Worst: Write about the wrestling show, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.
So…I guess this starts off clear enough. Chris Sabin is a manipulative, possessive, abusive boyfriend, and Austin Aries calls him on it. Because he’s a good guy, right? He’s got A Woman’s Worth on his iPod. He’s seen at least three Meryl Streep movies. He knows how to intervene on behalf of a friend, right?
Sometimes when I try to explain the premise of specific happenings in wrestling, I sound legitimately demented. “You see, there’s this great and devious evil insect overlord, his pumpkin-based friends, and a dead guy…”, “Well, no, see, he used to be a wrestler, but now his body is just a husk inhabited by demon, and then he’s got these two guys who have great big bushy beards who never shower…”, “No, see, you’re thinking of the toilet demon who travels via sewer, loves Spider-Man, and his favourite part of the turkey is the butt.” See? I sound like a crazy person. Any, if not all of these things, don’t sound half as insane as what I’m about to describe:
Velvet Sky doesn’t really wrestle, but her boyfriend does, so she keeps him company, and is often at ringside to cheer him on. He’s been treating her worse and worse to the point that he’s manipulated her into cheating, demeaned and berated her in public, and is on the cusp of being violently possessive. Then there’s this other fellow, the victim of their cheating, who lost his title belt and now wants it back. He thinks the best way to empower this woman is to tell her she’s hot, insist that though he’s vegan he would consume a pie made of pigeons that have been slow-roasting in her vagina, and then put her in a cage so she doesn’t interfere with their next match. The girl, obviously fed up with the way she’s been treated, tells them both to go screw, flips them the Stone Cold double fingers, and signs up for a pottery class the night of their match because she’s a strong powerful woman who can do what she wants.
One of those things isn’t true. You’d think it was the cage part, right? You are the most wrong. Next week, because Austin Aries thinks that Chris Sabin can’t beat him without the help of Velvet Sky, he would like to make sure that she is not at ringside. His solution? Put her in a cage at ringside.
An honest-to-goodness cage.
She couldn’t possibly be okay with that, right? She’s making the exact face that you’re making just reading those words, and THEN gives them the inappropriate hand gesture and tells them to go suck eggs?
No. She’s into it. She’s mad at how she’s been treated, she’s gonna go in the cage, and if he loses, she’s gonna break up with him.
What kind of f-cked up mad lib did TNA Creative fill out to make this happen? I can’t be the only one completely baffled by this.
Worst: No really, this show is a trial
As of this point in the report I’ve got a few hours to figure out how I can accurately convey why putting a woman in a cage, the hashtag #pigeonpie, and helping a woman reclaim her worth by telling her she has a hot ass, are all terrible horrible things because no one in the production meetings has the common sense to realize that may somehow not go over well with anyone who has a shred of human decency about them. Then we have the fellow who aggressively and violently treats a woman as property and wants to set a pair of newborn twins on fire. We’ve got the honoured guests of the TNA Impact retirement home, one who looks like a throbbing cartoon penis, and the other who turns your childhood fandom into your adulthood sadness and who gets weirdly homophobic for a bit. We’ve got the ROH tag team equivalent of Unflavoured and Wintergreen nonfat ice milk acting as harbingers of Dixie’s doom . And then there’s Magnus.
I constantly say that if you love independent wrestling, it will love you back. And to an extent that is true. Some promotions might be streets ahead, but not all. Televised wrestling may have led me to that well, but independent wrestling made me thirsty for more. Televised wrestling, however, rarely loves me back.
Wrestling has given me friendships I never dreamed possible, and experiences that I’ll treasure forever; experiences that changed my life in innumerable ways. It’s given me an incredible support system of female fans who feel just as frustrated and marginalized as I do. It is a bond that connects every one of us reading. I write a wrestling column. I have my own website and a number of podcasts dedicated to it. I have a wrestling t-shirt collection that I am terrified to add up the cost of because it would be staggering, not mention the amount of money I’ve spent traveling all over two countries for shows. I am surrounded by paintings of wrestlers that I’m working on, posters and signed pictures and towels (it’s a thing!). It my life. It is my passion. And yet, I do not matter. The representation of people just like me on television does not matter. We are distilled down to our gender, categorized, fetishized, or dismissed.
I am fully admitting that I am having a tough time with this show because it feels like I am constantly butting up against the same problems; running headfirst into that same brick wall that says if women are strong, they must be dudes. No one knows how to be a real man. You can goad anyone into doing anything by questioning their upholding of these outdated ideas of masculinity, and if you’re not, you must be gay, feminine, weak. And if you dare say anything, you’re too sensitive. Shut up, sit down, stay quiet. Don’t like how you, or the representation of your gender or race or sexual makeup on television, are treated? You’re a bitch. You’re a c-nt. You’re a f-g. You’re a white-knighting asshole who just does things for website views or to get laid. Get the sand out of your genitalia or we’ll threaten you with physical harm, to rape you, or to kill you. These are very real problems that the thing I love the most is lousy with. The thing I love the most is the thing that more often than not makes me feel the worst, and feel the most excluded because of who I am. How can I defend any of this? How can I say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that everyone should watch this show, and everyone should love wrestling? Why should I commend someone for celebrating the life of the late, great Mae Young on one hand, while undoing the work her and her contemporaries did to blaze a trail for those who came after them with the other?
I don’t want to keep writing the same things every single week, but the outright refusal to understand that the paltry statistic of women who watch wrestling isn’t because we’re too sensitive, it’s because we are systematically being driven away by fans, by wrestlers, and by the companies who so badly want our money has to stop. So I’m going to keep saying it until some of it, any of it starts to sink in. I want everyone to love this dumb thing I love so much, just not at the expense of the attitudes segments like these cultivate. Sooner or later, it’s gonna stop being worth it.
Worst: Speaking of…
“Man dressed a day labourer-meets-fancy-limo driver beats other man with own shoe for saying the name of a lady he’s obsessed with, stops midway to smell the shoe, enjoys it, continues brutal assault.”
There’s “you can’t make this up!” and “oh my god…somebody made this up.”
Samuel Shaw has become the latter.