Tuesday, January 23, 2018

#MeToo in the Wrestling Industry

Arndt is in hot water, and the fact that he might escape justice altogether is an indictment of society
Photo Credit: WWE.com
The biggest news of the day yesterday was that a woman filed charges against Enzo Amore in Arizona. She took to Twitter to detail an account of drugging and sexual assault by Amore, real name Eric Arndt, facilitated by clothing designers Tyler Grosso and TOOPOOR. The linked tweet carries a content warning for sexual assault. The accuser is not the only one who has claim against Arndt, as she posted a screenshot from another person whom Arndt has allegedly assaulted. WWE took swift action and suspended Arndt yesterday. The suspension will be in effect until the case is either formally dismissed or he's found guilty, at which time he'll be reinstated or released respectively. I have no doubt that Arndt is guilty, but the legal system underserves sexual assault victims to a disgusting degree that it could end in a dismissal or an acquittal.

Even in this age of #MeToo, perpetrators of sexual assault or domestic violence often escape consequence. Arndt may not escape consequence even if the charges against him don't stick. He's already despised in the locker room if you believe the rumors. However, if you were at all paying attention for the last year, you'd know accusations such as this were only an inevitability. Arndt used similar language and showed total disregard to women as detailed by an exotic dancer in the Buffalo, NY area last year.

These incidents rarely ever come out of the blue; they always come with a trail of disrespect and misogyny behind them. In the face of the stripper's story, people came out and either flatly denied Arndt did anything wrong, or that people like myself who called him to the carpet for blatantly disrespecting a woman he was attempting to short payment on for a premium service for more annoying. So why should it be surprising that whenever someone, especially if that someone is a woman, now is calling Arndt out for actual assault that the rape culture-upholding trolls swarm out in force to accuse the victim of fabricating the story for money or that he's innocent until proven guilty or whatever platitudes these people trot out whenever a tale of sexual misconduct arises to the surface?

It's the same wherever you go, and it's why the #MeToo movement not only exists, but continues to struggle to get traction for any meaningful action against rapists, assaulters, and abusers in society. Somehow, privileged and oblivious men seem to think that women not only have a network where they can plot against them for fake rape accusations, but that they get rich and popular off it. They often cite the Duke Lacrosse Case, despite the fact that the charges were dropped because the prosecutor bungled the case. Additionally, it was the accuser's life that fell apart; the false accusations didn't seem to bother the three players against whom charges were brought. Even without that anecdotal piece of evidence, the thought experiment will bring you to the same conclusion. If women allegedly get rich and powerful off fake rape accusations, why do you never hear about these newly minted socialites benefiting off ruining poor men's lives? Why are the power structures still and forever bent towards men? It doesn't make any sense at all.

However, believing Arndt, who has a pattern of mistreating women and even other men given the rumors of his backstage conduct getting him kicked off a bus by Roman Reigns himself, did commit those rapes makes all the sense in the world. He's not the only one though. Michael Elgin and his student Sean Orleans comprise a recent example, but it's probably not even the worst one outside of accusations against Arndt. British wrestler Pollyanna blew the lid off widespread abuse in the United Kingdom's wrestling scene, where several workers and trainers would coerce trainees and female coworkers into sex or outright abuse them. Again, this should not be surprising to anyone given how many promotions over there are still willing to book Bram despite his gruesome accusations of domestic abuse against him. It's not even just the promotions either, but wrestlers such as Viper and most egregiously Flash Morgan Webster, who allowed Bram to come on his podcast and give a one-sided account of his domestic issues. What about the woman he choked to the point of near strangulation? What's she have to do to get her voice heard?

It's a wonder any woman, vulnerable person, or past victim of sexual or domestic assault would ever want to be a fan of pro wrestling. When companies, wrestlers, and journalists refuse to help make environments safe for other people in the industry, what's to stop them from making it safe for fans? Hell, even WWE's response to Arndt feels half-assed. People praised the company for acting so quickly "during a period of high public relations," but that begs the question of what it would've done had this happened during a dead period. If you have to make that clarification, then you're admitting that you had somewhat of an expectation that it wouldn't do the right thing. Besides, does anyone believe that no one else in WWE has any red on their ledgers? Would you be surprised if tomorrow anywhere from one to a thousand women came forward with #MeToo stories about Vince McMahon or Kevin Dunn? Hell, WWE still celebrates Steve Austin, who has been arrested and charged with domestic battery, and to my knowledge, hasn't done a whole hell of a lot to make up for or rehabilitate himself from those charges, even if they ended up being dropped.

Repeating that this kind of thing is rectified at the grassroots level is getting tiresome, but honestly, it all starts with you and I and everyone else buying into the notion that anyone claiming to be a victim of assault, sexual or otherwise, isn't making it up, that they should be believed. When enough people do that, they can put pressure on monolithic organizations whose only focus is making money to do the right thing. When a guy as low on the totem pole in WWE as Eric Arndt can't even be assured to face the music for his transgressions, you know a lot of work has to be done so that when the bigger fish start to get put to the fire, they can rightfully fry for causing harm to their victims.