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News From Cook’s Corner 6.22.20: Speaking Out

Cook News is back again, touching on the biggest topic in the wrestling community this week!

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This is something that needed to happen a long time ago.

Back when the #MeToo movement took over social media and victims of predators in Hollywood & other places stood up against their abusers, many of us wondered when it would happen in pro wrestling. Let’s be honest: wrestling doesn’t have the best reputation for some very good reasons. For years, we glorified some of the worst behavers because they entertained us in the ring. When we’d hear some of the old stories about their worst actions, we’d shrug them off. Or heck, sometimes we’d even laugh about it because the way the story was told made it sound amusing.

As one example: a legendary figure wearing nothing under his robe on an airplane wasn’t appropriate in any circumstances, but by God that was our guy and it was funny. Gross is what it actually was, but we laughed along anyway because it was one of our favorite wrestlers and it was a different time.

As an example from a time that wasn’t so different: a divisive figure suplexing young female wrestlers by grabbing their boobs & having people grab his genetilia so he could flip them around. There were people that defended this as “entertainment”, but did anybody really think that everybody that went along with this nonsense did so without pressure? Or that somebody that thought these were good ideas wasn’t at least a little bit creepy?

Or, we simply wouldn’t believe the accusers. How could the wrestlers that put their bodies on the lines for us every night to provide us with our favorite form of entertainment be such terrible people? The accusers had to be lying. Probably just looking for attention.

This is the part where somebody interjects with the notion that not every accuser tells the truth. That is true, and its something I have to keep in mind when writing about these things. But many of the staunchest defenders of wrestlers against sexual misconduct allegations would tell you that maybe 10% of the allegations are true & 90% are false. Flip those numbers around and you’re closer to the truth.

It took longer for people involved with wrestling to speak out. As somebody that’s never been a sexual assault or harassment victim, I can’t judge when a victim should or shouldn’t come forward. I’d like to think I could talk about it openly, but I have no idea. I do know that those who have are incredibly brave, and that those who still keep it inside are also brave to have to deal with it every day and try to maintain a regular life. Don’t know if I could do that either.

This is another one of those weeks where we have a lot to unpack. It needs to be done. We won’t be able to drive all of the sexual predators and bad actors out of the business. There will be some that slip through the cracks. Hopefully we can get enough of them out to make pro wrestling a safer & better environment for everybody.

The question: How do we discuss #SpeakingOut in a column like this one?

The best we can. If somehow you’ve managed to avoid all this, I suggest you check the #SpeakingOut hashtag on Twitter. Frankly, I can’t do justice to these stories with my written word. So many folks have shared their experiences. What I’ll do here is try to cover most of the biggest fallout thus far. There will surely be more.

It all started with David Starr. For those of you that aren’t familiar with him, Starr is/was one of the top wrestling stars in Europe. He was noted for wanting to unionize pro wrestling & often spoke against major wrestling promotions for how they treat their talent. On Wednesday, an ex-girlfriend of Starr’s spoke out about the emotional & physical abuse Starr put her through during their relationship. This led to a number of other women talking about what Starr had done to them, and Starr making an apology that ranked among the least convincing we’ve heard in at least a couple of weeks. (People suck at apologizing.) The backlash from all that resulted in pretty much every promotion Starr had been working for cutting ties with him.

It also led to other women feeling more comfortable about sharing their own stories. It’s almost easier to name the wrestlers in the British wrestling scene that weren’t mentioned during all this than the ones that were. A couple have seen their North American wrestling careers halted. Jimmy Havoc has checked into rehabilitation & his status with AEW is being evaluated after being accused of abuse by an ex-girlfriend. Stories have also surfaced of various incidents involving Havoc while under the influence after wrestling shows.

WWE released Jack Gallagher after he was alleged to have committed a sexual assault. So far, Gallagher is the only person involved in all this to be punished by WWE. The NXT UK brand saw a number of people accused of sexual misconduct. Jordan Devlin, Travis Banks, El Ligero, Joe Coffey & Wolfgang have all faced various allegations. Other names have been mentioned but I can’t find enough on them to include them in this paragraph. Matt Riddle has also been accused of assaulting a woman that denied his sexual advances, but Riddle has denied the accusations and given that his debut match still aired Friday night on SmackDown, WWE seems to be believing Riddle’s side of things. More allegations have surfaced concerning Velveteen Dream and minors, so that story isn’t going away even though it tried to for a minute there.

WWE has said they are investigating the issues, so we shall see if it goes anywhere or not.

The NWA acted much quicker upon sexual abuse allegations directed towards David Lagana. Lagana resigned from his position with the company, and production on their various YouTube shows has been temporarily halted. MLW released their ring announcer, Mark Adam Haggerty, after inappropriate messages between him & a minor were made public. New Japan has seen a couple of allegations and hasn’t acted as of yet. Will Ospreay & Bea Priestley were accused of having a female wrestler that was sexually assaulted by a friend of theirs, blackballed from the UK wrestling scene. Chase Owens has been accused of harassment.

