September 3, 2007
Mike Abitabile

The Devilís Advocate:
Short-Term Consequences, Long-Term Success

The biggest news this week was the suspension of 10+ performers by WWE on Thursday for their involvement in what has become known as ďThe Signature Pharmacy Scandal.Ē Signature was an Internet pharmacy which sold illegal drugs to many athletes involved in many sports, so this is just the tip of that iceberg.

The list of suspended wrestlers was not released by WWE, as the wrestlers privacy is protected by the current Wellness Policy. (That will change starting in November, as the names of violators will be made public starting on November 1).

However, many news outlets have printed names of various wrestlers that were on the clients list for Signature Pharmacy. That, combined with the absence of performers at house shows and television tapings this past weekend (as well as, without getting into spoiler territory, sudden title changes) can pretty much tell you who was suspended or implicated. Additionally, it has been reported that Mike Bucci (the former Nova and Simon Dean who was most recently managing the development territories) has been fired, and WWE has confirmed the dismissal of Nick ďEugeneĒ Dinsmore.

Any way you look at it, the axe is coming down and WWE is attempting to fix things. However, the basis for those decisions has come into question in recent days. After the Benoit Tragedy, the WWE was publicly dragged through the mud and many people called for actions to be taken and changes to be made. Well, on Thursday, actions were taken and changes began to be made.

Some people felt WWE only took these steps because they had to, not because they wanted to. I am not going to defend WWE because I personally donít know what their motives were. All I know are the facts. WWE was the first to announce the suspensions, before any media outlets published any articles so, to that end, the suspensions werenít a reaction to the names being released. It could be argued that WWE knew the articles were coming, but again, that is speculation, not fact. Additionally, WWE is going to be investigated by Congress. We are not talking about Fox News or CNN doing a piece on them here, we are talking about Congress. The way it looks right now, WWE is not playing around as it is getting serious. Thatís good because that is what everyone wants to see Ė Congress, the media and especially the fans.

Some people began matching up some of the names that have been published through the media and their involvement in television tapings on Saturday and Sunday. Some have been jobbed out, and others appear to be on their way to pay-per-views. Cries of favoritism and unfair treatment have been made. At this point, I would assume some suspensions will start at a later date. My gut feeling is that WWE will want to finish up some storylines at the next pay-per-view, Unforgiven, and then start certain suspensions.

While it may not seem fair or even right, WWE has to protect their own business and have some drawing points to the telecast. In addition, I would also think these wrestlers will not get their pay-per-view payoffs. If these names remain around after the pay-per-view, then we can talk about favoritism and unfair treatment, and I will gladly tell you that you may have a point.

But, as of right now, my point is that whether the WWE took these actions is because they wanted to, or because they had to, is moot. They made them, despite what the repercussions would be, despite what it looks like to outsiders, and despite the consequences. Again, we arenít talking about an outcry from a small group of fans; we are talking about a serious investigation from Congress. They are a publicly-traded company, so WWE canít afford to play games.

I usually donít like to go with the flow, but for one aspect of this whole situation, I will do just that. Many have said that one positive that could come from this would be that some underutilized guys can step up. I agree with that assessment and feel that it would be a perfect time to try and get some guys who ďcan goĒ into the spotlight.

And if WWE wants to get a little creative, they could use this in some storyline. No, I am not talking about turning this into a storyline, but I am suggesting they try and play the smart fans a little. Maybe remove or job out a (preferably high-profile) wrestler who wasnít on the list. Take him off television for a week or two. Everyone online will incriminate the guy and throw him under the bus, then have him come back, attack someone and surprise everyone. Hey, Iíd get a kick out of it, but maybe thatís just me.

In all seriousness though, there are problems in pro wrestling, and as we have witnessed, those problems are real. I may come off as a ďMcMahon-apologistĒ but I have never denied there are problems (really, go back and read my archives if you donít believe me). I have also always said the Wellness Policy is a good program, but it needs to be made better. I was actually happy when I read the news of the suspension on Thursday because this had to happen. Itís another step in the right direction, as are the changes to the Wellness Policy reportedly announced to wrestlers on Saturday night. Those changes include testing marijuana (which will lead to fines, not suspensions), testing for anti-estrogen drugs (which can offset steroid and HGH effects and will lead to suspensions), and new hires will need to pass Wellness tests before they are allowed to join the company (here).

I have even seen some people profess that this is the beginning of the end of the WWE. That is one thing I can promise you isnít going to happen. Business may take a downturn, but the end isnít near. Many forces will make sure that doesnít happen (including, in my opinion, the wrestling media who loves to pick on WWE because, if WWE ever went out of business, so would theyÖ but thatís a column for another day). So letís all just take it easy until something that warrants people freaking out happens. Right now, WWE knows what they are doing. Right now, I am looking back at some decisions they have made over the past few months and those decisions are becoming clearer, in hindsight. With that in mind, I have a feeling WWE is planning long-term, more than anyone realizes. And in forthcoming months, we will look back at the moves being made right now and everything will become clear. But, again, maybe thatís just me.

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