Staab: Should Certain Pro Wrestling Moves Be Banned? Yes.

Following Katsuyori Shibata's head injury, should professional wrestling alter its moveset?
Katsuyori Shibata bleeds after a headbutt to IWGP Heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada at Sakura Genesis. Following the match, Shibata collapsed backstage due to a head injury and the "Strong Style" competitor's future is in question. (Credit: New Japan Pro-Wrestling).

The age-old question that divides society:  What role should the government play in people’s lives?

Fundamentally, the debate over how to answer this question is what has divided people in this country since it’s founding. Considering it is such an important question that helps identify one’s overall outlook on life, sometimes listening to a person answer a seemingly innocuous question can expose their feeling on this key philosophical issue. Unfortunately, the situation in New Japan Pro-Wrestling right now has created one of those questions which cut to the core of a person’s belief system.

Should NJPW ban headbutts?

Fans of the promotion have been forced to grapple with this question due to the devastating news about Katsuyori Shibata. After collapsing backstage following his 5-Star epic with Kazuchika Okada at Sakura Genesis, Shibata had to undergo surgery and his wrestling future is very much in doubt. While not entirely clear as of yet, the general consensus is that the moment which did the damage was when Shibata viciously headbutted Okada.

Wrestlers are adults. So if they want to headbutt each other for my entertainment, shouldn’t the company let them? 

No, they shouldn’t. Human beings aren’t always rational actors, and sometimes we need parameters set for us. Society at one point realized it needed the Food and Drug Administration because otherwise, companies would continue to sell unsafe food and people would continue to die.

Fast forward 111 years and the need for these types of regulations seems obvious to everyone. Professional wrestling — due to both its nature and history — provides an even stronger case for justifying oversight and the outright banning of certain practices. From the perspective of the performer, wrestling’s ultimate task is to get over with the audience either by endearing yourself to them or making them want to get out of their seat and murder you. To reach that goal, and more importantly, to ensure the largest possible financial reimbursement, wrestlers will do things to their bodies that they absolutely should not.

Go back and look at some of your favorite wrestlers at their bulky, inflated, steroid-y peak if you ever begin to doubt that the quest to get over and get paid will inevitably lead people to drastically damage themselves. Whenever possible it should be the mission of the company employing them to prevent this from happening. Obviously, this is wrestling, and even the most basic move can cause serious harm if botched. But given all we now know about head trauma and concussions, it is absolutely inexcusable for a company to allow its performers to knock heads like their two characters from an old Saturday morning cartoon.

If Shibata eventually comes back anyway who cares?

You should. Even if fans get to once again see Shibata chase after the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, allowing the wrestlers of NJPW to continue to risk their careers with these shoot headbutts is destined to end up in tragedy.

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