by Jason Howard Kelly
Earlier today on Twitter WWE superstar Daniel Bryan announced his retirement, following months of speculation surrounding his health and status within the company.
While this news is hugely saddening for many WWE fans it is not necessarily a shock, given the serious nature of Bryan’s neck injuries. This is certainly not the first time that the WWE universe will watch one of its favorite superstars announce his retirement live on Raw. Back in 2011 fans looked on as WWE superstar, and now Hall of Famer, Edge (real name Adam Copeland) announced his retirement in the middle of the ring on Monday Night Raw.
Much like Daniel Bryan, Edge was forced to retire because of a serious neck injury that could have potentially been life threatening had he continued to compete.
While the actual in-ring action in WWE may be scripted the injuries that can occur are definitely not. Just like athletes in other major sports WWE superstars suffer all kinds of bumps and bruises, and some tend to be more serious than others. WWE itself has taken significant steps towards protecting its superstars by updating its Wellness Policy and introducing a concussion protocol.
However, injuries and premature retirements are still running rampant throughout the WWE locker room, and there is a fairly obvious reason for that. WWE superstars have the most excruciatingly busy schedule, with the average superstar working 300 days per year. “Working” here having the meaning of competing in the ring. Not only do these superstars work more than most athletes but they also travel much more than other athletes. WWE superstars will generally work 3-4 times in a given week, with each show being in a different city. The combination of the physical demands and the travel obligations is resulting in shortened careers, due to either injury or just pure exhaustion.
Every other major sport has an offseason. There is a stretch of at least 3-4 months where the athletes can relax at home, rest their bodies, and prepare for the next upcoming season. This option may not be plausible for an industry like the WWE. However, it is certainly possible to cut down on the amount of non-televised live shows that the WWE superstars are obligated to do. After all, these live house shows rarely attract meaningful attendance numbers. WWE can easily sell out an arena for Monday Night Raw or Smackdown on Thursday nights, but these live, non-televised shows are not drawing significant numbers.
WWE needs to start sharply cutting down on the number of live shows they do throughout a calendar year. Demanding over 300 days of work per year from the superstars is a recipe for disaster. WWE fans would much rather see their favorite superstars remain healthy and able to entertain them every Monday and Thursday on television than pay through the nose to see them live. A big part of the attraction to the televised WWE shows is that they advance and embellish the current storylines and rivalries. Live house shows, since they are not televised, have little-to-no effect on the current storylines. Essentially, the matches one might see at a live show are just exhibitions.
Shaving off some of these live shows will boost the morale of the superstars, increase their career span, and lead to overall better health for the entire roster — And that will greatly enhance the product.