Wrestling is more of aware of concussions and brain injury than ever before. But we’ve seen some scary moments involving head trauma over the past year. There was Kairi Sane at TLC 2019, and Sane again on Raw in May of this year. Then we had Matt Hardy at All Out, and Dark Order’s Alex Reynolds a couple months later on Dynamite.
The scene at Dragon Gate’s Final Gate show over the weekend is on another level, though. A lower level.
Despite the fact Ben-K was clearly unconscious after taking a clothesline, his match with Shun Skywalker continued. The referee briefly checks on him, but if you’ve ever seen someone go stiff from a knockout, you’d know not much checking should have been required. Skywalker presumably didn’t notice, though, and without a signal from the referee, rapidly hits Ben-K with two standing knee moonsaults.
What follows is what’s truly inexcusable, however. Skywalker climbs and hits a moonsault from the top rope on his prone and defenseless opponent. Then - because the plan called for a kickout, I guess - the ref only counts two and Ben-K is hit with another top rope moonsault before they finally finish the match.
Ben-K was then stretchered out, and didn’t show any signs of movement while that was happening, either.
The promotion today (Dec. 21) issued a statement saying Ben-K is stable with a minor concussion.
Regarding the condition of Ben-K after #TheFinalGate2020— Dragongate Japan Pro-Wrestling (Official English) (@DragonGateEN) December 21, 2020
He was taken to the hospital after the match for examination, where he was diagnosed with a mild concussion. His condition is currently stable, but as a precaution he will not compete for the time being. #dragongate
There’s really nothing to say other than that scenes like these should not be playing out. If the opponent and the referee are blinded by the heat of the moment, someone ringside or backstage should make the call to stop the match for them. Wrestling’s been fortunate moments like these haven’t ended in tragedy (instantly, anyway... what we know about the long-term impacts of brain injury says that’s still a possibility in the future).
The business is working to protect performers in lots of different ways, and that’s good. But the “show must go on” mentality that leads to instances like this one at Dragon Gate, and earlier ones AEW & WWE, still needs to be broken.