It has been widely reported that the latest casualty of the infamous WWE hazing is Palmer Canon who played the "network executive" on Smackdown. Canon was signed by WWE in March 2005, was training and wrestling in WWE's Deep South promotion when he wasn't playing the annoying network character.
According to www.pwinsider.com, "Cannon was the target of hazing by several of the Smackdown veterans. When the hazing was said to have led to a near-physical confrontation between Cannon and JBL, Cannon decided to fly himself home from the Smackdown European tour and immediately gave notice to the company."
His departure isn't a big loss to WWE but it brings up a much larger problem.
Several wrestlers, referees, and divas have quit or complained about the backstage pranks that weren't just practical jokes but were literally dangerous or unhealthy. Stories have made the rounds about certain wrestlers engaging in intimidating behavior with the newer workers and, especially, the women in WWE.
Amy Weber, arguably one of the more marketable women to come out of the diva search contests, left WWE after being repeatedly hazed. The last straw was having a Bloody Mary poured on her head as she slept on an overseas flight (I have been told that Edge was the culprit by someone who should know). Later, fliers were made with Amy's picture and circulated. They implied she was a stripper who would "do anything" for the right price. She finally was fed up and left the company. Weber played JBL's publicist for the most part while with WWE. She starred in Toby Keith's video, "Whiskey Girl" which won an award for Hottest Video of the Year last year. She had considerable acting talent and was a step above many of the divas who remain in WWE. However, the hazing was too much for her to bear.
Many wrestlers and other workers have come forth at various times with stories that range from ridiculous to grotesque to shocking over the years.
One now departed WWE wrestler claimed that he was threatened in the showers by JBL and told if he didn't toe the line he would be raped! A former WCW referee who was new to WWE left after being assaulted because he sat in first class on an airplane. He didn't realize there was a code of conduct and he apparently broke it. He couldn't take the threats and hazing so he quit.
The famous story of a diva opening her travel bag only to find human feces in it and another diva who reached into her lunch bag only to pull out a feces sandwich are true.
Randy Orton has been accused of quite a few offenses to divas, causing at least one to quit and another one to request to be moved to Smackdown (When Orton was on Raw) to get away from him.
But by far, it has been JBL who has been named as the top heckler, hazer, and leader of the pack when it comes to driving away new talent. He has been connected with many offenses and yet, he keeps on getting pushed and keeps on doing what he does.
Most wrestlers and other workers expect the hazing. Referee Charles Robinson once spoke of the craziness he was put through when he came over from WCW. He talked about it jokingly but what happened to him didn't sound funny to me. But he knew that anyone from WCW in a mid to low position was going to be hazed badly and he stuck it out and is now under the radar for hazing.
But why should anyone have to go through that?
When I worked for WCW, I saw a lot of practical joking going on. Put a bunch of wrestlers and other workers in an arena or on an airplane for long periods of time and the joking will start. It is inevitable that they will do some ribbing and yes, I was ribbed when I first started. My computer was hidden more than a few times, my purse was hung eight feet in the air, and I was asked to meet a certain duo of well known ribbers in a room at a certain time to interview them only to find that the room was empty and the door locked behind me. I was stuck in the room for about 30 minutes - in the dark because the light switch was outside the room - before the two came in laughing their butts off. Yeah, haha. Funny, guys.
I was told by my publisher to stick it out and never complain and it would pass. I was so new that I did just that but I never knew what would come next. Lucky for me, I made a few friends in high places and no one ever gave me a feces sandwich. That phase ended fast and I was never a victim of a practical joke again except once when I was called into a locker room to see something important. It turned out to be important alright and I now have a memory of Eddie Guerrero that most of the guys know about but few of the women. I guess I should be honored to have seen the cricket. Ehhh. (No, I won't say what that was so please don't ask.)
Practical jokes are fine. They let off steam and forge unlikely friendships. Hazing isn't. There is a vast difference between a joke and something potentially very dangerous.
WWE needs to address the hazing that that goes beyond ribbing. How many people will they lose because of it before they make a strict rule that that behavior is not acceptable? This isn't high school; this is a very serious profession where people put their lives on the line every night. Why must they endure potentially dangerous or unhealthy hazing on top of it all? Sure, break the new guys and girls in, joke with them, pull a few tricks on them. That is how wrestling is. But when it goes beyond that, it is no longer funny and WWE needs to crack down now before something serious happens that causes them to finally face the fact that hazing should be left in the fraternities (and I don't like it there either) and not on the road.
For the record, WWE is not the only promotion where hazing is a part of life. I just spoke about them because it seems they have the most trouble and are the most visble promotion and should step up and stop the nonsense.
What do you think? Have your say on the message boards!
I will be back with news in a day or so. Check your inboxes for my newsletter alerting you!
This is a FUN book of road stories that I found highly amusing.