Late last week, dehydrated WWE Divas Champion AJ Lee collapsed during her match with Brie Bella at a house show in London.
Cagesider SamD92 provides a firsthand account:
It was pretty horrible. She tagged herself out then after a couple of minutes jumped down from the ring and stood there with her head in her hands, then she literally just hit the floor and the match was instantly called off. Medics were around her for a good 10 minutes before she walked off.
That can be a frightening experience not only for those involved, but also for the fans in attendance. While pro wrestling has a long and ugly history of fake heart attacks and impromptu brain aneurysms, shit got a little too real when Jerry Lawler was on the brink of death in late 2012.
Though it should be noted that people pretending to die on live television is still funny to the sickos backstage.
I suppose it's much easier to just wait until everyone is okay, then make fun of them. Or in the case of Paul Bearer, wait until he's dead, dump fake ashes all over The Undertaker, then claim "Percy would have loved that angle" in every reply Email to horrified viewers.
PG era, y'all.
So in the case of AJ Lee, WWE officials felt the best way to handle her little overseas mishap was to have the oft-maligned Vickie Guerrero come out on Monday Night RAW and oversell a dehydration angle. And when I say oversell, Lee was the Hulkster and Guerrero was Shawn Michaels.
They call that a "rib."
The rib is a glorified dunce cap. You screw up, or happen to be the victim of unfortunate circumstance, you get put in the corner and made an example of. Or, whatever the incident was -- if juicy enough -- becomes part of Creative's current storylines.
But like the organization's insane travel schedule, this should not come as a surprise to new recruits.
You know what you're getting into when you make the conscious decision to become a pro wrestler. When I joined the Army back in 1992, I pretty much accepted that at some point, I was going to be beat up, humiliated, pranked and otherwise fucked with, just because.
You know, dystopia and all that stuff.
WWE, billed as family entertainment, is little more than a Petri dish of controlled violence. The object is to grow interest by hurting your opponent until they are unconscious for at least three seconds. Or, in the case of submissions, push them past the threshold of pain tolerance and into surrender.
Screams, anguish and blood are not uncommon.
But no matter how many funny skits are used to cushion the blow, these are men and women who exist only to injure one another. The person who can hurt the most and in turn be wounded the least, wins a shiny gold belt to recognize them for their accomplishments in the ancient art of kick-assery.
And we cheer, just like they cheered at the Coliseum, because we are humans and that's what we do.
Knowing that makes it difficult to take a hard-line stance against WWE for its code red-culture, where discipline and punishment are often handled by locker room litigators. If not, cases are turned over to the court of public opinion, where the defendant must assume the role of court jester.
Lee came out and took her lumps like a (wo)man.
Getting ribbed as an inside joke (for a few outside laughs) is part and parcel of the WWE business model and has been for years. But teasing Lee for giving everyone a scare is a lot different than going Richie Incognito on that ass. The line not only has to be drawn, it has to be respected, too.
The Rock's mistreatment of Vickie Guerrero comes to mind.
The term "mark" is bandied about these days to describe pro wrestling fans who take everything at face value and react according to how the script wants them to. That's true in any facet of life and entertainment (particularly politics), where "mark" can be subbed for "sheep."
That's where professional responsibility comes in.
Fans tune in to watch WWE programming because they want to be a part of that "Universe," just like those rubes who bring plastic wrap to a Gallagher concert. It's also why they turn out in droves at the AXXESS events and other miscellaneous appearances.
And there are millions (and millions) of them across the globe.
A good number of fans are small children, underdeveloped in their maturity and emotional well-being, to wit, marks by nature. If WWE is going to air its dirty laundry in public (as opposed to backstage heat), then I would ask it to use detergent that does not reek of cruelty and abuse.
Last night's harmless
feinting fainting rib was a pretty solid example.