Tuesday, February 13, 2018

No Ethical Consumption in Capitalism: The Wrestling Streaming Debacle

Imagine throwing away all your goodwill over this schmuck, and yet...
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
So, Michael Elgin was found to be badmouthing and harassing a victim of sexual assault from one of his students three months ago, give or take a couple of days. Indie wrestling companies in America lined up to vociferously denounce him and cancel his bookings, even though he still kept working for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Then again, Bushiroad's response to allegations of domestic abuse against Tomoaki Honma was non-existent, so why would it punish Elgin? Anyway, AAW's response to the allegations, that the promotion would not book him until things blew over, essentially, seemed to portend that Elgin would be back on the scene sooner rather than later. And well, if you had money on "sooner," you'd be correct.

IWA Mid-South decided the time to bring Elgin back was right now, and it's not surprising that Ian Rotten's promotion was the one to pull the trigger since he and his wife are accused to be behind the infamous Tumblr account shaming Sean Orleans' victim that Dave Meltzer cited in his most intrepid piece of journalism ever. Obviously, Rotten was waiting for any excuse to bring Elgin back, but given how many times he's had to shutter and reopen IWA-MS, he's not exactly known for his good judgment. Of course, if he had exercised good judgment, he'd not have operated a victim-shaming Tumblr and he never would've brought Elgin back, but I mean, you knew that already, right? Once again though, pro wrestling is a purely capitalistic enterprise for the most meager amount of money possible, so if Rotten could find an avenue to get revenue by catering to men's rights activists, rape disbelievers, and Elgin fans who don't care about sexual assault, he's going to do it because he has no scruples.

The only language that people like that understand is monetary. Rotten would have to lose money, a lot of money, to consider dropping Elgin. In the modern landscape of indie wrestling, this pressure could have been exerted from a single point — the partner streaming service, in this case Powerbomb TV. At least one person from inside the company, Adam Lash, was publicly vocal in applying said pressure. What good did that do? Well, today, the service announced it would be firing him. It turns out the commitment to "hands-off non-interference" from the service to its partner promotions was more important than allowing the reintroduction of a rape apologist at best (and a rapist at worst, if you remember back to the Kevin Steen Show appearance Elgin made where he detailed a watersports-related sexual assault).

So, now Powerbomb TV is complicit and shown to be just another capitalist enterprise with no spine. The problem is that wrestling is full of them. Want to give your PBTV money to New Japan World? New Japan unapologetically booked Elgin regardless of accusation. WWE Network supports a family that has members in the Donald Trump cabinet, and has defended and housed abusers and rapists in its history. Think WWE is woke for firing Enzo Amore in the wake of his rape accusations? That's cute, because Vince McMahon has accusations on his ledger himself, let alone his eager protection of Jimmy Snuka, who allegedly murdered his mistress Nancy Argentino and did no time on it thanks to McMahon's meddling. Any wrestling streaming service has blood on its hands, because without question, people in charge in wrestling have done bad things.

So, how does one enjoy wrestling when it's filled with so many people? If you pirate wrestling, you stick it to the shitty promoters, but how do you compensate the labor, who may get a minuscule share of the kitty, but still get a piece of it. If you want to PayPal or otherwise send money directly or buy merch from wrestlers, how do you know the ones you're supporting financially are good people and not seeming shitbags like Elgin who just haven't been outed yet? How do you make your stand but still enjoy wrestling?

The answer is that I have no answer other than that you keep the pressure on the shitty people to stop being shitty. It doesn't work all the time of course, because you're oftentimes going up against monolithically powerful entities, whether it be money like WWE or acute stubbornness like with Rotten (because lord knows IWA-MS hasn't made the money in 22 years that WWE makes in 22 minutes of ad revenue), but that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. How do you keep the pressure up though? Do you boycott? Do you pirate? Do you protest and organize on social media? That's up to you.

But anyone looking for solace and progressive attitudes in any capitalist enterprise, you're going to be looking for awhile. I'm disappointed by Powerbomb TV's actions, but I'm not surprised. The phrase "there's no ethical consumption under capitalism" is true, and it encompasses every industry, not just wrestling, but extremely including wrestling. Buy what you want to buy, but don't for a second believe that anything you purchase makes you morally superior to anyone else.