You had to know that #MeToo wasn’t going to confine itself to Hollywood.
For better or for worse, we follow the cues of celebrities. Celebrities doing things encourages us to follow in their footsteps. Sometimes, in the case of electing celebrities to public office, that’s a bad thing. Sometimes, in the case of exposing serial sexual harassers and overall scum of the earth, that’s a good thing.
We had to know that sooner or later the movement would make its way to professional wrestling. Let’s face it: wrestling has been a seedy business for most of its existence. I’m not saying everybody involved is a horrible person, or that most of the people involved can’t be trusted, but the business does tend to attract more than its fair share of weirdos, deviants & abusers. With Hollywood celebrities coming out & telling their truths, it would only be a matter of time before those with similar stories involving people in professional wrestling would feel empowered enough to tell theirs.
We all know wrestling’s history when it comes to women. The phrase “ring rat” has been around longer than anyone can remember. Women are painted with that brush to demean any accomplishments they may obtain. There is more #MeToo in wrestling than we’ll ever know.
Wrestling is often a promiscuous business. Men are encouraged & deified for being with multiple women. Ric Flair was looked up to for his sexual track record. If Charlotte Flair had a similar one, she would be the laughingstock of the business.
Wrestling is no different from life in this outlook, of course. Parents are disappointed when their little girl has her first sexual encounter. Their little boy gets an attaboy after his.
Times are changing. The sexual playing field is becoming less tilted. Mens’ behavior is getting exposed.
Not surprisingly, this has presented quite a problem for wrestling media. Most of us are ill-equipped to deal with these types of situations. I myself have problems talking to members of the opposite sex without sounding fifty IQ points dumber than I actually am. I am 100% clean when it comes to sexual harassment because I don’t think women even want to talk to me, much less do anything beyond talking. I can be real passive-aggressive when I get my feelings hurt, but that’s as harmful as I get.
There’s also the whole 411 Wrestling Hot 100 thing that pretty much shoots any credibility I might have had in the foot. 411 does still encourage me to do most of my opinion columns on women’s wrestling though, and I’ve successfully transitioned to not sounding like a total pervert 95% of the time. So maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit. All I know for sure is that I’m lucky that wrestling sites only expect me to pop off at the mouth about wrestling and not actually report anything.
Many of you probably have heard something about the situation involving the St. Louis wrestling scene, sexual harassment/assault, & Michael Elgin. My old friend Michael Melchor has an informative piece on the matter to catch you up if you’re not aware. For one side of the story, you can read Pro Wrestling Ponderings’ interview with the accuser. For another side, you can read a Tumblr account discrediting the accuser that was linked by Dave Meltzer when asked why he didn’t talk to her.
America’s longest-tenured wrestling journalist has taken a lot of fire over the past couple of years. Some of it is over meaningless balderdash, such as how many stars he gives New Japan matches that he likes because he’s friends with the people involved. Some of it is over his track record on breaking news taking a hit lately & his response usually being “plans change”.
If Dave Meltzer & his associates are ignoring claims of sexual assault because they’re friends with somebody involved, that’s a more damning indictment of Meltzer as a person than anything that anybody’s said about him over the past thirty years. Whether some of us like it or not, Meltzer is THE wrestling journalist of record. Not David Bixenspan, Mike Johnson, Ryan Satin or anybody else you want to throw out there as your favorite wrestling news reporter. It’s his responsibility, more than anybody else’s, to report on matters like this.
I’ve read through his coverage of the WWF sex scandals in 1992. Nobody else was covering the issue like Dave was. It still stands as a record of a time that WWE would prefer we forget. Twenty-six years later, his head appears to be stuck in the sand.
Now, Dave isn’t the only experienced wrestling journalist that suddenly has a case of the limber-tail. Bruce Mitchell recently wrote about issues surrounding indy wrestling booker Brad Stutts that led to his departure from CWF Mid-Atlantic. It’s a well-written article. Mitchell has always been one of wrestling news reporting’s best writers.
It had to be a tough thing for Bruce to write about, as Brad has appeared on many editions of his podcast as a co-host. I know the bond that develops between podcast co-hosts, as I consider Larry Csonka, Greg DeMarco, Jeremy Lambert & the Voodoo Penguin my blood bothers. It would be very tough for me to report on any transgressions involving these men. Bruce’s coverage shows that it was tough for him to report on a podcast co-host as well.
“Then there was Stutts’s “inappropriate behavior” with a CWF employee. Anyone who has hung around with the guy knows the phrase, “Just Brad being Brad” and his wife Katie’s sly smile. He’s big personality guy, and he loves women.”
And with three sentences, Mitchell killed any credibility his column had. Making sure we knew Stutts loved women (like we couldn’t figure it out from what he was accused of), putting quotation marks around “inappropriate behavior” and inserting the phrase “Just Brad being Brad” gives the impression that Mitchell is a good ol’ boy making excuses for his fellow good ol’ boy. The #MeToo Challenge returns.
Should we be surprised? No. Meltzer & Mitchell are creatures of another era. The era where women weren’t afraid to report sexual harassment or sexual assault because they weren’t even phrases. It shouldn’t be surprising that they would be out of touch in regards to that, or that they would be more inclined to protect their friends than hold their feet to the fire.
It’s a lot easier to be pissed off at people taking advantage of power when you’re young & powerless. When you’re old & have power…why attack your friends?
Then there’s the next generation of wrestling writer after the Meltzers & Mitchells. The generation that I’m a part of. It’s tough for us too. Not because we’re friends with the people involved. From a personal perspective, most of the people in the business I would consider friends or acquaintances have retired. I’m not really inclined to seek out more friends either, as it could influence my opinions. Opinions are what I’m asked for. If those start getting compromised, I got nothing to offer.
The #MeToo challenge for us is simple: We don’t want to talk about this.
I am perfectly happy with writing about a SmackDown storyline, or an upcoming PPV match, or anything that’s related to the on-screen wrestling product. It’s fun to read the backstage gossip of who’s being held down, who’s getting the push & why. It’s even fun to read about who’s dating who.
Do I want to write columns about disturbing actions by disturbing people on a weekly basis? No. I don’t really have the stomach for it, nor do I have the ability to report these things in their proper context. Back when I did news columns, I was like a late night talk show host trying to make jokes out of anything. Sexual assault/harassment is nothing to joke about. I feel like I’m in way over my head whenever I’m discussing topics like it.
I would love for the people that commit these actions to be run out of wrestling on a rail. I’m glad that the British wrestling scene has taken action this week against people that have abused their power. The victims spoke up, the fans reacted, and the wrestlers took the right side.
I wish it would be that simple in America. It isn’t. As usual, our past gets in the way of progress. Ric Flair is widely considered the greatest American wrestler of all time. Most of our favorite Ric Flair stories involve sexual harassment. Those who believe that sexual harassment isn’t a crime will bitch & moan about how if Ric Flair was able to do it in 1988, *fill in the blank* should be allowed to do it in 2018.
Wrestlers need to be held accountable. Just like actors, politicians, public figures, and non-public figures. We can’t ignore #MeToo, and we need to do as much as we can to help it. I don’t think wrestling media is capable of doing so today, but it can be. Perhaps wrestling fans & readers can pressure wrestlers & wrestling writers to be better. If we can’t get better, we will be made obsolete.