I hope you read every word of this article. At AEW All Out, we saw a Broken Rules match between Matt Hardy and Sammy Guevara. During the match, Sammy speared Matt off of a platform, and was supposed to go through two tables. However, the move went further than expected, and Matt Hardy’s head smacked the hard concrete. Hardy was visibly out of it. If you’ve played sports, you can more than likely spot concussions after seeing some of your teammates having some. The lights were on, but nobody was home and you could tell.
AEW referee Aubrey Edwards knew right away and through up the X, and even rang the bell. Tony Khan apparently called the match off, but AEW’s ringside doctor Michael Sampson cleared Hardy after he passed concussion protocol. If any of you watch football, you’d know that normally, when a player is put through concussion protocol, it could take 15-20 minutes before we even see him on the sideline again, yet Matt Hardy apparently cleared concussion protocol in under a minute and was given the ok to continue the match. If Hardy did pass the concussion protocol, then why did AEW go straight to the finish? If they felt that Matt was perfectly fine, you would think they would be ok to finish the entire match.
AEW has received a lot of flak about the decision to let Hardy go back out there and finish the match, and in my mind, it’s absolutely warranted. But there is a contingent of fans out there that are siding with AEW, that are screaming “AEW CLEARED HIM, SO IT’S OK!”. No….it’s not ok. It will never be ok to send a wrestler back out to wrestle after an apparent concussion. Just take a look at all the concussions that pro wrestlers have suffered in the past and kept wrestling. Look at all of the damage that concussions have done to not only pro wrestlers, but football players, hockey players, and boxers.
Take a look at Chris Nowinski. Nowinski’s career was cut short due to him suffering from post-concussion syndrome in a match against Maven. He didn’t retire for a full year, all the while still suffering from the post-concussion symptoms. In October of 2006, Nowinski wrote a book titled Head Games: Football’s Concussion Crisis. The book sent shock waves throughout the NFL and all of sports in general. Later that year, Nowinski began looking into the suicide of former NFL safety Andre Waters, who tragically shot himself in the head at the young age of 44. Waters’ family sent pieces of his brain to be tested by Bennet Omalu, a pathologist at the University of Pittsburgh. Omalu announced that “the condition of Waters’ brain tissue was what would be expected in an 85-year old man, and there were characteristics of someone being in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.”
Nowinski didn’t stop there. He played an extremely important role in the discovery of the fourth case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in former Steelers’ lineman Justin Strzelczyk, who unfortunately was killed in car crash in 2004 at the age of 36. It wouldn’t be the last time that Nowinski (the co-founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation) played a roll in concussion awareness.
We all know about the story of Chris Benoit. But what some may not know is that it was Nowinski who went to the police and the coroner and asked them to do a brain exam on Benoit’s brain. In 2007, Benoit’s brain examination report showed extensive damage due to concussions that could have led to dementia. Tests were conducted on Benoit’s brain by Julian Bailes, the head of neurosurgery at West Virginia University, and the results showed that “Benoit’s brain was so severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85-year old Alzheimer’s patient.” Benoit was also reported to have had an advanced form of dementia, similar to the brain of Waters, and 3 other retired NFL players who harmed themselves or others.
If you watched Chris Benoit’s career, you know his style. Benoit was fierce and used a diving head butt almost every match. That’s thousands among thousands of times that his head hit the mat or the head of the man laying on the math. That’s 22 years of slamming his head into the ground. Now let me be clear, what Benoit did was absolutely reprehensible and I am in no way defending the man. But just think, what if concussions were treated as seriously as they are today during Benoit’s career?
Need more proof? Look no further than the American Dragon, Daniel Bryan. After Bryan retired, in his retirement speech and in his biography, he talked about how he suffered three major concussions in his first five months of wrestling. He then went on to have a long 16-year career, but the concussions didn’t stop. After he retired, a test had shown that Bryan had several brain-related issues due to his history of concussions, including several chronic lesions that all but guaranteed he would never wrestle again.
The test also revealed that Bryan had been suffering concussion-related seizures, and Bryan was hiding them from everybody in the WWE, and his family, just so he could keep wrestling. Now, the story has a happy ending, as Bryan was cleared by three independent neurosurgeons, neurologists, and concussions experts to return to WWE in-ring competition. But just imagine if he didn’t get cleared, or (knock on wood) the concussions were just too bad that something absolutely horrible happened.
So yes, I am upset at All Elite Wrestling for letting Hardy go back out there. The same way I’m upset at all the times the WWE has let wrestlers go back into action after apparent concussions, like Kairi Sane, CM Punk, and especially The Undertaker. I know myself, and a ton of other wrestling fans that would’ve much rather AEW say “hey, we’re going to reschedule this match for a later date, that way we can ensure Matt Hardy is medically cleared and can pass concussion protocol”, a REAL concussion protocol.
I also don’t want to hear anything like “Well, Matt Hardy said he was good!” Look, I played high school sports, and recall a time where I was trucked into next week by an opposing running back. I knew I had a concussion, but there was no way I was coming out of the game. My coaches didn’t even know I had a concussion, and I wasn’t saying anything about it to any of them. Athletes are competitors, they want to compete and put on a show. Matt Hardy’s arm could fall off and he would still say he’s fine to keep going on. All professional wrestling companies need to do better at telling these wrestlers “No! You’re not going back out there”. Who cares if they’re mad at you. Let them be mad for a day or two instead of trying to be liked and potentially take years off of someone’s life. Concussions are serious. Even the tiniest concussion could lead to long term effects later in life.
The brain is the most important part of our bodies. I know, “wrestling is fake” right? But the truth of the matter is, it’s not. What these wrestlers go through is very much real, and I would much rather a company tell me I can’t see a match I’ve been waiting for because one of the competitors is showing signs of concussion. Our entertainment is not, and never will be more important than the lives of those entertaining us. And if you think it is, well, there’s really no hope for you.
**We here at GCSN would like to give our best wishes and love to families who have been affected by the effects of concussions and CTE. If you would like to learn more or donate to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, please visit concussionfoundation.org**
Featured Image: All Elite Wrestling
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