Wrestler Chris Jericho fights WWE colleague Eddie Fatu (aka “Umaga”). Fatu died at age 36 after a Dec. 4, 2009 heart attack. He had been kicked from the WWE for wellness program violations in June. Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.
Writing for Human Resource Executive Online, Jared Shelly explained World Wrestling Entertainment’s version of an employee wellness program. With at least 22 professional wrestlers (including a number of high-profile WWE stars) dying before their 45th birthday since 2003, the health challenges faced by the high-impact WWE aren’t exactly typical, and neither is their wellness program.
For starters, the wrestlers are technically independent contractors, not employees, and the wellness program is run by a third party contracted by WWE. The program itself, instituted in 2006, revolves around drug testing (both for the performance enhancing and recreational varieties) four times a year, with suspensions and testing escalating with every instance in which a particular wrestler tests positive.
Wrestlers’ contracts are terminated after their third violation of the policy, but they are still eligible for the Former Talent Rehabilitation Program, an anti-drug-addiction prorgam used by about 4 percent of former WWE wrestlers.