Rob takes a look at the wrestling journalism side of the passing of Brodie Lee, and how it was handled by some.
[Editor’s note: after this article was submitted, the column in question has been removed from the PW Torch website.]
I’ve said it here before, I’ve said it on Twitter, I’ve said it on podcasts I’ve been on, so I’ll say it again here: wrestling journalism stinks. Are there some real good reporters out there? Yes. But for every one of them there seems to be several that are garbage. And we got a prime example of that this weekend with the news of the tragic death of John Huber aka Luke Harper aka Brodie Lee. Brodie’s wife Amanda said in a statement that he died from a non COVID lung problem that he’d been getting treatment for at the Mayo Clinic. But that wasn’t enough for our friend Bruce Mitchell at the Pro Wrestling Torch. Bruce, in his infinite wisdom, wrote a piece that can best described as bait for truthers on the internet. In it he said that it was highly unusual for a man Brodie’s size and with his athletic ability to just get sick and die of lung problems in a matter of months, but not before going on a long rant about how the WWE misused Lee (seriously? can we get away from the misused/buried talk just once?) and how both the WWE and AEW have been playing with fire in regards to dealing with COVID. So COVID attacks your lungs (true), Brodie died of a lung problem (true), and both his current and previous employer have been operating in a haphazard fashion during this pandemic (true). You don’t need a tinfoil hat and an Infowars subscription to turn this into something. And Bruce did just that by doing one of the worst forms of ‘journalism’ out there, the ‘we just have questions’ way.
Let’s not play around here. Bruce Mitchell is suggesting that it is possible that Tony Khan and/or Amanda are lying to us, and that Brodie died as a result of complications of COVID. That kind of speculation opens a Pandora’s box of what ifs, none of them good. Such as:
- What if Brodie had COVID?
- What if he was on the premises at AEW, with COVID, around his coworkers?
- What if he infected any of them?
- What if those he infected spread it to their significant others (some of whom work in WWE, thus potentially bringing it to another locker room to spread around) or their other family, who then spread it further?
- What if AEW management knew Brodie was infected, let him come to work, and didn’t say anything to anyone?
Now you might be thinking that I’m reaching here, but Mitchell is leaving the door open to all of that with what he said in his piece. And if you don’t think that can become a story on the internet then allow me to introduce you to Roman Reigns cancer truthers, also fueled by ‘we just have questions’ and ‘that doesn’t all add up’ takes that were pushed by wrestling ‘journalists’ out there. In 2020 all you need is a few bits of anecdotal evidence and a few ‘questions’ and you can have a full blown conspiracy about the government, big business and lizard people in days. To push that kind of speculation, barely 24 hours after we got word the man died and while his friends all over the business are sharing their heartwarming tributes, is irresponsible and just plain cruel. If you think Amanda is lying then say so. If you think Tony Khan is lying then say so. But if all you’re doing is fill in the blank speculation then please stfu.
‘We deserve to know?’ Excuse me, we? I don’t need to know anything beyond what’s been said. If you think someone is lying then go investigate it. But real reporters do just that, not write speculative clickbait pieces to capitalize off a man’s death. And another middle finger goes out to Jonathan Snowden who was the main co-signer of this. Yes, Jonathan when a professional athlete passes under unforseen circumstances we eventually do find out what the deal was. The difference is that we don’t have reporters openly speculating that we are being lied to. If an NFL player dies in a similar fashion Adam Schefter will not be on TV vaguely suggesting that the league, his team, and his wife are hiding information. Either you get the goods and report it or you be quiet. People lie and hide information in the NFL as much as they do in wrestling (see draft season) and yet they somehow manage to wait until the lie has been found out before they discuss it on air or in print. If NFL draft reporters, who know they are being worked, can keep to what they know and what they’ve been told then so can you.
But this is what we get with wrestling journalism. Speculation without proof. Spoiling the results of taped shows, except when they’re buddy buddy enough with the guys to keep it under wraps. Endless fixation on TV ratings without any proper context. Feigned ignorance of base level stuff so they can fire off takes. Trolling for traffic. Fanning the flames between the hardcore fans of the top two companies no matter the consequences. An entire business model designed around making you mad at the biggest company while hoping that enough people don’t get mad enough to actually walk away because then their websites/podcasts/etc would go under also. And this, openly wondering if we are being lied to without having the guts to say that you think we’re being lied to.
