The ?Superstars? Debate Revisited
This week’s dosage of ?Reality? seems very apropos with it following last week’s stress-induced ?Harsh Reality?. Ironically, it almost goes against everything that I had complained about previously; the feeling of professional wrestling being my form of entertainment and how this entertainment should be produced and achieved. Oddly enough, this argument was made two years ago? by Joey Styles.
With the Spirit Squad running the May 1st, 2006 edition of ?Monday Night Raw?, Styles was given an ultimatum by the Frilly Five that if he did not announce Kenny Dykstra as the new WWE Champion to their liking that he would be forced to wear a female cheerleader’s outfit the following week. After returning from the meeting with the group, Jerry Lawler decided to provoke Styles, goading him to reenact the same announcing before the ?Raw? audience. Instead, Styles decided to push back? both verbally and physically.
The next action was not so verbal; a firm slap to Lawler’s face. Lawler retaliated by shoving Styles over his announcer’s chair and onto his backside. Styles quickly shot back to his feet and headed up the ramp behind the curtains while we went to a commercial break. What followed was something that I have saved onto DVD and occasionally love listening to time and time again. This transcript does not do the moment justice so I highly encourage you find this moment, which is probably illegally playing somewhere on YouTube without WWE’s knowledge. Find it before the evil empire does!
?You want to apologize, like nothing happened; like you didn?t knock me on my ass in front of millions of people worldwide? And I?m going to come down there and work with you? I?m not coming back. And now, thanks to the magic of live television, I?m going to show the whole world why for seven years in ECW I was the unscripted, uncensored, loose cannon of commentary!
?Six months ago, WWE called ME! I didn?t call this company because I was looking for a job, I didn?t need a job. WWE called ME, because they had humiliated and fired, again, Jim Ross. So I get JR’s spot. And from week one, week after week, I?ve got an ongoing lecture about the differences in professional wrestling and sports entertainment. I?m not allowed to say ?pro wrestling,? I?m not allowed to say ?wrestler.? I have to say ‘sports entertainment? and refer to the wrestlers as ‘superstars?.
?I?m told to deliberately ignore the moves and the holds during the matches so I can tell stories. Well, ignoring the moves and the holds is damned insulting to the athletes, the ?wrestlers? not the ?entertainers,? who leave their families 300 days a year to ply their craft in that ring!
?Here’s the best part. Because I?m not a ‘sports entertainment storyteller,? I get pulled from Wrestlemania. And the reason I?m given is, ?because I don?t sound like Jim Ross,? who is the guy they fired in the first place. That makes sense, right? So I swallow the bitter pill, I?m a company guy. I get bumped from Wrestlemania.
?Then I get bumped from Backlash?! I?m not good enough to call Backlash?! In ECW, I called live pay-per-views on my own, solo. No color commentators dragging me down. Wasn?t done before me, hasn?t been done since. But I?m not good enough to call Backlash, because I?m not a ‘sports entertainment storyteller.?
?Well you know what? I am sick of sports entertainment. I am sick of male cheerleaders. I am sick of boogers, and bathroom humor, and semen, and I am sick of our chairman who likes to talk about his own semen and mocks God. He mocks God! And makes out with the Divas all to feed his own insatiable ego. I am sick of sports entertainment. And most of all, I am sick of you fans who actually buy into that crap! This sports entertainment circus!
?I never needed this job, and I don?t want this job anymore! I quit!?
It is very difficult for me to contain every opinion flowing through my fingertips in this small of a column with regards to Joey Styles? worked shoot two years ago. Yes, I know it was worked and that it was not unscripted as we would love to believe; but think about this for a second. Why would WWE allow this kind of tirade? Would Vince be so bold as to mock himself vicariously through Styles? extensive vocabulary and glass-shattering vocal chords?
For now, I will only touch on the topic that Styles so eloquently made public to the gaped-mouth masses that night and the ugly truth that still lingers with many of us as professional wrestling enthusiasts. We are being entertained. These men and women put their bodies on the line and sacrifice themselves physically and emotionally to entertain us. Our respect for them is immeasurable, but to not reflect the same respect by deeming these magnificent performers as athletes or wrestlers is very insulting.
