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2016 - The Year of the Suspension

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WWE 2016 – The Year of the Suspension

WWE 2015 was the year of the injury. WWE 2016 has been the year of the suspension. We take a look at the suspension culture that WWE has built.

If 2015 in the WWE was categorized as the “year of the injury”, then 2016 is easily the “year of the suspension”. As of this writing (hey, talents are getting suspended on a near daily basis right now), eight WWE employees have been suspended in as many months. While a few of the suspensions were for conduct related events (ie. Jerry Lawler, Titus O’Neil, and Adam Rose – while already on a wellness suspension), the vast majority have been dreaded “wellness policy violations”. I’ve already written previously about the arbitrary nature of WWE’s wellness policy in an earlier editorial on this site. This article intends to dig deeper into the more recent 30 day suspensions of Alberto Del Rio, Paige, and Eva Marie and consider potential motivations for the timing behind said suspensions.

It has been implied that the WWE Wellness Policy doesn’t apply to “part-time” performers. WWE was careful to dodge that very question when asked about Brock Lesnar testing positive in drug testing related to his most recent UFC fight. Considering WWE appears willing to jump through hoops to appease Lesnar at any cost, he is clearly one of their talents where the “rules” don’t apply. Case in point, Lesnar uttered the word “sh*t” on Raw this week, but former talent Brad Maddox was released from the company for saying the word “pricks” before a dark match. So, it’s pretty obvious that WWE has a set of rules that don’t apply to certain performers, but do apply to everyone else. Lest we forget that Billy Gunn, at the time a trainer at the Performance Center, tested positive for a banned substance at a powerlifting competition. Apparently the WWE thought it “looked bad” to have one their trainers pop positive on a PED test, but apparently it’s okay when one of their special attraction talents also pops positive in an “unrelated to the WWE” drug test?

That logic, extended out to the Wellness Policy, makes the recent suspensions of Del Rio, Paige, and Eva Marie all the more egregious in light of Lesnar’s UFC testing being a “non-issue” to WWE. There’s a ton of circumstantial evidence to make the case that the higher-ups at WWE appear to have frowned upon the relationship of Paige and Alberto del Rio. The two were “conveniently” split up in the 2016 Brand Split Draft. Neither talent were being used regularly once their relationship became public. Del Rio has been used sparingly on SmackDown; save for a great match with Cena the night before he was suspended. Paige has been used equally sparingly on Raw, with the explanation being that she’s been rehabbing an injury. Add into this that Del Rio is allegedly unhappy with how he’s been used in this run, something I’d be inclined to agree with, and rumors are claiming that he has the dreaded “heat” with the power that be. It was not too surprising that WWE found a way to minimize both Del Rio and Paige in what looks to the casual fan as an official disapproval of their relationship. Seems petty, doesn’t it? The one way WWE could potentially be in the “right” here is if Del Rio was somehow corrupting Paige and their simultaneous positive drug test and suspension was the result of that.

Now, I’m not going to jump into X-Files conspiracy land here, but it seems incredibly suspicious that Del Rio pops positive and receives a suspension at the exact time that rumors of him leaving the company in September are ramping up. Again, if he is somehow “corrupting” Paige and their relationship was causing both of their work to suffer, then WWE would get a pass. They do run a business and if said fraternization is causing a productivity drop from those two employees, then they have a valid case for disciplinary actions. Considering WWE plays all “cloak and dagger” with their wellness policy results – we’ll likely never know until Del Rio shows up on the Colt Cabana podcast.

The Eva Marie suspension, on the other hand, is so out of left field that I’ve seen several people postulate today that it is a work. It would fit in perfectly with the escalation of her current character’s desire to avoid having to work a match. However, two things are making me think this is not a work. First, Eva’s husband lashed out on Twitter today and is claiming he will be “releasing an official statement and facts” soon. Because clearly WWE talent learned nothing from how that worked out for Adam Rose. Second, the proximity to the Paige / Del Rio situation would seem like the time to pull the plug on an angle where Eva is “work suspended” to get out of her SummerSlam match. WWE has been tactless and tasteless in the past, but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here.

Like with Del Rio, Paige, Reigns, Konnor, and Adam Rose before her, we’ll likely never know why Eva failed the wellness policy test – unless she goes public. An action which the Adam Rose case proved to invoked the ire of WWE corporate and led to his firing. One thing comes to mind that I heard said during last year’s injury epidemic. If this many talents are failing the Wellness Policy, then the WWE is failing at educating their talent on better ways to train and heal from injuries. If WWE’s Wellness Policy was fair (it is not), and the talent was educated properly, there is no conceivable reason that six talents should test positive in an eight month span.

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