs worked on
him in the ring. Once the EMTs had him strapped in and realized there was
nothing more they could for him and that he
required immediate medical attention (ie. a hospital), they wheeled him out
of the ring. They did not move any faster so Vince could get on with his
You stress in your column that you understand the 'reality' of the
wrestling business. Unfortunately, the 'reality' you are imparting to your
readers is slightly skewed and biased by the use of such
sensationalism and rhetoric.
That was a great article. I'm happy to see someone who isn't afraid to
talk about the less admirable parts of Professional Wrestling.
I appreciate your hard work and devotion to this sport.
I just read your article and while I agree on some points, I disagree
with one thing. You say the media should hound wrestling more for deaths
that occur. I was trained to wrestle by the Harts and I knew Owen well. He is greatly missed as well as Brian Pillman. The media
had a FIELD day with Owen's death. Almost all the newspapers I saw had a
photo of Owen lying dead in the ring. They exploited Owen death as much as anyone. I found out of Owen's death on the CNN.com website by that photo. That was insensitive of CNN to post knowing that friend and family of Owen would
be likely to see it there. The media know how popular wrestling has become
and let the "coldblodded heartless calculated insensitive and obscene"
promoters do whatever they want with little
coverage in the press for the other 364 days in the year.
If the media was
so concerned about the wrestlers why didn't Bobby Duncam Jr.'s death get any
recognition or Louie Spicolli's? Not sensastional enough? Unless there is something in it for the media like the shock of
Owen's death the media treats wrestlers like circus animals themselves. Two
days of the circus is coming and then nothing when the ring comes down. The wrestling business is hard and unforgiving and yes even dirty. Drug use is common in wrestling for sure. But why the
Michael Irvin just retired and he gets a
sendoff as one of the greatest receivers ever to play the game with little
mention of his many drug arrests. Is football any different than
wrestling? Many pro football players have passed away in their
early 40s and 50s as well. Do you want a federal investigation into the
I've got to say your latest column on pro-wrestling morals and
ethics was one of the most soundly written pieces of editorial journalism I've seen in a long time. It's just another reason that I CONTINUALLY come to SLAM!
Wrestling for mature insights into the wrestling world today. I, for one,
am just sick and tired of reading the same old crap recycled from website
to website -- material written by teenagers with nothing better to do than
invent gossip or "news" to try and increase their hit statistics and ad
I came onto your site with an clearly formed idea in my mind about ethics in pro-wrestling today, and after reading your column it made me
re-evaluate what I believe. Good editorials do that. You weren't trying
to force your opinion on everyone, you were simply taking your readers
through the logic process in your own brain, presenting a new
point-of-view, and letting us make up our own minds with the new
information you provided.
Excellent work, this is the fourth time I've sent
in my congratulations to SLAM! Wrestling in the past two or three years, which is the most amount of electronic praise I think I've ever given to any
website, pro-wrestling related or not. Keep up the good work, you, Powell,
and Oliver do an incredible job. It is appreciated by fans who like to
read intelligent writing and not the typical b.s. on the net today.
Rob Shaw, Nanaimo, BC