Monday, June 25, 2018

Keep Yelling

Keep the pressure on promotions not to book this bigot
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Sometimes, it can seem futile. A promotion you like books someone like SHLAK or Rich Swann. You voice your concern, but the promotion ignores you, and worse, a throng of other fans who aren't timid and who will flock to lick the boots of promoters who think that these edgy wrestlers will bring in dollars because controversy creates cash or some fucking bullshit. Eric Bischoff is a stain, really he is, but I digress. Anyway, even if those people who feel emboldened because they have the support of what passes as capital and in most cases labor in wrestling are in the minority, they get their way, because a vast majority of people in said industry would gain the highest marks for not seeing any forest for the trees.

Sometimes though, the message gets through. For example, even though New Japan Pro Wrestling re-signed Michael Elgin to a multiyear deal and gave him a test run with the NEVER Openweight Championship, he's curiously absent from any show taking place in the United States. One would think that New Japan trying to expand in this country would want as many American stars on the show as possible, but he is absolutely nowhere to be found. As it would turn out, even the domestic violence-enabling people in New Japan's front office preparing to welcome Tomoaki Honma back with open arms know that a dude who covered for a rapist, harassed the accuser, and has gone so far as to sue said accuser for defamation is a heinously awful look. That probably doesn't happen if fans around the local haunts who used to book Elgin didn't vitriolically revolt against him, whether as advertised or when he showed up to the arenas as a surprise booking.

In that instance, yelling worked. It will continue to work as long as people remember the reasons for the outcry. Elgin behaved in a despicable manner, and people recognized it and acted accordingly. Of course, people have the tendency to forget about why they don't like someone, especially if they're White, straight, and identify with the penis with which they were born as their given gender. But if people remember, and they keep the pressure on, they keep yelling at people the reasons why, the toxic people will remain toxic. It doesn't matter how good they are or how much value they bring in, if their presence causes that much of a revulsion, they will be gone.

Hell, it even worked with SHLAK in A Matter of Pride Wrestling, the LGBTQ+-friendly promotion that booked him without knowing his, uh, past. People spoke up, and he got dropped. The thing is, AMoPW feels like it stakes a sort of reputation on being "woke" or at least appearing as such. The thing about places like Game Changer Wrestling and Hardcore Hustle Organization is that they have no real qualms about reveling in the bad reputations they have merely by their incarnation as deathmatch promotions. Or maybe that isn't the case. Perhaps SHLAK has been ingrained there for so long that he's been able to win the rest of his locker room peers over by being nice to them. Those people with whom he's well-acquainted don't have reason to acquiesce to outside pressure. I really don't know.

However, the people who are in charge for whatever reason are willing to double down on a guy like SHLAK that they see as "their guy." Now, one can believe someone has changed or is rehabbed if given good reason. For example, Nick Gage, another GCW regular with a checkered past, robbed a bank. However, he's cleaned up his act after a stint in prison. He kicked the hard drugs that led him down the path of desperation to rob said bank, and beyond a reasonable doubt, he's shown that he's been rehabilitated. If SHLAK showed any attempt at remediating his past, well, it's not been public. I'll let JR Goldberg run the list down, since he's done so on Twitter in concise manner:

That last one is a new entry in the ledger, as it just surfaced over the weekend. He and his significant other, Maria Manic, decided they'd have a larf and name their tag team after this thing that is rarely prosecuted and claims the lives and livelihoods of women across the fucking globe. Their response to the whole thing has been to claim the South Park defense as a moral high ground, that they're being "edgy" in an attempt to "save" wrestling. I don't know from whom they want to save it, but it's certainly not from the people who really threaten it. I mean, if you think being able to say the f-word freely and making domestic violence survivors in the audience feel hella uncomfortable is going to stop Vince McMahon's global march towards wrestling hegemony, be my guest. Maybe that kind of thing will "save" wrestling inasmuch as it will kill any interest in wrestling if it becomes widespread enough so that McMahon doesn't have an audience left to glom.

The intent behind those statements, however, was to bring wrestling to whole new levels by bringing back the edgelord audience that populated WWE arenas during the Attitude Era. In reality, that kind of shock-jock purveyance of entertainment turns more people away than it brings in. The problem is, again, the people who enjoy it are louder than those who'd rather take their money and spend it on something that doesn't remind them of horrific things in their lives, whether it be in the wrestling ring or in some other medium of entertainment. I mean, SHLAK won't even denounce Nazis without denouncing anti-Nazis. Would you feel safe around that guy? Make no mistake about it, he's a bad person making everyone around him justifiably uncomfortable, or at least he should be making them feel as such. Even passing to acknowledge a Nazi as a good person is ahistorical, immoral, and flat out wrong. If a wrestling promotion can't even denounce the guy who used to hang around with Nazis, then what's the use of patronizing it? I mean, Trevor Noah on the supposedly "woke" Daily Show pulled the same shit, calling antifa "Vegan ISIS." SHLAK can't even be assed to couch his affiliations and feelings in decency like that.

That's why the good people need to be louder. The people who don't want their entertainment medium overrun with awful people need to keep yelling, keep speaking up so that promoters and wrestlers know that these people, the SHLAKs of the world, the Michael Elgins, even the Tomoaki Honmas and Brams, the ones who keep showing blatant disregard for large swaths of the human race with no real inkling of remorse, are not welcome. Trust me, you are not the bad people for caring about the place you want to spend your leisure time being safe for you and for everyone you care about. I'm not even talking about "woke" or "politically agreeable." Wrestling fans, real cool people who deserve more than to have their traumas shoved back into their faces, don't feel safe at shows, and if that doesn't outrage you, then I don't know what to say.

The reason you keep yelling and keep awareness up is that it works. You raise enough awareness and convince enough people, and either that person who makes the shows toxic stops getting booked or the people stop coming to the shows where that wrestler is booked. Sometimes, it can be a war of attrition, and you may not see results right away. Lack of results doesn't mean you're not right though. These battles can corrode your will and devour your soul with how little a return they can provide sometimes. But you keep yelling, not just because it will work, even though in some cases especially in wrestling, it has worked, but you keep yelling because it is right, because it helps boost the people who can't boost themselves, because if you stop yelling, the toxic people win.

Wrestling does not need to be saved from itself. Even ignoring the Looming McMahon Hegemony, what it needs to be saved from is the idea that good people don't have a place inside of it, or that a neo-Nazi or a domestic abuser or a rapist can find solace in a locker room because they are nice to their peers. Even if it means rejecting promotions that put out artistically valid content, or at the very least criticizing them loudly in a public forum, then you do it. Every promotion has skeletons that it needs to clean out. The entire human race is filled with a pastiche of good and bad, and nothing is above reproach even. Wrestling just seems to have concentrated the bad for the sake of making money, and the only thing that can ward it off is direct action. Sometimes, the most direct action you can take is saying something, saying it loudly and forcefully. Even if you, yourself cannot yell all the time, try to support the people who have the wherewithal to keep doing so. But the only way the good people win is by speaking up. Either the toxicity exits wrestling, or wrestling ceases to exist under the weight of the depraved people it chooses to house inside of it over the general good. Then either we, as in myself and all the decent people, are free to choose another hobby to spend our time or choose to rebuild it from the ground up.