Mac Engel

WWE (or NFL) athletes are hurting and we don’t care

Vince McMahon’s greatest challenge will be delivering a WrestleMania worthy of an attendance record at AT&T Stadium without the caliber of names that this company is built on due to injuries and retirement.
Vince McMahon’s greatest challenge will be delivering a WrestleMania worthy of an attendance record at AT&T Stadium without the caliber of names that this company is built on due to injuries and retirement. AP

All of us sports fans are Trekkies, but no group has more in common with Captain Kirk or Spock than the followers of Sting, Stone Cold Steve Austin or Triple H.

Who cares if they are all actors? It’s all good, so open the door and bring out your folding chair for the greatness that is Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment’s WrestleMania.

In the next day or so, if they are not here already, they will be arriving from Japan, Australia, Ireland and from every other nook and cranny of the globe to our back yard to watch the biggest “sporting” event in the world.

Of the many weirdo and rabid fan bases we have entertained over the years, nothing can prepare you for the onslaught of the incoming bizarre, passionate and entertaining group of people who proudly call themselves “wreslin’ fans.”

The major drag is that WrestleMania 32 comes to Jerry World on Sunday night with all of the anticipation of a Week 5 NFL regular season date between the Panthers and Packers — it will be a decent game, but it’s not the playoffs. Everybody is hurt.

This will be Vince McMahon’s greatest challenge: delivering a WrestleMania worthy of an attendance record at AT&T Stadium without the caliber of names that this company is built on. WrestleMania 32 looks like a Super Bowl between Brandon Weeden and Jay Cutler.

What this latest version of WrestleMania demonstrates is that this company runs its performers into the ground with a 365-day schedule and today’s athletes are too big, too fast and too strong for the workloads. If you ever thought we cared about the state of the performer, we don’t.

Despite all of this evidence that our favorite football and WWE stars and so many others are taking years off their lives by playing these games, our primary concern now more than ever is the state of the product.

We — me included — are still living in Roman times watching gladiators perform at the coliseum, waiting to see if our favorite hero can avoid death in the latest match. Rather than drink red wine and eat grapes as we watch the carnage, we drink $15 beer and eat $10 pretzels as Tony Romo’s clavicle shatters.

Whether the event is scripted or unscripted it doesn’t matter, people are suffering life-altering injuries and yet both performer and spectator continue to flock to the coliseum.

What is wrong with us? Why can’t we stop watching people get hurt? Why can’t we stop playing games that are designed to injure others?

Jerry Jones says more studies are required before we can conclusively say anything definitive about brain trauma and life-altering injuries and football. Colts owner Jim Irsay says the same thing. The same from Bengals owner Mike Brown.

Between the success of the NFL and the popularity of WWE it’s more apparent than ever that we are simply numb, or too busy with our phones, to show a shred of compassion about the people who are killing themselves for our delight.

“This business is hard. We don’t have an off-season,” WWE Diva Charlotte, the daughter of Ric Flair, told me.

Nearly every single star name for WrestleMania 32 is hurt, dead, retired or in Hollywood on the big screen.

Because of injury, the following wrestlers will be out for Sunday’s main event: Sting, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Cesaro, Nikki Bella, Neville, Luke Harper, Bray Wyatt, Tyson Kidd and — the real killer — no John Cena. Daniel Bryan’s retirement means he’s gone, too.

I would never bet against Vince McMahon but this edition of WrestleMania will be his greatest challenge to deliver a product that matches the hype that his company routinely delivers to his growing and loyal fan base. You don’t have to like it or get it, but respect the empire WWE is and the impact it has had on mainstream sports.

“In my book, there is no possible way that this WWE machine is going to show up to the greatest spectacle in entertainment and not deliver and not create something enormous that fans won’t walk away blown away by,” said one of WWE’s biggest names — Sting — in a phone interview.

Sting will be a part of this weekend’s festivities, but not in the ring.

“There is something about WrestleMania — the production of it. You can expect to see the most talented and innovative wrestlers,” he said. “Vince McMahon says this is the biggest spectacle, not just in sports entertainment, but entertainment, and I would have to agree. There is something about WrestleMania. I had never been in front of a stadium crowd that big.”

And that is the draw, perilous or no. It’s all so big we can’t help ourselves.

Scripted or unscripted, real or fake, we don’t care. They’re adults and they know the risks that allow us to consume the NFL, WWE and other high-impact sports with a clean conscious.

I don’t know what’s wrong with us, but some wires are terribly crossed. I just know I can’t wait for WrestleMania.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

WrestleMania 32

5 p.m. Sunday

AT&T Stadium, Arlington

Tickets: $42 to $2,360

WrestleMania Axxess

Thursday through Sunday, Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, Dallas

Tickets: $55


Thursday: 6-10 p.m.

Friday: 5-9 p.m.

Saturday: 8 a.m.-Noon;

1-5 p.m.; 6-10 p.m.

Sunday: 8 a.m.-Noon