It’s a sad day in the world of pro wrestling. As I got up today, I received the news of the passing of Perro Aguayo Jr. in the middle of a tag team match in Tijuana, Mexico. After getting dropkicked in the side of the head by Rey Misterio Jr., as Misterio set Aguayo up for his trademark 619 maneuver, Perro fell against the ropes lifeless, unable to move from thereon out. It’s hard to say whether it was the kick from Misterio, or the whiplash effect from hitting the middle rope, causing trauma to the cervical spine, that led to the premature death of Perro Aguayo Jr.  A freak accident, yes.  But just another reality of the physical toll of pro wrestling.

For the first time in a long time, this news put pro wrestling (or Lucha Libre, as the game is known in Mexico) on the sports pages en lieu of the entertainment section in the news. For so long, pro wrestling has been balked at as not being a legitimate sport by critics and the opposition at large, but no one can deny that we, as athletes, endure great physical risks in being a part of this ”sport of kings.”

On a personal note alone, I have gone through eight concussions in my wrestling career since 1994 worldwide. Add to that a broken left ankle in two places with eight screws and three plates to reconstruct it, a torn right rotator cuff, a herniated disc in my neck, torn ligaments on two occasions in my right foot and bone chips in my left elbow, a missing tooth, and yeah … I don’t see where pro wrestling is ”fake”.

StarBuck injury

Bandaging myself up to close a head wound after a physical match (photo: Lasse Arkela)

What happened this past weekend in Tijuana, Mexico is another grave reminder of the incredible physical demand that pro wrestling takes on our bodies. Every single one of us that climb into that ring to make the fans yell, scream and cheer should be applauded for putting our health and lives on the line time in and time out. Most times for completely inadequate compensation, be it noted. And what about the retirement and pension plans for pro wrestlers? Are you kidding me?? What about solid insurance policies to cover mishaps and injuries? Good luck in finding coverage that will actually go up to bat for you when the shit hits the fan. I got lucky in the last department, when a decade back I was able to score a comprehensive insurance policy through a gym client of mine, after my former insurance provider screwed me over after suffering my fifth concussion in Italy.

John Cena being stretchered out after a legit injury in 2008

John Cena being stretchered out after a legit injury in 2008

The bottom line is, pro wrestling has long suffered from lack of respect from the media and public at large for not being ”pure sport”. That is not, nor has it ever been, the point. The point is that pro wrestling is the equivalent of gladiators in modern times. It is the art of battle. In battle, one is bound to get battle scars. To quote bygone wrestling great ”Dr. Death” Steve Williams, ”This ain’t ballet.”

Methinks pro wrestling and wrestlers at large are long overdue for a heaping load of respect from the day and age and world et al that we live in.

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