Tuesday, September 18, 2018

You Can't Gatekeep a Journalist, or CMLL Ain't an Indie

Puma King made waves for two different reasons, the latter that wasn't his fault
Photo Credit: MT
Puma King made some waves this weekend at the Battle of Los Angeles. The former star of Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (he very recently became a freelancer working a few dates in AAA) made his second big excursion north of the Rio Grande this year for the huge tournament. His first trip up to the States was well-received; he took on Ophidian and Jonathan Gresham for Chikara and Beyond Wrestling respectively at a doubleheader at the Wrestle Factory. He was impressive then against both opponents, so it's easy to see how he'd wow the crowd at the Globe Theater in a far more high-stakes environment. Obviously, many people in the crowd were not familiar with the luchador. Even if CMLL is one of the most well-known lucha promotions in Mexico, Puma King isn't, say, Rush, Barbaro Cavernario, Dragon Lee, or obviously LA Park. Many people got their first doses of him, and they might have had questions as to where they could see him.

One of those people was Ryan Satin, the nouveau dirtsheet auteur behind Pro Wrestling Sheet and one of Paul Levesque's official mouthpieces in the news world (although not as blatant as Justin Barrasso at Sports Illustrated Dot Com, but that's neither here nor there). He caught a lot of shit for his ignorance of who Puma King was, which set off a squad of people defending him. The defense called the attempts at criticizing his lack of lucha knowledge "gatekeeping." Now, wrestling all over has a problem with fans gatekeeping others. Some fans do it within the confines of WWE on various levels. Others gatekeep the indies or puro or lucha. It's wrong when fans or journalists or whoever does it to another fan or someone looking to become a fan, because wrestling is for everyone, and fans should be welcoming to new people of all walks unless they're Nazis. Fuck to Nazis everywhere.

The problem here is that Ryan Satin is not "just a fan," no matter how much he insisted that he was attending BOLA as one. He's a journalist. If you needed to be reminded, a journalist's job is to find things out. Whether or not Satin was there as a fan, it's pretty inexcusable for him to act as if Puma King's identity beforehand was unknowable to anyone who wasn't already a fan of CMLL (more on that later). No, expecting any one person to be an oracle of wrestling knowledge is not reasonable; that being said, if Satin didn't know who Puma King was on September 14, it's not like Pro Wrestling Guerrilla just dropped the info the day before. He was announced on June 20. He has several clips on YouTube. Again, Chikara and Beyond both booked him on April 28 (and Beyond had him again on April 29). Feigning ignorance is not a good look for a reporter, especially one who was willing to get his hands dirty to defend the honor of Michael Elgin.

His defenders are being even sillier in that they are expecting him to be able to skate on not doing his job. Obviously, this situation isn't exactly unique in America. The Republican Party has built an entire support structure that shields upper classes from ever having to take responsibility for anything. Satin is in the upper class of non-WWE wrestling personalities. He has a cult of personality around him because he reports news, which for some reason is big currency in professional wrestling circles. But if he can't do a simple thing like do a cursory background check via Google or YouTube or even MrLARIATO's Twitter (or other gif accounts), then why should he get the benefit of that doubt? He's no longer proving to be good or even functional at his job, which if it pertains to wrestling is never really done. Whether or not he's on the clock, he's always a wrestling journalist. I don't forget everything I know about my job when I go home, even if I'm not on the clock or doing things related to it. Obviously, I can't just go out and casually go to something related to my career like Satin can, but on the flip side, wrestling is something that if you consume as a fan, you should want to know as much as possible before going in, especially if you pride yourself on being a leader in the community. Either way, Satin deserves all the shit heaped upon him and more.

Of course, a lot of the discourse hinges on CMLL being this unknowable entity that only people who go on treks tantamount to scaling the Himalayas to find the meaning of life can access let alone understand. This line of thinking lead to so many bad faith talking points about what someone is expected to know and not know about wrestling. CMLL is one of two storied and huge lucha libre promotions. It comprises Mexico's big two with AAA. While AAA has the benefit of a loose association with Lucha Underground and readily accessible pay-per-view events like TripleMania, CMLL has no fewer than three weekly shows that air for free on YouTube. It has working relationships with New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor, both promotions which are hip for wrestling fans and journalists alike to watch and profess fandom for. The point? It is accessible as fuck.

To pretend that CMLL is something that only the most dedicated wrestling fans can even try to get into is disingenuous and shows a kind of hostility towards lucha that is fostered in more than a few corners of the Internet. I mean, one needs look no further than Satin's rapist-defending colleague Dave Meltzer, whose denotation towards lucha compared to his sacred cash cow NJPW is as stark a contrast as the night to the latter's day. If hordes of fans can stan for midcarders in New Japan, then wrestling journalists can do cursory searches to find out about midcarders in CMLL. But hey, I bet if Levesque needed some dirt on, say, Zeuxis, during contract negotiations, Satin would know something about CMLL then, wouldn't he?