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  July 20, 2000



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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

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 League?

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 wrestlers.

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 personal goals.


Reader Feedback

  • 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.

    Pamela Gueh

    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 wrestling.

    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 PPV.

    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.

    Scott Williams

    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.

    Daniel Kristolaitis
    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 hypocrisy?

    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 NFL?

    Name withheld
    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 revenue.

    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

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