This post isn’t here to defend or criticize Albert Christian Hardie, Jr., better known by his (past ‘ACH’ and/or) current moniker ‘Jordan Myles.’ Nor is to debate potential/actual offense (intended or otherwise) by the now infamous shirt depicted with this article. Rather, its purpose is to highlight a problematic reality of professional wrestling:
Professional wrestling openly endorses a ‘blame the victim’ mentality.
Be it concerns over racial depiction, female story lines, character development, promo requirements, booking decisions, etc., all of these issues end the very same way. Spoiler alert: it’s all badly:
- Those who go along for the ride allow themselves to be cast as arguably offensive comedic stereotypes, indefinitely. They might stay in good graces with management, but end up with everyone laughing at – versus with – them. And forget about self esteem; that’s been sold down the river. Merchandise sales and popularity plummet. They may never rebound.
- Those who voice displeasure behind the scenes find themselves off of main cards, undermined to second or third tier status for ‘not being team players.’ This also alienates them among company creative and fellow athletes towing the company line and paycheck. Expect 6-12 months of having to rebuild credibility. If at all.
- Those who openly complain but in controlled fashion are banished completely from public view for up to a year. They remain employed as a bribe, the organization fearful that switching companies can result in tell-alls and even more controversy. End result is typically a character re-creation to replace the incident with an alternative. End game is to cut said individual in 12-18 months, nonetheless.
- Those who vehemently express concern and widespread become persona non-grata. Hoping for closeted allies who agree with and stand beside them, they instead become victims of subtle character assassinations by individuals seeking to discredit the complainer. At best, they will be cut for unnamed reasons in 60-90 days, potentially re-emerging as a different character for a competitor. They will always, however, be seen as pariahs, nonetheless.
I’d attach names to these four outcomes, but there’s really no reason to. Any semi-knowledgeable wrestling fan and/or athlete can identify several for each. The bigger and most troubling issue is that when professional wrestling athletes are placed in uncompromising positions derived from identity, it’s one they cannot escape without consequence. Even when they didn’t request to be put in this position, period (as the case, in most instances).
Sadly, there’s no option 5 to educate, remedy, and/or gently test the market for mainstream acceptance of a concept. Again, this is not to insist Hardie was correct in his perspectives on the shirt in question, nor the means in which he handled them (by naming names as examples of c/overt racism). That’s for everyone to decide, individually.
This is, however, an important realization that the professional wrestling industry may have an institutionalized system of unintended discrimination, one it needs to address. This doesn’t mean walking on egg shells and not taking risks. Pro wrestling remains theater, intended to convey difficult topics and issues in a fun, safe and accessible fashion. Hopefully Hardie is part of the solution, and willing to serve as such.