Thursday, July 13, 2017

On Domestic Abuse in Wrestling

Patron is getting off lightly; this needs to end
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Professional wrestling's relationship with domestic abuse isn't necessarily different from society's at-large. The entire human race has a problem dealing with domestic abuse, and the progress civilization has made towards eradicating this abhorrent behavior and providing protections for those who are not able to protect themselves, whether physically, mentally, or both has been minimal at best. It's unfair to critique pro wrestling's passive negligence at best and silent assent at worst of domestic abuse when police ignore battered victims enough to allow their murders to happen or when the National Football League welcomes domestic abusers back into its fold with open arms while ostracizing an objectively good man protesting on behalf of his people in Colin Kaepernick.

Wrestling fans in a majority worship Steve Willams ("Stone Cold" Steve Austin, not Dr. Death); the truth of the matter is that his domestic abuse history has never really been remediated. He's certainly not the only one, but he's the most famous example. His history of abuse has been conveniently swept under the rug. I've been guilty of falling into this bout of collective amnesia, and it's not excusable in any way. His patron sainthood has allowed wrestling to be a haven for abusers and abuse, to the point where companies have felt emboldened to allow domestic violence angles to be part of stories in the name of "heat."

So Global Force Wrestling's on-the-surface good but really inadequate handling of  Jose Alberto Rodriguez's (del Rio/el Patron) domestic violence arrest stemming from an airport incident with fiancee Saraya-Jade Bevis (Paige) shouldn't be surprising. Make no mistake that Rodriguez will be back; wrestling companies and fans always, always forgive domestic abusers. GFW, or at least its host entity TNA/Impact (which was also founded by Jeff Jarrett) gave the same treatment to Thomas Latimer (Bram) when his domestic violence arrests became public. He was treated more harshly by Pro Wrestling NOAH for violating a social norm in Japan than he was by TNA for abusing his girlfriend. He continues to work for the company today.

Rodriguez should have been fired on the spot and forced at least to undergo rehabilitation for anger issues before even being considered for rehire, much in the same way Williams should have been in the wake of his arrests. Wrestling, however, doesn't operate on a moral principle. Williams made WWE money. Rodriguez, in Jarrett's mind, makes GFW money, whether or not it bears out statistically. Unfortunately, wrestling doesn't break from society in this manner. Players in the NFL don't become toxic when they're accused of domestic battery; they only get "punished" when their value as a player becomes diminished. Ray Rice didn't retire out of shame; it turned out that his abusive streak didn't bubble to the surface with proof until he became washed up. The same happens in the real world, as domestic abusers rarely face repercussions at their jobs unless it's on the off-chance they're prosecuted. Even then, prosecution isn't a guarantee. Again, police mostly ignore domestic violence charges to the point that homicide happens and people are left to wonder why.

The only way to get rid of something is to fight against it. Just because society at large doesn't seem to want to do anything about domestic abuse doesn't mean that wrestling fans and promoters can't do something about it and be at the vanguard for once. Promoters can do the right thing and fire wrestlers or stop booking them until they've documented their full rehabilitation if that ever does or even can happen. Wrestling commentators and fans, like the odious Jimmy Korderas, can stop hemming and hawing at these accusations and defending promotions that don't act swiftly and harshly by saying "BUT THE LAW! WHAT ABOUT THE LAW!" as if law enforcement properly attends to this issue. Fans can pressure promotions, especially indie promotions where action works more easily, not to book people like Rodriguez, Latimer, or Richard Velazquez (Aaron Epic).

What people, fans or otherwise, can refrain from doing is contacting the victim or haranguing them. Bevis, first and foremost, is a hostage in a situation she has little mental control over. Abuse victims tend not to leave their abusers because of complex psychological reasons that one cannot begin to understand unless they've been in that situation or something similar. A random person bombarding that victim's social media with pleas to leave or even blame for not leaving or even more grotesquely for inciting the abuser's violent outbursts will help no one. Yes, the victim needs help, but an intervention is best performed by family and friends, neither presumably being a group you belong to.

While domestic violence is a societal issue that needs a great amount of remediation before it can be considered prosecuted adequately, let alone corrected, it doesn't excuse pro wrestling companies' behaviors towards abuse and abusers. Fans, wrestlers, commentators, journalists, and anyone with a conscience involved in the community need to stand up and say "no more." If not, it's just allowing wrestling's reputation to worsen, and more importantly, putting innocent lives at danger because toxically masculine predators cannot keep their violent whims in check.