Monday, June 22, 2020

The Foundation Is Rotten

Ryan's widespread and severe abuses were only the tip of the tip of the iceberg
Photo Credit: Mikey Nolan
Last week, David Starr answered questions of relationship abuse and "grey rape" by admitting to all these things, thus getting himself effectively removed from the wrestling scene. What followed was an avalanche of victims speaking out, either directly or anonymously through proxies. While it was overwhelming at times, it was not surprising given the whispers surrounding so many people in the industry already. Survivors came forward and outed several people on the scene, from as prominent as Matt Riddle to several administrators of small indie schools stateside. The accusations were wide-ranging, but all of them had a thread in common that they were endemic of people with power abusing said influence to exert some kind of control over someone with less of a say, whether it be through an experience gradient or through sexual misconduct.

The sheer number of people who have been implicated in this outpouring of revelation says one thing loudly and clearly. The wrestling industry's foundation is rotted. The support structures do not protect anyone except the people who are actively working to undermine their integrity. The omerta in the locker room has kept abusers safe, but the extent of that protection really hasn't been explored until now. Honestly, I fear this past weekend was only the tip of the iceberg. You don't have this many stories come out and only concentrate it on indie wrestlers and low-hanging fruit in major companies. Does anyone think WWE, a company that is headed by an accused rapist, a suspected accomplice to murder, and the most wicked and ruthless capitalist ever to promote a show, has a roster full of angels on RAW and Smackdown?

The reason why McMahon himself hasn't been touched is the same reason he skated during the George Zahorian steroid trials, the same reason he got off with just a settlement to Martha Hart after his gross negligence ended Owen Hart's life, why the rape allegations to him never stuck. He's filthy rich and embedded in the one percent. While he's not the reason why the business is full of scumbags, he certainly is the patron saint of every bully and abuser in the industry. He runs the market leader, and that infection trickles down, whether or not anyone wants to admit it. His continued presence gaining the most wealth from the presentation of wrestling will make cleaning out the industry difficult. It's hard to rebuild when the guy running the show is making billions off a culture of rot.

Make no mistake about it though, you cannot build on top of a rotted foundation. Simply clearing out the people like Starr and Joey Ryan (who should be in a prison at the bottom of the ocean right now) and Dave Crist and Saraya Knight (in case you thought men were the only bullies and abusers here) without addressing the systemic issues that got so many pieces of shit in positions of power. The whole paradigm has to shift, and there's no simple and easy answer. Even the correct answers, worker-owned collectives, aren't ever going to be easy to implement because of how entrenched the Western world and technologically-advanced nations in Asia like Japan are in capitalism. No matter how anyone might like it, wrestling might be the business most ingrained with the goals and aims of capitalism.

The pessimistic view is that there is no cleansing flood coming to destroy wrestling as it is, leaving the passengers of a mythic ark, and the reason is that the wholesale protection of abusers and bullies is embedded in greater society. If you think movies, music, and sports all have better track records than wrestling at rooting out the scum, well, might I interest you in the continuing careers of creeps like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. It's embedded in the legal system as well. Rape is one of the most under-prosecuted crimes on the books, and domestic violence might as well be jaywalking the way people escape consequence from it until they end up murdering the people they're abusing. Society doesn't and has never respected victims. If wrestling got tough and actually meted out justice for the abuse happening under its umbrella, it would be ahead even of the law in effectively rooting these problems out.

As glum and dire as the situation might be, it is still up to the decent people in the industry at least to try. A good start would be to flush everyone named at all from the beginning of time until this past weekend out of the business. Sure, no one came out with new Chasyn Rance stories, but what the hell is his hive of scum and villainy in Central Florida doing existing after everything associated with it? The fact that the Team Vision Dojo is still operating, or that Impact Wrestling has collected anyone who has been accused of anything in the last decade on its roster, shows there's still a shitload of work left to do. Regarding Impact, it won't matter if they fire Joey Ryan after the outcry over him because they'll still have Dave Crist, Moose, Rich Swann, Michael Elgin, Trey Miguel, Tessa Blanchard, and Sami Callihan on the roster with the last one in that list having major control over booking.

Just because the workload is heavy or Sisyphean doesn't mean it's not worth doing. It would be nice to have support from the world at-large, but no matter what, it's time for wrestling a to clean house. If that means kicking a bunch of shitty people in the nuts in the process, then it's what needs to be done. The alternative would be to do nothing and leave people like Ryan in positions where they can continue to hurt people unabated. Honestly, I would much rather have the entire industry collapse and there to be no more wrestling until the world ends (which at this pace will be in 2050) than to have a situation where this thing I've written about for over a decade and have been a fan of three times as long harbors widespread and severe abuses of vulnerable people, real people.