SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, March 10, 2000

Trying to be a responsible viewer

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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This sure is a great week for my topic of choice. Actually, the sad fact is, in this "modern" era of wrestling, any week is a good week for this particular subject matter. You see, the beating of women has become such a ritual for so many 'superstars' that you can't turn on the freaking tube -- while wrestling's on -- without seeing it.

It disgusts me. Even worse, it disgusts me less and less. I'm becoming desensitized.

You know how it works. You've seen the news bites, especially as it relates to children and violence -- another topic entirely. People see enough of something, they get used to it. If you're a doctor, you have to learn how to handle injury and death; if you're a lawyer, it could be poverty and despair (or wild riches). You become more and more -- but never quite completely -- numb about it, and it means slightly less to you each time.

Doctors and other professionals, though, are learning to deal with something so they can do their work. In my case and yours, it's slightly less honourable.

In our case, you see, we're just becoming de-sensitized to something that, at least in my opinion, we should continue to look at in disgust and shock, not apathy.

Violence against women is a serious problem. Heck, violence is a serious problem. But violence against women, in particular, is something that's always been taboo in our society. Dating back to not so long ago when women were seen as the 'frailer' sex, and dating back to the days when a good fight between two evenly-matched men wasn't seen as a crime, there has never been anything honourable about attacking a woman. Nor should there be.

This continues to be an issue, as controlling and domineering men continue to inflict abuse, both verbal and physical on their wives and girlfriends, who sometimes feel powerless to do anything about it.

And unfortunately, that trend doesn't look to end anytime soon.

Kids are impacted by what they see on television, I don't care what anyone says. Seeing a murder without consequences won't make every kid go out and shoot someone, but it might make one kid do it, and that's one kid too many.

But the less severe the act, the more children will emulate it. Wrestling moves, for instance. I often wrestle with my girlfriend, but she knows how to take the choreographed falls of the simpler moves and we simply don't do anything tougher than that. But kids might. And do, according to the trial that's going on in Florida -- you know, the one The Rock's been subpoenaed for.

All this to say that kids are the sum total of their experiences, some portion of which is television. And while beating a woman may not be nice, it's certainly not murder, and by that I mean it's only easier to emulate. They say the victims of such aggressive behaviour tend to repeat it. What about those who watch it at no end?

Once in awhile, I can stand it. If the WWF feels that Buh Buh Ray Dudley must powerbomb Terri through a table, so be it. It generates great heel heat and so on, and it's all fake anyway.

I can stand violence against women in wrestling. Except when it crosses one of two lines: Realism or Repetition.

When the violence is so real that it seems like it may not have been staged, or that it's close to real-life situations, then I don't like it. Case in point here: Macho Man's little attack of Torrie Wilson and that other woman.

The other boundary I never like to see it cross is repetition. When it's being done every week, sometimes three or four times per show, then it starts to desensitize the mind. Just like ten cage matches in a month makes cage matches seem less special, ten beatings of women makes it seem less heinous. It gets the heel less over each time and oh yeah, it makes us forget how horrible it is.

If you're reading this, and you care at all about my opinion, then maybe you're not in the demographic I'm talking about. I think once people are past a certain age, and their brain and personality stop developing, then seeing stuff on television won't so much affect one anymore. But for children, even older children and young adults, watching this stuff so often and idolizing its participants, I think this is a truly bad influence.

I know the Dudleyz are supposed to be heels, as is Jeff Jarrett. But the lines between heel and face are becoming thinner and thinner these days, and at some point, one of them will turn face. Will they continue to beat up women the same way Steve Austin used to (when they got in his way)?

I think the worst culprit in all this may be Kane. He's not even a heel. But each week, in return for the meddling Tori- - clearly not a Chyna-like wrestler but a frail girlfriend-type, he lays her out with the devastating Tombstone Piledriver. That's the same thing he did to his brother Undertaker when he thought 'Taker had tried to kill him. It's not a tap on the back, and he's continuously doing it. To the point, even when Jim Ross is trying to get Tori over as 'Tombstone Tori'.

I admit, I get caught up in it as much as the next guy. I cheer for Kane to do it, too, because I don't like Tori -- not in character. But when I'm sitting at my computer, or even walking outside, and I take a moment to think about it, it disgusts me.

The idea that this could be condoned on a national television program is truly disturbing. Think about it. Men, sometimes 'good' men, are beating women regularly on these programs. Sure, Tori causes him to lose matches. But Lucy from I Love Lucy used to do these horribly stupid things, and her husband would always get angry and shout at her, but imagine what it would have looked like if he beat her every time she did something wrong. That would have been horrible.

When dramas on television depict murderers, or wife-beaters, or what have you, they depict them as valueless heels, as bad guys, as people who should be actively avoided in every sense of the word. Wrestling programs fail to do that consistently. I could perhaps buy the heel argument except for the presence of Kane, and even then, it still crosses the line with sheer repetition.

You and I, we may both be big wrestling fans, and we may both want desperately to be able to enjoy our programs and not seem like total rednecks for watching, but we have to realize -- or at least I seem to feel the need to -- that wrestling is changing, and some of these changes aren't necessarily morally proper, or even for the better.

I hate to be continuously negative about these things, but this has become something of a trend in wrestling of late -- push the envelope so far that we have to deal with the negative side. And I refuse to simply state 'I love wrestling, who cares what kind of example they set -- it doesn't affect me' because it does. It's important to be aware of what's going on, what we're watching, and to be responsible viewers.

It's not like I'm going to stop watching, but I figure I should at least complain.

Cheque please! Mailbag! writes:
"So it's all our faults for destroying Mick - BS. And I think you took that ECW promo too seriously because he was playing character when he said all that. He's been hardcore way before he had fans in the U.S. and Canada. He was hardcore in Japan and no one influenced him there. I think your just upset about his retirement and taking it out on all of us. Mick made his dumb choices cause he wanted to."

No one's forcing The Rock to make those choices, and that would make sense if it were because Mick isn't a great entertainer -- but he is, and the majority of SLAM!'s readers seem to agree. So if he is, my question is -- why did he have to go through hoops? It's not really a question, though, I feel I answered it last week.

A fair point of view, though.

Jayson, from writes:
"I liked Mick as Mankind as soon as he entered the WWF. I liked the gimmick of him driving his claw into someone's mouth and - I can never forget when he did it to Billy Gunn - the gunk coming out of their mouths because Mick touched on their gag reflex.

I really did NOT get off on seeing Mick fall from the cage. I'm not one would call a religious person really, but I have caught myself praying that Mick would not get hurt during these matches.

I LOVED his in ring promos. I always thought they were brilliant.

It wasn't me who drove Mick to hurt himself so much. I do think there's something in Mick that really liked doing it, otherwise why would he? I'll always think he was/is just a bit of a lunatic, but a brilliant lunatic. In the category of, say, an Andy Kaufman -- someone who loved wrestling enough to put himself (heart, soul and body) on the line -- form the joy of pushing the envelope."

A lot of people claimed that opinion, Jayson, and while I can't make judgements about any one of them in particular, if the proportion of people who claimed to me that they'd been Foley fans actually were Foley fans at the time, then he would have been way more over than he was. I know for a fact that not everyone has been the biggest Foley mark since the dawn of time, as easy and convenient as that claim may be.

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, writing, have a great week!

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