Supporting Wellness

September 3, 2007

It’s a shame Rosie doesn’t still work for WWE because the S.H.I.T. definitely hit the fan this week. If anyone was questioning the authenticity of WWE’s Wellness program, I think those questions have once and for all been put to rest. With pressure mounting from the media and the pending congressional hearings into steroid use in pro-wrestling, WWE is not only enforcing the Wellness policy with a vengeance, but also expanding it. Even WWE’s staunchest critics are going to have to admit that WWE is serious about their Wellness program.

The enforcement of this program is going to come at a price mind you. This past week WWE suspended 11 Superstars and fired 2 others for Wellness related violations. Most of these suspensions and terminations come on the heels of the investigation into Signature Pharmacy for illegal steroid (and growth hormone) distribution. Over a dozen current WWE performers have been listed as clients of Signature Pharmacy, and apparently received Internet prescriptions for steroids and or human growth hormone, which depending on the dates the drugs were received, would be in direct violations of WWE’s Wellness program.

WWE has not released the names of those who have been suspended, but it is believed that the suspended talent will be pulled from events so it won’t take too long to figure out who the guilty parties are. WWE has also stated that as of November 1st all Wellness program failures will be made public. This is a huge step forward and I think adds a ton of credibility to the program.

John Morrison (one of the names link to Signature) has already dropped the ECW World Title to CM Punk, and it is expected Umaga (also linked to Signature) will do the same with the IC Title for Jeff Hardy on RAW. There are going to be a lot of changes made to the WWE product over the next couple weeks with this many people, and many of them top players, getting suspended. Titles are changing hands as a result, and I would suspect many top programs are going to have to be redirected and rewritten.

The biggest program change may be the direction of the Vince McMahon illegitimate son angle. Vince’s last big angle (his death) had to be given up on after the Benoit family tragedy, so you can bet Vince isn’t going to want to risk having this current program screwed up by a Wellness violation. This angle is likely planned to lead into WrestleMania 24 and will be a HUGE money program, which involves every member of the McMahon family. Whoever is selected to be Vince’s bastard son is going to have to be someone Vince is absolutely sure won’t be getting suspended for Wellness violations. If the bastard son gets suspended the entire McMahon family could lose their WrestleMania program.

There were strong rumors floating around that Mr. Kennedy was the leading candidate for the roll as Vince’s son, but he is one of the names linked to Signature Pharmacy and is likely one of the 11 people suspended. If Kennedy is one of the 11, he may have just lost his spot in the biggest money program of his career. I doubt they are planning on holding off on the announcement of who Vince’s son is for another 30 (or perhaps 60) days so if Kennedy is suspended, someone else will likely get this top money spot.

If nothing else, all of this chaos should lead to must see television. I for one will be watching WWE programming this week just to see who is and isn’t on the shows and who gets written out of existing storylines. Programs may have to make unwanted and unexpected turns, while others may be dropped completely to accommodate these current suspensions.

One thing that I think is very important for fans to remember in all of this is that suspensions and the enforcement of the Wellness program is a good thing, for the industry and the health and welfare of those working in it, and needs to be supported by the fan base. If the talent roster seems a bit thin (both figuratively and literally) in light of the new suspensions, you can’t complain about it or allow the ratings or event attendance to dip as a result. If previous mid-carders (who haven’t failed the Wellness program) get elevated to Main Event spots, we have to support them.

WWE is in a position right now, be it by choice or be necessity, where they are punishing (suspending) those who use drugs, and as a result will be rewarding (featuring) those who don’t. We as a fan base need to do the same by supporting the product stronger now than ever before. Show WWE (both the talent and the office) that we will support a smaller drug free product every bit as much, perhaps even more, than a drug enhanced one. Sending any other kind of message makes you a part of the problem not a part of the solution.

Lance Storm