Originally, this was posted on Pro Wrestling Ponderings, but the site mysteriously went down shortly thereafter. The column would otherwise not survive, so I’m posting it here for posterity.
For 20 years, I have taken great pride in calling myself a professional wrestling fan. Through break-ups, family deaths, and other personal issues, watching an event either on tape or live has served as therapy. However, over the last three months, it’s been incredibly difficult to use pro wrestling as therapy when some of the top organizations in the United States slap me in the face with their support of an administration that regards all but a chosen few with disregard and disdain.
I know what some people will say. PWP isn’t the appropriate venue for this column. Jerome, you should keep this site to wrestling. Well, this column will be about wrestling. More importantly, I don’t care who agrees or disagrees with me. In a month long period when I have to watch all I value as a human being be flushed down the toilet through a series of proclamations, I’m going to use this megaphone to blast out my thoughts about a minuet aspect of the chaos.
These are facts. Linda McMahon, former CEO of WWE and wife to the brains behind of WWE for 30+ years will be confirmed as a member of the 45 president’s administration. The Sinclair Broadcasting Group, owners of Ring of Honor, cut a deal with the 45 to insure “fairer” coverage. Sinclair has a history of conservatism and bias. A simple Google search will reveal some of their behaviors. Dixie Carter, who may or may not have a connection to TNA at this point, went out of her way to endorse McMahon’s candidacy for Small Business Administrator.
What does the above mean to me? It means I have a hard time being able to see how I can possibly support an artform I love because the people in power have either implicitly or explicitly associated themselves with someone who I believe to be a racist, misogynist, jingoist, about a thousand other -ists, and most importantly, a fascist. Pro wrestling is important to me. There are many wonderful people involved with it. There are many wonderful fans who I have met. I never would have met people like Kevin Ford, Chris GST, Ryan Rozanski, Larry Csonka, the Hales Clan, Jen, Ciara, Fray, Rich from VOW, and way too many others to name without being a fan.
The artform itself is sadly in the best shape it’s ever been in. I would argue the quality of wrestling shows across the board is at the highest it’s ever been. Even the worst WWE shows seem to have multiple redeeming matches that are at least worth watching before whatever goofy booking decision negates the in-ring quality. Perhaps one of the reasons wrestling has been able to reach such a high in-ring quality is our ability to see it. Any major or minor promotion is available at our fingers. There are multiple streaming services for people to see companies around the world. In 1995, 100 dollars would have gotten you 3-4 tapes, maybe 6-10 hours of wrestling. Now 100 dollars gives you thousands of hours of wrestling, and this includes WWE, New Japan, WWN, and numerous other US and UK indies. There can be little argument that we are in a golden age of access to pro wrestling.
However, more important than being a wrestling fan and the ability to access all these hours on various streaming services is my being a human being. I cannot look at a picture of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon at the inauguration without thinking about the millions of people in the country who are scared of being harassed, detained, or even kicked out. These are real fears. I’m not making something up for dramatic effect. While Triple H and Stephanie McMahon smirked in the background as Linda was ass kicked by the senate committee, numerous executive actions were being doled out or prepared, actions that hurt relationships with two bordering countries as well as some of the more complicated areas around the world.
It’s also not simply a WWE problem. Recently, Joey Styles inserted himself back into the headlines by making a tasteless joke on an Evolve show. This was a logical conclusion of his 2016 commentary run. In the 1990s, Joey Styles was an innovator and a fresh voice beyond the stale commentary on WWF and WCW issues. In 2016, his act is as passe as the company he called. Evolve, Beyond, and CHIKARA seemingly couldn’t sign Styles on quickly enough. And what did we get? Joey Styles’ abysmal performance at King of Trios even before his tasteless comment just two months later. I would make the argument that sexualizing Joanna Rose for literally no reason was awful, but putting Styles in front of a microphone was just as unforgiveable a decision.
Styles’ comment could have been a simple case of someone involved with wrestling making an incredibly stupid and offensive comment and being justifiably fired. Unfortunately, the morality of wrestling proves just how much work needs to be done before a woman involved in wrestling can be seen as something beyond window dressing or someone to be objectified. Many involved with the sport defended Styles and some even made this into a 1st Amendment issue.
Sidenote: Let’s look at the 1st Amendment for a second. This is what it actually says. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Joey Styles has the right to say whatever he wants. If Congress tried to arrest him…if any government official tried to arrest him, I’d happily defend Styles’s commentary repulsive as it may be. However, Evolve, CHIKARA, and Beyond as private entities were well within their rights to let Styles go. I can say almost anything I want on social media, but if my employer were to find out I was , they’d be well within their rights to fire. The same would go if I made a sexually suggestive comment or used a racial epithet. The response to what Styles said in many circles was as repulsive as the comment itself in some circles. If wrestling can’t move beyond the Neanderthal behavior of sexually objectifying women and exploitation of minority groups, then the artform does not deserve to survive.
I am not telling anyone else to boycott WWE or any of the other companies. What I do know is every day for the last year I’ve woken up and tried to be a better person. I truly believe that in this world, all of us will have to reconsider our relationships with our favorite companies, artists, government officials, and even our friends. There may come a breaking point for everyone. I can’t predict and say what that is, but I believe we must be vigilant and understand that nothing can simply be seen as decontextualized from the rest of society. Sticking to wrestling simply isn’t good enough. The same will go for professional sports (see the recent protests in the immigrant heavy Houston, Texas) and even the world of film (see the recent controversy of Asghar Farhadi refusing to attend the Oscars because of a recent executive order).
What does this mean for me? While drafting this column, I began developing a new idea for a new website. The details will hopefully be revealed in the upcoming days and weeks. This will likely be my last column for Pro Wrestling Ponderings indefinitely. The project that I’m working on will deserve my full attention and will hopefully present pro wrestling coverage in a completely new way. I look forward to discussing this publicly soon. Until then, I want to thank every single person who has ever read an article or listened to a podcast. More specifically, I want to thank Chris GST and Kevin Ford for being the collaborators I could ever have ever asked for. I can honestly say that no matter my feelings about wrestling itself, Kevin and Chris remain friends and will remain so for the forseeable future. I know they will continue maintaining the high quality of the site.