Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hazed and Abused

Jim Ross blaming millennials for DeMott's "victimization" is absolutely gross
Photo Credit: WWE.com
In 2015, there is no excuse for bullying and hazing.

Seems like that should pretty much be the end of the discussion, no? Sadly, this news has allegedly been lost on Bill DeMott, the now former head trainer of NXT. DeMott, who stepped down late last week, has been accused of a litany of offenses by former NXT talent, ranging from the somewhat innocuous (breaking a yard stick over the backs of trainees who performed drills incorrectly) to the absolutely horrific (um, pretty much everything else). There's plenty of places to read all the allegations, so I'm not going to list them all here; rather, this piece is more about the toxic culture that seems to be so prolific in, among other places, the world of professional wrestling - the culture of hazing and bullying.

It's a real shame that something like this even needs to be addressed, but when I saw that people in the industry were falling all over themselves to defend DeMott, it struck a nerve. Hard. See, as someone who has always been a little bit chubby, and a little bit dorky, and never the best athlete around but always tried out for (and often made) some advanced level sports teams, I faced my fair share of bullying growing up. Nothing anywhere near what has been alleged to be happening in NXT, mind you, but the "cool kids" never seemed to pass up an opportunity to try and make me feel like garbage.

So when Chris Jericho, Doc Gallows, Lance Storm, and Jim Ross all decided to throw their support with DeMott because "HURR DURR WE DEALT WITH MUCH WORSE STOP BEING SUCH BABIES," it made me sick to my stomach. Why should the cycle continue? Why should "we were humiliated and made it through, so we're going to humiliate you back" be the prevailing theme of wrestling schools?

But worst of all were the words of Storm and Ross, who basically echoed the words said by Vince McMahon on the live Stone Cold Podcast - claiming that the trainees/youth today (ie, "millennials") had a sense of entitlement and didn't want to work for anything, that they just wanted to take a shortcut to stardom without paying dues. As ridiculous as that notion is, I didn't realize that not wanting to be called a faggot/terrorist/fat fuck meant you were acting entitled. I just thought it meant you were, you know, a decent human being.

Ross also claimed that the wrestling business requires "mental toughness," and perhaps DeMott (again, ALLEGEDLY wink wink nudge nudge say no more) was just trying to mentally toughen up his charges and weed out the weak. Here's a question, though: Why does the world of professional wrestling require more "mental toughness" than a brain surgeon? Or a teacher? Or a stockbroker? Sure, there's a lot of travel involved, and you have to be able to handle a live crowd, but a brain surgeon has to CUT PEOPLE'S HEADS OPEN AND NOT KILL THEM. I've never heard of a medical school professor taking one of his students off to the side and ripping his scrubs off of him because he took seven minutes to remove an aneurysm that should have taken only five to get out. You know, to toughen him up.

In my previous career as a music teacher, I was responsible for developing my students throughout the course of the year. They (theoretically) had to know more in June when they left my class than they did when they entered in September. At NO point did I think, "well, little Stevie just can't seem to grasp the concept of note values, maybe I should take him in the back and beat the crap out of him until he gets it." Because that would result in my termination. Because it's AWFUL BEHAVIOR.

But if the football coach decided his team wasn't giving 100% in practice, or if they lost a game because of sloppy play, no one would bat an eye if they were made to run until they puked. Same with the wrestling coach. When I coached middle school baseball, I actually had some of my players asking me, "Yo, Coach Heat, how come you don't make the bad behaving kids run until they puke?" Apparently, acting like a decent human being makes you a shitty coach.

The problem clearly lies with the culture, and it needs to change. Why should coaches be allowed or even expected to be the biggest bullies in the locker room? Why do they believe the best performances come from students who have been mentally broken down and made to fear them? Wouldn't it stand to reason that someone who honest to goodness loves what they're doing and has fun doing it give the best performances?

For a long time, my dream was to get into good enough shape to attend a wrestling school, and have just one match in front of a crowd, no matter the size. I've spent a good portion of the past year losing 40 pounds, because at 32 my window to realize that dream is rapidly closing, if not already shut. But if this culture is so rampant in the field, and people who have the power to condemn such behavior condone it instead, well, I think I'll hang on to my money and have another donut. Because I don't want any part of an industry that treats people who are voluntarily entering it like pieces of garbage, then laughs about it because they weren't tough enough to stick with it.