The Rock - bigger than ever, not just figuratively speaking. - Photo by simononly of Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
The Rock's current musclebound physique makes him look like a neon-signed WWE Wellness Policy exemption. Which makes Bruno Sammartino look naive for buying Triple H's impassioned plea that the McMahon family had completely changed their ways.
Yesterday, the WWE Wellness Policy came back into the media spotlight for both good and bad reasons. Its glossy veneer of corporate responsibility led to a WWE living legend finally burying the hatchet with the company he had been at odds with for almost 25 years. Whilst those performers who know the reality of its administration were privately grumbling about double standards again.
Yes, Bruno Sammartino has finally accepted an invitation to be inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame, which has been way overdue given that he so obviously should have been the first wrestler enshrined into the historic institution.
However, it might not have happened this year if WWE's medical director wasn't the Vice Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Dr. Joseph Maroon. A man of many hats, Maroon was also the surgeon who took on the challenging task of operating on Bruno's thrashed back in June 2007, a major surgery that The Italian Superman made his greatest ever comeback from. Six years on, he is still completely pain free and can continue lifting weights many men his junior might struggle with at the ripe old age of 77.
So, it's unsurprising then that Bruno naïvely took Maroon's WWE endorsement as a sign that the company's past shadiness on drug issues had been well and truly consigned to the dustbin of history. With his old doctor onboard the WWE ship, Bruno fell for Triple H's impassioned plea that the McMahon family had turned over a cleaner new leaf, hook, line and sinker:
"But after talking to Paul, and him explaining to me the changes they’ve made in their program, and how they’ve hired a doctor like Dr. Maroon, who is a world-renowned neurosurgeon, who also operated on me, and now that he has been put in charge of the company’s wellness program and their drug testing, that impressed me. I know what kind of a man he is, and he is a giant in that field, so I take my hat off to WWE because they took such huge steps to make things better for the wrestlers themselves and making sure they are healthy to perform. That was very, very important."
The problem is, Bruno really doesn't know his favourite doctor all that well after all. Dr. Maroon may very well be a skilled flesh mechanic, but he's also the peddler of the "valid, reliable and safe" ImPACT concussion testing and a promoter of the health supplement Vindure made out of red grape extract, both of which are of dubious quality.
Not content to be an expert in his field, Maroon clearly ventures out of his own area of expertise and champions iffy causes to make a fast buck, too.
Bruno also must have missed all of The Rock's recent WWE appearances of late, who has obviously been doing a lot more than just saying his prayers, drinking his milk, eating his vitamins and taking his grape supplements to attain the most musclebound physique of his wrestling career.
Gone is the surprising fluidity he displayed in his first bout back at Survivor Series 2011, now you worry whether he can puff and pant his way through a main event calibre performance with smoke and mirrors.
The growth of his muscles is certainly eyebrow raising, given that WWE didn't drug test during the Attitude Era and Dwayne Johnson once had surgery for gynecomastia, which is often caused by the usage of human growth hormone and steroids.
Those extra pounds may be bad for his health, flexibility and stamina, but certainly not for his bank balance, as they make not only Vince McMahon's mouth water, but also many Hollywood directors too. If you're playing a steroid-abusing knucklehead bodybuilder or a Greek hero famed for his feats of superhuman strength, then you've got to look the part for the big screen.
Walking around like a neon signed WWE Wellness Policy exemption is all well and good on a filmset or if The Rock was just making a one-off appearance for the promotion, but it becomes a bit of a sick joke when he's on TV for three months straight, and presumably doesn't have to pee in a cup like the rest of his colleagues. If so, it creates an uneven playing field where there are rules in place for the rank and file performers who wrestle on every ordinary WWE house show that don't apply to the ageing guest stars that return to hog the limelight once a year at WrestleMania.
So for once I disagree with my esteemed site manager, Geno Mrosko. The latest round of backstage resentment towards The Rock isn't just motivated by the petty jealousy of last year, but a real perceived injustice. No-one likes a boss's pet who they feel is getting away with sins that they'd be hung, drawn and quartered for.
This also wouldn't be the first time that there's been anonymous complaints to the wrestling media about WWE playing fast and loose with their Wellness Policy. When Evan Bourne was suspended by WWE for 30 days on Nov. 1st, 2011 over a drug test failure for synthetic marijuana, a stink was made since Bourne had taken the drug with a co-worker that had also been tested at the same time he was, but the person in question was scheduled to headline the next pay-per-view and wasn't suspended when Bourne had been.
I doubt the morally upstanding Bruno would approve of such shenanigans, nor the fact that hell will freeze over before The Rock gets popped for failing a WWE drug test.