Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Axeman Speaks - Sept. 3, 2007

Greetings, wrestling fans! This column will be devoted primarily to WWE and their current shift into "damage control" mode.

Now, I am not condemning any WWE star or former WWE star. Let me make that clear up front. I am sure there are some stars whose names have been mentioned as being part of this situation who feel they are innocent. If that is the case, their innocence will become apparent eventually.

A number of suspensions and several firings have kept the various news boards on the net busy this past week or so. WWE has suspended a number of its stars for wellness policy violations.

Now, until very recently, I considered the WWE wellness policy to be somewhat of a joke. Lots of people did. I actually think some within the WWE organization felt the same way. Frankly, I think the only thing that finally gave the WWE wellness policy come credibility is the recent Congressional investigation started by Rep. Cliff Stearns of the Commerce, Trade & Consumer Protection Subcommittee. WWE was forced into a position of having to do what their wellness policy says they will do. While I am not crazy about a Congressional investigation into wrestling, and I sure don't want any government regulation of wrestling, it did make WWE brass get off their asses and enforce their policy. My greatest fear is that it is too little, too late. Once a Congressional investigation of this nature is started, can any good come out of it? Will the U. S. Congress pass a bunch of asinine laws that will "govern" wrestling? I hope not. We'll see.

The Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee will hold hearings in the near future on steroid use in professional wrestling. This is the same Congressional panel that grilled Bud Selig, Paul Tagliabue and David Stern about performance enhancing drugs in sports two years ago.

On August 30, 2007, WWE issued the following statement: "Based on independent information received from investigators from the Albany County, New York, D.A.’s office, WWE has today, under the penalty provisions of its wellness policy, issued suspension notices to 10 of its performers for violations. It has been WWE’s practice not to release the names of those who have been suspended, but notice has been sent to all WWE performers that names of anyone who is suspended under the Wellness Policy as of November 1 will be made public."

These suspensions are likely to be based on proof that WWE stars were using Signature Pharmacy or another Internet prescription type firm. Apparently, this violates WWE wellness policy rules in some way.

In an article by T.J. Quinn of the New York Daily News, the newspaper received a list of wrestlers who were clients of Signature Pharmacy. The names listed were: Randy Orton, Charlie Haas, Adam Copeland (Edge), Robert Huffman (King Booker), Shane Helms (Gregory Helms), Mike Bucci (Simon Dean), Anthony Carelli (Santino Marella), John Hennigan (John Morrison), Darren Matthews (William Regal), Ken Anderson (Mr. Kennedy), and Chavo Guerrero. Three other pro wrestlers employed by WWE, now deceased, were also on the list: Chris Benoit, Brian Adams (Crush), and Eddy Guerrero. It is not completely clear whether all of these wrestlers were the ones suspended by WWE. You can be sure, however, that some of them are on the list.

WWE was made aware of several of the names months ago by a Sports Illustrated investigation. They chose not to suspend the workers then because the time frame concerning their dealings with Signature dated back to before the WWE Wellness Policy was implemented. If this is so, some of the recent suspensions are, to say the least, on shaky ground. I suspect that, due to WWE feeling the heat from the government investigation, WWE felt it had to go ahead with suspensions. If the dealings with Signature occurred after February of '06, WWE had no choice but to suspend.

Since WWE made their announcement on August 30, additional names of WWE stars have been added to the list, including Sylvian Greiner (who was released several weeks ago), Edward Fatu (Umaga), Nick Dinsmore (Eugene), Shoichi Funaki, Dave Bautista (Batista) and Chris Mordetsky (Chris Masters). Mike Bucci and Nick Dinsmore have since been fired by WWE.

Umaga, Morrison, and Kennedy are apparently among those who have been suspended. This became apparent over the weekend during WWE events and tapings. The rest will become obvious within the next few days.

Another name added to the list is Kurt Angle, who is a former WWE star now employed by TNA. What action TNA will take, if any, remains to be seen, although I suspect no action will be taken. Angle's transgressions while in WWE will probably not be considered by TNA. I do not know of any wellness policy in TNA, although there is talk of them having one soon.

