The Sharp Shooter
Hi, My Name is?
Like a hibernating bear woken from its slumber by the warm, soothing sunlight or a rejuvenated, reenergized wrestler ready to lace his boots one more time, The Sharp Shooter returns after a six week sabbatical ready to spread wrestling wisdom like wildfire through the thick, enchanted forests of professional wrestling. This isn?t going to be an Ultimate Warrior or Jake the Snake type of return – you know the type; off again, on again, as fluttering and inconsistent as a dying light bulb. No sir, look for The Sharp Shooter instead to make an HBK-worthy return to action, coming back sharper, shoot-ier more poignant, wittier, more insightful and more ruthless than ever. Like Rowdy Roddy Piper I?ve come back to chew bubble gum and kick ass?and it looks like I?m all out of my Big League Chew.
The Blame Game Pt. 3
In case you aren?t familiar with parts 1 and 2 of The Blame Game, here are the links to each column if you?d like a refresher course.
If you?re unwilling to read each column due to laziness or lack of time, here’s a brief synopsis that?ll bring everyone up to date: On March 13th, 2009, Andrew ?Test? Martin passed away due to an accidental overdose of Oxycodone. Almost immediately, the bulk of the blame was placed on everyone’s number one suspect when it comes to wrestling deaths?WWE. Forget personal responsibilities and free will driven choices that drive every adult’s life down a path of destruction or success, the general wrestling media, as well as a lot of wrestling fans, felt that Test’s death was WWE’s fault. You?re kidding right? As I outlined in pt. 1 of my Blame Game column, calling Test’s death the fault of WWE would be tantamount to calling an alcoholic’s alcohol related death the fault of the bar and bartender(s) who willingly supplied him with the drug (yes, alcohol is a drug).
Furthermore, in light of society’s most recent tragedy, calling Test’s accidental overdose death the fault of WWE is equal to calling Michael Jackson’s untimely death the fault of the music industry.
However, that doesn?t stop former WWE creative team member Seth Mates from making outlandish claims against WWE such as ?WWE, once again, has blood on its hands.? Nor does it stop Mates from touting Andrew Martin as a martyr, a pure, holy do-gooder who was ripped away from this earth unlawfully because of a selfish act of God and the abusive hand of Andrew’s provider, WWE.
Sadly, this couldn?t be further from the truth. I assert that, not only was Test responsible for his own actions leading to his death, but that WWE is completely absolved of blame in his death. WWE released Test when he was on drugs, answered Test’s cry for help by placing him in rehab, and was in frequent contact with Test during his recovery, acting as a sponsor of sorts, until Test relapsed, overdosed and died.
As a major corporation, WWE has shown a level of personal compassion and investment in their employee’s well-beings that far surpasses anything I found working at the hookah bar, Chuck E Cheese’s, McDonalds, Kings, Old Navy or The University of Pittsburgh for that matter. Wrestlers who work for WWE should be grateful and thankful to whomever or whatever they believe in that they landed in the best, most protected, highest paying wrestling company in the United States if not the world. WWE is not to blame for Test’s death, if anything, WWE prolonged Test’s life. As someone whose best friend is an independent wrestler, I know that for a wrestler, there are a million things worse for you professionally, personally, mentally and physically than working for WWE. And, as if weren?t already aware, you don?t have to be on drugs in WWE to be a superstar, just ask C.M. Punk. It sounds corny but hard work, determination, charisma and a little luck trumps drugs any day.
That’s reality. Something Test himself waved bye-bye to when he wrote his ?I?m actually wondering who’s next to die…? blog that I started to dive into in my last column.
?I’m actually wondering who’s next? Who’s next to die? I can think of at least 15 to 20 people who have died from various things – mostly prescription pain killers. For all you wanna be wrestlers who wanna get in this business, especially now when WWE doesn’t pay you anymore than you would make at a 9 to 5 job??
Let me touch on a blatant error in judgment and reasoning found in this quote that I missed in my previous column. Aside from the prescription pain killer problem he was well aware of with his fellow wrestlers, in this quote, Test claims that ?WWE doesn?t pay you anymore than you would make at a 9 to 5 job…?
Anyone who knows anything about professional wrestling knows that Test’s 9 to 5 salary assumption is just plain ludicrous. A figure showing WWE salaries from Oct 2004 to Feb 2006 shows a minimum base salary of $41,000, held by Maria of all people. Rene Dupree made $289,000 while Val Venis made $210,000. 95% of the listed salaries are in the six figure range while 5 wrestlers on the list made well into 7 figures BASE PAY. This does not take into account merchandise sales, live gate percentage as well as other incentives. Therefore, it’s easy to see that even if you are a middle of the road performer in WWE, you were being well compensated, far beyond the usually royalties of a typical 9 to 5 job. In fact, I worked 9 to 5 last summer for the University of Pittsburgh and made $1,100/month. Sign me up for WWE, please.
It’s safe to assume that during both of Test’s tenures in WWE he was making well into six figures. So is he a hypocrite of just plain delusional?
