This site isn’t concerned in determining divides between right versus wrong, nor passing personal or professional judgment on pro wrestling’s highest profile athletes.
As stated time and time again: we are not a smark/fan site, rather a forum for appreciation of professional wrestling written for/by its athletes and talents.
Still, it’s important to recognize the turbulent year it’s been for professional wrestling outside of the ring, let alone its storylines within (emphasizing sexuality, gender, race, nationality, and body type). Then there’s the passing of Dusty Rhodes.
This recognition carries with it a responsibility for the independent wrestling community to accept its place within the greater professional wrestling and entertainment worlds.
Specifically, the lightning fast fallout of Hogan tells a tale of a personal life gone public…without seeming connection between the two. It’s one of the responsibilities of publicly traded company to protects its brands…at all – even $50mil, speculated – cost. For a business where athletes are its means to share prices, it cannot literally afford the luxury of seeing how public opinion and judicial systems ultimately decide Hogan’s fate.
Piper’s passing – far too soon – is a reminder that being consistently outspoken, however, has its merits but also isolationism. At one point does a veteran pro wrestler cut ties with a promotion and community via his/her words…to maintain independence? The legend of Piper is one of deliberate brazenness. He assumed all risk for his craft, and to considerable cost. Does Piper’s life foretell the futures of Seth Rollins and Jessica Havok (via unwanted social media disclosures)?
The physical fallout of Daniel Bryan’s consecutive injuries placed the much needed spotlight on the reality of injuries within professional wrestling. Concussions are no longer in the closet, likewise spinal damage. Tyson Kidd would be living a kayfabe recovery if not for both athlete and fan realization that such injuries are commonplace…and can and should be avoided. Indy athletes the world over are openly discussing such injuries via twitter feeds. Ambulance chasers are revving up their engines.
Demott’s firing highlights the glaring reality of what a commitment to art form truly means…and how far people go to achieve it. When WWE went all in on NXT, financially, via its Network, it did so with a zero tolerance for aberrations. Like Hogan, Demott was tried in social media. The Internet is a cruel mistress. What does Demott mean for smaller promotions – akin to fight gyms – where ‘tough love’ is the only way to produce top athletes while on shoestring budgets?
Finally Punk’s Cabana tell-all lifted the veil between independent and professional wrestling promotions, and with it a pathway for Alberto Del Rio, Samoa Joe and others (wanted or not) to come roaring through. Still, only the most dedicated fans understand the symbiotic relationship between smaller promotions funded via PPVs and house shows…to the spectacle of a sold out Barclays Center headlined by Roman Reigns.
Combined, the above is a warning and hopeful educational point for the independent wrestling community. Hurancanra and I are often asked what the above means – noting it perhaps unusual for two PhDs and semi-pro athletes – to have a high appreciation level for this genre. Our responses mirror the opening of this piece: professional wrestling survival is contingent on 90% speculation, 10% fact. That ratio is likely conservative on speculation.
Pandora’s Box is wide open. As social scientists by day, Hurancanra and I are fascinated by the interchange we have with the athletes who read and respond (in private, by Twitter, and/or at shows) to the content within the site.
Some seem like they want to be friends with a couple people who genuinely want them to succeed. Others knee jerk to avoid any communication is happening. A third sees this relationship solely as a marketing one. None are incorrect. We likewise have no idea how to respond to any of these options based on the year’s events noted above.
Most importantly, the independent wrestling community needs to revisit what its relationship is with a global pro wrestling and social media one. What it expects of fan and personal life interchanges, and consequences for too little/much handshake. How promotions can serve as a launch pad but also roadblock.
The events of the past year censored those most impacted by it, while simultaneously expecting them to speak openly sans fear of consequence. This is unrealistic and potentially dangerous to independent wrestling’s future.
Great points pro-wrestling is a business, often employing independent contractors who market themselves in order to make a living. Social media is one of their greatest tools. Yet where does personal and professional separate when one is marketing oneself but is actually marketing a character? The interplay is confusing for the athletes, promotions and fans. Who are we “talking” to? Can you be yourself? Are you doing more harm then good? Where is the authenticity in communication anymore?