World Wrestling Entertainment has suspended three of its performers (Paige, Alberto del Rio, Eva Marie) in the past two days for violations of its Talent Wellness Program. While these suspensions do not shine a positive light on WWE, these suspensions are relatively rare, especially when compared to another full-contact sport such as the NFL. And it’s not as though the WWE policy is lenient.
Under the wellness policy WWE talent cannot consume alcohol within 12 hours of a WWE show. They must abstain from dietary supplements which could theoretically test positive as a banned substance. Normally the superstars are tested 4 times a year but a superstar returning from suspension is tested 12 times over the course of the next year. And the WWE employs a 3 strikes policy: 1 strike equals 30 days, 2 strikes equals 60 days, 3rd strike and fired.
The WWE wellness program was put into place in 2006 following the death of WWE Superstar Eddie Guerrero at age 38 from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. What was plain for many was that Guerrero died as a result of years of substance abuse. The new program was an effort by WWE to not only protect the health and well-being of its talent but also to protect its business. But given recent suspensions it must be questioned how seriously WWE takes its own policies.
As mentioned there has been a relative paucity of suspensions, but this does not mean WWE is ignoring violations. This could very well be a sign that WWE talent respects the program and/or would not take banned substances in the first place. However, when the program is violated the WWE response has not been encouraging. When Roman Reigns, at the time the face of WWE, violated the program WWE initially did not want to publicly acknowledge the suspension and knew for days, allowing Reigns to wrestle in the meantime, before instituting the suspension. Also, the program does not apply to part-time performers. So when Brock Lesnar tested positive in a drug test administered by UFC it did not apply to WWE and Lesnar faced no consequences.
The circumstances of these 5 most recent suspensions appear somewhat curious. Paige has been out with injury and has reportedly been on thin ice with WWE management. Del Rio may be leaving WWE when his contract expires in October. Eva Marie was recently called up to the main roster and has yet to establish her role. Meanwhile, Reigns and Lesnar are top talents and are counted on to generate revenue for the company.
The very fact that the program does not apply to part-time performers may be seen as a message that WWE places money over wellness. While not all part-time performers are necessarily important to the WWE bottom line, the likes of The Rock and Lesnar certainly are essential to the WWE. Their mere presence is a big deal.
There is no evidence anything nefarious is truly going on within WWE when it comes to these suspensions. But there are certainly questions to be asked.