Stephanie McMahon and John Laurinaitis met with WWE workers at the Smackdown & ECW taping last week in Cincinnati, OH, to inform them of changes to the WWE Wellness Policy. Those changes are:

WWE will begin testing for marijuana. A positive result will not bring about a suspension, but all positives will be met with a fine of at least $1,000 per offense.

WWE will also start testing for anti-estrogen drugs, which can be taken to offset some of the effects of steroid and HGH use. A positive for any type of anti-estrogen will result in a suspension.

Any new hires by WWE will have to undergo and pass the WWE Wellness test before they are signed to a deal with the company.

Also at the meting at the Smackdown/ECW taping, Stephanie McMahon told all performers that 13 suspensions were handed out in regards to any wrestlers receiving substances from online pharmacies, while two had to do with drug screening failures. WWE has only publicly confirmed 11 suspensions, so either Stephanie told the wrestlers a wrong figure or there are more coming.

Stephanie also reportedly added that Vince McMahon was quote "looking forward to the Congressional hearings" on the sport and to testifying before Congress if called to do so. One source said Stephanie even joked about the matter saying Vince was thinking of going in wearing a clown wig and shoes to make a statement about the hearings. It seems to me that Vince should be taking things a lot more seriously than that.

Batista was overheard asking Stephanie in front of all the wrestlers what could be done legally about his name being involved in recent media reports (mainly Sports Illustrated). He said in front of the entire WWE crew that he had never received anything from the online pharmacy companies. Stephanie told him that was an issue he would have to discuss with personal attorneys. Batista made it clear that he was very upset at Sports Illustrated and other media outlets for reporting his name this week, claiming he had no connection.

At the end of the meeting, Triple H reportedly addressed all wrestlers with a speech saying that he knows many people probably feel they are in a horrible business and are questioning why they would still want to be involved. He "reminded" the wrestlers that they have a "dream job" where they get to make children happy and get to live out their dreams of being involved in a business they all grew up loving. Triple H reportedly said he was proud to be a pro wrestler and that the entire business, not just WWE, was under fire and that it was up to the boys to "stick together and work through it."

This scandal involving Signature has also involved two people (so far) in the NFL. New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison and Dallas Cowboys assistant coach Wade Wilson have both admitted to league officials that they received illegal performance enhancing drugs as part of an Internet drug scam. They were both reported to be customers of Signature Pharmacy. Harrison will be suspended for four games, and Wilson will be suspended for five games.

This entire "scandal" is growing bigger and bigger every day. This is already huge for pro wrestling, but I wonder how many other stars in other professional sports will be named before it's all over with. This could be the biggest scandal ever to hit professional sports.

It's not all bad, however. With all the suspensions that have been handed down, some of the under-card guys will get a chance to step up and show what they're made of. That's a good thing for those guys, who otherwise never would get a real push or a chance to showcase their abilities.

Now I am sure some of you have wondered, as I have, how many more WWE stars are using or have used performance enhancing drugs. Who knows... But I am sure there are more... There are a lot more... Sooner or later they, too, will get busted. The stars who have been suspended and/or fired this time are those who have been listed as customers of the on line pharmacy(ies) that has been under investigation, or who have flunked a WWE administered drug test.

In an incident apparently not related to WWE's wellness policy, WWE has released Shad Gaspard and Jayson Paul, better known as Cryme Tyme. The incident took place between Cryme Tyme and Lance Cade/Trevor Murdoch at the RAW House Show in Terra Haute, IN yesterday. No additional details are available as of the time this column was sent to the webmaster. Well, there are two more opportunities for someone to step up in WWE.

That's the situation as I see it. I want to emphasize that I gathered information for this column from a number of different sources, and proper credit is given below.

It will be interesting to see how this story continues to unfold over the coming days and weeks.


That's it for this week. One column closer to the last one.

The Axeman has spoken.

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