You know, I was never a big fan of Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat growing up. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that he was one of the greatest workers ever in the business but at the time when he was truly in his prime I was just caught up in WWE’s cartoon world of wrestling and tended to glorify guys like Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior and some of the other muscle bound wrestlers that were competing in WWE at that time. Ricky Steamboat never really entered my mind; he was just the guy with the Kimodo Dragon who was feuding with Jake “The Snake” Roberts. As I got older that would change and well at this moment in time I can tell you that I absolutely love watching Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat matches from when he was in his prime. There is a key word there and that word is “prime”, I’m going to assume that everyone who is reading this column knows about the real life hospitalization of Ricky Steamboat this past week (actually I believe as of this writing he is still in the hospital). WWE would persist on saying that his health situation had nothing to do with the Nexus angle that was done on Raw where the retired wrestlers (I’m sorry but Dean Malenko is not a WWE Legend) were beat up by Nexus but last time I checked no one there is a doctor and while I’m not either I don’t think some things should just be dismissed as coincidence. I’m just wondering when enough is truly enough for some of these wrestlers….you’re reading “Wrestling Rumblings.”
Hey I am all for freedom to do whatever it is you desire to do with your life but wrestling is a very dangerous occupation for young guys’ much less older men who are past their athletic peak. I know that there are some guys who just don’t manage their money well or for that matter just don’t want to do anything else with their life but I am not talking your old broken down wrestler on the independent circuit but WWE and TNA. This is the major leagues of wrestling, we can find something else for these guys to do and when they get that itch that they need to scratch in the ring, how about we persuade them not to scratch it? Ric Flair is the greatest wrestler that ever lived in my opinion and I was very sad the day he retired but it had to come, now that he is back in TNA and seemingly beat up every week I just feel sorry for him which first off doesn’t work because he is a heel and even if he is a babyface I would feel sorry for him in a way that would make me want to change my TV because watching Ric Flair get thrashed around, bleeding all over the place is elderly violence. I don’t see the entertainment value of that on TV and to be quite honest I’m very worried for Flair. I know he needs money, I know he loves the business but again let’s find something else for him to do. Let’s let him know how much we love him and let’s focus on helping Ric Flair live in full health a really long time. Wrestling in your 60’s is not the way to achieve that.
Some people are going to bring up Terry Funk who was 53 when he won the ECW title and the first thing I want to remind everyone is that as big as ECW was it was still sort of an independent show the same level of ROH when that was happening and you know what? It still wasn’t really right, yes it was cool that Terry Funk was able to do moonsaults off the top but his getting torn apart later on in barbed wire was unnecessary. There have been so many people who have been with ECW during that time who referred to Terry as the kind old Grandfather. Why would you want your Grandfather to mutilate himself? It wasn’t much better when he moved onto WCW and WWE as I don’t think unprotected chair shots are good for anyone much less a man in his mid 50’s and well the one thing I always recall about the last time Terry Funk competed in WWE is that he could barely move and was in such a state that he couldn’t even cut a promo anymore. Why am I bringing that up? Well it’s not like these old guys are even having good matches so they are just diluting the quality of their work.
I recognize back in the day it was more common for guys like Fred Blassie, Stu Hart and others to wrestle into their 50’s but wrestling wasn’t as physical then as it is now and we didn’t know then medically what we know now. Football players played for years without padding, Hockey players played without helmets as time and knowledge spread we evolved why can’t wrestling evolve with its elder statesmen?
What about the parties that aren’t even wrestlers at all but Chairman? Did Vince McMahon have to take the beating he did from the Nexus guys? I don’t know about anyone reading this but when Justin Gabriel went up for the 450 splash I was nervous as hell since all it takes is one bad landing and Vince McMahon could have some serious problems. Granted this can happen with a younger wrestler as well but the fact of the matter is McMahon is not a trained wrestler and is in his 60’s now. I don’t think we should risk his safety in that way to further a storyline. I think the issue of older guys doing active matches/spots in wrestling should be considered just as big of an issue now as unprotected chair shots to the head in light of what happened with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. What are we waiting for? Someone to unexpectedly die in the ring?
I’m a big combat sports fan and I have enjoyed the careers of guys like Evander Holyfield and Chuck Lidell. There was a point in Evanders career where the commissions medically suspended him because they felt he was too old to compete and it was evident in his fights. Sure Evander fought it and regrettably is still around but at least the commission stepped in and tried to protect him from himself. Chuck Lidell has been beaten up time and time again to the point where Dana White who is not only UFC President but Chuck’s best friend has called for him to step down and is seemingly insistent this time that he does so. If Chuck insists on fighting it may not be for UFC and well at least UFC did something to try to stop him from competing and hopefully the commission can try again stepping in to tell Chuck that he is done. Yes there are real sports but wrestlers probably take more abuse in their careers than Boxers and Mixed Martial Artists. As a matter of fact I would compare one year of a wrestler’s career to 7 years of that of a Boxer or Mixed Martial Artist. When you stop and think of how long a boxer’s career is compared to wrestlers who have careers that can span 30 years that’s really something wouldn’t you say?
I don’t know if we need to impose a mandatory retirement age in wrestling or just limit what some of the older wrestlers can do in the ring but I do feel we need to do something. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat could have died and while WWE would have said it had nothing to do with the angle, again we can’t ignore the coincidences of it. I don’t need to see a tragedy happen to know that something needs to be done and I don’t want people to tell me how Ric Flair or others are in incredible shape because in my opinion Ricky “Steamboat” looks better than most of his colleagues at that age and look at his situation. I’m sorry age is a handicap in this business and we have to consider it when we put these guys in these positions. It sickened me to my stomach the level of complaining that was done for the Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon match at Wrestlemania this year. I agree it was a bad match and may be a candidate for the worst Wrestlemania match of all time but at the same time we are dealing with a 52 year old stroke victim in Bret Hart (Yes I am aware he is 53, I’m talking about at the time of the match) and a 64 year old untrained wrestler in Vince McMahon. What did you expect? I had people in the stands who were complaining about blood and violence and well I just want to see everyone come out of that ring alright. I think some of those fans should ask themselves why they wanted to see Bret in the ring again when they knew he was in no shape to compete? We are too demanding, we get caught up in nostalgia and we ask for too much. These athletes are not capable of doing what they did for us in the past and we shouldn’t ask them too. We should let them retire with dignity and when they fail to retire we should force them to. Not because we don’t love them, but because we do.
I’m going to wrap up this week’s column but of course I have to give everyone something to do. Dragongate USA is having their PPV tonight so for those of you that complain that WWE and TNA does not give you enough wrestling check it out. TNA is also having their Victory Road PPV on Sunday and while the buildup has been unspectacular I do expect some good matches to at least be on the show. I’m very critical of TNA as are most people I know but it is not because I hate it but only because I know they can do better and I’d love to see them start any minute now because time is running out. Of course you can all give me feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org I’ve dealt with a lot of feedback this past week both positive and not so positive, all I ask is that you are respectful and I will gladly respond to anything written. Anyway I’ll try again next week, hopefully I’ll do better and until then, I am out.