15 years ago on Friday (June 28), Mic Foley and The Undertaker were involved in two of the most brutal spots in professional wrestling history. At the 1998 King of the Ring pay-per-view, ‘Taker tossed Foley off a 16-foot Hell in a Cell structure and onto the Spanish announcers’ table, giving the world one of the most memorable calls of all time from Jim Ross.
“Good God almighty! Good God almighty! That killed him! As God as my witness, he is broken in half!”
A little while later, Foley would make his way back on top of the cell. In a complete botch, ‘Taker chokeslammed Foley through the cage, almost killing “Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy.”
Foley would continue to compete, eventually losing when he was chokeslammed onto a pile of thumbtacks.
Last Friday, WWE announced on its website that both Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton had been fined an undisclosed amount for chair strikes to the head during their match on Monday’s (June 24) Raw. Triple H was quoted as saying, “We don’t allow chair shots to the head in WWE. We understand it was in the heat of the moment but we take this very seriously and as a result, [Orton and Bryan] were fined.”
This is a very different WWE.
A common complaint among pro wrestling fans is how boring the PG Era has become. The lack of blood and extreme spots creates a lackluster spectacle, and those who were around during the Attitude Era had become accustomed to the promotion continually raising the bar. While this is a point that can be debated, one thing is for certain.
I would much rather be a wrestler in today’s WWE than during the ’90s.
This is a period when John Cena, CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler get time off to heal their bodies. Attitude Era stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H needed a broken neck or torn ACL to even think of asking for a break. Bryan’s match against Orton was stopped two weeks ago (June 17) when he might have been injured.
You can imagine the name-calling that would have gone on if anyone tried that 15 years ago.
With the brand split, wrestlers are not required to work every house show on every tour. The most hardcore match stipulations are generally saved for specific pay-per-views, so the workers’ need to constantly one-up themselves is limited. There has been a vast improvement in medical care and injuries are able to be quickly diagnosed.
Instead of letting the talent pop a couple of pills, WWE is actually treating its employees.
Things are not perfect, of course. Injuries always have and always will be a part of pro wrestling. And as Derek Batman‘s release from WWE has shown, getting seriously hurt could spell an end to a young career.
However, I would rather take that chance than be expected to kill myself day in and day out to entertain the fans.
Is WWE more entertaining today than it was 15 years ago? Again, that is up to the individual to decide. But the talent’s safety is actually being taken into account far more now than it used to be. That hopefully means longer careers from our favorite wrestlers.
Which, in my opinion, is a very good thing.