Plenty of people become wrestling journalists because they love wrestling and they want to talk about and find out more about it. The barriers to entry are not there like they are for other sports, and that’s both a good and bad thing. On the one hand it’s easier for a lot of women and people of color to just jump in and go without having to bend the knee to old white men or learn 100 different secret handshakes to get their foot in the door. But on the other hand it’s allowed old men like Dave Meltzer the space to set up a fiefdom simply by being the one who’s been doing it longest and it’s allowed way too many mediocre guys who worship at his altar to simply link to his ‘reports’, add a few takes, and call it a day. It also offers no punishment to people who violate all types of basic human decency to get a piece out for clickbait, like Bruce Mitchell did. I know it’s a big ask but constantly boosting these guys numbers is something we need to leave in 2020.
And for the wrestling journalists out there I have one question: what do you want to be? Do you want to be serious investigative reporters who play no favorites and get the facts no matter who they expose? Do you want to be shock jock-esque tabloid writers trading in gossip and rumors from ‘sources’ and the airing of grievances? Do you want to be Entertainment Weekly style friendly media for the business, only being critical after the fact if something goes wrong? Do you want to be full blown pundits offering mostly opinions and labeling them as such? Or do you want to be objective and call things fairly, but as you see them? Right now the biggest among you are trying to do all of these and not succeeding in much more than making your audience more irritated and hostile towards what they’re supposed to be enjoying, the people that do it for a living, and each other. And that’s just unacceptable.
NXT UK Chuffed and Buzzin’
Brad hits us with some NXT UK highlights!
Brad hits us with some NXT UK highlights!
6. It is time for Johnny Saint to retire and officially promote Sid Scala to General Manager. Saint is a beloved figure in British wrestling (and a technical in-ring wizard), so I understand why they brought him in. Truth be told, he’s never done much and when he is around he isn’t a strong presence. Scala is there every week and has earned the job. Give Sid the job!
5. It is only right to send Mr. Saint out with a proper farewell. This is a gem from at least 1985, the last year for the original World of Sport Wrestling. It’s easy to see his influence on British wrestling and safe to say Tyler Bate studied and stole every one of Saint’s moves. Added bonus: some youngster named Dave Finlay has a mullet that would make Eddie Guerrero jealous.
4. Isla Dawn’s character keeps getting better. For months, she hasn’t cared about winning and losing, only taking trophies from her opponents. This week, she beat Aleah James then returned the hair scrunchie she stole from her. That is a seriously cool twist & one I hope they continue until Dawn returns all her stolen goodies. It’s like she took everything she needed from her opponents in order to build herself up to challenge Meiko Satomura. I don’t know if she’s championship material, but I’d love to see her and Satomura try and top their first encounter.
3. I like the idea of Teoman’s family, but the execution is lacking. There is no reason for Rohan Raja or Charlie Dempsey to be with him. There’s nothing that ties them together. NXT UK has been running blazing hot this year, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it works. Maybe it won’t. Either way, Charlie Dempsey is a star. When the time is right, he and Tyler Bate can have the 5 star Heritage Cup match we’ve been waiting for.
2. Pretty Deadly versus Mustache Mountain feels like a MOTY in the making. Can the Dandy Highwaymen defeat the forefathers of British Strong Style again and officially claim to be the best tag team in the brand’s history? Can Mustache Mountain finally capture the titles that surprisingly have evaded them since the brand’s inception? If they keep it clean with no outside interference, there is about a 1% chance this match won’t live up to the hype.
1. Gallus’ theme music is bad ass. That is all.
Steve Cook’s Fave Five: November 2021
It’s Thanksgiving week, and you know what that means!
This is the time we give thanks for our favorite professional wrestlers. And other things, I’m sure. Many of you reading this have other things to be thankful for. I don’t know what those are, but I do know which wrestlers I’m thankful for here at this moment. Let’s dive into the Fave Five!
5. Eddie Kingston
As somebody that was into the independent wrestling scene back in the mid-2000s, I’ve been aware of Eddie Kingston’s existence for a long time. I’ve known that the man was a better talker than almost anybody in the wrestling business. I’ve also known that the man was his own worst enemy, much like Buddy Landell was his own worst enemy back in the 1980s & 90s. If Eddie could somehow find the right place and right time, nothing could hold him back.
This seems like Eddie Kingston’s right place & time. He got a spot with AEW, and he kept getting over. His piece with The Player’s Tribune got him even more sympathy than he already had. The feud with CM Punk heading into Full Gear was perfect. It got Punk into the state people wanted him in. The match at Full Gear was great, even if Punk ended up winning. The only issue? The feud isn’t continuing. But that’s AEW. Feuds don’t last long unless they’re on BTE. Punk & King have already moved onto other things, and we can only hope they get back to each other in a year or two.
4. Bryan Danielson
I know that Bryan’s biggest run came when he was the underdog going against The Authority, and many folks took to him as that underdog. I was one of those guys that followed Bryan during his indy career, and his best run came when he was a total dickhead heel in Ring of Honor. Yeah, he was still short or whatever mainstream fans complained about at the time, but he could out-wrestle anybody put in the ring with him, and he was supremely confident about that fact. Not over-confident, supremely confident. He’d tell the referees the rules, because he was the Best in the World.
