I remember being 16 years old watching the match on a Pay-Per-View.
I remember how violent the wrestling moves seemed.
It wasn’t a collection of repeated violent moves, but two or three moves that stood out to me. As I have gotten older, I have never been able to replace the impact of those images from my mind.
I am talking about Mick Foley vs The Undertaker: King of the Ring 1998.
If you go back to watch old Mick Foley matches, one thing is consistent: he puts his body through incredible damage. The unprotected chair shots to his head, the Russian Leg Sweeps on the concrete, running into the ring steps at full speed.
As a teenager watching wrestling, I thought he was crazy and impervious to pain. Now as an adult, I watch those matches with an aura of sadness. Learning that professional wrestling created long-term damage to the wrestlers that I grew up idolizing.
I find myself watching wrestling from the 1990s with its “hardcore style” or the NFL with its “jacked up” hits with the same cringe-worthy emotion.
I’m not a doctor, and chances are if you are reading my writing you aren’t either, but to deny the impact that this style of professional wrestling or the NFL has had on its employees would be nonsensical.
We have all read about the long-term damage that playing in the NFL has had on its employees, whether it is from brain injuries, hip replacements, knee surgery, or whatever ailments come from the playing in the NFL.
I used to love watching Jamal Lewis play football in the NFL. His punishing, “take no prisoners” style made him seem like one of the toughest players I’ve seen. He wouldn’t run away from contact, he would run through contact.
Now as you read about Jamal Lewis in a Bleacher Report article , you read about a man who is having issues with memory loss, as well as the early stages of CTE possibly being detected.
The conflict comes over me, did these superheroes of my childhood sacrifice their life and their health just to entertain me?
When I watched the Mick Foley vs The Undertaker match at King of the Ring 1998, I now ask myself, am I watching Mick Foley damage the later years of his life with every wrestling move in that match?
I don’t want the spectacular fall from the top of the Hell in a Cell with the same amazement anymore, I watch it and think that’s why he is in bad health now.
I don’t watch him go through the cell on an unscripted fall and think “wow what a tough man”, I wonder if that move is damaging to his long-term health.
Mick Foley is one of the hundreds of wrestlers who used a punishing style during a punishing era. Wrestlers took insane chances to not only one up themselves as wrestlers but also to try to increase the level of excitement in professional wrestling. When it was a constant struggle of “Will this show top the prior one?” this set a dangerous precedent with punishing matches week after week. We, as fans, seemingly became numb to the danger and risk involved with each unprotected chair shot to the head, or each time a wrestler went through a table, or whatever “hardcore” move was invented to further evoke the largest reaction.
The more we learn about brain injuries and the terminal impact of concussions or blows to the head, it makes me wonder about the long-term impact this has had on professional wrestlers that I grew up with.
Does every blow to the head that Mick Foley took against The Rock at Royal Rumble 1999 make his quality of life more difficult in 2018?
How do I, as a fan, absorb watching these matches while knowing what we know now in 2018 about brain injuries and their long-term impact?
As you read this, I hope Mick Foley is in good health and in a good place in his life.
I hope the impact of his professional wrestling career is able to provide him all the good in the world that he deserves.
I have a sense of guilt watching him fall off of a 15 or 20 (depending on who is telling the story) foot high steel cage knowing the terminal effects caused by concussions.
I hope as wrestling fans we understand that the constant bumps and wear and tear on the body matter, they don’t just go away when a wrestler leaves WWE.
These men and women sacrificed their bodies and minds to entertain us on a nightly basis. Sadly, some entertained us to their untimely death.
I sincerely hope these athletes enjoy their retirement, instead of dealing with the severe consequences of their chosen profession.