EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, December 4, 1998
Defending the "sport" to the very end
I re-iterate: who cares? I sure don't. Neither should you. Here's why.
Firstly, said NBC special earned a 7.4 rating. I don't know if you keep score of wrestling ratings, but a 7.4 broadcast rating would beat any Nitro or RAW that has ever been aired. Who do you think was watching that program? People who didn't know wrestling was fake? People who don't give two figs about wrestling? Buzz. You were watching that special. Wrestling afficianados, eager to see exactly how NBC would try to degrade that which they love, were watching in droves.
Why, I ask you? Why did everyone give that show all the negative hype in the world (there's no such thing as bad publicity), then proceed to watch the show, then complain about it later. NBC couldn't be happier. This low-budget, space-filling special went above and beyond the call of duty, earning a rating which was probably about average for the time-slot. How ironic that the people who were watching were just those who publicly decreed how bad it would be, how bad it is, how bad it was.
It's almost as if it's a part of our penance as wrestling fans to defend the "sport" to the very end, enduring all the anguish anyone can throw at us in the name of staying true to the squared-circle.
We do it all the time. Phil Mushnick, of the New York Post, frequently writes articles degrading the wrestling industry. Every time he does, we respond en masse. Consequently, the paper gets more heat for what he writes, and because of that, he's seen as an asset to the paper, and thanks to that, he stays on, chewing out wrestling some more. Ditto for his TV Guide commentaries.
Every time wrestling is even mentioned - however briefly - in the news, we're like rabid dogs after our meat. We run at it with a fury unmatched by television-watchers anywhere, devour it far too intensely, then lie down later, complaining about the stomach-ache. No more red meat, we say. Red meat is bad. But as soon as we see another morcel, history repeats itself.
If you're not a part of the solution, you're a part of the problem, they say. Of course, I agree entirely. Here's what I have in mind. What did your mother always tell you about bullies? When they pick on you, get really annoyed and react as agitatedly as possible, right? Oh, no, wait, that's what you do when you want to get beaten up again. When you want the bully to stop, you play dead. Or at least play bored. The bully will also get bored, and leave. For those reading this who are metaphor-impaired, that scrawny, little kid is the wrestling community, the bully is mainstream media, and I am your mother.
Pay no attention to such instances of wrestling in the media. If it's good, encourage that. Watch the specials which seem to be enlightening or at least entertaining. Avoid those which do not. This will encourage the media to do at least accurate portrayals of wrestling, not sensational stuff, because we'll be giving the accurate portrayals the ratings. That's the way the media works. If a given kind of news is boring, we just won't see much of it. If it's the President of the United States and an intern, we'll never stop seeing it. Because we watch. If we stop watching, they stop showing. I cannot simplify that statement any further. I'm, well, I'm Eric, and that's the way I see it.
I'd call myself Judge Eric, but I did say that the unmasked Blue Blazer would be Davey Boy Smith, and it turned out to be Blackman. I call that a technicality, but enough of you pointed it out that I gracefully accept the consequences of my bet. If any of you can think of a new nickname for me, send it in. Speaking of email, my box was absolutely flooded this week with mail in reference to my column about Bret Hart. First, some of my own thoughts.
I am all but certain that nowhere in my column did I say that the chain of events occurred as I suggested they may have. It was intended as a theory for conspiracy theorists alone and not as an actual belief. You see, wrestling is becoming complicated. Even in the "show," some of it is supposed to be staged and some of it isn't. I figure that 0.01% of fans think it's all real, but I also think that maybe 1% or 2% think that most of it is staged, but that some things, like the Rock selling out or Austin's feud with the owner of the federation, are real, or put more simply, that some things are faker than others. In truth, as we know, it's all fake. But as what point do we allow ourselves to believe that something may be true? I guess the screwing of Bret Hart is one such point. To keep myself sane, though, I must allow for the possibility that it was a work, even though the evidence stacks up against it, just so that I wouldn't feel quite as stupid if it turned out to be fake. There has to be that element of doubt in my head, or I'd become very paranoid about getting too involved in the "sport," and maybe believing that more than just a little was real. With that in mind, here's a infinitely small fraction of the very well-written mail I received this week.
Unidentified, from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
*Your points and reasoning made complete sense to me. I personally believe the Bret Hart-Vince McMahon incident was a work because it got both of the men out of a jam, for Vince he saved money and Bret got much more money then he was making in the WWF. I totally respect Bret Hart as a wrestler and a person but the events after the incident seem to point to the fact it was a work.*
*Three words-YOU'RE AN IDIOT*
Tony Tomas, from email@example.com, writes:
*Although your column presents an interesting case in the world of tabloid journalism, it has little merit in the real world.*
[Identity withheld], from [address withheld], writes:
*Here's one point you did miss which would support YOUR position. Did you notice that when Julie Hart was screaming at Hunter while Bret was getting dressed she called him Hunter? The emotions of the moment being what they supposed to be, don't you think she would have called him Jean? I certainly don't think maintaining "K-fave" (sp?) would have been high on my list of priorities had I been in her position.*
John, firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
*I dont think it was a work at all. Bret's wife would have to be a great actress to show the emotions that she did. I think it proved it was a screw job, and most people agree*
SWIFT, from email@example.com, writes:
*I have always thought that the Bret/McMahon incident was a work, but there is evidence that you forgot to mention. First of all, I was there in the Molson Centre in Montreal that night. After the PPV went off the air (I watched the replay) the British Bulldog, Jim Neidhart and Owen all joined Bret in the ring and gave him a fare-well send off very similar to that of which HHH and Shawn Michaels gave to Diesel and Razor a few years ago at MSG. After all hugging, Bret climbed the ropes and with his hands spelled out W-C-W and then N-W-O in the air. But why have the big elaborate good bye if the Bulldog and The Anvil were leaving too?*
Well, multiply that by about a hundred and ten, and that was my bed-time reading this week. Thanks for all the attacks and defenses of my column - I appreciate it either way. I must add that I was at the Survivor Series in person, myself, and that Owen did not appear at the end with the half-brothers Hart. I think the reason this was so is that Smith and Neidhart knew they would probably be going, as well, or at least had some inkling of it, so they defied McMahon with Bret, but Owen knew where his future was and stayed put.
Either way, it was just a theory.
Thanks for reading, see you in seven.
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.