As previously noted, WWE Superstars Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods talked about the thorny issue of injuries in professional wrestling on the latest episode of The New Day: Feel The Power. Notably, Big E weighed in on the mental aspects of injuries and his own depression following his torn meniscus that kept him out of action for several weeks. Additionally, Big E talked about worrying about his body as he ages and understanding why it is difficult for past stars to walk away from professional wrestling.
According to Big E, people do not talk enough about the mental aspect of injuries.
"One of the things that I don't think people talk about enough is the mental toll of dealing with an injury because it's hard to be away from something that you love doing, especially when we're in a group and we see each other all the time. And now, even the 6 weeks I was away, you turn on the TV and there you guys are and you're not a part of that." Big E continued, "and you're not contributing."
Apparently, Big E suffered from depression when he was injured.
"There are so many athletes who deal with depression after they have a major injury and a lot of us just don't talk about it and we just move through it," Big E admitted. "But it's difficult and very common, and something that definitely happened with me because we've been together for 5 years. This is something you want to do for your entire life. And now, not only are you away from it, but the uncertainty of being able to trust your body again to do what it needs to. We don't have a pension. There's no backup plan. That's why everyone tells you to save your money because if for some reason you have issues with that injury and you can never wrestle again, no one else is going to look out for you. There's no plan to make sure your family continues to eat. And when you're out of the spotlight and off TV, does anyone care? Like, there's a lot of uncertainty with that stuff and I think it takes a huge mental toll on athletes and people who deal with major injuries. And it's difficult, man. It's really hard dealing with being depressed, and the fears, and all of the issues that come with a major injury."
While Big E was recovering from his meniscus injury, former WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens stepped in as the heavyweight of The New Day. Big E claimed that he felt "disrespected" by the move to replace him.
"With the meniscus thing, when I'm in the hospital, I'm in the bed. I just finished my surgery and I turn on the TV and I know [Kingston and Woods] have to do what you have to do, but I see you two and there's Big O! There's Kevin Owens doing my intro that I came up with and doing my tag move with you.
"So I get it and I have to suck it up and be a man and laugh it off, but it feels like a slap in the face to see someone in your position just doing your stuff. I felt disrespected. And, I don't know. Obviously, it wasn't an idea you guys came up with, so there was no issue with you. But just from that larger picture, just that you're alone in a hospital room - you can have family there and whatever, but I was alone and I was there, but everything goes on without you, and you just move on, and does anyone care? Does it even matter?" Big E added, "and you feel very alone in the situation."
Potentially with more years behind him in the ring than years in front of him, Big E shared that he is worried about his future with his multiple injuries finally catching up with him.
"A lot of us work through a lot of nagging injuries, but I often think about what life at 45, 50, 55 will be because you only get one body," Big E said. "And I know a lot of injuries that I had or sustained outside of wrestling, but I have torn both of my ACLs; I have broken my right patella; torn my right patella tendon; I've torn my left meniscus; I've torn my left pec; I have a herniated disc in my lower back; there's a bunch of small nagging things too. But I'm going to have to, I fear, pay the price in 10, 15 years. And that's one of my biggest fears, just being an old, hobbled man. And I don't want to live like that, man."
Interestingly, Big E said he already understands how some past stars of professional wrestling cannot give up the business as performing in the squared circle is one hell of a drug.
"We talked for years about, 'oh man, there [are] these old timers who can't give the business up and they need to learn to walk away,' but I think about it now, man, as I'm getting older - not old - but at 33, I'm kind of seeing the end of my career and where it could be and it's not super far off, but I get it, man. There will be nothing in my life like stepping into a ring and being able to look around and seeing people smiling or laughing because of something that you did. There is nothing like that feeling and it's addicting, man. And that's one of the scary things for me, being able to walk away. I don't know if I'll be able to comfortably walk away and not chase that feeling because it really is a high. Honestly, it's incredible." Big E noted, "there's nothing like it, man."
On the subject of addiction, Big E explained that opioids are a problem insofar as habit-forming painkillers are commonly prescribed to injured athletes at a time when they are in pain, bored, and depressed.
"A lot of people just aren't that structured with their time and that could lead to, like [Kingston] said, to people having issues of falling into being really depressed, or they start drinking [alcohol], or whatever it is. One of the things too that we don't really talk about is the fact that you have this injury and you have a surgery and suddenly you have a bunch of pills that the doctor gave you." Big E added, "and you need those pills."
During the podcast, Big E admitted that he "casually" took pain pills out of boredom and he is fortunate to not have an addictive personality.
"I had four surgeries in two-and-a-half years in college. I legit had this creatine that I used to take that would be in a five-pound tub and I had the tub empty and just filled with bottles, and not empty bottles. I probably had somewhere between 12 and 15 bottles of pills." Big E continued, "I'd take as little as possible and deal with the pain. And instead of throwing the pills out, I'd throw them in this bucket and be done with them. But after four surgeries, you have this bucketful of opioids and it's just easy to [say], 'hey,' I was done playing, so 'I'm kind of bored and kind of depressed. Let me pop some pills and drink.'
"I'm so thankful that I don't have an addictive personality. Whatever makeup that is, that makes people fall into addiction, I don't think I have because, like I said, I've casually used these pain pills that I just have and it's very easy for people to [say], 'I have all this idle time, I'm injured, I'm depressed, let me pop some pills.' It's scary, man. There's a lot that goes into injury that people don't want to talk about. It's not just the physical toll. For a lot it's the mental [toll] and trusting your body again."
Check out the pod here or via the embedded player below. If you use any of the quotes from this article, please credit The New Day: Feel The Power with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.