If I Were In Charge – Episode 4 (Respecting Those Before Us)

How’s it going, you incredible humans? I hope December has been treating you all well and you’re prepared for the upcoming holiday season. Hopefully those of you who work get some nice time off to refresh. Those of you who are going through hard times, I hope they pass or at least give you some downtime to relax. I myself have been busy getting my parents ready for the big move – off the farm and into a townhouse much closer to me so I can look after them easier. With a father who’s dealing and dealt with an obscene amount of health issues lately, it really made me think of how our seniors are treated.

I myself can’t imagine ever having to go into a retirement home, or even picture myself as a geezer. But watching my parents having to sell the farm has been very tough and very eye opening. When I was a pre-teen, my parents decided to buy some land and start up a small farm. We built that land up literally from nothing but a field. I moved out 20 years ago but the amount of work put into that place is astronomical. Then just like that, *poof*….time has told them they can physically no longer look after the place properly, and more importantly, safely live there. It hurts the heart.

That brings me to this weeks article. If you hadn’t read the headlines or articles yet, another legend in the wrestling business had a major health issue. Barry Windham was sadly hit with some major heart failure. In fact, it was so serious that his nephew, Bray Wyatt, posted to his Instagram account that Uncle Barry Windham didn’t even have a pulse for 10-20 minutes. Just like that, temporarily dead. Thankfully there was someone around capable of doing CPR to Barry, and what is probably considered a miracle just due to the percentage of actually coming back from no heart beat, Barry Windham survived. He returned to life and was able to handle a huge procedure and a stint in the ICU. Luckily, Barry Windham is now out of the ICU and stabilized. More than likely it’ll be a long road ahead with much more time being spent in the hospital.

In the last year, I’ve been in and out of hospitals and specialist appointments with my Dad more times than I can count. Like Bray Wyatt said about feeling a certain way as a child, “I looked at them as if they were like…..they were Greek gods or something, like they couldn’t feel pain; they were immortal; they would always be just like that. As we get older, and I become a man myself, you start to understand that’s just not the case. Nothing is forever.” His words hit me hard. It’s so extremely hard to see those people you care for slowly, or quickly degrade in front of you.

A trend I’ve noticed for quite some time, mostly in the United States, is that health care is damn expensive and only getting worse. Huge life events such as a heart attack or a stroke can cost more than a new car or even a house in some cases. How is that fair to anyone? By all means go ahead and defend the “system”, but it’s definitely more than flawed. A trend that’s been going hand in hand with the climbing expenses of life has been asking for help to cover some of the bills.

A GoFundMe has been the savior for many of our favorite wrestling legends and performers. Barry Windham, at age 62, had a GoFundMe set up by his niece, Mika Rotunda to help cover these extraordinary medical expenses. Mika, the sister of Bray Wyatt mentioned that Barry Windham didn’t have medical insurance. Yikes! Sure, you could sit there and blame him for not having insurance and call it bad luck, but that would make you a fairly big anal void! I know how these insurance companies work, which is to make their shareholders profits. What hurts these profits? Handing out medical insurance to people who are high risk. They quote the cost of insurance so high it’s usually not obtainable. Jeez, wouldn’t selling insurance to a beat up professional wrestler be extremely high risk? It sure would. In fact, it would be so high risk that unless Barry Windham is sitting on mountains of money, it probably isn’t a realistic expense for him.

A lot of the old school legends didn’t make the kind of money that the superstars of today are making. They worked stiffer, worked more dates and lived a much harder lifestyle than most do now. Guys like Jeremy Lynn, Brian Knobs, Virgil, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Scott Hall have all had to turn to the IWC to help with medical bills. Is that how these guys should be treated? It’s very easy to just shrug and say “that’s how it goes”, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. Also, guys like Barry Windham shouldn’t have to sit there and ask his nephew, who’s signed to a nice juicy contract, for monetary help. It’s great if it’s offered, but it’s not something that anyone should ever rely on if a health emergency should arise.

