It’s a question that seems to come into mind a few times throughout the year on various topics. When the average person thinks of the question (When is enough, enough?) it’s often on topics such as equality or financial issues facing global economies. However, when I think of this I often wonder when professional wrestlers will stop taking such high risks when it comes to entertaining the masses. This was at the forefront of my mind on the morning of April 11, 2022 when we all woke up to news on our social media feeds that Shinjiro Otani had been paralyzed after taking a german suplex into the corner of the ring from ZERO1 Heavyweight Champion, Takashi Sugiura. This just weeks after Big E broke his neck after taking an overhead belly to belly suplex live on Smackdown.
Shinjiro Otani is a man with a decorated past in the world of professional wrestling. In the United States he became the first WCW Cruiserweight Champion when he defeated Wild Pegasus on March 20, 1996. Throughout the world he’s held various championships to include the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, and several championships wrestling under the ZERO1 banner in Japan. So it makes me wonder, with such a decorated past and at 49 years of age, why take such risks?
Certainly, wrestling changes. What we see now isn’t the same as watching back in the 80’s or 90’s. There used to be a time when a missile dropkick or superkick would be the finish to a match. Now, these are simple transition moves you’re likely to see in almost every match on a card. In ECW during its prime a few chair shots, random barbed wire spot here and there, and the occasional flaming table was about as extreme as it got. Now, we have full blown deathmatch tournaments where anything less than a ring full of broken glass is considered not enough. Now don’t get me wrong, I myself am guilty of getting entertained by watching endless clips of hardcore spots on my phone while scrolling Instagram. I feed into it, I know I could be part of the “problem”, if we want to label it as such. But that still doesn’t answer the question of why? When is it enough? At what point will it end?
I’ve joked while on the road with fellow wrestlers that the final straw will be wrestlers hitting each other with cars. Thinking back on that, I don’t know if that will be enough either. We all seem to keep pushing the button to find out what can get people talking. We’re living in a digital age where it is possible to get famous without being under the banner of a WWE, AEW or NJPW. With a simple clip going viral your career can be catapulted beyond heights imaginable and I think this is why we keep seeing high risks being taken week in and week out in the wrestling business.
Perhaps nothing will ever be enough. But if I could urge people to consider one thing, it would be a safer approach to performing moves and bringing in more psychology so when something “extreme” is done, it means much more. That, to me, is the true art of professional wrestling. Being able to work a crowd and get them believing in what you’re doing. And when you have them in the palms of your hands those extreme moves and stunts will get over so much more, because they mean more to the people watching. Will Shinjiro Otani’s injury cause a change in the world of wrestling? I highly doubt it. But I hope it helps, even if just a few, some wrestlers take into consideration their health for their own future as well as their opponents when thinking about new spots or moves to pull off.