It was impossible not to raise a smile at some of the content in Jim cornette’s “private” email to Terry Taylor – apropos Vince Russo and Cornette’s own dismissal from TNA Wrestling – this past week. Cornette, in typically colourful and verbose fashion, left nothing to the imagination as he expanded on the depths of his hatred for Vince Russo and his feelings of resentment towards TNA for the litany of professional failures he feels Dixie Carter (and others) are apparently guilty of perpetrating. A riotous and highly charged composition, it is well worth tracking down and reading (if you haven’t done so already).
Various parties have accused Jim Cornette of waging a bitter and vindictive campaign against mainstream wrestling, motivated by personal grievances and no small amount of desperation. I happen to admire Jim Cornette for his passion and obvious love for professional wrestling, and I lend no credence to the childish ramblings of lesser men; simplistically labelling Cornette an outmoded relic of a bygone era. His views on the business are suffused with years of experience and an enlightened grasp of the importance of logic, credibility and coherence in all successful storytelling.
The thing is, Jim Cornette has been saying essentially the same thing for years concerning the direction of the business. He feels wrestling should always be based around a simple yet serious conflict that anyone can observe and understand (and become engrossed in) quickly and without schlocky accoutrements. It is only as the business has declined creatively over the last five years that Cornette’s mantra – at one time an exercise in stating the obvious – has suddenly started to sound revolutionary.
This writer is not in agreement with anyone, Jim Cornette included, who thinks professional wrestling should look to its “wrasslin’ traditions” to seek new impetus. The era that Cornette regards with such reverence died out because time and the business passed it by. There is no reason why the logic and the understanding of this era cannot be the bedrocks of a modern wrestling company, but much as Cornette may believe this to be an error sports entertainment was (and is) the way forward. Cornette’s love of the business has blinded him to the uncomfortable truth that wrestling is not a serious or credible endeavour in the eyes of the majority. Although this does the sacrifices of the boys a great disservice, it is the undeniable truth of the world.
Jim Cornette expressed reservations regarding the portrayal of the wrestling business in Darren Aranofsky’s superb, Academy Award-nominated film The Wrestler. He felt the business was exposed by the film’s various depictions of the once-guarded structuring of a wrestling match and the tribulations of the central character. He went on to use a quite clever analogy of a magician telling the audience how all his various tricks were manufactured. I can comprehend and even sympathise with this point, but I don’t agree with Cornette’s conclusions. Magic tricks, filmmaking and professional wrestling all have something in common: suspension of disbelief. The people who watch such proceedings are all keenly aware that an illusion is taking place that is not, in the strictest sense of the terms, truthful or real.
Undoubtedly, it does diminish the effect somewhat when you know precisely how something magical works, but if the trick (or film or match) is of sufficient quality, this is almost irrelevant. We live in an age where the world at large has access to more information than it ever has done in the information superhighway, and the age of keeping secrets has long since departed. You must respect the act and the performance at all times, but gone are the days when wrestling could be passed off as legitimate sport. The Wrestler has done wonders for the image of the wrestlers themselves and the sacrifices they have made and continue to make, and the prices they pay. Any criticism of the film that implies otherwise is churlish at best and in the anachronistic Jim’s case, a rocket for his (growing) detractors to aim and fire in his general direction.
I would love the opportunity to sit and talk to Jim Cornette about professional wrestling. His passion and knowledge alone could power a spaceship, and I have no doubt we would enjoy an extremely spirited debate on many aspects of the business. It does concern me, however, that a man as intelligent as Jim Cornette repeatedly feels the need to rise to the bait of lesser men. He has stated on many occasions his trenchant honesty and love of the business precludes him from idly sitting back as the likes of Russo, Nash and Eric Bischoff turn TNA into a poor man’s WCW. This is a laudable and praiseworthy attitude, but Cornette needs to realise he is the minority. The current direction pursued by TNA is ultimately a road to Valhalla, but it is Cornette’s hated enemy, Paul Heyman, who is correct in stating evolution – not devolution – is the way forward. TNA must become something new, fresh and dynamic if it is to eventually prosper. The opposite of Smoky Mountain Wrestling, basically.
The letter Jim Cornette received from the attorneys of TNA Wrestling (in response to his email to Terry Taylor) was undoubtedly a melodramatic overreaction that speaks more to the petulant tendencies of those running TNA than it does the (apparent) homicidal inclinations of James E. Cornette. To be fair, Cornette physically threatened – and spat in the face of – Russo’s chief lackey Ed Ferrara not so long ago, and anyone who has witnessed the “Cornette/Dairy Queen” video (or the Anthony Carelli incident) is keenly aware of his phenomenal temper tantrums. In other words, it is not beyond the pale to opine that Cornette might be inclined to wallop Russo if given the chance. Let us be serious though: Jim Cornette wouldn’t seriously choose to kill Vince Russo. To wit, for what Russo did to WCW, I’ve personally been half-tempted to see him beaten senseless. That doesn’t mean I’d actually see it done, it’s an expression of frustration at just how much of a witless, talentless, brainless hack Vince Russo truly is.
Love him or hate him, if there were more men like Jim Cornette in the business fewer of the jokers, malingerers and spongers would have been granted lease, and wrestling would be a healthier – and more creatively sound – environment. Not everything he says is correct, as his recent public use of a highly offensive, sexual slur capably demonstrates. Jim Cornette needs to learn to curb his trademark “excessive honesty” to a certain extent, and occasionally give the Devil his due. The original ECW gave more to the wrestling business than a thousand men like Jim Cornette, and was much more than just a no-talent, hardcore parade. It may have in part, enfranchised the garbage wrestling movement, but without ECW the wrestling business would have remained anchored in the dark ages. All criticisms aside though, the business would be a darker place without the wit, wisdom and occasionally feral outbursts of Jim Cornette. Long may they – and he – continue to exude such undeniable passion.
Daniel R. Browne.