Monday, June 28, 1999
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Beware WWF fans and their blood lust
Oh dear. It appears I touched a nerve last week with my rather pointed and angry column blaming Vince McMahon's out-of-control ego for the death of Calgary wrestler Owen Hart. [McMahon, you are not in-Vince-ible
I thought the point was pretty straightforward. Owen died. The WWF had to pay. And Vince should be driven out of business.
When I fetched my e-mail early Monday morning, I had about 20 hate mails waiting for me. I stopped counting Tuesday afternoon at 75, and the mail was still trickling in at the end of the week.
I can only guess that it was "Write A Letter To A Newspaper Week" at the Sunnyday Hospital for the Terminally Insane and the administrator picked my column. That's how outrageous some of the responses were.
Don't believe me? Here is a very heavily edited and cleaned up (in order to make it readable) excerpt from one of my correspondents: "I do not blame wrestling or any of its components, including promoters. Hey, Owen died and it is tragic. Bret got screwed and it was business, that is the business of wrestling. Remember it is sports entertainment. If a stuntman dies on the set of a movie, if a circus performer falls off a tightrope, it happens and it is tragic but it is their own fault. Wrestling gives the fans what they want, entertainment."
Oh. So because it's entertainment it's OK if wrestlers die. How heartening.
Maybe we should turn Texas death matches into just that, huh? Kill one off on every pay-per-view. Hey, it's just business.
Then there was this one: "Owen Hart was trained for that, he is a wrestler and wrestlers do stunts. They learn how to take a fall."
Learn how to take a fall? From 25 metres? Yeah, it's just like a bodyslam. Only higher.
Then there were the folks who decided that it was the Hart family that was exploiting Owen's death for their own gain. Like this poor person: "Ha ha ha. I hope the WWF comes out clean. They should if there's any justice in the world. Why the hell does the Hart family need money? I don't feel sorry for them, if they were just an average family with average money I would but they're not. Oh, well."
Oje and Athena Hart will never have a father again. Oh well.
It was the level of complete and utter devotion to the WWF from most of the letter writers which really sent shivers up my spine. I mean, this is the kind of loyalty you only find among major cults and Microsoft users.
To say it frightens me is to say that a picture of Rita MacNeil in a string bikini frightens me. No, this is an emotion that goes well beyond fear. I'm left with the conclusion that WWF fans would defend the federation ... well, I don't even want to speculate on what some WWF fans would let their favourite wrestling league get away with.
After all, several dozen of them burned out their limited supply of brain cells last week defending the decision of WWF officials to put Owen Hart in a single-release harness that could be triggered with a little tug on a cord and dangle him 25 metres in the air where he plunged to his death during a live pay-per-view event!
They're so caught up in the drama, the storylines, the videos, the music, and yes, from time to time the WWF actually features wrestling, that they're either incapable or unwilling to step back and look at just what wrestling has become.
That's dangerous. Because if the death of a wrestler won't force these kinds of wrestling fans to re-evaluate their support of the WWF, then it's only a matter of time before another wrestler dies. And then Owen Hart's death will be even more empty and meaningless than it already is.
Now, never let it be said that I'm too stubborn to re-evaluate a conclusion I've reached. I said last Monday that Vince McMahon's ego killed Owen Hart? I was wrong.
Wrestling fans who believe that the WWF can do no wrong killed Owen Hart. And they'll kill again.
Michael Jenkinson can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
His homepage is at http://www.the-newsroom.com. His work, which originally appears in the Edmonton Sun, has graced our pages on numerous occasions, including: