So, another WWE superstar is in the headlines and not surprisingly, it involves alcohol.
For those of you just tuning in, road agent Michael Hayes was reportedly suspended for tapping the bottle and twisting the cap in the company of recovering boozehound Rosa Mendes (details). Naturally, the organization wouldn't cop to it and instead attributed his leaving to "personal reasons."
The pro wrestling business has been plagued with incidents -- both internally and externally -- involving drugs and alcohol. To live as a traveling performer is an exercise in self abuse. Consider the insane road schedule required to be on the WWE roster, as well as the chronic pain that is part and parcel with rag-dolling yourself a few nights every week.
And don't forget the politics of performing, where forgetting to shake someone's hand can earn you a purse full of poo. Or as "the boys" like to call it, a "rib." There eventually comes a point in every wrestler's life when they have to ask themselves, am I cut out for this business?
It takes an incredibly strong person to admit they don't have what it takes.
This is not a phenomenon exclusive to pro wrestling. When I worked for a big financial conglomerate after graduating college, there was a guy in my section of cubicles who was a walking disaster (and it wasn't Axe or Smash). He would blow lines in the break room, then look at you and say, "Well, that should get me through lunch, at the very least."
Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
Some people have what it takes. Others are good at their jobs, but suffer for them. If you can't get through the day without getting drunk, popping pain killers or ingesting some other form of intestinal band-aid, then you probably don't have what it takes, no matter how good you are at what you do.
That's why WWE has a wellness policy.
The quality and credibility of that policy is debatable, but on paper, there does exist the opportunity to get some folks turned around. After all, this industry needs young, athletic physiques and often times, their brains do not catch up to their bodies when it comes to maturity.
I'm sure I'm not the only guy who screwed up a bunch of times in my twenties.
That's what makes the Hayes error in judgment so egregious. This is a veteran in a leadership position and someone who is expected to set an example. That goes for outside of the ring, as well. I remember several years back when WWE instituted a dress code, which was admirable.
But a suit on a junkie is like a mask on Kane, it's still the same monster underneath.
If Mendes is serious about being a WWE Diva, then she is worth hanging on to. If, however, this is some shortcut to a career in modeling or B-movies, then cut her loose. From a business perspective, there is very little return on investment for someone whose loyalty is equivalent to the number of offers on the table
Likewise, she has an obligation to herself to bail if Vince McMahon treats her like a two-bit ho, or she has to bang her way to favorable bookings. No dream is worth that sort of self-disrespect and there has to be the expectation of personal responsibility.
Take Ryan Reeves, for example.
This is a guy whose dream was to be a WWE superstar, but failed on multiple occasions. Not just failed, but went down like a hydrogen-filled airbus in Lakehurst, New Jersey. He competed on Tough Enough and was not selected, then called back for a developmental deal, only to be released.
Reeves was given yet another shot, this time in Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). He worked his way up to NXT as Skip Sheffield and promptly shattered his ankle to the point where he needed three surgeries.
Undaunted, WWE let him recover from his injury and put him on television upon his return. But he was greeted with chants of "Gollllldberrrrrrg" and spent his ring time squashing local jobbers. Then he got sandbagged by Tensai and botched his finisher against Paul Heyman during a house show.
He still managed to get over as a face, only to have WWE turn him heel.
That's enough turbulence to send most guys over the edge, but Ryback has been cool as a cucumber. In fact, I think his new alignment with Heyman has helped produce some of his finest work to date. Is he sucking down pills in his rental car? Pounding shooters at the local watering hole?
Nope, he's meditating an hour each day.
Big, bad Ryback, who can benchpress an aircraft carrier, is reading books like "The Secret" and even told one media member he hopes to eventually become a motivational speaker, once he gets out of the "caveman" phase of his rapidly-evolving career.
"To this day I still [meditate]. It's all about having control of your thoughts. That's why I call myself a mental machine. I read all the time. I'm big into positivity books. 'The Secret' changed my life. I believe we have control over our thoughts and energy. Our entire life is all about energy. Even if I'm lucky enough to go and do some movies, I want to stay here, I want to be a part of WWE for the rest of my life."
And he will, with that attitude.
Even if you don't like his character, or do the "people's eyebrow" when it comes to evaluating his physique, it's hard to knock his message. Essentially, the business will break you if you let it, but if you take control of your life and get after it with unbridled enthusiasm, then no amount failure will keep you from reaching your goals.
And to my knowledge, no wrestler has ever been found dead in their hotel room as a result of meditating.
Pay attention, Mr. Hayes.