In the 21st century, discussions about concussions and brain injuries always surround sports and entertainments that feature a lot of contact between participants — and professional wrestling is no exception.
A concussion suffered by AEW’s Jon Moxley during a match on live television in September recently refocused the wrestling world’s attention onto the issue. When Moxley last week floated an idea for how wrestling could better handle similar situations in the future, conversations really picked up.
With debates about the merits and flaws of Mox’s proposal still ongoing, the Oct. 30 episode of WWE Raw featured a match between Xia Li and Candice LeRae that was stopped by referee Daphanie LaShaunn. LeRae was displaying/selling concussion-like symptoms from the time her head hit the mat approximately 30 seconds into this video, but the stoppage came after a Xia spin kick at the 1:15 mark.
It seems likely this was a work. The cameras stayed with Candice as a trainer checked on her, and on Li as she celebrated her win — neither of which would figure to be standard procedure if there was legitimate concern for LeRae’s health. We also got a shot of Candice’s family & friends checking on her backstage later in the show.
During their breakdown of the match on Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer & Bryan Alvarez treated the knockout as storyline, criticizing the angle because it made LaShaunn look bad for not checking on LeRae when she was unsteady before the final spin kick.
If it was indeed a scripted moment, it’s evidence of one of the criticisms of Moxley’s proposal: that it will be hard for any independent concussion spotter or spotters to quickly make a determination about a possible brain injury as long as bookers & promoters continue to use fictional head trauma in matches. Whether they’re doctors, wrestlers or a team of both as Mox suggested, they’d need to be clued in ahead of time to angles like this one to avoid confusion or unnecessary stoppages. And even then, it could cost valuable time were a real concussion to occur in a match where a fake one was planned.
There’s also a question of why WWE ran this angle last night. It could be that they’ve had it planned for a while. Using a knockout to establish someone like Li, who’s been used as an enhancement talent-type for most of her career, as a threat is fairly standard booking. But given some of the shots fired during the wrestling “war” between WWE and AEW, it’s not unimaginable this could have been intended as a contrast to how Moxley’s concussion was handled on Dynamite. It could also simply have been a way to capitalize on the talk Mox’s proposal prompted among diehard fans and pundits.
Let us know what you think about any or all of this, Cagesiders. And in case this wasn’t a work, keep a good thought for Candice. Even if it was, keep one for all the wrestlers who risk brain injury every time they get in the ring to entertain us.