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

Friday, October 15, 1999

GLAAD this rough week is over

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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As Canadians, you and I - or possibly just I depending on where you're from - enjoy a reputation as tolerant, conservative, educated, laid-back individuals who form part of a slightly socialist but mostly free market country which is consistently rated the or one of the best places in the world to live. I will use this reputation, today, to lend credibility to something going on in the world of professional wrestling that I find absolutely deplorable.

Literally, it sickens me. Okay, figuratively.

It's ironic, I guess, that in what was supposed to be a week of classic wrestling, what with the Heroes of Wrestling pay-per-view and the Owen Hart Tribute some six days before, that I've never really been more disgusted to be a wrestling fan. There are just so many reasons to be.

To start, Jake the Snake's showing at the Heroes pay-per-view was, to me, unbelievable. I feel so bad for that guy, but he belongs nowhere near a ring anymore. That, in the same week that Darren Drozdov was very unfortunately paralyzed, and no one seemed to care about the Owen tribute match on Nitro last week. Compared to the former two, that last bit really seems insignificant, but it says a lot.

The cake, though, is gladly taken by The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, known also as GLAAD. You see, GLAAD has decided that the characters of Lenny and Lodi were designed to provoke hostile reactions, and consequently would result in hostile reactions toward gay people in general.

I don't even know where to start here.

I've always been the kind of person who really has no tolerance for racism, sexism, or sexual-preferencism, whatever that's called. If I see it, and I can do something about it, I will. If I can't, I'll just be angry about it. Fortunately for me, I don't see a lot of it, because in Canada we seem to have stopped doing that sort of thing, and because in Quebec there's a whole other kind of discrimination which I don't even want to get into.

However, the line drawn at fairness is as far as I'm willing to go. It also, thus, peeves me off when so-called good-will organizations such as GLAAD decides to cross that line and ruin things for everybody.

I believe in fairness to all, but I don't believe in over-extended quotas or initiatives that simply bias in favour of a given demographic instead of against it. Anti-discrimination groups should gear at eliminating racism, not simply turning it the other way and behaving like xenophobes.

Connection to wrestling: Lodi and Lenny were and are very entertaining. They're a pair of talented wrestlers who'd never achieved much success, but finally found their calling in an angle with homosexual innuendo. And because they happened to be heels, GLAAD comes calling.

This column wouldn't be very fair if I didn't go over GLAAD's specific complaints. So here they are, courtesy of Rick Scaia:

(1) Lenny and Lodi's "gay ring antics" caused them to be the brunt of 'homophobic' taunts.

And as if that weren't enough to have them barred from television,

(2) Their opponents would get cheered for "literally, gay bashing."

Though I have to appreciate the interesting use of the figure of speech "literally, gay bashing," that's the only redeeming quality of the complaint, which is otherwise utter garbage.

Lenny and Lodi were heels in the way that Chris Jericho was a heel. They were annoying to the crowd, and that caused the crowd to boo them. But, like Jericho, they were seen as talented and funny, so those boos were intermixed with more than a few cheers. Combine Chris Jericho with the homosexually innuendous Goldust character, and you have the mold from which Lenny and Lodi were made.

Specifically addressing the complaints, it wasn't their supposed "gay ring antics" that got them booed, it was their cheating, their taunting of opponents and fans, and their, frankly, strong talents as wrestling heels. They would have gotten booed as heterosexual wrestlers, too, it would have simply been more ordinary that way. Also, their opponents were cheered for beating the heels, not for "literally, gay bashing."

I mean, did the guy who wrote that letter even watch them, or just read reports on the internet and use his imagination? If he did, then his imagination, while creative, in no way resembles the reality it describes.

None of this is at all meant as an attack on homosexual people, it's an attack on extremist groups or groups who take extremist actions, as GLAAD has done here. I'm sure the Alliance has done a lot of good in the past, but cases like this cross the line, and aren't good for anyone - least of all two charismatic athletes who no longer have a gimmick.

In closing, I'd just like to say that I think that Triple H's character as a sadistic, hate-mongering heterosexual male, is discriminatory against both heterosexuals, males, and former members of Degeneration X, and that his character should be terminated immediately. I mean, come on. He gets booed for his "straight ring antics," and then his opponents get cheered for "literally, hetero-bashing."

Who's with me?

"This might be a rather dumb question, but who is Vince Russo?"

Actually, it's very refreshing to see that some people are just fans of the show and don't need to know every little detail, even when they're trivial. Vince Russo was the WWF's head writer and now appears to be the head writer over at WCW, though that claim is still somewhat in dispute. He was responsible, at least at WWFE (WWF Entertainment, formerly Titan Inc), for story-line creation and script-writing, and invented many of the popular gimmicks we all know and love today.

K & P Tilcock,, writes:
"G'day, Your article on Vince Russo was very interesting. It got me thinking which I think is the highest compliment I can give. Karl aka Dingo"

High praise, indeed! Admittedly, I'm posting this letter because I love international reader feed-back, and I mean come on, he said G'day and his nickname's Dingo! Too cool!

Jeff Witwicki,, writes:
"As a person who has been laid off and a person who has left jobs for 'greener pastures' I insist that it is everybody's right to be masters of their own destiny and do what is best for themselves. Russo didn't have to be 'pissed off' at McMahon or the WWF as you said. Maybe it was simply a case wanting a change, or a bit more money. If you lost respect for Russo as a person, I assume you have also lost respect for any friends or family who have left a job for more money or benefits somewhere else. As well, I expect that you yourself will be a 'lifer' in any job you hold."

You make a fair point Jeff, but visualize this scenario for me, if you will. You work for Company A, let's say IBM. They're almost entirely responsible for the opportunities you've had in your professional career, but now that you're hot, Microsoft wants you, and they've got more money to throw at you. Is it immoral to leave for Microsoft? No, of course not, I agree with you on that point. And with Vince Russo, there were even extraneous factors -- notably family and life issues -- that helped send him packing. But if you are that IBM guy, do you call your boss (the man who's been nice enough to give you the chance of a lifetime, by the way, and without whom, you wouldn't be in this position) on Sunday evening and tell him you won't be in on Monday or ever again, or do you give fair notice and at least the chance to match the offer and rectify the life issues?

Vince Russo isn't a bad guy for wanting something better, but I think he owed it to Vince McMahon to give him the chance to do it himself, once he'd decided to leave. He could have told McMahon, before he signed, "look, I'm about to sign, last chance to make things right," and at least then, you'd have given him a chance. Russo didn't. That's my beef.

Everyone seems pretty much in agreement with me about writer gimmicks, so I'm sticking to my gut on this one and ditching the catch-phrase. I will, however, from time to time, throw in some last words. For example:

Thanks for reading, everyone, and thanks for writing. Hey, is it just me, or do I look a lot like Tommy Dreamer? Have a great week!

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