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The Sickness 
May 6, 2004

by Cory "borntorun" Harris
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


With his fantastic column, You Are What You Drink, I thought Rick Scaia proved that over a decade of sitting on his ass watching wrestling while getting blitzed off that very same ass was well worth the poisoning of his brain, liver and any affiliated internal organs. While it was quite the entertaining and well thought-out piece, my enjoyment turned to child-like horror as I pondered the long-term health ramifications of alcohol abuse, not just for OO's resident Whiskey Ninja, but also for the WWE personalities who may also suffer from a variety of booze-related problems. What if Stone Cold Steve Austin had severe liver damage? What if Randy Orton choked on the lime from his Corona Light?

All this worrying compelled me to determine if any of my favorite superstars had any obvious career- or life-threatening physical symptoms. So, I grabbed my stethoscope, tongue depressors and rubber gloves; and just like every Saturday when I give women free breast exams in my conversion van, I set out to play doctor.

While I may not have a "degree" or "experience" or "an attractive face," I am thoroughly convinced in my overall diagnoses: no less than eight wrestlers have some sort of rare disease or disorder. Thankfully, most of them are not life-threatening, and to the credit of the wrestlers, they've overcome the odds to have successful careers. In fact, their very afflictions may be the reason they've attained such prominence in the sport, further qualifying them as heroes. Still, I am no fan of illness of any sort, and it is with a heavy heart that I administer the following report.
Patient:  Kane
Diagnosis:  Burning Mouth Syndrome

The Disorder:  "Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) is characterized by a burning sensation in the mouth and/or tongue. It is often accompanied by dry mouth and/or a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth.... The burning sensation may be aggravated by hot spicy foods." (National Organization for Rare Disorders [hereafter: NORD])

The Wrestler:  Potentially one of the most dominant wrestlers in the world, Kane has evolved from a mute, masked monster into a more realistic, but still incredibly deranged, ogre. While he has his biannual stretches of unstoppable ferocity, he is usually not a serious contender to the championship. Of course, we all know about his life-long obsession with fire that has led to his burning of everything from buildings to television announcers.

The Reasoning:  Kane's recent unmasking shows that although he is still mentally linked to pyromania, he didn't really suffer severe external scarring or vocal-chord damage as a kid; instead, the fire burns within. BMS isn't a deathly serious disorder, but it is highly irritating and incredibly painful. Kane is also a less-than-major player in his realm; while always near the main-event scene, he hasn't been a significant part of title storylines for almost two years. My take is that his BMS, while still present, has subsided over the years, indicated by his increasing ease in verbal communication, and the fact that he doesn't fight "spicy" opponents anymore, settling for feuds with bland rivals such as the Undertaker. Ironically, the Big Red Machine cannot chew Big Red gum because it causes severe soreness in his mouth. While I can't prove it, it has also been rumored that he once attended dental school in an attempt to find a way to alleviate the pain.

Patient:  William Regal
Diagnosis:  Ochoa Syndrome

The Disorder:  "Ochoa (urofacial) syndrome, also known as hydronephrosis with peculiar facial expression, is an extremely rare inherited disorder characterized by an abnormal facial expression and obstructive disease of the urinary tract (uropathy) that are present at birth (congenital). When [the sufferers] smile, their facial musculature turns upside down or 'inverts' so that they appear to be grimacing or crying." (NORD) 

The Wrestler:  The WWE's resident Jim Carrey, William Regal's over-the-top facial expressions are not only top-notch but also hilarious. Recently returning to the WWE, RAW's resident sourpuss is usually either peculiarly unhappy, unnecessarily irked, or needlessly pissed off. His expressions are mixed signals, as one can never tell what he's feeling or thinking just by reading his visage. For example, even though he should have been ecstatic for his television return, his face said otherwise. 

The Reasoning:  While Ochoa syndrome is usually found in infants, there is no denying that Regal never looks normal, period. Every smile, frown, and look of pain is extremely accentuated and sometimes even serves to show the opposite emotion than intended. A few years back, the former Man's Man had plenty of reasons to be happy as the WWE's (and later WCW's) General Manager, but even his gentle British laugh echoed with pain. As far as the urinary tract symptom goes, Regal was far too horrified when Chris Jericho peed in his tea, probably because it brought back childhood bathroom-time problems. 

Patient:  Ric Flair
Diagnosis:  Organic Mood Syndrome

The Disorder:  "Organic Mood Syndrome is a mental disorder due to physical causes. Either 'manic' symptoms of unusual euphoria or irritability, or 'depressive' symptoms of despondency, fear, anxiety, suspiciousness, [and other symptoms] may be present." (NORD)

The Wrestler:  Without a doubt, Ric Flair is a living legend who can work the crowd as both a face and a heel. A master storyteller, he runs the gamut of emotions in a single match, even if he's just the manager on the outside. One thing is sure: you never know what to expect from the Nature Boy. In light of this diagnosis, Flair doesn't either.

