The professional wrestling community is mourning another death . This time for ex WWE tag team wrestler Doug Furnas. Furnas worked for Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment organization in 1996 with long time partner Phil Lafon. Furnas also labored for Extreme Championship Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling, and gained most of his notoriety in All-Japan Pro Wrestling. In the last several years, Furnas has been battling Parkinson's Disease. Although the cause of death is not known currently, Furnas joins the extensive list of wrestling casualties who passed away before the age of 50.
Over the last 15 years, professional wrestling has confronted tough scrutiny because of the number of untimely deaths the sport has seen. Since 2000, the wrestling community has seen 34 wrestlers under the age of 50 pass away from several causes. Although the number is truly significant, unlike most critics, I don't condemn the wrestling business (see pro wrestling's 7 most shocking deaths).
First one should always remember that these men and women are responsible for themselves. What they decide to put into their bodies, whether it is drugs, alcohol, or steroids, nobody is enforcing them to put these substances into their bodies. Take steroids for example. Steroids increase muscle mass, which in turn may give you potentially higher odds of getting signed to a wrestling contract. However, it is the choice of the individual whether or not they want to make the decision. If steroids is too big of a risk to an individual, they have the option of electing a different field of work. When I was a kid I wanted to be a rock star. But as I got older, my concentration lacked and I would find myself easily distracted from learning how to play the instrument. I could have taken the prescription medication Ritalin to aid with my concentration, but opted against it. I made a decision to not insert a drug in my body to assist in my probabilities, and instead peered toward another avenue for a bright future. These wrestlers are adults who should be allowed to make decisions for themselves. Pro wrestling should not be blamed for the decisions that adults make in their personal lives.
Personal choice also comes into play when talking about drugs and alcohol. Many wrestlers rely on drugs and alcohol to deal with the physical pain of slamming their bodies on a steel surface 300 nights a year. While this is understandable, how often the men and women indulge on these vices are a responsibility of the individual, and not of the pro wrestling company. To their credit, the WWE has established a rigid drug test and often catches drug abuse. Yes, it's true that because of the wrestlers profession, they have a higher chance of taking drugs and alcohol. But, wrestlers can also choose to wrestle a less risky style, to sustain a career and keep their bodies in peak physical condition.
Pro wrestling is not perfect. But at no points are these men and women being forced into a lifestyle of steroids, alcohol and drugs. These athletes choose to perform in the wrestling business, and if they also choose to consume drugs, alcohol or steroids then they assume all risk. Let's stop blaming the business, and start holding people accountable for the choices they make in their own lives.
Ryan Drew is a 30 year old independent pro wrestler from New England. He was trained by WWE star Spike Dudley. You can follow Ryan Drew on Twitter@OhThatDrew