This idea hit me weeks after Daniel Bryan’s abrupt, but expected, retirement-due to concussions and surrounding issues, among other reasons. But where it really came to life? When yet another NFL player retired just recently, at the age of 23, due to concussions. If you look around, whether at the NFL or in wrestling, there are what appears to be a growing number of athletes who are becoming cognizant of the risks, and opting for long term health over short term fame and fortune.
So, this has me asking: will this concern, specifically about concussions, alter the WWE roster in the years to come?
No, I am not asking for you to play prognosticator, nor am I really aiming to do that myself. I am not going to say “so and so will retire at 30″. That’s not what this was about. It’s more asking the general question of, do we think we will get someone, on the level of a Daniel Bryan, retiring out of an abundance of caution, before a doctor tells him (or her) that they can’t wrestle anymore. In the NFL, for example, we’ve seen AJ Tarpley walk away this spring (he is only 23 years old). Chris Borland, himself not much older, retired around this time last year out of concerns related to his long term health. We’ve seen other players retire too, some fairly big stars, though their reasons weren’t necessarily explicitly concussion-related. And even JJ Watt, a defensive megastar for the Houston Texans, has implied that he’s not averse to retiring in a few years, as the wear and tear (and risks) take their toll.
In WWE? Off the top of my head there are two perfect, non-Daniel Bryan examples. NXT commentator Corey Graves was himself an NXT talent, hoping to break through to the main WWE roster, only to have concussion issues end his career. And then there is Chris Nowinski, aka Chris Harvard. If you are relatively new to wrestling, you might not know him as a former WWE talent, but chances are you know him from his extensive concussion research following his own career ending concussions.
But will any of this equal stars walking away early, with their health intact? Hard to tell. Wrestling is one where we all too often see guys hang on way too late, to the point where it becomes painful to watch them in the ring (Funk and Flair come to mind). But part of that is because of the sport’s macho persona. No one wants to admit they are concussed. Just tell ’em you had your bell rung, but you’ll be fine in a bit. Don’t ever let someone think you are weak, right?
Maybe that mentality was fine 20 or 30 years ago, but it can’t fly anymore. It’s just irresponsible.
Will we see someone like Seth Rollins or John Cena retire early? I have my doubts, but it’s not impossible. Wrestling is a high impact sport, even without factoring the occasional chair shots. Just doing the regular bumps, sometimes your head will just bounce off the mat-and that’s all it takes. So whether we like it or not, we will see someone else, on the Daniel Bryan level (or bigger) forced into retirement way too soon. It’s just inevitable. It’s a risk wrestlers are willing to take, in order to provide us with the entertainment we crave.
I just hope that, with more attention and research, the early retirements will be a rare occurrence.