At 12:00 A.M Friday, March 5, 2021, I sat out of my bed and began to question something that weighed heavily on my mind: “am I a hypocrite?” “Am I part of the problem with pro wrestling?”
That must be weird to those reading. To wake out of sleep to think about a question pertaining to pro wrestling. I was doing exactly that. “Am I a hypocrite?” continued to ring in my ear. I tossed and turned trying to dodge, trying to avoid, but it demanded an answer. So I gave up and gave one. The answer is yes, yes I am. I am a hypocrite, I am part of the problem with pro wrestling. What makes me fearsome of that answer is the cold harsh reality. That’s not going to change. I will continue to be a hypocrite. Is that odd? Admitting to being a problem while also admitting that it’ll possibly not change anything. No, it’s not, because it’s the truth. The truth should never be odd, but it’s also never as freeing as people will express to you. The truth is simply that, the truth. The truth is this, I love pro wrestling, but I don’t always like it. Sometimes I downright dislike it, disdain it, gnash my teeth at it.
I love pro wrestling though. I loved it since I watched a tape of WrestleMania VII. If my parents are to be believed, even before that. It has gotten me through harsh times, it has amplified my good times, and when I experience it live, great and magical times have happened. It’s my biggest fandom, one of my biggest joys. I have a passion for it, I write about it, I review it, I pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars a year on it, and I gather with friends and make social events out of it. I love pro wrestling. There’s no doubt about it. I don’t always like it. Both of these ring true and both of them conflict with each other. There’s plenty not to like. I will now give a small sample:
- The push-backs against diversity and inclusivity from areas of the business. Also included those who do the bare minimum and then flaunt it as if that’s all that needs to be done
- The mishandling of allegations of wrestlers, promoters, members of the industry. This can range from covering up, ignoring them, to even rewarding those who were named or called out during Speaking Out.
- The constant immoral business decisions and directions. Saudia Arabia, mass firings during a pandemic, hiring problematic people and trying to keep it quiet.
- The toxic positivity. Yes, toxic positivity must be included. You know the fan type. The fan who puts their fingers in their ear and go “Lalala” when you critique something they enjoy. They’ll then shout at you “why can’t you just enjoy things!’ There is a “be quiet and just enjoy it” attitude in some circles of pro wrestling just as toxic and damaging as the behavior they ignore. And make no mistake that behavior is pretty damaging.
It’s scary that the list can continue on both in problems and the size of examples of each problem. I realized how much I love but don’t like this industry right now with one of my favorite companies attempting to book and use a past assaulter. I wasn’t surprised, but I felt smacked in the face all the same. I was angry, I was upset, I felt betrayed, but not all of it was at NJPW. Truth is, much of it was at me. For it amplified my biggest shame, my biggest failure. That failure was me. I had let my favorite company and others slide, for far too long without realizing it.
Without realizing it, I had at points been dangerously close to being in the “be quiet and just enjoy it” group. I didn’t “hold my fingers in my ear and go lalalalala” but I definitely did shrug and go on with my life when confronted with certain situations.
I’m not alone, anyone who watches wrestling has to have a level of tolerance to the realities that whatever they are watching is problematic. Whether in presentation, business practices, how it handles or ignores controversies or individuals, and so on. This is nothing new or groundbreaking. There’s nothing that gobsmacks us and hits us in the face out of nowhere. It’s all out there for anyone with access to a search engine or social media platform. Anyone with a small inkling of the industry knows of its trouble and problems and how they continue to amplify despite promises of push back, blowback, protests, and fan anger.
Certain defeatism kicks in amongst my mindset. Especially, when some of your own peers go to remind you the scene will never get better. “That’s how wrestling is supposed to be, will always be. It’s foolish to think it’ll ever be anything else.” That is what I heard spoken, seen typed out. I get told this by people I respect and admire. Perhaps that’s true, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to demand and make it better. I foolishly thought Speaking Out would be a catalyst. I thought this was the moment the chickens would come home to roost. The moment we begin weeding out, removing the problems, rectifying the situations, and start putting a magnifying glass toward the issues of pro wrestling. Instead of putting them in a dark corner and hiding them so no one, including ourselves, would be bothered by them, we do something better. We bring them out in the light and expose them, showcase them for all to see, and tell pro wrestling WE DON’T WANT THIS SHIT. We start cleaning things out, shaping them up, and making pro wrestling the safe space for everyone it should be.
