EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, July 9, 1998
Savage angle crossed the line
I wanted to write about pro wrestling on the internet, I wanted to write about the reader response to the state of pro wrestling today, I wanted to write about the new WWF tag team champs, and I wanted to write about Chris Jericho's coming to the WWF. Believe it or not, I actually had something to say about the latter other than 'woohoo'. Regardless, those topics will have to wait, unfortunately, due to what happened during this week's edition of Monday Nitro. I feel obligated to address that.
If you saw the show, you know what I'm talking about. If you read about the show, you know what I'm talking about. Hell, if you even heard about the show, you know exactly what I mean.
This week, I have no other choice but to address the issue of, no, not the return of Goldberg, not Bret Hart's quasi-shoot, and not the immeasurable effects of DJ Ran on the ratings. I am referring to, of course, Randy "Macho Man" Savage's on-air beating of two women.
Before I even say anything and incriminate myself to exactly half my readers - the exact minimum amount who disapprove of any controversial statement I make, and I mean that in the nicest way possible - let me say this. I didn't intend to put pen to paper for this column because I have some stand I want to make on this issue. Quite the opposite, I still haven't decided where I stand on this and writing a column about it is my way of dealing with it philosophically. I feel that it's an important enough topic to warrant some consideration.
No more drivel.
Let's just use deduction and examine the points for and points against this being an out of the ordinary, reprehensible angle and then make a decision, instead of inducing one result or another.
I guess the place to start would be the points for, since the aggressors started this argument.
One of the big arguments I've heard so far is that Gorgeous George and Torrie are not wrestlers, but valets. They're employed, in theory, to escort the wrestlers to the ring. Because of this, people are treating it as something very different from Marc Mero striking Jacqueline or Goldust striking Luna and so on and so forth.
This seems to be the big reason that what went on on Monday night was so wrong and despicable.
The second main argument has to be that the scene just didn't have the feel of wrestling, or even of competition. It wasn't Road Dogg out-smarting Chyna by wearing a jock strap and then finishing her with a pump-handle slam, this was a very large man beating two women as a punishment for running with the wrong guy.
I have to admit, those two arguments alone make for a disturbing thought.
It seems all but decided amongst reporters and columnists that either Savage or whomever booked Savage is evil, but there are those who defend them.
There are only two arguments for the opposing side of this issue, as well, though one of them holds about as much water as a really, really small mug. Like a mug that wouldn't hold much water, if you get my drift.
The first of those is that this is wrestling, everything is fake, and this should be taken in context. If the Macho Man is a heel, and his character would beat women, then it's alright for him to do so on the air. It didn't really happen (I hope), and nobody got hurt in the end. That argument's pretty easy to grasp.
What isn't so hard to grasp though, is that some people believe that this whole event was okay, and I quote, "because the WWF has done far worse." I don't even really want to address that, since clearly the words are marked and stained with anti-WWF sentiment, and completely devoid of all logic. If I go out and kill some guy, is it okay for you to follow that by maiming some guy, just because I did worse? No, it isn't. Both acts are still wrong and illegal. The same goes here, so this argument is void.
If counting the arguments up were the way to determine who's right and who's wrong, then I guess Savage is guilty here, but it's more complicated than that. One must weigh the arguments in question before counting them. So what's more important here, that it's fake so it doesn't matter or that even in its fakeness (surely, there's a better word than that, I can't think of one!) it sends a bad message and a very, very disturbing image.
As I ponder this topic, I shall swivel back and forth in my chair for a moment. Bear with me.
Okay, I've got my answer. Well, it isn't much of a decisive answer, but that'll hopefully save me from some of the friendly but judgmental ire of my readers.
I think this comes down to a simple question: Does anything go in wrestling or do we draw a line somewhere and say, even if it's fake, that's not okay?
After some thought, I have to say that I believe there should be a limit in wrestling. Some things should be taboo, and some things just shouldn't be done. The problem lies in the fact that I personally don't feel I have the right to decide where exactly that line should go. As a result, I would have a hard time placing this particular incident along that line.
My gut feeling is that what happened at the end of Monday Nitro is wrong, in spirit, because it simulated a very real problem, and that's the abuse suffered by women and children and I guess men all over the country and the world. That's kind of a heavy load to bear for a wrestling show, but I do think they crossed the line when they came up with and executed this angle, and that something like this has no place in a simulated universe such as pro wrestling. This leads me to question some of my previous ethical decisions about wrestling, such as the angle involving Jake Roberts' alcoholism problem.
