Monday, November 20, 2017

Examining Sexual Misconduct in Pro Wrestling: Is a Reckoning Coming?

Foley, and a bunch of other wrestlers, facing heavy accusations
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Sometime last week, Mick Foley appeared at an autograph signing. He probably expected people bringing him one of his many books for him to autograph, or glossy photographs, or even some people just there to shake his hand and tell him how much of a fan they were of his. What he probably didn't expect was Angel Amoroso appearing with this sign:

Snapchat Screen Grab via:

In case the picture's not showing up, that sign she's holding reads, in all caps, "My name is Angel Amoroso. Mick Foley had sex with me when I was a 15 year-old child." It's a damning accusation that throws Foley's good-guy, rape charity exterior into serious tarnish. She also has videos, one of which she names all the people who bedded her while she was underage. The mantra from the left regarding sexual abuse is to believe victims, but even some folks, the most understanding ones under most circumstances, cast doubt on the accusations, mainly because she named so many people and cast a wide net on folks who don't seem like the ephebophiliac-type. However, the whole point of lusting after teenage bodies is that you don't make that part of your outer persona. Honestly, pro wrestlers didn't garner the reputation of being lowlives and carnies because of smears alone. If you walk into a pro wrestling locker room, you're going to get smacked with the utter lack of scruples like the average Extreme Championship Wrestling superstar got hit upside the head with a steel chair. IF someone comes up to a wrestler offering sex, and she was mildly attractive, sex was going to happen without any concern as to her real age.

So, Amoroso having that volume of wrestlers to accuse is not a red flag for her; it's a red flag for the industry. Amoroso is probably not the only underage groupie that was passed around various locker rooms, especially in the pre-corporate days. As of right now, she's just the only one speaking out about it. Telling that no one bothered to listen to her until right about now, when every other industry save one is getting rocked accusations of sexual misconduct, whether it be statutory rape, full-on sexual assault, or sexual harassment. Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Jeffrey Tambor, and Al Franken are the big names, but those names are just enough for more women to come forward and start telling their stories, stories that they have been sitting on because the amount of power of their abusers is so immense that it would produce disbelief, stories that they were ashamed to tell because somehow, someone convinced them it was their own fault.

Of course, the other industry that hasn't been hit with this tsunami of accusation is the music industry. Similarly, touring musicians, especially in rock 'n roll, have lifestyles commensurate with pro wrestlers. Similarly, their dressing rooms are filled with underage groupies, and similarly to Paul Heyman flaunting Amoroso's status in the locker room in that promo, rockers love making songs about wanting to have sex with underage women, or as they're more commonly known, girls. I mean, Winger's "Seventeen" and Motörhead's "Jailbait" are just two prominent examples. The culture feels impenetrable, and that's why the first person to come out with accusations against a rocker is going to be the bravest one. Similarly, Amoroso should be noted for her bravery in coming out with her accusations. The wave of disbelief coming at her is proof enough of that bravery, to be honest. I doubt though that she'll be the last even if she's the first, because the world seems to be changing. Getting Weinstein, perhaps the most powerful man in Hollywood, in the fire seems to be enough to open the floodgates in many areas, not just out and out sexual assault too.

Unfortunately, it feels like the wagons get circled by "the boys" when it comes to this sort of thing. Just look at how people in the business are reacting to noted abusers getting bookings. Bram, for example, was arrested for domestic battery but was never charged, not because he didn't do it, but because the cops don't give a shit about domestic violence victims until it's too late. One might think that it would be a layup to blacklist him until he got the punishment he deserved and the rehabilitation he needed, but Viper/Piper Niven defended him on Twitter, among others, and Flash Morgan Webster gave him an open forum on his podcast. Revolution Pro Wrestling decided to glowingly speak of him, and Insane Championship Wrestling booked him to win number one contendership to its top title. The song remains the goddamn same, whether it be Moose continuing to get bookings despite never really answering for his DV arrest outside of WWE passing on signing him or Sami Callihan being given the book in Combat Zone Wrestling and bookings everywhere else around the country while making his victim/accuser unwelcome in the same stomping grounds.

So with that in mind, maybe pro wrestling won't be caught in the same wave of justice, even as shallow and perfunctory as the current backlash is in other fields. It says more about male-dominated rape culture society that such minor gestures of remediation towards victims are greeted as wide-sweeping actions of comeuppance, but that's left for another blog entry on some other site. For even that minuscule amount of progress to take hold in wrestling, pushback has to come from all directions. If the boys circle the wagons, if management gives that circling support, and if enough fans refuse to acknowledge that what the accuser is accusing actually matters, nothing is going to come of this, which is more than a shame.

As for Foley, one needs to divorce themselves from the idea that a nice-guy persona precludes someone from engaging in foul behavior. What you see in public oftentimes can be a facade. Perhaps Foley realizes now that it was a mistake, which could be a reason why he works with RAINN so closely now. But people who follow him on Twitter will note that he's gotten a bit creepy with female wrestlers, that he gives off a certain vibe. Don't think for a second that he couldn't be capable of partaking in sexual congress with an underage groupie.