Pro wrestling is for everyone is a wonderful slogan. It should be a welcoming embrace, but when wrestling embraces me I feel like I got to watch where its hands go. I can’t trust it and it hasn’t earned my trust. There’s always a cost to being a part of this fandom, and it doesn’t always come from the wallet.
There were removals, there was blackballing, there were some promises and attempts to improve. There was awareness raise, stories told, donations achieved, bonds made. No doubt I feel positivity was achieved. I will not besmirch or diminish that. There’s still so much that needs to be done. Representation, diversity, and inclusivity is still a much bigger battle than it should be in 2021. Do I have any easy answers for any of it, I do not and I don’t know. I’m part of the wrestling media, what do I disregard and what do I amplify at the peril of my own contributions and commentary? Why have I hesitated to use my platform more? Would using my platform even achieve or benefit anything? Am I putting too much weight on myself all the same with this guilt? It bothers me, upsets me, hurts me. I feel like I’ve failed. Feel like I demand others do better but haven’t myself. Worse, did I even try or do I just tell myself I did?
I type all that and I STILL love pro wrestling. I’m still going to watch it excessively. As AEW Revolution approaches this weekend, I plan on watching. I will watch because I love pro wrestling, and it keeps me sane, keeps me entertained, and keeps me happy. But I cannot use those excuses as blinders. This business is problematic and unethical and “being quiet and enjoying it” just perpetuates and allows it to continue to be the mess it is. I dare not promise anyone it will get better — never make promises you can’t keep or back up. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. If we don’t use our platforms, our voices, our actions, and at times our wallets against the tide it never will be. We got to try, got to make moves, got to shout, and gotta keep moving forward. There’s no other direction to go but forward. Can never go back, going back is a dark and disturbing place we need to move away from. We slowly have made steps, but every step is met by an obstacle of indifference, push back, and toxic positivity. We can’t just mindlessly consume and not let ourselves face the brutal realities that this industry desperately needs changes and improvements. If it won’t do it on its own, we got to chip away at its foundation. Swing away until it crumbles and something can be rebuilt from its rubble. There are positive forces and influences in wrestling, we must find them, support them, amplify them. When we do find them though we cannot be afraid to hold them accountable and take action if they prove themselves to not be who we thought. We’ve been betrayed, backstabbed, heartbroken too many times. We can never let our guards down, it’ll only lead to ruin.
I will continue to watch. I accept I can love something and be disappointed in it. I can love something and be ashamed of it. I do that with family and associates all the time. I love pro wrestling but I am disturbed, upset, and disappointed in its inability to get its house in order. I am disappointed in fans who rather be cheerleaders and apologists than willing to hold their favorites accountable when they screw up. That goes for companies and performers. That goes for the reader, that goes for me. If you truly love something you’ll want it to be its best, to do its best, and wrestling (and many wrestlers) fail at that right now. Don’t put your fingers in your ears and go lalalalala, don’t be positive for the sake of positive at the expense of the issues. Don’t let people tell you it’ll never get better so why try to make it so. We got to put forth the effort. We got to demand it. Not only from this industry, not only from other fans but from ourselves, from me.
As this article is posted today another sexual predator directly involved with a wrestling company was outed. What more can I say, what more do I have left to say? Do I even deserve to be this voice? I’m a hypocrite, do I even have the right to type these words and attempt this message? There are no saints here, so we must rely on sinners such as myself. Please, do your part no matter how small. The smallest actions can make the largest difference. Never let anyone tell you differently, tell you otherwise. It is the indifference of good people that allows evil to flourish. It is the indifference of wrestling fans that will continue to allow the wrestling business to be what it is. Don’t be the indifference, be the change and demand the change we want in this industry. I wish I was that change, but the truth is I have been part of the problem, and I wish I had better solutions.