In retrospect, I feel the same thing about that angle. It was wrong, but it wasn't really a big deal to me at the time, possibly because I do know one alcoholic very well, and he always told me that alcoholism, which is viewed by alcoholics more as a disease than anything else, is self-imposed and that one must take responsibility for oneself to accept that.
Consequently, if Scott Hall or Jake Roberts wants to take issues like that on the air, that's their own prerogative, whether made up or otherwise, and anyone who would be offended by it because of their own alcoholism must come to accept their own responsibility as well. But regardless, I felt that both of those alcoholism angles were wrong, simply because other people are always hurt by an alcoholic's problems, and I think that those people would be offended by the angles.
To sum it up, the ethical and metaphorical 'line' I've drawn up seems to cover any truly tragic event which happens to a person despite or against their will. Anything self-imposed is open game.
Whoa. Deep. This is still a wrestling column, right?
I'd really like to hear what you all think about this. My readers always serve as the checks and balance in my social conscience, which admittedly sometimes gets a bit off-track.
On that note, here's the mailbag.
Shane Bennett from BennettS@mar.dfo-mpo.gc.ca, writes:
"Hi! I have nothing bad or good to say about any wrestling organization. I just want to know if you can shed any light on wether the WWF will be stopping in Halifax, N.S. anytime in the near future. I enjoyed the past live events and certainly wouldn't mind seeing another. Thanks!"
I'm afraid I think the answer is probably no, if we're talking about the "near future". The WWF has sunken into its normal patterns now, and they should continue at least well into next year, probably later. It's costly and unnecessary for them to go beyond the major hubs of commerce - them being the Northeast, the mid-South, Florida, California, the mid-west, and western Canada. There's just no real reason for them to venture out any further. For now. We'll see.
Jarred Dumaine, from email@example.com, writes:
"Thank you for answering my questions last week, now I have a couple more. Have you noticed that Vince is not too willing to hand over his world title to ex-champions? At first I thought it was strange that Vader never won the WWF belt, but I started to see a trend, which seems totally opposite to WCW title holders.
- From AWA we had Rick Martel, Jerry Lawler, and Curt Henning. All had shots, but no one took the belt. However Hulk Hogan never won the AWA title and was practically handed the belt by Vince.
- From NWA/WCW we had Barry Windham, Ric Flair, Ron Simmons, Vader, Rick Rude, and Lex Luger. All had shots, but only Flair succeeded.
- Presently, WCW has only one ex-champion that has yet to win their belt and that is Bret Hart!
Yet! Vince has done wonders with the ex-midcarders from WCW. Are the ex-champions expecting too much from the WWF or is there that much un-explored potential in the mid-carders (Example: Steve Austin)? Or does hiss hatred for WCW run that deep to ruin ex-champions?"
Jarrod, you raise an interesting point, but let me reiterate it. You think that ex-champions of other organizations are denied championship status in the WWF, that WCW freely and frequently gives their championship to ex-WWF champs, and that ex-WCW mid-carders are given a bigger shot in the WWF? I don't know for sure, but it sounds like a coincidence to me. I mean, look at who you're talking about. Of Barry Windham, Ric Flair, Ron Simmons, Vader, Rick Rude, and Lex Luger, who was the biggest talent ten years ago? I'll give you a hint: it wasn't Windham or Simmons or Vader or Luger. Arguably, Rude deserved better of his WWF run, but I never thought of him as more than a mid-carder there, and maybe that's why he never got his big run. As for ex-WWF champs, well, you may actually be on to something there, as Bischoff tends to cater to his latest ex-WWF employees, with the exception of Bret Hart. Hulk Hogan, Savage, Lex Luger, and Kevin Nash are all prized possessions of his, and undoubtedly does he treat them better because of how revered they were in the WWF, and, possibly, how much he reveres the World Wrestling Federation. As for ex-WCW mid-carders, you may also be onto something there. It's very possible that Vince McMahon, who clearly has a grudge with these people, might make stars out of the people with whom they failed to do likewise, simply out of spite. Okay, so you're right on two out of three counts. Good calls.
Well, that's all we have for you this week. Thanks as always for reading, thanks especially for writing, I hope you have a fantastic week, and I'll see you in seven.
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