WWE does the right thing when it comes to substance abuse, I’m sure we can all agree on that. Even some of WWE’s harshest critics have used their rehabilitation program and gave thanks to them for something that would otherwise have cost them an obscene amount of money. But what if this monster (in the sense of size) of a corporate entity could be there in times of serious medical need? In one way or another, most American wrestling legends or elders of the biz have touched WWE, whether Vince McMahon Sr. had them signed back in the day, or Vince McMahon Jr. gobbled up their territory and owns the video library that’s shown on today’s network. Would it be too much to ask if this billion dollar company could have a special fund set aside for moments like the one Barry Windham has been dealing with? I know, I know…those shareholders love and want profits, profits, profits. But just think of the good publicity that would come of a medical emergency help program like that. Not just that, but the good karma.

You can always make the argument that these legends should have been better with their paychecks. On the flip side of that, most weren’t paid that much and retirement came at an early age. Autograph signings probably bring in just enough to pay a few bills and eat. That’s only if they’re healthy or popular enough to go to signings. You can also say they should have treated their bodies better. The flip side of that, they broke their bodies for the fans and self medicated in order to keep it up. No matter which way you spin it, they deserve better.

Medical issues aren’t cheap. Even in a country with free health care, it’s damn expensive. I’ve put on over 40,000 KMs (25,000 miles) on my vehicle in one year. The gas, food and other expenses that come about add up so quick. New tires are needed. A new windshield. Even the gauze and bandages my father goes through adds up to an obscene amount. So many things that aren’t accounted for when you’re simply trying to get through life as it is.

If I were in charge, guys like Barry Windham, Brian Knobs, Virgil*, Steve McMichael, Scott Hall would have never had to ask for medical help. WWE would already have a fund set up for special situations like this that these legends could tap into much like the rehabilitation program. Just FYI, I mean when Virgil seriously needs help…not help becoming a meat sauce millionaire. Superstar Billy Graham would bad mouth WWE and shit on Vince McMahon Jr. any chance he could get. Billy’s health issues are very well documented, just look them up. Yes, steroids were probably a huge factor, but that shouldn’t matter. All things like that were done for the wrestling business. Every time Billy would and could bad mouth WWE and Vince, it would make nasty, negative headlines. It took some years, but he did end up getting a “nostalgia contract” or legends deal, and immediately he was thanking WWE, Vince and company. Bad press turned to good press. I can guarantee that nostalgia contract was WWE just giving him some cash to help with the medical bills. It was a win-win for both parties.

Do it, WWE. Get a fund together to help out with medical emergencies for the legends and elders of the business. While you’re at it, offer up mental health help to go along with the drug/alcohol rehabilitation program. A mental health program could really do a lot of good in so many ways. They also offer (or at least used to) financial planning to current and former employees as well as debt assistance and scholarships. Come on, Stephanie McMahon. The balls now in your court and you control the empire. Please take that next big step and be the change you should be and need to be. Start with just being there for the medical emergencies. You don’t have to jump all in and give full medical benefits to all current and former performers – not yet, anyway. Start small with the medical emergency fund and go from there. That will hopefully get the ball rolling to a complete medical benefit package from the start of a career to the end of life. Wishful thinking? Maybe. Impossible? Not at all. Very do-able.

Readers, be there for the elders in your family if you can. Spend time with them and give them love. Make memories or talk about past memories. If you can help out by driving a parent or grandparent to an appointment, do it. If you can give them a hand around the house, do it. In most cases I’m sure they deserve it and it’s the least you could do. I’ve been to many, many specialist and hospital visits and it’s truly sad to see the seniors there all alone. I know for a fact it would make their day (or week, month even) if you made time for them. For all they’ve done for us, it’s the least we could do for them. Until next time…spread some love out there, would ya?

And to my 73 year old mother who I know comes to NoDQ to read my columns…you’re amazing. You’ve worked so hard and done so much. You look after Dad so well and sacrifice so much of your time and energy for others. I can’t wait until this Friday when you move to your new home. Don’t think for one second you don’t deserve a nice new home with nice new things. You’ve earned it. And for the love of god…quit feeling bad I have to do so much for you guys. You’ve done so much for me and made my life as good as it could possibly be, it’s the least I can do for you both. Love you, Mom! You rock.

James Bones