Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fergal Devitt Signs with WWE, and a Note about the State of Journalism in Wrestling

Devitt's official
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Via WWE.com

Fergal "Prince" Devitt has signed a developmental contract with WWE and will report to the Performance Center. He has spent most of his recent career wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling and garnering all kinds of critical acclaim in the process. The final leg of his tenure there saw him form the Bullet Club, a stable of gaijin who were too cool for school, and he was unceremoniously kicked out on his final day with the company. Since then, he'd mostly worked independent dates in the United Kingdom and Ireland before his official start date with WWE. Devitt has wrestled for indies in America before, but his most famous brush with this country's pro wrestling scene was when he was announced for Jeff Katz's Wrestling Retribution Project (remember that?), but his entry into the US was muddled before he could come over for the tapings. I erroneously reported something about a bitter competitor calling him in as a terrorist threat, but all parties involved deny that ever happened (and small-minded jerks still think I reported he was a terrorist in the first place to this day, which couldn't be further from the truth).

Anyway, Devitt is the second of the big four rumored signees to officially ink their deals (KENTA being the first, and Kevin Steen and Willie Mack being the other two). I admit I have seen even less of him than I have of KENTA, so I'll be watching him with a clean slate when he finally makes his way to NXT television. I hope he retains his last indie gimmick of cosplaying as pop culture's greatest villains. Even though Damien Sandow currently has the impersonation gimmick on lockdown, I'm sure WWE's production department can find a way for Devitt to go all out with his appearance and make an impression in a more serious manner.

WWE broke this news officially in the same way it broke the KENTA signing, through its own website as if it were an independent news outlet. On one hand, this method makes things easier for jabroni bloggers like myself to glean correct information rather than relying on the nebulous network of rumors, sources, and dead ends. However, WWE cutting out the middleman and going into the journalism business for itself is a major blow to wrestling's fourth estate and borders on propaganda-mongering. Even worse is when the company stages a "news" item happening and feeds the exclusive "scoop" to TMZ.

While I take issue with some of the methods of dirt sheet journalists like Dave Meltzer, I realize they are shut out of the official process even more than reporters in "legitimate" fields. Further cleaving them out of the process feels unethical at the very least, and it creates a generation of fans that might think it okay to take whatever the big corporate entity says at face value. That attitude, even in a field of entertainment as absurd as wrestling, is dangerous.

Granted, a lot of these writers play into WWE's hands in other aspects and reinforce what it wants to be disseminated. Generally, the tone of articles written about labor relations is particularly embarrassing, especially since a lot of the pressure seems to be placed on the talent for "doing business" instead of promoters, especially bigger promoters, for treating the workers progressively and fairly. The most egregious specific example came when Meltzer kept trying to convince himself and his audience that Darren Young coming out of the closet was a "non-issue." That all being said, I don't find the state of play in most other fields of journalism to be any different in that regard.

Still, scant other fields have the problems of secrecy and deliberate obfuscation that wrestling journalists have to deal with. While I appreciate getting my news easily in what amounts to a press release disguised as independent news, I wish the business would change to allow a freer exchange of information and not rely on nebulous sources for everything.