The Undertaker ruffled some feathers recently with comments he made about today’s wrestling product. He called the current product “soft” which prompted pushback agreement from veterans like Goldberg and Bobby Lashley but pushback from the younger generation like Roman Reigns and Drew McIntyre.
Mike Bennett is a contemporary of guys like Reigns and McIntyre and he responded to Taker’s comments in an interview on the Wrestling With Awareness podcast.
“You know, so first and foremost, I have the utmost respect for Undertaker. I always have and he was one of my favorites growing up. He was nothing but kind to me anytime I interacted. I didn’t interact with him a lot at WWE, but every time I did, he was great,” stated Bennett. “My issue is, his problems seem to come at the talent and say that it was their fault that the product is soft. I can promise you that the talent has zero input on the product that gets put out. They get told what to do, if they go off script they get yelled at, or they get punished. It’s not the talent.
“The talent has always been ready and willing to do whatever is asked of them and most of the talent have had far more success on the independents, doing what they normally do, than when they get to WWE and they get watered down. They get told to do this, and do that, and do this. I do, I understand where Undertaker’s coming from. It’s just, from what I see it as, it’s just a generation gap. It’s a difference. We as the professional wrestlers of my generation, we look out for each other. We have each other’s backs. We understand when the company’s trying to screw us or not screw us or this and that, and I don’t think the guys are soft.”
A common refrain from those who push back on Taker’s comments is that guys from his era couldn’t do many of the matches or moves that guys today are doing. Bobby Lashley referred to these guys as doing “little flippies and jumpies” when supporting Taker’s position but Bennett things that’s just the evolution of the business.
“I mean, not for nothing, but some of the matches these guys have, I don’t think the guys back then could keep up and I don’t think they could get hit as hard. I don’t think they could handle it because some of these matches that you see in New Japan, or you see in Ring of Honor, or you see in AEW, some of these matches you see like, Eddie Kingston have, like these guys are beating the crap out of each other, because they are tough,” said Bennett.
“And I don’t think the guys are soft and… like my wife is very close with Michelle McCool and having that interaction there, I don’t think Undertaker was trying to be disrespectful. I think it’s just a generational thing. I think it’s his mindset of, ‘Well, this is the way we did it. They’re not doing it this way so it must be wrong’ as opposed to someone like Mick Foley, who’s adapting and understanding the way professional wrestling is evolving. Or someone like Edge, who’s helped out so many of the younger guys and understands where wrestling is evolving. So, I don’t think it was a disrespect thing from Undertaker, I just think it was a generational gap and not understanding this generation of professional wrestlers.”
Shortly after joining WWE in 2017, Bennett went to rehab to fight an addiction to prescription painkillers. He’s been very open about his struggles and attempts to overcome them and has often posted on social media every time he reaches a milestone with his sobriety.
Bennett talked about the approach he used that worked for him finally get over the hump and end his addiction.
“It sounds so cliche, and, but there’s a reason why it’s cliche, and it’s literally focus one day at a time,” said Bennett. “And I know, again, you’ve heard that from everyone, but if I can break it down in simpler terms because someone broke it down for me before, and it really made sense because when you say one day at a time, people are like, ‘Yeah okay, one day. But what about the next day and what about two months from now?’ But if you literally break down what you are going through at that moment, because so much of our mental health, and so much of our addiction comes from what’s going on in our brain at that moment and that particular time. And we try to fix it at that moment and that particular time and we think, ‘Well, if we do this, and we numb at this, then it’ll go away and tomorrow I’ll feel better or in an hour.’ And it doesn’t work that way because, yes, you’ll feel better once you numb it, but then it’s gonna come back and it’s gonna come back and it’s gonna come back.
“And with addiction I always tell people it’s like this, if you’re craving something or you’re feeling like, ‘I don’t think I can get through this’ you literally sit there and tell yourself, ‘Okay, just get yourself till bedtime, then you’ll go to sleep. You’ll wake up and tomorrow’s a new day. Then when you wake up the next day, just say to yourself, if that craving hits, or that insecurity hits, or that depression, get myself till bedtime. I can do that, that’s easy. Get myself till bedtime because then I’ll go to sleep and I’ll wake up and it’s a new day.’
“And what you tend to realize is these things snowball. One day it’s, ‘Get yourself till bedtime.’ The next day you might not even think about it. You might just be like, ‘Alright I woke up and I feel good’ and then you continue through that day. And maybe at noon time it hits you again, alright it’s noon time, what time do I go to bed? Nine o’clock? Alright, get yourself till nine o’clock, get yourself till nine o’clock. Then the next day you wake and it’s a new day and maybe you go two or three days without thinking about it. These days do have a way of snowballing and leading to better things. That’s why they always say, ‘Better days are ahead of you.’ You just have to continuously focus and tell yourself, ‘If I can get through this day, then I can fix it. And keep going and keep moving and keep progressing forward.’ But once you start to be like, ‘Oh my God, I gotta get a week clean, and a month clean, and ten months clean.’ It’s overwhelming and you really can’t focus.
“But I would tell people to try to focus on that one day at a time. If you can have a support system, lean on your support system. They’re there for a reason. I was blessed, I had my wife who – God love her. I don’t think I could’ve done it without her; she was there. As soon as I admitted I had a problem, she took my phone, she took my keys, she took my wallet. She’s like, ‘We are staying here and this is how we are doing it.’ And I went, ‘Alright, that’s how we are doing it.’ I could lean on her. I could lean on my mom and my dad and my sister and my brothers. And if you have that – some people aren’t lucky enough to have that support system – and that’s why we were talking about before; it’s important for me to send my message.”
People from all walks of life struggle with addiction and Bennett is doing his part to share his story and help others overcome. He talked about being a part of that community and why it’s more important and meaningful to him than even being a part of the wrestling community.
“I try to tell people who reach out to me, I do the best I can, but I follow them on Twitter and I say, ‘DM me’ because sometimes it’s nice just to DM someone and be like, ‘Dude, I’m really struggling’ and have someone write back, ‘You can get through this.’ And you say to yourself, ‘Yes… yes I can get through it.’ It’s this whole community and if you can have a community, or you can look at someone, or you can reach out to someone, that is so impactful,” stated Bennett. “I’ve realized that as I get older that it’s more important to me to have an impact on people’s personal lives as recovering addicts or as people who suffer from mental health than it will ever be for what I do for wrestling. Because wrestling, at the end of the day, is entertainment and it makes people happy, it makes people angry, and it makes people sad. But if I can have a direct effect on how someone lives their life for the better… then I’ve done my job. That’s a good day’s work right there and I would rather that than anything that the wrestling world could bring.”
Much like society as a whole, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health in wrestling and it’s rarely brought up. But having someone like Bennett – whose job description is to be this big, macho, masculine wrestler – reveal his battles has opened many people’s eyes.
He talked about the importance of someone like him in a testosterone-driven industry being so vulnerable with his openness.
“And I think that’s important, I think that’s really important. I think it’s important to tell people… even big bad professional wrestlers suffer from… most of us do! Like, that’s the thing that’s always, I think, shocking to people is a lot of us are insecure,” revealed Bennett. “A lot of us deal with depression. A lot of us battle with trying to be liked and trying to find that level of perfection that just doesn’t exist. So, I’m not only trying to help people that look up to us, I want to be a voice for the wrestling community in general to be like, it’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay. That makes you courageous if your able to go out there and put yourself on the ledge and say, ‘These are my issues. I wanna get better. Let’s talk about it.’ I don’t know, to me that’s the most courageous you can be.