Monday, June 5, 2017

The Extreme Right Wing and Pro Wrestling

You'd think Gabe Sapolsky would do more research into whom he books
SHLAK may not be a name familiar to you, but he's become somewhat of a rising star on the deathmatch circuit. He came into the game late, starting out as a member of a hardcore band in New Jersey and transitioning into wrestling. However, his past included a whole lot more than just music. He's been photographed with several notable Atlantic City White supremacists and has tattoos on his person that would suggest that yes, the man is a fuckin' Nazi. If you don't know my take on literal, actual Nazis, then I suggest you check out my Medium page. It's bad enough Nazis feel emboldened to make statements in public other than "Please stop chasing me; my doctor says I shouldn't be running this much" or "Okay, I'll repent, please just don't punch me in my soft jaw." But now apparently, they're in pro wrestling. To be fair, they've probably always been in pro wrestling. But when SHLAK can continue to get bookings in Combat Zone Wrestling despite people bringing his past to light and him never denying it or coming off his White supremacy now, then it becomes a fucking problem.

One could write off the CZW bookings as it being "just CZW." I wouldn't because CZW can be good when it wants to be and it books good talents, ones that aren't outward Nazis at least. Just because it's a "garbage" promotion in the ring doesn't mean it should ever think about booking garbage people. But even if one discounts the deathmatch promotion, what business did Gabe Sapolsky even have booking a fucking Nazi for his family of promotions? WWN Live has loose associations with WWE and is pretty much the last destination family of indies before you get your foot in the door at the Performance Center/NXT. Even if SHLAK was originally booked for Style Battle, that's a foot in the door to get to Full Impact Pro which is the next step before getting to EVOLVE. Granted, Sapolsky did "the right thing" by pulling the booking, but not after claiming that he didn't know anything about SHLAK and booked him blind off a recommendation, which is doubly hilarious given how puerile and tantrumy he's acted in the past over recommendations. In hindsight, maybe he was right not booking Aaron Epic due to the accusations of domestic violence against him, but I bet he didn't know about those either. Anyway.

If you think White supremacy on the skin is confined to this one mole named SHLAK, I have beachfront property on Pike's Peak to sell you1. Nazism and the extreme right wing have been a part of wrestling for as long as both have been things. Dick the Bruiser has at least one story about him donning Nazi regalia to scare his wife into divorcing him. In more recent developments, a wrestling podcast that has fans regularly attending Pro Wrestling Guerrilla have the 14 Words on their PW Tees page, and more pointedly, PW Tees hasn't removed their goddamn shop yet. And of course, who could forget the most famous neo-Nazis in wrestling, the Harris Brothers with their SS tattoos, using fascist tactics backstage as producers for Impact Wrestling. SHLAK doesn't exist because he's the exception; it's because people in wrestling are blind to this kind of thing if a dude's nice to them.

But "nice to individuals" is such a copout because you sparing someone you actually took the time to get to know doesn't excuse the desires to murder wholesale a whole group of people you didn't. That's what is so offensive about the whole ordeal. It's not hating someone for having different beliefs than you, or wanting someone not to work or have a life because they're Republican and you're Democrat or further left. It's being serious about saying "Never again" when it comes to the Holocaust. Being a modern right winger doesn't make you complicit in willful genocide on the scale of the Nazi Final Solution in most cases. But the gulf between "supporting conservative policies that are bad to people" and "literally espousing genocide like it was a tax cut" is as wide as the Pacific Ocean. That's why punching Nazis without further provocation is both good and not violence.

But in order to make it not safe for people to be okay with Nazism and its cousins like antisemitism and White supremacy, at least in this corner of the wrestling world, those who are decent at heart need to keep the pressure on wrestlers and companies to make sure they don't pick up for a guy like SHLAK until he starts recanting all of his wishy-washiness towards Nazis at best and his blatant antisemitism (he's said he wouldn't play in a band with Jewish people) at worst and backing it with deeds. Sapolsky did the right thing under duress, which is better than inaction, I guess. But then again, is the fact that few people even bothered to listen to those who gave warning about this guy the real problem? Either way, people like SHLAK who continue to think pro wrestling is their playground to be as racist and gross as possible need to be kicked out.

Because if you think about it, pro wrestling is the ultimate in welcoming arts at its best and most idyllic form. Sure, Vince McMahon's WWE and other major companies have formed their visions of wrestling to mirror the conservative climates they so desperately want to preserve, but where else can such a varied cast of characters, of all demographics real or imagined, can gather in a real life setting and become corporeal visions of themselves without pretense? It is the ultimate egalitarian setting for entertainment, and it should be no surprise that it has attracted such a wide swath of leftist agitators among its fans. The art that people have disrespected as "redneck entertainment" for so long is going to be the thing that saves this country because of its inclusive fans and nothing else. If that doesn't set an example for the rest of the country, nothing will.

1 - Although under Donald Trump's misguidance, the Rocky Mountains might just become coastline sooner rather than later.