Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Inside The Squared Circle: Three Former Wrestlers Check Into Rehab and W.W.E. Pays the Cost

Back in September, World Wrestling Entertainment (W.W.E.) offered free drug rehab to its former employees. Below is a copy of the letter (courtesy of the Pro Wrestling Torch) that was sent out and signed by Vince McMahon:

Over the last ten years, an inordinate number of wrestlers have passed away. Some of those deaths may in part have been caused by drugs and alcohol.

In an effort to prevent such tragedies in the future, the W.W.E. is willing to pay for drug and/or alcohol rehabilitation at a certified treatment facility chosen by W.W.E. for any performer with a prior W.W.E. booking contract who may need this service. The W.W.E. will pay for this service in full.

There is no cost to you or your family. Help will be provided regardless of the circumstances of your departure from the W.W.F. or the amount of time you performed for the W.W.E.

If you do not have a drug and/or alcohol problem, but know you know a former W.W.E. performer who does, we are asking you to try to help them by encouraging them to take advantage of this opportunity.

Liz Difabio has been appointed as a representative in this matter. Liz has been with the company for over 24 years and has been directly involved with the majority of W.W.E. performers who have received treatment for substance abuse. She understands emotions that individuals and family members go through in this process. Any conversation you have with Liz will remain confidential and will not be released to the public.

In many instances, an individual in need of help is in denial and will not want rehabilitation. There are professional intervention companies that will help persuade that person that they need treatment. Liz will be able to facilitate such interventions, should they be necessary. An intervention and treatment will be at the cost of W.W.E. exclusively.

This service is being provided for performers with a prior W.W.E. booking contract only. No family or friends. Please reach out to Liz if you think you might have a drug or alcohol problem or if you know someone who does.

We all need to do anything we can to help prevent another tragedy.

Vincent K. McMahon
Chairman, World Wrestling Entertainment

I don’t expect such “trustworthy” journalists as Nancy Grace, Geraldo Rivera or Phil Mushnick to cover this one, because that would mean they would be discussing solutions rather than problems. News12? Nah, they are too busy reporting on such groundbreaking stories as the cold weather in February!

Seriously, though, there have been three wrestlers that I know of that have taken Vince McMahon up on his offer. Jake “The Snake” Roberts is nearing completion of his rehab stay and thanks Vince and the W.W.E. effusively on his MySpace page. Recently, Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall and Ron Simmons have also gone to rehab via the W.W.E.’s offer.

In the case of Simmons, he is a semi-retired wrestler and current employee of the W.W.E. Ron Simmons' resume is very impressive. He is the first recognized World Champion in pro wrestling history (Bobo Brazil won the N.W.A. World title in the early ’60s but the win was not recognized), a former All-American at Florida State University, played football for the Cleveland Browns in the N.F.L. and also played for several teams in the U.S.F.L. In addition, his number “50” is retired by F.S.U.

Scott Hall recently worked for W.W.E. competitor Total Nonstop Action (T.N.A.) where he no-showed a pay-per-view in which he was a part of the main event. Hall, who gained notoriety in the 1990s as “Razor Ramon” was always a problem from what I have read and based on things I have heard other wrestlers say about him.

I’m glad these guys are going to get help and I hope more current and former wrestlers reach out for help if they need it. The W.W.E. received a great deal of negative press – some of it deserving while some of it not – during the Chris Benoit double murder-suicide that took place last June. But I think that the promotion is taking a positive step in trying to help its former stars.

I’m sure there are plenty of detractors for one reason or another. I read that “Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino ripped the letter up in a rage when he received it. Why? The letter was sent to ALL former wrestlers so it wasn’t meant to insult anyone.

I think it is so sad that Mr. Sammartino is so darn bitter toward pro wrestling. The guy had two reigns as World Champion in what was then known as the W.W.W.F. (World Wide Wrestling Federation) which totaled nearly 12 years. No one will ever break his record as having the single longest reign as World Champion – nearly eight years! Sad, that although he has valid points about the way wrestling has evolved, he is largely ignored and instead seen as an angry, bitter and jealous man.

The W.W.E. can certainly be ripped for some of their past racy storylines, but in this case Vince McMahon and the W.W.E. have done the right thing. I still say that each individual has to be held accountable for the choices they make. There are too many folks who say that Vince McMahon made these guys drink, do drugs or shoot steroids. The fact that also gets left out is that although today there is only one major wrestling promotion left, many wrestlers that have died do to drug use never even worked for Vince McMahon. If Nancy Grace and others even bothered doing their homework they would illustrate that not all wrestlers work or have worked for the W.W.E.

Was World Class Championship Wrestling and the people that ran it in Texas to blame for three of the five Von Erich boys taking their own lives? I’d also like to see Time Warner, which owned World Championship Wrestling in its final days, follow a similar path that Vince McMahon has with this offer.

Regardless, any way you cut it, the W.W.E. has taken positive action.

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