“News is what someone wants suppressed. Everything else is advertising. The power is to set the agenda. What we print and what we don’t print matter a lot.”
– Katharine Graham
Whether we wrestling fans like it or not the WWE has a dominant monopoly over wrestling in North America. The common criticism of their decade and a half long dominance is that it has made the product stagnant and fixed towards entertaining only one piece of the audience, children. Other critics will point out how dangerous it is that one company controls the lenses through which wrestling history is viewed. What many wrestling fans do not question though is the monopoly on journalism in professional wrestling and the grave implications that brings.
Ask any die-hard wrestling fans who the most trusted name for information is and I guarantee they will answer with one name, Dave Meltzer. Even popular alternatives to Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer website usually cite him as where their information originated from. I understand why, for two decades, Dave labored to build a network of contacts that gave him the edge in supplying wrestling fan boys with backstage gossip. With this in mind I think that Dave’s near monopoly on wrestling journalism is just as grave as the WWE’s on the industry.
At the heart of the issue is that Dave is a businessman. He comes from a time where good information was hard to come by and a nice profit could be made for the person who held that information. Kudos to him to tapping into that market when no one else would. The issue I have with that is his approach to using that information is purely for profit and is very antiquated. I am of the opinion that anyone in that situation, especially if they want to call themselves a journalists, has an obligation to use it for the betterment of society. The fact is I can’t recall a time that Meltzer used his information to crusade for changes in the wrestling industry. Without an influential voice doing that, the wrestlers we love continue to suffer because no one with a voice will challenge the promoters.
The laundry list of ills in the world of wrestling is staggering. Many wrestlers can’t afford health insurance and often have to work sick or injured. Many of the same performers turn to pain medication and alcohol abuse, a primary factor in many grapplers going to an early grave. Unless one is privileged to have worked for the WWE, being able to afford a quality rehab facility is not feasible and the addiction may never be broken. Often a wrestler is stiffed on their night’s pay or are never paid at all. Several Canadian wrestlers are facing a threat to their livelihood because of broken promises by promoters to help them obtain and pay for their work visas. Journalists in other eras labored to highlight these problems in order to enact legislative change for factory workers. With mainstream wrestling journalists not willing to do that who will advocate for wrestlers?
If you are thinking that the mainstream media will please rid yourself of that delusion as quickly as possible. Outside of the fandom professional wrestling is viewed as a joke in the media. One only has to look at the tirades of Nancy Grace or the offensive portrayal of fans and workers alike in popular documentaries on the wrestling world. So, who will stop up to be the advocate wrestlers need? My answers to that is those fans who have taken up the pen to write about the squared circle.
Before I get into my reasoning for this let me say this, I understand the perception of wrestling web sites. Often they are nothing more than a vehicle for the rumination of popular opinion, often in snarky language, something the bowels of the internet has branded a “circle jerk.” Alternatively, the site may offer nothing more than opinionated reviews. If this is what the proprietors of the site want to do that is perfectly fine. There is plenty of room on the World Wide Web for all kinds of writing on professional wrestling. Still, I hope that I can persuade a few wrestling writers to change the way they view their hobby.
My idea is simple for why fan writers are the only ones who can illuminate the injustice in the wrestling world — we care. Fans care enough to contribute money to Nigel McGuiness to finish a documentary that helped him put his anger about losing his career to bed. Wrestling fans care enough to pack the house for a benefit show to ensure that a terminally ill worker will have enough money to pay for their treatment. Wrestling fans love the pseudo sport enough to advocate that other fans pay for DVD’s instead of pirating them so that companies can stay in business and actually pay their workers. This passion needs to extend to writing as well. Since us as fans care we must start reaching out to wrestlers to tell their stories of hardship. Wrestling writers must then use these stories to advocate for change or even potentially inspire movements to boycott promoters who dare rob their wrestlers of dignity and the ability to stay healthy or make a decent wage. We need to break up the notion that only one person can be trusted to share said stories because if we don’t they will never get told.
I know that this sounds highly idealistic and in perfect honesty I can’t offer much advice to how we are to enact this change. However, I will say we must be bold. Reach out to wrestlers about sharing their views on issues within the industry. After all, even a tidal wave starts out as a small wake.