Delusional?a fine word to describe Seth Mate’s blog where he defends Test’s death to the?death, while painting WWE as the Big Bad Wolf who deceives Little Red Riding Hood while trying to gobble her up; in Mate’s mind, Test is the innocent Little Red Riding Hood, simply making his merry way to grandma’s house before being ruthlessly picked off by the evil WWE.
What’s funny is, Mates? first impressions of Test weren?t so merry and praise-worthy. Mates himself says
?Upon approaching him, he seemed aloof and self-involved, and I got the distinct impression he only agreed to talk to me because I’d already talked to Shane for the article, and he thought it might be a good political move for him to talk too. As we talked, he made little eye contact, and gave short, pointed answers.
Maybe he had something on his mind, or maybe he was just really, really busy. But that was my first impression of Test.?
Aloof, self-involved, interested in what’s best politically, little eye contact? I get the impression that had Test not died and instead reached the fame equivalent to The Rock or John Cena, Seth Mates would have written a blog around the same time talking about how such a critically acclaimed mega star is actually a grade A. jerk. But, as John Lennon once sang, everybody loves you when you?re six foot in the ground. Therefore, despite Mates? true personal feelings towards Test, Mates puts on a veil of fallacy whenever he sees an opportunity to bash WWE, his FORMER employer.
We all have grievances with our past employers, hardly anyone looks back at a job they no longer have and thinks ?you know what, I loved everything about that job and the management team behind it? because, if they did, they?d still be working there. Is it possible that maybe, just maybe Mates is pretending to sympathize with Test’s death simply to fire back at the company that let him go? Sadly, only Mates knows the answer to that question, but it’s an interesting hypothesis to consider.
Moving on, a year or so after Mates? first impression of Test, he interviews Test for the upcoming Wrestlemania X7 which was in Test’s hometown on Test’s birthday (3/17). It was at this point that Mates said ?’suddenly, I was starting to like the guy.? So that’s where their relationship rested, somewhere between ?liked? and possibly ?admired?, not loved, adored or idolized. Probably the same kind of friendship one has in high school with people they see only in the halls and only say hi to in the halls; an acknowledgment of acquaintanceship, nothing less, nothing more.
Mates goes on to chronicle Test’s neck injury in 2004 by saying ?Test had serious neck surgery in 2004, and in yet another classy WWE move, they cut him loose shortly after surgery. It was around this time that I actually started gaining a lot of respect for him, as he was one of the few in this era to truly speak out about wrestling’s ills.?
Yet another classy WWE move, Mates? Your sarcastic tone alarms me because it has no foundation in reality, as poignant sarcasm should. What was their first ?classy? move? If this was ?another? there had to be one before that, so, please tell me, what other ?classy moves? are you referring to? Tribute to the Troops, perhaps, Make A Wish maybe? Or maybe you wrote ?in yet another classy move? simply because you knew the average, low-brow, dim-witted wrestling fan would nod blindly and agreeably with your flimsy statement. The ?let’s blame WWE for everything and absolve people of personal responsibility? bandwagon is large and well equipped to fit many passengers; requirements to ride along include blind acceptance of lose statements by supposed people in the know, unwillingness or inability to think for yourself, and a blatant incomprehension of facts.
Test was ?one of the few in this era to truly speak out about wrestling’s ills.? Eh? Which ills did he speak of? The ones that he acknowledged and willingly participated in after openly acknowledging their dangers (mark of a hypocrite) or the ones that fall in the same category as ills of walking into a bar, in that, yes professional wrestling has its ills and negative aspects, much like a bar does, but you walk into the bar, or apply for a job at the bar knowing the dangers of the occupation you?re entering. The hard, real truth that most wrestling fans and journalists hate to accept or are too immature to accept is that a professional wrestler, who is of sound mind and body, should evaluate the known risks and rewards that go into his chosen line of work. In a bar, you will encounter drunken idiots, some dangerous, some benign, long, shitty hours, hard, gritty, crappy work, an environment filled with smoke and booze, an environment that enables drug addicts and alcoholics. Much the same can be said for the world of professional wrestling. One who evaluates these risks properly will not hold their chosen profession responsible if they fall for the negative aspects of said profession. A reasonable, responsible adult will take responsibility for their own actions and realize that they have to live with the choices they made and WWE, nor Cheers is responsible for the negative happenings in their life.
People who shoot up schools like to blame Marilyn Manson or Eminem for enabling and inspiring violent activity and hatred, when in reality, the ineptitude of the individual in question, his/her inability to discern reality from fiction and perceived right from perceived wrong is what really drove them to make disastrous decisions. As is the case in Andrew Martin’s story. WWE is not to blame. Andrew is. While WWE may harbor an environment that enables drug use, WWE certainly did not force drugs down Andrew’s throat or force a needle into his vein. Not all pro wrestlers are drug addicts, not all drug addicts are pro wrestlers. All drug addicts are responsible for their own fate. WWE did not kill Andrew Martin. Andrew Martin killed himself. Wake up Seth Mates.