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Understanding pain

An empathetic view on the agonizing life of a pro wrestler.

Credit: Official Facebook fan page for Stone Cold Steve Austin

In 2000, I decided to get serious about pursuing my dream of becoming a professional wrestler and began hitting the weights heavily. After a few months, I’d gained minimal size but enough to encourage me to keep going.

After a trip to the gym sometime that summer, I returned home and began getting ready for work. Just as I had finished shaving my dome, I turned my head and immediately felt a pop. Soon, debilitating pain was rushing through my neck, shoulders, and upper back, forcing me to the ground.

As I lay in agony on my parents’ cold bathroom floor, I thought of Stone Cold Steve Austin.

The previous year, Austin underwent neck surgery to repair years of damage to his neck, including an infamous injury he sustained from a piledriver gone wrong at SummerSlam in 1997.

I didn’t know how badly I was hurt, but I knew it was enough to say, “I don’t think I’m cut out for wrestling.”

Following X-rays and a CT scan, my doctor informed me that I had slipped a couple of discs, which he attributed to my heavy lifting. He said I’d be fine and advised me to rest for a few weeks. He also suggested I lift lighter weights and consider another line of work.

The reality is that it should’ve never come to that. I had sustained two awful shoulder dislocations before this incident, once in wrestling practice in high school, which knocked me out for the season. The second time was two years later while taking judo. I also suffered a partial dislocation in a horseplay accident unsuitable for print.

So, why do I share these stories with you, dear readers? It’s to say that I understand pain. While I’ve never stepped into a pro wrestling ring to have a match or even take a bump, I know what it’s like to hurt. And I’m willing to bet that most of you do too.

At some point, most of us stub our toes. It’s a common accident. You’re walking around the house, likely with no shoes on, maybe it’s the middle of the night, and it’s dark, and you jam your toe into a wall or other hard surface.

Generally, what comes next is an immediate halt to what you were doing or attempting to do. That’s followed up by closing your eyes real tight as the rest of your body stiffens up, and you either bite your lip to keep from screaming or make a loud A-Z recital of every swear word in your vocabulary.

Often, people (literally) walk away from a stubbed toe. Sometimes, they’re not so lucky and require a trip to the emergency room, where they find out their injury is severe.

If that’s happened to you, I’m sorry. But now, imagine stubbing that same toe four nights a week for fifty-two weeks a year for five, ten, or twenty years. How do you think you’d feel? And what do you think your toe would look like?

Now that you and I understand pain, I hope some of you can appreciate why, for years, I’ve been calling for wrestlers and promotions to tone it down with the death-defying stunts and crazy gimmick matches like the ones happening at the upcoming crash carnival known as Money in the Bank.

It’s not to be the fun police. Instead, it’s because of my slight comprehension of pain. And now that I’m older, and my shoulder feels awful some days, I can only imagine what someone like Hulk Hogan feels like after multiple back surgeries to repair damage caused by doing the leg drop.

Yeah, a leg drop. Not a top rope splash through a table positioned on the arena floor or taking a fifty-foot fall through a stack of tables thanks to an overturned ladder. Nope.

A leg drop.

To be a professional wrestler is to commit to a life of pain. So anything these performers can do to minimize their risks and suffering, I’m all for it.

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