The Reasoning:  Ric Flair is a living, breathing, bipolar son of a gun. At times, he is insanely happy, "Woooo-ing" and showcasing his patented Flair Strut. However, his mood changes uncontrollably whenever he climbs the top rope, causing him to give a look of extreme fear before inevitably being tossed to the mat by his opponent. Even the smallest things can set him off; insignificant acts like a Spineroonie or a two-count will send him into a head-shaking, rope-grapping, elbow-dropping, and obscenity-yelling fit. While this diagnosis sounds a lot like the psychologically based Bipolar or Manic-Depressive disorders, I'm confident that Flair's is physical in nature, caused by years of carrying broomsticks and overdoing the "crimson mask." His other symptoms include a fear of riding in anything but limousines and obsessively grabbing the breasts of wrestling columnists.

Patient:  Rene Dupree
Diagnosis:  Jumping Frenchmen from Maine

The Disorder:  " 'Jumping Frenchman' is a disorder characterized by an unusually extreme startle reaction. The startle reaction is a natural response to an unexpected noise or sight. This disorder was first identified during the late nineteenth century in Maine and the Canadian province of Quebec. Lumberjacks of French-Canadian descent were originally associated with this phenomenon, but it has since been observed in other societies in many parts of the world as well. 'Jumping Frenchmen' is suspected to be a genetic disorder and/or an extreme conditioned response to a particular situation possibly influenced by cultural factors. Symptoms tend to improve with age." (NORD)

The Wrestler:  Rene Dupree is a shockingly young WWE talent who, with Sylvian Grenier, has already held the World Tag Team Title. At this point, however, being saddled with the "French Guy who is really Canadian" stigma hasn't helped him realize his potential.

The Reasoning:  First off, Dupree was certainly and visibly startled when he was drafted to Smackdown. To further compound the spot-on diagnosis, my middle-school history book had a chapter on how all Canadians are somehow related to Quebec lumberjacks, making it very likely that this disorder runs in Dupree's bloodline. Plus, he's a fake French guy who reacts to an unexpected pop from the crowd with a silly jumping dance. While the disorder's name may be blatantly obvious, it doesn't make it any less accurate. Besides, he's likely to lose the jumping reaction, along with the Frenchman gimmick, as he grows older and his career progresses.

Patient:  Chris Benoit
Diagnosis:  SHORT Syndrome

The Disorder:  "SHORT Syndrome is a very rare disorder thought to be inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. Individuals affected with this disorder are usually born with a low birth weight. A short stature and a congenital condition in which there is a loss of fat under the skin (lipoatrophy) of the arms and face are almost always apparent. Other distinguishing symptoms of SHORT Syndrome are defective development of the anterior chamber of the eye (Rieger Anomaly) and a delay in teething and speech." (NORD)

The Wrestler:  Chris Benoit has grown in his career, from the ranks of the WCW cruiserweights, to sitting at the kid's table in the WWE, to becoming a main-event player by winning the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XX. While lacking the size and mic skills of fellow veteran wrestlers, Benoit uses his trim physique and "toothless aggression" to run the table in a big man's world.

The Reasoning:  Kevin Nash has called Benoit, whose body is a compact as a VW Beetle, a midget. There is no sign of fat in Benoit's arms, which he uses to lock his opponents in his devastating crossface. His teeth are obviously messed up (I think they're his baby set), and his promos parallel the abilities of rookies as he says his words without any real emotion, as if he just learned them. Despite these developmentally unattractive shortcomings, Benoit remains an internet favorite and a hero to people of all heights. 

Patient:  Scott Steiner
Diagnosis:  Elephantiasis

The Disorder:  "Elephantiasis is a rare disorder of the lymphatic system. Inflammation of the lymphatic vessels causes extreme enlargement of the affected area, most commonly a limb or parts of the head and torso. It occurs most commonly in tropical regions and particularly in parts of Africa." (NORD)

The Wrestler:  The self-proclaimed "Genetic Freak," Scott Steiner has entertained wrestling fans around the world for two decades, in such exotic places as Japan, Africa, and Canada. Once a dynamo in the ring, defeating opponents with his patented Frankensteiner, today Steiner limps his way around RAW as a strictly power-based wrestler.

The Reasoning:  While many think that Steiner is a 'roided-up troll, the truth is that he actually liked his early-career ring mobility and would never, ever touch any type of drug. Unfortunately, sometime in the mid-1990s he contracted Elephantiasis while visiting a medically dangerous region of Sub-Saharan Africa. Freakzilla's arms, head, and chest have all mutated in sickening ways over the last ten years or so, relegating his exercise routine to consist only of thousands of push-ups. A previously unknown side effect of Elephantiasis is "moonspeak," (a condition first diagnosed by a Dr. Karl Hungus), evidenced by Steiner's incoherent interviews and directionless babbling. 

