WWE has been busy on the issue of concussions and head trauma over the past several years, both in terms of improving their diagnosis & treatment and on the public relations and legal fronts. While they're not in the crosshairs to the extent that the National Football League is, pro wrestling is dealing with multiple lawsuits and the spectre of incidents like the Chris Benoit tragedy and the role their alledgedly lax approach to traumatic brain injury may have played.
A new interview with former tag team champion René Duprée probably isn't going to help them move forward. As a guest on the latest episode of the Two-Man Power Trip of Wrestling podcast, the Canadian who worked in WWE from 2003-2007 had nothing good to say about how the company treated his concussions - and he says they were numerous:
My brains are so scrambled from throughout the years that it's starting to affect me and starting to affect my daily life. Now that I am getting older, it started when I was around 27, I started forgetting stuff, I had twenty-five concussions just within WWE.
You think about well I have so many, not really when you work a full time schedule and I was there for 5 1/2 years and when you wrestle what 150- 250 matches a year to have four or five concussions a year do you think that's highly unlikely? No, that's normal.
Asked if he was pushed to get medical treatment at any point, he says no:
They definitely didn't.
I personally got knocked out one night. I was wrestling Rob Van Dam and he hit me with a spin kick and I was out for five hours. I was out on my feet for five and half hour! I didn't get no concussions tests. I didn't even go to a doctor. After a concussion you are not supposed to go to sleep, well I woke up in my bed and Sylvan called me up and said you got kicked in the head and don't worry about it. You know how long I waited until I got back in the ring? I was back in the next night.
Remember the Bob Holly Incident? I got kicked about fifth-teen or twenty times in the f*cking head with a wrestling boot. You know how hard the sole of a wrestling boot is? It's like a steel-toed boot. Did I go get a concussion test. No. Did I go to a doctor? Yes, but just to see if anything was broken around my eye.
"The Bob Holly incident", for those who don't remember it, happened at a house show in 2004. Holly, a veteran who had another infamous incident of working stiff with a young talent on the set of Tough Enough two years earlier, roughed up the then-20 year old Duprée. According to René, at least one WWE executive knew what the man known as "Hardcore" was planning:
I was a kid and I made a mistake not paying a parking ticket and I offered to pay him double for whatever it is that I owed him and that wasn't good enough. So, he threatened to kill me on a plane and threatened to run me over. The guy is a psychopath. I am a firm believer because I was about twenty and he was forty-one and I believe he was suffering from dementia to be honest with you. John Laurenitis is behind it all too because he is the one who booked me in a f*cking match with him and they knew exactly what they were doing. They knew exactly what was going to happen and they were laughing at it, the whole place is f*cking corrupt.
Holly wasn't the only veteran performer Duprée claims "took liberties" in the ring. In fact, he says the recently re-signed Bubba Ray Dudley's departure from the company in 2005 was in part due to injuring his co-workers:
I've had so many concussions from Bubba Ray Dudley it's not even funny. You know Chris Nowinski had to retire because of Bubba Ray giving him concussions right? Devon, it's universal everyone likes Devon because he's a pro, but Bubba can be difficult to work with.
One time in the ring, Sly [Sylvain Grenier, Duprée's partner in La Résistance] screwed up a spot and then Bubba punched him in the face and bloodied his nose and Sly asked him why backstage and Bubba went off and punched him in the face again. Sylvan was very good friends with Pat Patterson and they weren't around shortly thereafter.
Check out the whole podcast for more, and thanks to 411mania.com for the transcription.
What do you make of René Duprée's claims, Cagesiders?