Professional wrestling is one of my shameless pleasures. It's wonderful theater, a sort of wacky fantasy world where you get to see jacked athletes socking one another and performing crazy stunts. The best part is that the audience is in on the joke - it's not like combat sports where the competitors are aiming to seriously injure one another, or team sports which rival fans use as an excuse to go to war with one another. Wrestling is pure - a collaborative spectacle designed to entertain and that's it.
However, wrestling also has a reputation for being problematic. Many performers take steroids to build their physiques, and some are known to abuse other drugs too. The schedules of the top guys are absolutely punishing: full-time travel - no weekends, holidays or vacation. Plus the stunts they perform can be deadly if something goes wrong. Professional wrestlers tend to die young. But it's not just the working conditions that are problematic. With a background in vaudeville and traveling carnivals, the whole industry is known to be unscrupulous. And which sleazebag clawed his way to the top of the muck? Vince McMahon of the WWE.
The WWE is the pinnacle of professional wrestling. Although there are local promotions all over the world, none of them have produced globally-recognized personalities like Hulk Hogan or The Rock or John Cena.
The WWE is also run by a family who are well-known Republicans. They have featured Donald Trump as a face (hero) in a previous storyline, and Linda McMahon (former CEO) is Trump's current head of the Small Business Administration. (Let's not talk about the irony of a billionaire corporate exec representing small business.)
But hey, that's the way it is, right? Pretty much every CEO in America is either a stone cold Republican or a raging libertarian, so what are you going to do?
A few months ago WWE did a gig in Saudi Arabia. Not just a regular house gig, mind you. It was a televised Royal Rumble, which is one of the big-name annual theme events. It seems Mohammad bin Salman is a fan, so he paid the WWE a princely sum to have their biggest superstars perform in his back yard. The Greatest Royal Rumble, as the event was embarrassingly named, was roundly criticized for not allowing any women to appear. Despite leaving all their women at home, the WWE was still admonished for showing a video package that showed some in passing, such is the level of misogyny in that nation.
Of course, the management tried to explain away the concessions as respecting the values of a foreign culture. Sure, fine, whatever. We all know Saudi Arabia is shit. You're just trying to get paid, right? Money, money, money. Whatever.
But now MBS has taken things a step further. I mean, aside from bombing civilians in Yemen, blockading Qatar, engineering a famine and cholera outbreak, continuing the tradition of segregation and capital punishment that his country is famous for... Yeah, aside from those minor issues, he has now also brazenly ordered the torture and dismemberment of a journalist in a foreign country.
It's not surprising that Trump is being an apologist. Trump is an insecure little man who idolizes the most violent dictators of the world, presumably because he sees them as the kind of "tough guy" he wishes he could be himself. But one would expect the McMahons to be a little more reluctant to follow their friend on this. Unlike Trump they actually run a successful company with a multi-billion dollar market cap that cannot afford bad press.
Or so you would think. It turns out there is a second Saudi performance - even more embarrassingly named Crown Jewel - scheduled for November 2. Is the WWE going to cancel it? Of course they aren't. We have to respect cultural differences, you see.
And so, how unfortunate that right now NXT (a sub-brand of WWE) has some of its most compelling storytelling in years, and they just opened an exciting new UK division to boot. Should i stop watching? Should i watch Japanese wrestling instead? American indie shows? Does it really matter, since i don't pay for it anyway?
I mean, this is a small pleasure, man. I don't have many pleasures. Work... ugh, i will write another entry about work later. Let's just say outside of work i don't have much. Wrestling is supposed to be harmless fun. I can overlook some of the problematic shit in the industry, but seeing the top guys kowtow to a dictator who cheerfully orders his staff to chop people up with a fucking bone saw? Really? Way to ruin my escapism, fuckheads.
So, even if i never watch it again, Nikki Cross and Shayna Baszler are two of the baddest ass chicks ever to get in the squared circle and i'm glad i've gotten to see them build their characters over the past couple years. Too bad i'll miss Io Shirai coming on to kick everyone's ass.
Oh, who am i kidding? This summer's "who shot JR" arc is coming to its epic conclusion next week. In the storyline, Aleister Black - Dutch kickboxer and master of the occult - was attacked by a mystery assailant. (In real life he just busted his testicle during a house show.) The only witness to the attack was Nikki Cross, the Scottish lunatic who was seen perched on the roof when it all went down... No doubt when the culprit is revealed, it's going to set up a battle for the ages.
Goddamnit, i am hooked.
No ethical consumption under capitalism bla fucking bla. Why are people awful?