I didn’t stay up for Payback last night. I knew I’d have to be up reasonably early to go to work (yes, on a bank holiday) so decided I could catch up on the Network later.
Then I got a Whatsapp message while I was asleep. I woke up, glanced at it, read it again, and again.
It was from a wrestler friend who told me that Enzo Amore’s injury looked terrifying.
You can’t sleep after reading something like that. I looked on Twitter, and saw that people were already posting screengrabs and footage. I looked away.
I gathered that it was a neck injury, that he’d hit the ropes and on falling to the ground his eyes had already rolled back in his head, that he was out for the count and the X had been thrown up immediately.
I really like Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady. I’ve written before about how the traditional NXT pathway – before ready-made stars were parachuted in – gives the viewer a stronger investment in the talent. We love Sami Zayn and Bayley because they worked and worked and worked over months, on our screens; we saw them progress and we wanted them to win.
And we love Enzo and Cass because this tiny crazy ball of energy, with his bizarre dress sense, and his giant muscle-bound buddy, with a surprisingly nice singing voice, are an odd couple, with evident affection between them; they’ve scrapped and fought and taken on all-comers in NXT and still never managed to win the big belt, and that doesn’t even matter at all, it doesn’t detract from their star quality, it makes us love them more.
Even if I didn’t love Enzo and Cass, though, watching a show after someone has incurred a serious injury makes me feel incredibly uneasy. It makes me think of Over The Edge, and poor Jeff Jarrett going out there after his close friend Owen Hart had been carried out; or TNA’s Against All Odds being aired on UK TV some days after the event, even though Jesse Sorensen broke his neck.
It makes it all too real. The irony is that professional wrestling is mocked so often for being “fake”, but the fact is that it’s just as real as rugby or motor racing, where the participants take a calculated risk every time they step out there – they know the potential dangers and that’s a chance they’re happy to take.
I’m told that Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn did a sterling job going out there after the number one contendership was curtailed. I feel awful for them that they had to do that; I’m reminded of the casual tweet that Zayn sent some months ago, thanking Enzo for going to the cinema with him to see a film he didn’t want to see, just because he’s a good friend.
I feel awful for Aiden English and Simon Gotch too, who will be feeling terrible; as will the New Day and the commentary team and everyone around the ring at the time.
It was a relief to see the first tweet from WWE – coming from Owens, of all people, resplendent in his Tapout shirt and beaming while an endearingly besuited Big Cass talked animatedly with Enzo, in his bright blue hospital gown.
WWE confirmed shortly afterwards that he had been released from hospital.
Terrible accidents like this remind us how fragile life is, how mortal we are, and how our professional wrestlers deserve our respect and our thanks.