Impact Wrestling…well, I really don’t know where to start there but here we go. Dave Crist was accused of sending unsolicited pictures of himself to one of his trainees, which led to multiple trainees backing up the story. Some cases of sexual assault too. Michael Elgin was accused of similar activity. Kris Levin, a former referee with the company, talked about how Impact released him last year after he answered some questions honestly about Impact executives being internally investigated, which led to Moose tweeting that Levin got fired for being bad at his job.

Then there’s Joey Ryan, who has been accused of sexual assault. His apology had a similar tone to David Starr’s apology, which makes sense as he also liked telling people what a good guy he was for years. More accusations came out afterward, and Ryan went wherever Starr went after he left Twitter. I imagine Jim Cornette would have had a lot to say about this if he wasn’t busy figuring out how he would fight off allegations concerning his wife grooming OVW trainees for sex acts that Jim would watch. Cornette’s limited response so far has been to prove that he & his lawyer have no idea how Facebook works, which is about what you’d expect from the guy. Looks like the winner in the Ryan/Cornette feud after all these years was “none of the above”. They’re both shitheads, congratulations to them.

All of this should cause self-reflection for everybody involved in the business.

It has for me, a bit. I’ve never done anything like what’s being discussed here, but I can’t say I’m 100% innocent of being creepy. I did take some things personal several years ago that I shouldn’t have. I got a little too excited over the idea of “famous” people talking to me. Nowadays nothing bothers me, little impresses me, and I’m aware of my place in the grand scheme of things. I’m happy with it.

As for what I write, if Shotzi Blackheart or Anna Jay read one of my recent columns and tell me to knock it off, that’s no problem. What I write & tweet is meant in fun, and I think I stay on the right side of the creep fence. If I don’t, tell me about it and I’ll adjust.

And for the last time, we’re not bringing back the Hot 100 unless the price is right and I can write it without feeling like I need a cold shower afterwards. I don’t regret doing it back in the day. I still talk to a number of ladies I wrote about in that and their personalities are just as great as the qualities they had that I ranked back in the day.

As for the people that weren’t…well, one of the main critics was a fella that wrote for Uproxx and had an axe to grind with me & 411mania in general. Real feminist kind of guy that was all about virtue signaling and running me & the list down to women in the business to make himself look good. Turns out that guy was one of the names that got named this past week for being a creep.

I really don’t have anything against the Sapps & Satins of the world (except for Sapp’s University of Kentucky fandom, that can never be forgiven), and even Uncle Dave has his good points even if he should have researched my friend a little bit better.

Brandon Stroud? Go fuck yourself, pal.

You didn’t think I forgot, did ya? As I recall, which is all I can do because I’m as bad at Facebook as Jim Cornette’s lawyer is & I can’t find posts, it was 2012. That was probably the best year for the 411 Wrestling Hot 100, it got all kinds of engagement from people in the business. Shazza McKenzie charged into Jessie McKay’s Facebook post about it all ready for a fight, it was good times. As usual, some people were unhappy. One was Mr. Stroud, who chimed in on Veda Scott’s Facebook post about it how she was too low on the list or something along those lines. I assume Veda was his type, I won’t speculate any further on that bit of human interaction because I have no idea. Might have just been Facebook friends, no idea and I’m not saying anything otherwise.

That wasn’t all he had to say. Brandon had a lot to say about 411mania back in those days, and once I popped up in the mentions he had to tell me about how sexist the list was in the kind of passive-aggressive way you would expect from an Internet wrestling writer. I know this because “passive-aggressive” was my middle name back in those days.

I let it slide. For one thing, some of my boys at offtheteam.com were big fans of his. I never read much of his work because Uproxx & my computer didn’t get along, but they were quite persistent about the idea that Stroud had his finger on the pulse of pro wrestling. Which was fine by me. We all have our favorites. The second part of it was that I was all about anybody having any kind of response to the damn thing. The more hits it got, the happier Ashish & Larry were with me. If this guy from Uproxx wanted to put me on blast, any publicity was good publicity.

So it was whatever. I remembered it though, because one tends to remember things like “bigger names” taking swipes at you. Not saying I paid much attention to the guy afterwards. Like I said, Uproxx was a pain for my computer (and other devices). Also, I got to the point where I just didn’t really read anybody or pay attention to what others were doing. I have my opinions, I put them out there, and that’s that. What else do I need?

If there’s one person in this thing that I think we still call the “IWC” that needs to be cancelled due to #SpeakingOut, it’s this asshole. The one that told us how he was so pro-women & woke & all those things that folks like David Starr & Joey Ryan liked to tell us to distract us from the fact they were abusive douchebags that were the prime example of the toxic masculinity they & others they wished to imitate would speak against.