Patient:  The Rock
Diagnosis:  Kennedy Disease

The Disorder:  "Kennedy Disease is a rare, slowly progressive muscular disorder that affects males only and is inherited as an X-linked genetic trait. Uncontrollable twitching (fasciculations) followed by weakness and wasting of the muscles becomes apparent some time after the age of fifteen. The muscles of the face, lips, tongue, mouth, throat, vocal chords, trunk and limbs may be affected. Very large calves may also be found in some patients with this disorder. Kennedy disease is caused by a mutation in the androgen receptor (AR) gene. Androgen insensitivity leads to abnormal swelling of the breasts (gynecomastia), small testes and infertility." (NORD)

The Wrestler:  The Rock, while still one of the most explosive wrestlers in the business, has progressively lost wrestling- and Hollywood-muscle over the last years and months. A very movement-based grappler, the Rock's interviews, facial expressions and ring technique have made him an incomparable superstar.

The Reasoning:  Follow the symptoms of Kennedy Disease, and this is an easy diagnostic:
Rocky's a male.
He twitches uncontrollably, sometimes in the face as he enters the ring, and always when he stomps or kicks a wrestler on the ground. When he yells, "If you smell," sometimes he says it without difficulty, and sometimes his tongue involuntarily moves when making the "L" sound, as in "smelllalalalalalalalalalow!"
In my professional opinion, he wears his strangely extended boots to hide possibly irreversibly ill-sized calves.
As for abnormal swelling of the breasts, The Great One had a massive chest before having his well-documented pectoral-area surgery in late 1998. The Rock was not seen shirtless for months, until he unveiled his newly-reconstructed upper body at Wrestlemania XV.
I cannot speak for the small testes, because he never mentions them. Curiously, he only mentions his penis ("strudel"), completely avoiding claims as to the size and significance of his testes a curious choice, given the popularity of such claims among rappers, professional football players and even other wrestlers.

Patient:  Triple H
Diagnosis:  Kuru (Laughing Disease)

The Disorder:  "Kuru is a rare and fatal brain disorder that occurred at epidemic levels during the 1950s-60s among the Fore people in the highlands of New Guinea. The disease was the result of the practice of ritualistic cannibalism among the Fore, in which relatives prepared and consumed the tissues (including brain) of deceased family members. Brain tissue from individuals with kuru was highly infectious, and the disease was transmitted through eating.... Mood changes were often present. Eventually, individuals became unable to stand or eat, and they died in a comatose state from 6 to 12 months after the first appearance of symptoms." (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

The Wrestler:  Triple H is unquestionably a great student of the sport. He alludes to and watches tapes of his predecessors on a regular basis, essentially devouring the past. He is also considered a backstage predator, keeping his spot at the top of the food chain, even if it means eating other talent alive. There is also the well-documented fact that over the past few years, a variety of leg injuries have made him almost immobile in the ring.

The Reasoning:  There's no easy way of putting it: Triple H not only consumes the knowledge of wrestling greats, but he also feasts upon their actual brains. While no one has seen him masticate a medulla oblongata, Helmsley can often be seeing "picking Ric Flair's brain" in hopes of getting inside the Nature Boy's unmatched wrestling mind. Unfortunately, the desire to be "that damn good" has propelled Triple H to a nearly terminal state: he's already showing the symptoms of kuru. First, his mood changes frequently, shown in his always-shifting wardrobe, facial hair and penchant for riding a wave of emotions during interviews. Two years of constant leg injuries, caused by this debilitating disease, will soon leave the Harley Race high-knee and everything attached completely immobile. The Game is well aware that his days are ending, causing him to look to the future of the sport and let guys like Chris Benoit and Shelton Benjamin carry the torch for him. My advice for the boys in the back: don't eat Triple H's inflicted brain, because the infection will only serve to hold down your life. Why do you think he's called the Cerebral Assassin?

There you have it: ten disorders verified through television viewing and some internet research by Cory Harris, M.D. If I'm correct, don't worry, because most of your favorites are perfectly healthy. If I'm wrong, then just try to sue my ass for malpractice, Jack! I'm not afraid of you, because I'm also a lawyer.

While I realize that I may be somewhat intruding on individual privacy, I'm presented this report not for myself, but for science. All of these diseases and disorders are real, and more information can be found through The National Organization for Rare Disorders or a Google Search. Also, I am certainly not making light of anyone, past, present, or future, who in reality has had any kind of health problem. Except for the wrestlers, of course.

Now, if I could only get Victoria into my van.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cory Harris is a veteran poster on the OnlineOnslaught message boards and author of the fictional Billy Gunn Royal Rumble. This recent column was a play on Rick Scaia's "You Are What You Drink," which was itself a play on Rocky Swift's "A Selective Comparison of Wrestlers and Their Corresponding Japanese Challenge Food."


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