As a note: I'm likely going to be posting primarily on the documentaries in lab as that's my primary source of info.
Well, tonight's documentary was especially depressing; I almost had an "It's still real to me, dammit!" moment there. Some of the deaths were flat out tragic mistakes, but some of the deaths felt like they should be chalked up to "the business." I recall that during the high points of World Class, the Von Erich boys were wrestling two to three times a day. I wish I could say the stories of drug abuse among wrestlers were surprising, but from wrestlers hooked on painkillers to recreational drugs the stories have been practically endless. The sketchy characters in Puerto Rico that led to Bruiser Brody's death were something new to me, though. Add to this the likelihood of severe injury, unsteady wages, and it is - as we're mostly familiar with - a minefield.
I couldn't help but wondering if this is somehow related to the rapid expansion / global reach of World Class. David Von Erich's stomach illness may have been an unavoidable tragic accident, but I can't help but wonder if things would have turned out differently if he was working once or twice a week, had a company doctor, and didn't spend a good portion of his week traveling to and from shows. Trying to complete three shows in a day - or touring the country as WWE currently does - really does drive some of the talent to work through the pain or turn to drug addictions. Bringing this back to present day, I can't help but thinking of Kurt Angle's admission of taking 85 pills a day while touring with the ECW. Or of Eddie Guerrero's weakening heart that he shook off until it ended him.
Not to take away anything from personal responsibility, but is there something inherently dangerous with talent working on a certain venue scale? Does there come a point when too much work or pressure on the talent leads to their mental and physical breakdown? When desire to spread out your talent leads to them winding up in shady stadiums with violent dealers? When an institutional instinct to not appear weak (a la Chris Nowinski's book) leads to more broken bodies than it does better spots and buy rates? When enough shows a week leads to an almost certain injuries and exhaustion? Or is it really just up to the individuals a brand acquires? There are a number of wrestlers that were/are able to successfully cope with the stresses, and a number of small-brand wrestlers who were just bound for trouble (New Jack, anyone?).
After writing this out, I'm leaning a bit more towards the latter. It also leads me to a somewhat rudimentary economic analysis of how the business is run, which I'll try to get to later in the week.