Hey, I’ve told you what I am. I’ve admitted the Hot 100 wasn’t the best idea and maybe it went on too long but had a few positive side effects for me and maybe some others too. I accept any criticism coming my way from all of that, along with whatever people I’ve interacted with in the past want to say about me. I can do that because I know it’s not as bad as what Noted Feminist & All Around Good Guy Brandon Stroud did.

So if you ask me how I feel about this guy getting accused of sexual misconduct and him copping to it? I say it’s chickens coming home to roost. He wanted to come in here back in the day and accuse me of sexism & harassment? Fuck outta here. Quit writing about wrestling. Apparently he already got drummed out of the actual business years ago for being a creep, now the folks that pay him to write about wrestling need to get him the fuck out too. If they haven’t already.

I know my conscience is clear of anything other than being a lonely single guy that didn’t have much interaction with women and was awkward via Internet. Things haven’t changed too much in that regard, other than I don’t even bother with interaction anymore. Not a great thing to admit to, but it’s my cross to bear. And I can honestly say I never did anything abusive. Shithead Stroud can’t say the same.

In Pandemic News…

Yes, “Pandemic News”. I know the government is busy trying to tell us the pandemic is over and everybody should go back to their regular lives and spend all their money, but the numbers across most of the country aren’t getting any better. Kentucky’s are “steady”, and that seems like good news!

You know one place the numbers are getting really, really bad? Florida! Their COVID-19 case numbers are getting more ridiculous by the day, and at least one of them happened to be at the WWE Performance Center in the audience back on June 9. WWE suspended production this past Tuesday after finding out and got everybody tested, which apparently was handled as well as you would expect WWE to handle anything these days. Taping resumed on Wednesday, and things ran late & SmackDown got pushed to next week and anybody with a brain saw this coming. It was only a matter of time before another one of WWE’s employees contracted the virus.

I understand why WWE, AEW & Impact Wrestling still want to run shows, and why ROH is talking about being back in July. It’s the same reason every other business is trying to run as much as possible. They need that money and those eyeballs. You can’t blame them as much as you can blame a government that enables them to make money at the risk of public safety. As somebody with a job at the airport, the stuff I see going on every day I’m there tells me that this pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon.

We just hope that there isn’t an outbreak at one of these events, or that the people involved in them don’t make the people around them sick. Especially since WWE has decided that nobody can wear a mask since Vince McMahon listens to Donald Trump. So we’ll just keep sitting here playing with fire and hope nobody gets burned.

So how about the indies?

Well, a couple of them ran events this weekend in the Indianapolis area. I have no idea why that area was chosen, but that’s what happened. IWA Mid-South ran in a small warehouse and decided to tweet a wide shot of people all cramped together with maybe one person wearing a mask. That pic got deleted once everybody expressed their displeasure. I, for one, was not surprised that Ian Rotten’s promotion would do something so stupid. That’s very on brand. A lot of great talents cut their teeth in Ian’s promotion back in the day, and they still got some good folks there, but there’s a reason IWA’s reputation is what it is.

GCW also ran in the Indianapolis area at an outdoor venue. From what I could see, people were spread out to a good degree. Didn’t look any worse than what you see on TV, actually better in some cases. Apparently they took great precautions and Joey Janela was even there to help sanitize the ring between matches. The pictures I saw looked good, so credit to them on that account. Although, during Nick Gage’s entrance people decided they wanted to have a mosh pit and some poor woman had a seizure. Not a great look. There’s also the matter that some people probably attended both of these shows, so even if GCW tried really hard to keep everybody safe, some of that IWA stuff was going to slip in there.

I get it. We all want to go back to wrestling shows. We’d all like to live the way we did this time in 2019. But if we can’t chill out just a little bit and quit spreading disease everywhere, we’re just putting off the time when we can eventually go full blast back into non-pandemic reality again.

Last Minute News!

I haven’t had the chance to watch the last episode of “The Last Ride” yet, but apparently Undertaker told viewers that it actually was The Last Ride. He has no desire to return to the ring after the Boneyard Match with AJ Styles. Which doesn’t surprise me, because the whole series was about Undertaker looking for that perfect ending to his career. A kickass match. I’ve been on record as saying the Boneyard Match was just what I needed to get though that WrestleMania that wasn’t really a WrestleMania. At least it had that match!

We all know that wrestler retirements last as long as diets. Undertaker will probably get that itch again, right around whenever Vince McMahon wants him to take that Sweet Saudi Blood Money. I wouldn’t fault him for it, every wrestler ever has gone back on their retirement match if they were physically able to. But let’s be honest…that Boneyard Match was an awesome piece of business. The best thing Undertaker’s been involved in since the HBK/HHH series of WM matches. The guy was looking for closure by having a badass match. He had one.

With a guy that’s a flat earther. Considering Undertaker’s t-shirt choices during the documentary, that seems right up his alley.

Thanks for reading. Keep your stick on the ice.


Let us know what you think on social media @ChairshotMedia and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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