AEW fans are now getting that side of Bryan Danielson, and fortunately he has the right opponent to do it against. Hangman Adam Page has been accepted as a folk hero by hardcore AEW fans. They won’t turn against the Hangman for anybody, even when it’s really tempting since Bryan Danielson is a pretty amazing professional wrestler. One of the best I’ve seen! He’s getting to be a total dickhead again while he runs through Page’s Dark Order friends, and it’s amazing.
He’s not lying either. He wrestled the day after he won the WWE Championship at WrestleMania! Bryan Danielson has never lied. Maybe you don’t like what he says, but he’s always been honest. And the second he mentioned WrestleMania, those hardcore AEW fans were ready to jump on him. Bryan didn’t bury WWE like other folks that previously worked for them did. He had his reasons, and this was one of them.
3. The IInspiration
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) November 21, 2021
I was asked to be part of 411’s Fact or Fiction this week, since this week was decided to be the blowoff for a tournament from way too long ago where Len Archibald & myself made it to the finals. Bad news for me, as Len is much better with the written word than I am. 411 readers will sacrifice me at the temple of the Tribal Chief that is Len Archibald. I can’t blame them. One of the questions of this particular Fact or Fiction column asks us if underutilized people are better off getting released. Two of the most underutilized people in the history of WWE were Cassie Lee & Jessie McKay. WWE never knew what they had with them. Not the slightest idea. The only time they ever put them over was to spite Bayley & Sasha Banks for reasons. They never followed up on that because they didn’t care.
Cassie was supposed to be the breakout single star, except they never followed through with it. Jessie had the personality, and she had the look too but WWE did the best they could to take the look away from her. It was so weird. That’s why I’m so happy they found a place to let them be them. Impact Wrestling is a strange place. Certain people find their place there. The IInspiration seem to fit like a glove.
2. Dalton Castle
The Party Peacock was somebody that original Ring of Honor fans would have rejected in an instant. Some will try to tell me I’m wrong about that, but they in fact are wrong. The very first segment on “The Era of Honor Begins” featured the Christopher Street Connection getting squashed by Da Hit Squad because their sort of flamboyance wasn’t what ROH was going to be all about. It was 2002, a different time. I remember it well, as I graduated from high school. Way too many things have happened since then and I feel way too damn old.
Dalton Castle would not have been a favorite to original ROH fans in 2002. By the time he came around, he was just what the promotion needed. He had a personality the likes of which hadn’t been seen in pro wrestling for quite some time, which was great because the main knock against ROH was that their wrestlers didn’t have personality. Dalton Castle was ROH’s answer to that criticism. Unfortunately, Dalton’s body broke down at the same time he won the company’s World Championship. He fought through a broken back to have a reign worthy of the championship, but nearly killed himself in the process.
Castle wasn’t the same for a long time afterward. Only recently, we started to see shades of the old Dalton Castle. The man was revitalized by the promise of Television. He wanted to make Ring of Honor the best show on TV, even though he was a very busy man. Very busy. We’re lucky to see him when we do. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with him now that Ring of Honor is letting their people go. If he’s back to being the Dalton Castle we remember from a few years ago, the sky’s the limit. Any company would be lucky to have his talent & personality.
1. Cora Jade
I realize that I am in the minority of people around here when it comes to NXT 2.0. I can’t really say it’s a good wrestling show, but I do find it interesting. You have to know a little bit about my rasslin fan background. I ended up in Louisville during the time when Ohio Valley Wrestling was WWE’s developmental territory. While I never got the chance to attend a show at Davis Arena until years afterward, I enjoyed getting to watch the future stars of WWE on television learning their craft before they made it to Raw or SmackDown. Some were really good in the ring. Some were not. But it was all interesting to me.
Here in 2021, I have more interest in seeing the people that WWE thinks is going to be their future than seeing people I saw in Ring of Honor more than ten years ago having great matches just like they did in Ring of Honor more than ten years ago and having no chance of making it any bigger than “NXT TakeOver main eventer”. Which is fine if you’re into that kind of thing. Me…not so much.
I’m looking for the next big thing. Always have been, always will be. So when I take a look at Cora Jade, the youngest person under WWE contract, I see the potential. I see her work against Mandy Rose, who WWE wants to be the next big thing. I see Cora Jade get over, and I see the future, which is Cora Jade. People will try to tell me I’m wrong. They’ll be proven wrong eventually, but since they’re a lot louder, followers will act like the fools were right all along, even though they had the wrong opinions back in the day. That’s America for ya.
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