Do WWE Doctors Serve WWE Wrestlers? Or Just WWE?

The purpose of PR is to emit candy-coated bullshit. The purpose of journalism is to expose candy-coated bullshit and make people think.

Last week semi-retired pro wrestling legend Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat almost died from bleeding on the brain, a couple of days after he was on the receiving end of “worked” punishment on World Wrestling Entertainment television. The original diagnosis was a brain aneurysm. Once Steamboat was out of the woods, the diagnosis was changed to a “burst capillary.” And WWE went out of its way to emphasize that the injury had nothing to do with the performance of Steamboat’s TV “angle.”

You don’t have to be a medical expert to respond, “Hmmm …” You only have to know a bit about the uses and abuses of the English language.

In July 2007 Dr. Kris Sperry, the chief medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, released his toxicology report on Chris Benoit, who the previous month had killed himself after murdering his wife and their son. Sperry said the tests showed “elevated levels of testosterone” but “no anabolic steroids.” The coroner was under intense pressure from WWE to put it just that way, so that Benoit’s astronomical levels of prescribed testosterone under a “therapeutic use exemption” would not be fused in the public mind with his astronomical use of steroids and growth hormone, some of which was produced overseas and shipped by an Internet pharmacy. On CNN’s Nancy Grace, wrestling newsletter writers Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez were the first to point out that, hey, testosterone is an anabolic steroid.

Last year WWE performer Batista went on the shelf for the umpteenth time with a tear in his upper arm. Previously his injuries were identified as “torn triceps.” This time WWE called it a “torn bicep.” Triceps, bicep, shmicep – anyone with a brain knows that this type of chronic injury was never evident in the medical literature prior to the steroid era. The same for the torn pectoral that put WWE’s No. 1 star, John Cena, out of action in 2007-08.

Recently I have put a lot of this blog’s resources into examining the WWE medical team, led by medical director Joseph Maroon and his University of Pittsburgh Medical Center colleague, cardiologist Bryan Donohue. The story is how a client like WWE calls in the doctors for political cover, and in the end Orwellian language overwhelms the best interests of the athletes. The real role of sports medicine, as opposed to the ideal one, is a story told in the football movies North Dallas Forty and Any Given Sunday. For journalists covering the Linda McMahon Senate campaign, who would like to take a break from parsing dueling sound bites, it is a story worth telling again, fully and well.

Irv Muchnick

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2 Responses to “Do WWE Doctors Serve WWE Wrestlers? Or Just WWE?”


  1. 1 adambockler July 6, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    If WWE is as egocentric as this post leads to, why aren’t more wrestlers stepping forward and pressuring WWE to stop serving their best interest and instead serve the best interest of their talent?

    I’m not saying you’re in the wrong at all here, but why don’t you think any of their talents, especially from the past, have made many waves about this? (Besides Marc Mero)

    • 2 wrestlingbabylon July 6, 2010 at 1:19 pm

      Thanks for your comment. Wrestlers don’t speak up for the same reason they don’t organize into a union: they’re individualistic and scared, and they think, or hope, that the bad stuff that happens to others won’t happen to them.


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