Whether matches are called properly using the specific names of maneuvers or holds is purely up to anyone’s discretion. I do prefer them personally, while at the same time I crave a Bobby Heenan-like color commentator; providing just the right dosage of humor to the overdramatic storylines and over-the-top characters. It is for these reasons that I absolutely love Matt Striker’s ascension up the ladder in color commentating. His vast vocabulary, his condescending nature, and just the right insertion of humor make him on of the best. Ironically, it is this same character and assassination of professional respect for the work done in the ring that draws the ire of many purists. It is truly a double-edged sword.
If you were a professional wrestler, would you be offended if you were called a ‘superstar?? Would you be more inclined to work for a professional wrestling federation or an association in sports entertainment? These questions fell along the same lines when I took my first job as a commissioned salesman. Would I be preferred to be called a salesman or a specialist in the field of products that I sell? Am I professional salesman or an appliance and electronics specialist? Honestly, I do not care, as long as I am paid according to my performance and that I maintain a great reputation with my clients. I imagine that this is the same with the athletes sacrificing themselves daily. The title is meaningless as long as the rewards are meaningful.
Looking back at Styles? shoot, one line stands out more than any other especially after the ?Silver Buzzkill?. After every Raw, Smackdown, ECW, TNA Impact program, and immediately following every pay-per-view event, we give our gut reactions. We voice our frustrations. We vent our disappointments and disgusts. We analyze what could have been done better.
The sad truth is? we?re still watching.
No matter how many times we are offended by atrocious and distasteful storylines, we still watch. Regardless of the poor work within the ring and exaggerated theatrics outside of the ring, we still watch. After the increasing number of early deaths of performers, self-induced or within their line of work, we still watch. Mock us, patronize us, insult us, even physically abuse us, we?ll still watch.
?I am sick of sports entertainment. And most of all, I am sick of you fans who actually buy into that crap! This sports entertainment circus!?
Sure, we all could have done without a lot of the circus for the past couple years. We don?t need to see men dressed as women in order to achieve glory. We don?t need money thrown at us in order to ensure attendance at professional wrestling events. We don?t need ?accidents? dealing near deathblows to the characters we love to watch. More important of all, we do not need to see every performer trying to marry or make out with the widow of a deceased performer.
Again, the sad truth is? we?re still watching.
While I attended college at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana in the year of 2000, an image appeared on the local news that I don?t believe we would ever see in regards to professional wrestling.
Indiana is known for two things: The Indianapolis 500 and basketball. When you then utter the two words ?Indiana? and ?basketball?, you cannot finish your utterance without saying Coach Bob Knight. It was during this time that Knight had been fired from Indiana University. During the broadcast of the reaction statewide of his release, this is what I saw:
A woman in her mid-40’s with husband and possible children in tow littering the steps of the Indiana University’s athletics department with all of their IU paraphernalia. They were not the only ones who had committed this act of disgust. A mountain of sweatshirts, t-shirts, pennants, hats, and other forms of clothing piled high in front of the doors to the building. This was a true act of boycott. This was a pure moment of defiance against an organization that had brought them so much joy.
Have you ever been so disgusted and so insulted that you just took all of your possessions regarding professional wrestling and sent it back to the guilty party? Oh no? Owen Hart’s death wasn?t enough? Eddie Guerrero’s early passing didn?t sink in? Or maybe you just needed a little more convincing and Chris Benoit was just too tame. Did I touch a nerve? I hope so because mine is as well.
I?m not telling anyone to stop watching professional wrestling nor am I asking for a boycott. I?m merely translating and putting into context the words we heard two years ago. Is this a circus that we will continue to tolerate well into the years where we have two generations ahead of us watching? Is this a production that, no matter how often we are humiliated or denigrated, we will continue to come back to?
I?m not sure, but the sad truth is? we?re still watching.
Until next time, mouth-breathers!