By now you’ve probably seen the news. Roman Reigns has been suspended by the WWE for his first violation of their wellness policy. Allegedly the WWE knew about Roman’s violation way back on Sunday. The buzz today is over whether the “Shield Triple Threat” main event at Battleground will stand. It seems likely to me since Roman was hardly utilized during the build to the Rollins / Reigns MITB main event. However, the bigger question – aside from the weirdness with people shaming Dean Ambrose’s past in the ultimate non sequitur – is whether the WWE’s wellness policy is really “best for business”.
The WWE’s drug testing during the 80s and 90s was a joke. The vast majority of talent from that time period have come forward and at the very least admitted to dabbling in some form of drug usage. WWE in the 1980s and 1990s was a complete steroid culture as well. To the extent that there was an actual trial that nearly sent Vince McMahon to prison in 1993. The WWE instituted their wellness policy, in its current form, after the shocking death of Eddie Guerrero in 2006. The wellness policy was almost immediately brought into question after the Chris Benoit double murder / suicide in 2007.
Clearly, the WWE intended for their wellness policy to prevent future tragedies, however time has shown that it may be a little too strict. WWE Superstar Chris Jericho recently mentioned on his podcast that he repeatedly failed the wellness testing due to a naturally occurring elevated testosterone level. In Jericho’s case, it took him getting multiple tests from a variety of doctors to plead his case that he was not on any banned substances. Despite doing nothing wrong, Jericho faced a suspension. Had he not been such an advocate for his own career, he may have just issued an apology and taken the suspension.
Look at the case of Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl. The former Hornswoggle was suspended for a wellness policy violation a few months before he was released from the company. After his release, Postl went on several podcasts and explained that he too was not on any banned substances. In Postl’s case, he was merely unable to provide a urine sample. Yes, that’s right. Hornswoggle violated the “wellness policy” because he got stage fright and couldn’t pee in front of another person.
In Roman Reigns’ case, he does seem to be claiming responsibility as he tweeted out the following:
I apologize to my family, friends and fans for my mistake in violating WWE’s wellness policy. No excuses. I own it.
— Roman Reigns (@WWERomanReigns) June 21, 2016
However, remember the case of the former Adam Rose. Domestic violence issues aside, Rose was seemingly innocent of his wellness policy. Rose provided a doctor’s note and alleged that the WWE knew of the medications he was taking for ADHD. Despite the evidence Rose provided, his suspension was upheld until his dismissal from the company due to an unrelated arrest.
Was Reigns on the gas? Possibly. He’s not the largest guy on the roster but it’s a possibility he was using a banned substance. I’m not a Roman Reigns fan really at all so this editorial is not meant as a defense for him. But, if it turns out to be a honest mistake by Reigns, this public shaming of him seems a bit much.
Obviously, the WWE needs to have some form of wellness policy in place. Especially to cut down egregious substance abuse that has lead to trend of wrestlers dying far too young. However, when your policy is “more stringent than the Olympics” perhaps it’s time to look at the context of a violation instead of knee-jerk reacting to each one the same way.