Monday, April 30, 2018

The Wrong Dogpile

Low Ki caused a stir in New Orleans, but it didn't warrant the dogpile
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Saturday, the Chikara Wrestle Factory hosted a doubleheader featuring the home promotion in the first half and Beyond Wrestling in the nightcap. One of the matches on the second show was to feature Joey Janela and Penelope Ford against Wheeler Yuta and "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams, but Ford injured her hip last Wednesday taking a backpack stunner at one of those bar wrestling shows with no ring. Referee Bryce Remsburg chose a replacement from the hat, as is the custom in Chikara, or in this case, a show on Chikara's home turf. For those who don't know the gimmick, Remsburg will choose three names from the hat. The first two names are joke names of people who "aren't in the building" before getting the third name. The joke names in this case were DJ Hyde and Low Ki.

Both names were taken not in the spirit of fun, but because the people involved had axes to grind. I'm not bugged by the inclusion of Hyde, because really, the dude is kind of a snake, and Janela especially, who gave a lot of his blood, sweat, and tears to Combat Zone Wrestling only to get the boot because he also wanted to work Game Changer Wrestling, was right to lash out. Low Ki, however, was a low blow. Of course, Ki didn't exactly endear himself to the GCW crowd with his last minute cancellation from Matt Riddle's Bloodsport WrestleMania weekend in New Orleans. The story is that he injured himself while training, but he still took advantage of the plane tickets already reserved for him to go to New Orleans.

Of course, as is wont with pro wrestling situations, the fracas has played out in public. Low Ki shot a video response where he read a statement regarding his actions that weekend, and GCW promoter Brett Lauderdale gave a prolonged response in text format. One can be forgiven if they feel this is playing out like a work, but I feel like carnies like Ki and Lauderdale barely understand how to carry out business in any other manner. I mean, people who get into wrestling often let it seep into their entire being. The situation itself is very much a he said, he said thing, and it all depends on whom you believe more. Ki obviously has a reputation preceding him, but at the same time, how many promoters do you know who are trustworthy, and how does anyone outside of the GCW inner circle know how Lauderdale does business?

The telling thing in all of this is in Lauderdale's response:
Neither I, nor my partners are desperate for a refund on our deposit. My child will still go to summer camp, and she will still get gymnastic lessons.
Summer camp and gymnastics lessons aren't things that someone living on margins can afford. I'm not sure if Lauderdale is that successful with GCW or if he's got a shoot day job that allows him a chance to work a side hustle, but he told on himself in his reply to Ki here. Whatever Ki cost him couldn't keep him from giving his kid middle class privileges. So how much did he actually cost GCW, and if so, how much of those losses were passed down to the workers to help foment this kind of discord against someone who tried to figure out what his worth is? Fomenting that discord is also way easier when it's against a guy like Ki who has a reputation for taking liberties in the ring with his opponents.

With all that in mind, Ki becomes an easy target for everyone, the office and the boys alike. The promoters can use the fact that Ki is selfish and doesn't look out for the other wrestlers as cover for their motives. If Ki made them money, he'd have bookings lined up no matter what he might do in the ring, but he's taking money out of their pockets. The unnecessary and unwanted stiffness only provide proxy reasons for folks to jump on him. Granted, those things are incredibly bad. It's the reason why when this stuff broke, I was hesitant to go fully in defense of Ki, because I keep remembering back to EVOLVE 10, when he launched a kick into Ahtu's skull without any pullback and then expected him to continue working as if he didn't just knock him cold. But one instance of wrong has not a whole lot to do with another, and only one instance of perceived wrong has any currency with the powers that be. I'll give you a hint; it's the one that involves the exchange of paper.

The ostracization Ki is receiving from that corner over an unreturned deposit and the redemption of already-paid-for transportation (and I repeat not for taking liberties with other workers, which again is really bad an indefensible) shouldn't be eliminated from wrestling altogether, if I can write frankly. The people who deserve it are found throughout locker rooms around the world. They're the rapists, abusers, fascists, and others who continue to prey on those in the struggle who are weaker than they are. GCW continues to book SHLAK, for instance, whose stance on neo-Nazis and antifa is strange to say the least. When he says that he hates Nazis and antifa equally, even taken at face value (without noting that's usually code for "I'm totally still a Nazi but this is my half-hearted denial for saving face"), it's so weird to say that the people whose direct predecessors murdered 11 million people over a span of six years aren't demonstrably worse than the people, who have murdered zero people in their name, whose existence is impossible without the former group. Coupled with the pictures of him hanging around with known Nazis in the past that definitely exist, and it's a wonder why Lauderdale continues to book him or the boys continue to defend him. Oh wait, it's not a wonder. SHLAK is perceived as a draw, and he's never done any of the boys wrong, at least to their knowledge. If you can stick your head in the sand at people close to you at evidence suggesting they're not what they seem, human nature tells you that you can and should do it. I know from my own experiences, ones I regret now obviously.

But SHLAK is far from the only person who deserves the kind of dogpiling that Low Ki is getting right now. For one, Michael Elgin should never get a booking again, and yet, even in the furor of fan backlash, promoters like Ian Rotten and the people behind AAW still put him on their shows, if just as a surprise entry onto the card. Meanwhile, he's suing the person who has accused him of covering for her rapist for damage to his career all the while entering into a high-profile title program in the second biggest wrestling company in the fucking world right now. Go figure. Bram is another wrestler who continues to get shadowbookings despite never answering for his heinous accusations against him. The sad part is their peers continue to stick up for them rather than look at their situations critically and figuring out that they need to sort some shit out. Elgin has Dave Meltzer in his back pocket, while Bram was able to get a goddamn booking on the Flash Morgan Webster podcast to explain his side of things while his victim is living somewhere in the world right now with major psychological damage at the very least without an outlet to give her.

Imagine if just for one second that the vigor given to dogpiling someone like Low Ki or Sabu or even what was attempted on Matt Riddle was also given to rapists and abusers. Hell, what if the workers banded together and collectively bargained for a better piece of the pie from promoters instead of foolishly blaming people like Ki for the reason why their envelopes end up lighter than they were promised? A dogpile can be a powerful tool, but few people, especially in wrestling, end up using it for the right reason. If they banded together to punish Ki for his wanton stiffness, then that'd be one thing, but basically, this incident strays far from an area of justified action and into more a personal spat between two people, one between labor and capital. Everything done in wrestling is done in defense of capitalism, and it only benefits the people who already have money and power.

Meanwhile, the people who do cause damage to wrestling by acting as barriers for entire groups of fans for entry or who make those people who filter through feel incredibly unsafe are left unchecked because of misplaced feelings of loyalty or misguided estimations of their drawing power. It reinforces a status quo that is not worth saving. So many people in the business are concerned with its survival, but they barely can see one move ahead, and thinking about alienating some mouthy jerk who likes to tweet intimidating things to anyone who has a cross opinion, no matter how benign and how that fan is more worth keeping than the three or four women who might check wrestling out if not for the promotion of abusers and misogynist storylines. Then again, wrestling has almost never been associated with a cutting edge. The insistence at keeping the normal and insisting that things are going to turn around with the 80th try of the same damn thing is the textbook definition of insanity. The fact that resistance to change in a moral sense, to ostracize the violent elements and promote more inclusion, seems not only to be more strenuous than creative, but seems to be accepted as part of wrestling's DNA, is a depressing reminder that this art's finite time left on earth as a legitimate widespread arena for entertainment might be a lot shorter than anyone realizes.