By Mike Mooneyham

May 20, 2007

A rash of recent injuries to top stars has put major kinks in the plans of World Wrestling Entertainment.

Three of Smackdown’s top performers – The Undertaker (Mark Calaway), Ken Kennedy (Ken Anderson) and King Booker (Booker Huffman) – all have been sidelined for extended periods.

Edge (Adam Copeland), arguably the top heel on the Raw roster, will now assume that role on the Smackdown side to help compensate for the setbacks.

The 42-year-old Taker suffered a torn right biceps injury, aggravated at his Last Man Standing match with Batista at the Backlash pay-per-view, and is expected to miss about six months. His injury was a serious blow to the company since he was slotted to enjoy a long reign as world heavyweight champion on the Smackdown brand.

The 31-year-old Kennedy, one of the rising stars in the company, had been promised a title run later this year, but those plans were put on hold when he was injured at a recent house show. It initially was reported that Kennedy’s right triceps muscle tore off of the bone. The company later received more favorable news when it learned that the initial prognosis for Kennedy’s arm injury was overstated. Based on Kennedy’s extensive MRI at the Birmingham, Ala., offices of Dr. James Andrews, it was later reported that Kennedy’s triceps tendon was not torn from the bone as originally reported and will not require surgery.

Due to a massive hematoma, however, Kennedy will be out of action for six to eight weeks.

Booker, 42, remains sidelined with a strained contusion of the neck and a chronic elbow sprain. He also underwent knee surgery in which a bone fragment stuck in his joint was removed. He is expected to return in July.

Former ECW world champ Bobby Lashley is working through a damaged rotator cuff suffered at Backlash during his match with Vince and Shane McMahon and Umaga. Lashley’s injury is not expected to require surgery.

Former WWE cruiserweight champion Gregory “Hurricane” Helms (Shane Helms) is suffering from a neck condition that presumably is the result of gradual wear and tear. He will undergo neck fusion surgery performed by Dr. Lloyd Youngblood in San Antonio on Monday.

“It turns out that I have two cracked vertebrae, and one of them is pressing into my spinal cord,” Helms told the WWE Web site Friday. “One is just demolished, and they told me that the pain I had outside my neck was pretty common. They call it pain referral. One is pressing so far into the spinal cord that I could risk paralysis if I kept going. We get bumps and bruises all the time, and I’ve been to the hospital before thinking something was wrong when I was just banged up, so I thought that this time too. I have a high tolerance for pain, but this pain is 24/7.”

Helms is expected to be out of action for at least a year.

Former WWE performer Lance Storm (Lance Evers) addressed the injury situation on his Web site last week. He noted that many wrestlers work through the pain of injuries that fans aren’t even aware of.

“We all know about Undertaker’s torn biceps, because they had to take to world title off of him before his surgery, but not everyone knows about the broken ankle he was working on when he did the Hell in a Cell match with Mick Foley. How about Rey Mysterio, who has been out of action recovering from knee surgery. I’ve talked with fans that were shocked to find out that this was not his first knee surgery. I’m not sure the exact number, but I think it’s his third or forth.

“What about Edge? Everyone knows about his neck fusion surgery, but did you know he’s had two shoulder injuries and a pectoral tear that he worked through that could have and likely should have had surgery to repair, or that upon returning from his neck injury he broke his hand and his foot, and worked though those as well.”

Storm laughed at the notion that wrestlers might take time off for minor illnesses. “This is a tough business, and I don’t think people realize just how tough the people in this business are. I got an e-mail this week that I think sums it up perfectly. The person wanted to know if due to the constant road schedule I’ve even had to wrestle a match while sick, and if so how would that be possible. I actually laughed out loud when I read this e-mail and thought about The Undertaker working a steel cage match on Smackdown with a torn bicep. Consider how much pain The Undertaker must have been in climbing down the outside of the cage, with a torn bicep, and ask yourself if you think he would notice or even care if he had to wrestle a match with a stuffed-up nose or a fever.”

Jim Ross put a positive spin on the rash of injuries in a recent blog.

“Simply put, my philosophy on that matter is this, there is never a good time for anyone to get injured, but injuries create opportunities for healthy bodies. That may sound morbid but it is true. Anytime a top star gets put on the shelf, it creates a window of opportunity for someone who is waiting for their break. I could easily see new and deserving individuals get their number called, and then it will be up to them to make a difference when they get in the game. The old song and dance about wrestlers being held back is usually a crock especially in today’s marketplace. If a talent is truly special from bell to bell, there is no holding nothing back. One can only pull a Tony Soprano and ‘poor me’ so often.”

Ross also put to rest rumors concerning a posible Shawn Michael retirement.

“HBK seems to be as good if not better than any one in the biz right now and he seems to be having fun … Michaels wrestles because he loves his craft/vocation – not that he isn’t making major bucks. HBK already has major bucks, but one can’t put a dollar value on Michael’s passion and the future Hall of Famer, who is definitely a changed man from a generation ago, will, in my opinion, continue to wrestle until either his ‘fire’ is extinguished or his body says it is time to go home for good.”

– Wrestlemania 23 is coming to DVD on Tuesday. In a first for a WWE DVD release, there will be two versions of the DVD, a standard edition two-disc set and the Ultimate Edition three-disc set. The standard edition will retail for $34.95 and the Ultimate Edition will retail for $44.95. The Ultimate Edition contains an additional five hours of bonus content. Special features on the Ultimate Edition include the complete 2007 Hall of Fame ceremony, exclusive coverage of Wrestlemania 23 weekend and more. The Ultimate Edition also will come in a limited edition collectors’ tin case as long as supplies last.

– Old School Championship Wrestling will hold a show June 10 at Weekend’s Pub, 428 Red Bank Road, Goose Creek. Top bouts are Mack Truck vs. Josh Magnum for the heavyweight title, and Malachi vs. Darkness for the Hardcore King of the Ring. Bell time is 6 p.m. Admission is $8 at door. For more information, call 824-1477.

– George’s Sports Bar, 1300 Savannah Highway, will air the Judgment Day pay-per-view at 8 p.m. tonight. Cover charge is $7. George’s also will air the UFC pay-per-view at 10 p.m. May 26. Cover charge is $10.