|Does this cross a line?|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
He could have been doing a great acting job for all I know, and honestly, no one is going to know whether he was humiliated by all this unless they sat down and asked him point blank after dosing him with sodium pentathol. The other famous humiliation victim, Jim Ross, has a Greek chorus come out for him whenever something heinous is perpetrated upon his person. He's a bit more vocal about denying whether he actually is offended or not on Twitter/his blog, stating that he's a professional and that it's part of the act.
That is the defense used whenever WWE's patented brand of misogyny appears as well. If Vickie Guerrero wasn't okay with her lot in life, she wouldn't still be with WWE, right? While that's an awful, exceedingly terrible defense of the material written for the good guys/ideated by the wrestlers who have free reign, it does provide an interesting piece of evidence towards the idea that wrestlers oftentimes don't have the reflex to be humiliated.
To wit, pro wrestling is all about humiliation segueing into comeuppance. A guy or gal gets figuratively (or sometimes literally) pantsed in front of a crowd of thousands live and millions on their TVs. That person has impetus to get revenge, and eventually should get it. The best example last night was Alberto del Rio having to watch his best friend and ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez get his ass thoroughly kicked by an angry Big Show. He'll get his revenge; WWE good guys always do. But that is a bad example, because that wasn't humiliation driven by a desire to get laughs. It was designed to generate pathos and support for the World Heavyweight Champion. It was also the best segment on the show last night, but that's neither here nor there.
To wit, what Tensai underwent was definitely not setting him up to get his revenge on... uh, who was it that put him up to it? Are we blaming Guerrero or the CRUEL WHEEL OF INTERMINABLE FATE? Either way, it was a piece designed to get everyone to point and laugh at a singular person. That was the payoff. To question whether it was necessary or not breaks open an entire Pandora's Box of comedic theory. There's no doubt pro wrestling needs to have comic relief, because an artform as absurd as men in underwear pretending to fight has to have levity without seeming way too goddamn silly. And if the serious conflicts revolve around humiliation, then shouldn't the comedy? Do the wrestlers actually get this? Was the negligee Tensai's idea? These are questions that we won't get consensus answers for, maybe ever.
But is there a line? I think there is, and it's probably somewhere in the area of my normal complaints about WWE's social caste structure. Basically, if the only people you humiliate aren't the archetype for what you feel is acceptable, you're probably doing it wrong, whether the victim is okay with it or not. Like, was Tensai the guy being put on blast because he was a bad guy who didn't have anything else going on for him, or was he picked over other guys because he's fat and has taken on the affectations of a Japanese guy? OR was he just picked because the dude just wanted to go out and dance? Only two of those reasons are valid, and I'm not sure I need to tell you why the one that isn't valid isn't valid.
Jason Swift tweeted to me last night that before he left OVW for WWE, Tensai told him "When the company asks you to do something, you do it." I don't know what the implications of that are, but it seems to say to me that in a way, wrestlers' spirits are broken when it comes to management. Maybe we'll never really know how people feel about being the butt of a joke that will never get redeemed because the balance of power is so skewed in favor of the promoter, especially now that Vince McMahon has made it so chic to not only be the big swinging dick off camera but to have power on it as well. Then again, McMahon, to be completely fair, has never had a problem getting humiliated himself. There aren't a whole lot of other authority figures who have picked up on that nuance.
In the end though, it's all just acting. Even though the fact that wrestlers almost always don't get the same benefit that movie/TV actors get with separation between character and person, it's still a show and they know it. Whether it's for the right reasons or not, wrestlers have seemingly blocked their receptors for feeling bad about how they are portrayed. I just hope that we, as fans, can be both at ease with that fact, but never be okay with it when that humiliation crosses certain lines that prey only on things like race, sexual preference, gender, or other things that represent an awful, societal bias against a minority group.