I'm going to let you in on a little-known secret. Professional wrestling is staged. Not the collegiate or Olympic-style competition, mind you. I'm talking about wrestling singlet and head gear. I'm talkin' bout rasslin'.
This isn't groundbreaking news of course. Who is the last person you conversed with who actually believed the shows were legit? However, the rigid falls do damage their bodies. And needless to say there is nothing fake about a murder-murder-suicide courtesy of the Canadian Crippler, Chris Benoit. We'll get back to him in a bit.
I grew up watching Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and The Macho Man . . . Ohhh Yeaaaaa. The show was innocent, enjoyable entertainment. There was a good guy (the babyface) and a bad guy (the heel).
I never understood why everyone went out of his way to discredit something I enjoyed. "You know it is fake right?" Gee, thanks, Einstein.
My on-again, off-again relationship with rasslin' ended in 2001. Perhaps my fiancé taking over my household had something to do with it. Maybe I finally grew out of it. Actually, it was WWE owner and personality Vince McMahon who destroyed the industry. When he purchased his chief rival WCW he was the only game in town. Monopolies are good for one person only. The talent either kneels at the feet of Vince or works for peanuts at the Indy level.
I'm no expert, so why not talk with someone who was in the biz for a brief time?
If you are still reading a column about rasslin', then perhaps you recall OPW. Oklahoma Professional Wrestling had a brief but successful run in Tulsa from 1997 through 2000.
Pete Maguire was co-founder for the Indy wrestling promotion. They practiced and ran live shows at Riverlanes Bowling Center, 8711 S Lewis. He retired from WorldCom while the getting was still good.
After trying out with WWE, World Wrestling Empire at the time, he became a ringside commentator. Once the organization went belly-up, he started MCW before finding steady ground with OPW.
"People say now that it's choreographed, it's fake. The only thing that's fake in wrestling is the booker tells the wrestlers the theme and what he wants the outcome to be.
"The rings we worked on were 2x6's with a little foam on top. Accidents happened all the time. I spent most of my Saturday nights at St. Francis Hospital. Wrestling at the Indy level is fun. It is like theatre improv," said Maguire, thinking back to his time in the business.
OPW was a profitable Indy promotion until a falling out with his partner doomed the company. It was considered a top-five Indy promotion in the country according to wrestling insider Dave Meltzer at wrestlingobserver.com.
He did it for the love of the "sport." There were no monetary gains to be had wrestling in front of sparse bowling alley crowds. Today's bodybuilders turned wrestlers are in the business for all the wrong reasons.
"I was a fan of wrestling, but I'm not a fan of what's on television anymore. They screw the talent all the time. Professional wrestlers at that level, in my opinion, are exploited.
"They are exploited and used and pretty much cast away. There is nothing there for them once their career is done. What are these guys supposed to do to earn a living on their hobbled knees and their broken bones and concussions?" Maguire said.
He has visited with wrestling legends across the nation. He remains close with Tulsa icon, "Cowboy" Bill Watts. One thing all old school wrestlers have in common is their disdain for today's product.
"All old school people despise what is happening. None of them like it. They hate it unless they are getting some kind of a little paycheck," he laughed.
Why do the Hogans and Flairs keep wrestling? They are beaten down old men. Their bodies have been through a virtual meat grinder. What's left to accomplish?
Two things draw them back. The money and the "pop," or crowd reaction. "A lot of these guys don't have the intelligence or the experience and wisdom. The money goes up their nose or down their throat," he said.
So, when you read the continuing demented saga of Chris Benoit murdering his family, remember this. Sure he made $500,000 a year. He lived his life on the road. Without a doubt the toxicology report will come back positive.
It's not a question of whether these wrestlers fill their bodies with anabolic steroids, human growth hormone or painkillers. The only question is how much and in what combinations. "Roid Rage" is the easy copout and one congress will likely latch onto in the near future.
"Roid Rage" is a fit of almost uncontrollable anger. I've witnessed it, as have most of you. Benoit strangling his wife then suffocating his child then hanging himself over a three-day period doesn't fit the mold.
Congress will be missing the boat if they just go after the steroid angle. They need to take a further look into the well-being of these wrestlers. Regulation perhaps?
These guys take bumps four or five days a week. They are on the road an estimated 300 days a year. As Bobby "The Brain" Heenan says on oklahomaprowrestling.org, "You want to get into wrestling? Buy a ticket!"
Eddie Guerro wasn't addicted to painkillers because he thought it was a fantastic idea. He needed a way to get his aching body out of bed each morning. He didn't abuse his body with steroids for kicks and giggles. If he didn't bulk up and wrestle at the snap of Vince's fingers, he'd be bagging groceries the next day.
"I think statistically if you look, it would be much easier for you to get into the NFL than it would be for you to work as a wrestler in the WWE. There are 80 workers (in the WWE). Now how many players are there in the NFL?" pondered Maguire.
The business is far from glamorous. There are precious few wrestlers who get more out of wrestling than it gets out of them. For every successful Bill Goldberg (Tulsa native) there are a dozen Ric Flairs. By that I mean wrestlers who don't know when to hang up the boots.
Guess how many wrestlers have died prior to their 45th birthday since 1985? 56. The disproportionate number of deaths speaks volumes about the lifestyle they lived. Many of these performers have been directly linked to steroid abuse.
Wrestling was once a wholesome family entertainment product. Grandparents could enjoy the events along with grandkids. Both could yell at the bad guy and have a grand old time.
Who hasn't wrestled around in the backyard with family and friends? There is something natural about testing your strength. Kids roll around on the ground wrestling and horse-playing almost daily.
The storylines once revolved around USA's Hacksaw Jim Duggan versus Iran's Iron Sheik. Good versus Evil. Today the storylines resemble soap operas and sexcapades. You'd be embarrassed to watch this rubbish with your grandparents or your grandkids.
"You want to paint (wrestling) with a broad brush? If a guy looks like he is on steroids today, he is. I can't imagine any that aren't and that's my opinion. To get a shot, to be competitive, you've got to do what you can do.
"It's not a moral issue. Whatever Benoit took for pain is because he was in pain. Whatever he took for steroids or growth hormones is so he could earn a living. The life of a professional wrestler is not something that anyone in their right mind would want to do," said Maguire.
He is restarting his OPW wrestling school with Cole Crittenden, who is a deputy sheriff in Tulsa. The political backstabbing shenanigans will not be tolerated. Look to his web site for more information.
There are seedy people in all walks of life. "People go crazy and kill their families all the time that are not wrestlers and not on steroids. The wrestlers are pawns. They are exploited and then cast away," said Maguire.
"Get an education or get a skill. It really is not a life. It is a destructive way to make some money and get a rush. At the Indy level it can and should be fun," he concluded.
If this were a wrestling promo, I would hold my breath until my face turned red. I'd clinch my teeth until the veins in my forehead pulsated. I'd turn to the camera and yell with spittle flying from the corners of my mouth.
"Vince -- you can rot in Hell!"
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