Sometimes thing happen in wrestling that can define how your career is going to end and often times, you never see it coming. What I’m talking about are neck injuries and surgeries.
I’ll start with perhaps the most popular superstar of all time, Stone Cold Steve Austin. The first Pay-Per-View I ever watched live was SummerSlam 1997. That most replayed clip from that event is Owen Hart dropping Austin on his head during a botched piledriver. Austin suffered a serious neck injury and his career was altered from that point on. His in-ring style changed from more technical based, to more of a brawling style. Certain moves were prohibited from being performed on Austin to protect his neck. In late 1999, Austin had neck surgery and was out of action for a year. He returned to win the WWE Championship two more times and was active for almost two years. One day, he walked out, but came back for what would be, unknown to the fans, his final match at WrestleMania XIX. His neck injury caught up to him and it was time to hang it up. Without the neck injury, Austin probably could have wrestled for several more years, and maybe could put on a match from time to time today.
Next, I’ll talk about Edge. Edge is a guy who worked his way to the top. He was a tag team wrestler for years, won the Intercontinental Title a few times and by 2003 was on his way to the top of the card on Smackdown. That all came to a hault in February of that year when he needed neck surgery. He was out for a year and came back to Raw in 2004. He changed his character, but his in-ring style more of less stayed the same and at times with all the risks he took, you forgot he had neck surgery. He won the WWE Championship in 2006 and went on to become an 11-time World Champion. He successfully defended his title at WrestleMania 27 as was set for a rematch with Alberto Del Rio at the next Pay-Per-View, Extreme Rules. Then, out of nowhere, we found out that he had a physical and was informed that he would never be cleared to wrestle again. He surrender the World Title and his storybook career was over just like that. Edge did everything he could have done in his career at that point and accepted that it was over.
Now, I’ll talk about the current situation involving Daniel Bryan. Bryan was an independent sensation who made it to WWE against all odds. Time and time again he proved how good he is and got the WWE Universe to support him stronger than they have supported anyone since Austin in the Attitude era. The fans forced WWE to place him the main event of WrestleMania XXX where he went on the become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. One month later, to the shock of everyone, he informed the WWE Universe he needed neck surgery. Unlike Austin and Edge, Bryan had a procedure instead of actual surgery. It was though he wouldn’t miss much time and wouldn’t have to be stripped of the title. Unfortunately, Bryan is healing slower the originally though and has been stripped of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. His return is unknown at this time. He may have to change his style to prolong his career. It’s a shame that after finally making it to the top, he reign was cut short by an injury.
That just shows you what risks professional wrestler take to entertain you on a weekly basis. Critics can say what they want about the product, but neck injuries are no joke. Nobody would wish one on their worst enemy. They change your life and can shorten or even end your career. It’s an unfortunate risk that many wrestlers have taken, and it makes me, and I’m sure other fans, appreciate their hard work and sacrifice even more.
Until next time, don’t break a neck,