RIP Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall
Pro-wrestling legend - and another victim of the US's failed health care system.
Scott Hall — also known by pro-wrestling fans around the world as Razor Ramon — has died at age 63. He will be remembered as a two-time WWE Hall of Famer, an absurdly decorated champion (I’m not going to even try to count the belts), and founding member of the legendary NWO stable. He’ll also be remembered for his in turn tragic and inspiring battle with alcoholism. A thousand other people will do a much better job than I can telling those stories in the coming week, so here I’ll just touch on something that will probably get less attention.
Hall died of complications from a hip replacement procedure he underwent on Sunday. This is not the first time he was in the hospital with hip problems, however. Fans will remember that he also underwent a similar procedure in 2013 — because they paid for it. Hall may have been an international celebrity and pro-wrestling icon, but he had to crowdfund his medical bills because he didn’t have health insurance.
The fundraising page, archived here, lays out a grim situation: struggling to escape alcoholism, Hall also faced heart problems, dental problems, and was unable to walk. Desperate for help, Hall humbles himself for his donors; the page, written by one of his friends, rues his “tragic fall from grace” and his “inability to pay for the procedures he needs.” It notes that he has been sober for 40 days and that the donations will be used solely for recovery and rehab — not, implicitly, on alcohol.
Wrestlers may have a job that’s unusually dangerous — but the ones who work for World Wrestling Entertainment don’t have health insurance. That’s because the WWE infamously classifies its performers as independent contractors, a legally dubious move that allows them to avoid providing benefits employees are entitled to. Confronted with criticism about this, the company usually pleas that it does cover treatment for “anything related to all in-ring injuries” and that they also cover substance abuse programs. But the WWE has also faced serious criticism about the care wrestlers receive on its dime. In 2014, one of the company’s biggest stars, CM Punk, abruptly quit and blamed his departure, in part, on multiple instances of medical mistreatment. More recently, the WWE found itself in a public dispute over whether it had covered medical bills when another wrestler, Keith Lee, contracted Covid-19.
When wrestlers like Punk and Lee leave the company, even this limited coverage goes away — but the health problems they earned from years of diving headbutts and leg drops remain. Some wrestlers, like Jake “The Snake” Roberts, have to do what Hall did and launch a crowdfund. Others struggle to navigate the system, as Mick Foley explained on Facebook:
I had health insurance for 26 years, but the last four years have been tough – with companies sending out letters telling me they will no longer be insuring families, and that I needed to find alternate insurance. By 2016 health insurance was particularly confusing, and after missing one payment, I found myself no longer insured. I am doing my best to be insured in 2017, but nothing is guaranteed, and I have no idea how this new insurance company will feel about replacing a hip that clearly should’ve been replaced many years ago.
That even international celebrities like Foley struggle to pay for health care is a testament to the utter absurdity of the US’s health care system. That we even have to wonder if Scott Hall was able to get adequate treatment during his time with the WWE is a testament to its utter brutality. “It’s hard to ask for help,” he told the Miami Herald in 2011. In a just health care system, he wouldn’t have to.