Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Enjoying Wrestling, Even in the Face of Armageddon

Paige's intimate moments stolen from her are just one of the many things horrifying in wrestling right now
Photo Credit: WWE.com
The last week to week and a half has been rough in the wrestling world. Kevin Condron and Pinkie Sanchez have become the latest now-former Chikara wrestlers to come forward accusing the company, head booker Mike Quackenbush in particular, of improprieties concerning payment. Condron claims he'd never been paid more than $30 for a Chikara appearance, that wrestlers were discontinued usage for sickness, and that it's common practice for Wrestle Factory students to work for free. Sanchez's accusations are a lot more pointed and actually allege criminal action. Namely, he showed up late for a show, worked it, and then was refused payment afterwards, which is pretty much illegal. Chikara employees, past and present, and other wrestling personalities circled the wagons, defending the actions for various reasons that involve tradition or "it's always been like this" or paying dues.

One of the people defending Chikara/Quackenbush, Gabe Sapolsky, came under fire, although not nearly as much fire as he should have. Basically, Peter Kaasa, a budding young wrestler who had made some headway in Japan for Dragon Gate, announced a hiatus from wrestling which may end up being a retirement over the weekend from injuries suffered in a substandard ring for EVOLVE in San Antonio Royal Rumble weekend. The January 27 show saw him injure his back in a ring that broke several times during the card. Sapolsky offered support on Twitter, but it rings extremely hollow when it's his and his partner Sal Hamaoui negligence that caused the injury in the first place. They ran with a shitty ring just to save a few bucks.

And of course, the big bomb that dropped was an anonymous hacker gaining access to private photographs and a sex tape featuring Paige from ex-boyfriend Brad Maddox's storage on the cloud. The stolen media was disseminated around the Internet, causing great shame for Paige as well as Xavier Woods, who was in the film. Maddox would feel shame right now if he hadn't dropped off the face of the earth, probably. Apparently, the backlash received by Paige has been brutal enough to cause her a nervous breakdown and having her parents question her self-safety on social media. Of course, between those watching the stolen media and sharing it and those shaming Paige for everything from taping the acts to DISRESPECTING the NXT Women's Championship belt by "allowing" Maddox to ejaculate on it, the situation has been a Class-5 hurricane of the atavistic misogyny society, let alone wrestling fandom, espouses.

The last couple of weeks has had enough of these awful instances to make someone swear off wrestling for good. Of course, this past week or so has also not even scratched the surface of awful epochs in wrestling history, whether public or not. Whether it be [REDACTED] going double-murder suicide, Fabulous Moolah running a decades-long pimp operation with other women wrestlers, the rampant drug abuse leading to a rash of premature deaths, or Vince McMahon being personally responsible for one wrestler death, likely complicit in the coverup of one of his wrestlers murdering an innocent woman, and accessory to that aforementioned rash of premature deaths, socially conscious wrestling fandom can be taxing if not impossible. Basically, the industry is full of soulless capitalists in charge of a labor force that has a large share of sociopaths and reprobates, cheered on by a lot of unfeeling bigots in the crowds. One can totally feel overwhelmed by the deluge of scuzziness that can come with wrestling fandom.

Yet, folks like myself stick around, and obviously, if you read this site regularly, you know why. Wrestling provides for its fans the highest of thrills, the big release of dopamine from its pinnacle moments. The ending of WrestleMania XXX could sustain me for a lifetime in theory. But immersion in an art where so much bad shit happens will get to even the most steely of consciences. Disillusionment with the backstage horrors is natural, and in some cases, the best thing is to just walk away for a little bit. It might seem counterintuitive for a wrestling site written for wrestling fans to advise quitting the product, but hey, if one is a wrestling fan, truly a wrestling fan (and it's okay if that person isn't, just to clear things up right away), that person can always come back.

K. Sawyer Paul theorized that three different kinds of fans watch wrestling: fans of wrestling, fans of wrestlers, and fans of movements. Said theory may not be able to explain away the entirety of wrestling fan behavior, but it provides a good template for predicting who might come back after leaving if they come back at all, or how long someone who is a fan of wrestling at the moment will stick around. Fans of wrestlers (like individual wrestlers like Steve Austin or John Cena) and fans of movements are different degrees of flighty, but if you're a fan of wrestling, you're always going to have a place in your heart for it, the art itself that is. Not everyone walks away, but those who do tend to come back. Sometimes, real life fatigue can drive one down, but sometimes, it's the realization that wrestling is a scummy business.

Of course, every means of entertainment is full of the scum and villainy of life. It's almost as if the world is full of awful, selfish, conscienceless actors who use any means to enrich themselves, whether physically or financially, and they do their best to use their means of entertainment as an analgesic from the throbbing ache of injustice in real life. But sometimes, those other areas of fulfillment will be less awful than wrestling. Sometimes, the tides of viscera, violence, and bigotry in wrestling will ebb enough to let that dopamine rush dominate within wrestling. The balance is different for everyone, and if the utter moral turpitude is too much and you need to walk away, it doesn't make you any less of a fan.

Right now, wrestling feels like a shitmire, even if one only is paying attention to mainstream WWE. But adding in all the stuff from the indie makes it an unbearable combination of nearly every wart on wrestling's face: labor abuse, management negligence, unnecessary injuries, toxic fans stealing moments, and misogyny. If you need to step away, then step away. Your mental well-being is more important than catching every detail of weekly television. If you can see through the bullshit to enjoy the product, that's okay too. Everyone's different. The point is that wrestling is still the most wonderful artform on earth when it's done correctly. But the best part about it is that it will always be here. Even if Jim Cornette's farfetched apocalypse scenarios of the Young Bucks' AWFUL BUSINESS EXPOSURE closes every single promotion on earth tomorrow, the good times are still captured on media. It will be here for you. Don't let the awful shit overwhelm you or make you feel bad for liking professional wrestling.