Nick Bockwinkel’s Health Connected to Professional Wrestling?


I don’t want to sound ignorant or ask a relatively stupid question, but this has bothered me since Dave Meltzer talked about it on his show. During the discussion of Daniel Bryan’s retirement, the obvious discussion of the long term health of pro wrestlers was brought up.

Now, I’ve always thought I significant change in styles of wrestling that put more of the focus back on lower impact moves and psychology with only a major, high risk maneuver done once in a blue moon would be a good way to reduce the number of guys that get neck injuries and concussions.

Part of this theory had faith placed on the wrestlers of the golden era noting that they remained in excellent health well into their golden years. Nick Bockwinkel was always one of the men I specifically named when discussing this theory with my friends as it seemed like he was in good mental health well into his 70s.

However, Dave mentioned that he had significant problems in the last years of his life. Without going into specifics, it seemed that he was indicating some form of dementia and he felt it was brought on via Bockwinkel’s time in the ring.

What exactly happened for Bockwinkel to get a significant number of concussions from professional wrestling back in his prime if Dave is correct? Would it be just typical bumps and slams which maybe causing side effects?

I just cannot imagine that the style Bockwinkel was known for could possibly have done significant damage to him as far as his mental health is concerned.

It really has me quite shaken since my fallback on feeling guilt over watching wrestling was that there is a safer way and alternatives guys could move back toward. If guys like Bockwinkel were raking up serious brain injury even from their much less dangerous style, then what chance do guys today have?

Any insight on this or words of advice for this wrestling fan that’s having a crisis of conscience?

Thanks for you time and thoughts on this.

I don’t think Bockwinkel ever took particularly dangerous bumps, but I think the point was that even someone who worked as safely as Bockwinkel but continued to do so into their 50s was doing long-term damage to themselves at that point. The human body just can’t take that kind of punishment past a certain age, as many sad UFC fighters coming out of retirement for freakshow fights can testify to. With Bockwinkel especially, it didn’t even manifest until late in his life, as he was super-intelligent and totally fine up until a few years before he died, and he apparently spiraled quickly out of control once the dementia set in. And yeah, the more research that’s done on this stuff, the scarier it gets for doofuses like Dolph Ziggler who hurl themselves into posts with abandon in Superstars matches that no one watches. Contact sports are a scary business more and more these days, which is why I’m glad that WWE is severely toning down blood and chairshots and piledrivers.