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Neck injury sidelines WWE John Cena

Published August 28, 2008 at 7 p.m.
Updated August 28, 2008 at 8:53 p.m.

Being a World Wrestling Entertainment superstar is a real pain in the neck. Just ask John Cena.

According to WWE's Web site, Cena underwent a 90-minute procedure Tuesday to remove a large disc fragment that was pressing on his spinal cord. The injury was causing numbness in Cena's right arm.

The surgery reportedly went so well that Cena visited backstage with WWE performers Tuesday night before a Smackdown television taping in Pittsburgh. Cena is expected to miss the next two to four months but is known as a fast healer. He returned well ahead of schedule from a torn pectoral muscle suffered last October.

WWE is attributing Cena's injury to a "Batista Bomb" delivered by Dave Batista in their Summer Slam match this month. Whether that is true or just part of another story line is unclear, but this much is certain: Cena has joined a long list of WWE grapplers who have required neck surgery.

The most notable came in 1997 when Steve Austin was accidentally dropped incorrectly by the late Owen Hart. This caused a chronic neck problem that greatly contributed to Austin's retirement from active competition six years later.

Other WWE injuries were the result of mistimed moves combined with wear-and-tear. Adam "Edge" Copeland, Terry "Rhyno" Gerin, Shane Helms, the late Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle are among the performers who missed extensive time because of their ailments.

WWE has tried reducing the injury risk by toning down its in-ring action. Maneuvers that can compress the spine, such as piledrivers and chair shots directly to the top of the head, are allowed only on rare occasions among top performers who know how to cushion such blows.

Such measures aren't always enough. While the outcomes to all pro wrestling matches are predetermined, serious physical damage can be suffered even by those who are essentially trained stuntmen.

Cena and Mr. Ken Kennedy are the latest proof. Kennedy (real name Ken Anderson) also is sidelined, having suffered a shoulder injury this month during a nontelevised match against Shelton Benjamin in Macon, Ga.

* Former WWE star Ken Shamrock is the newest tomato can being fed to rising mixed martial arts star Kimbo Slice. The two will meet Oct. 4 on an EliteXC show to be telecast live on CBS from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

At age 44, Shamrock's long-standing nickname as the "World's Most Dangerous Man" is no longer apt. He has lost seven of his eight fights since 2002, dropping the past five in the first round. Shamrock, though, makes sense for EliteXC management. The promotion is trying to feed over-the-hill fighters with name value to Slice, an MMA novice with a following from real-life street fights shown on the Internet.

* Jeff Jarrett's imminent return isn't the only major roster news in TNA Wrestling (7 p.m. Thursdays, Spike TV). The promotion has the chance to make a serious run at two major WWE stars in Ric Flair and Mick Foley. Flair has parted ways with WWE because of lucrative acting and autograph-signing opportunities elsewhere. Foley's departure seems imminent after an ill-fated stint as a Smackdown television announcer.

Flair and Foley have no desire to wrestle again, but their name value would greatly help TNA's visibility.

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