If you’re a wrestling fan with access to the internet, you’re probably already well-acquainted with the Bill DeMott controversy, but here’s a quick recap all the same: Last week, former performance center trainee Austin Matelson penned an open letter accusing WWE’s head trainer of racism, homophobia and physical and mental abuse. WWE responded fairly quickly, saying they’d investigated DeMott’s behavior in the past, to which they found no evidence of any wrongdoing. Shockingly, a one-sentence denial didn’t calm the storm, and new, even more disturbing allegations began to pile up. Last Friday, DeMott stepped down in order to “avoid embarrassment” while continuing to deny the allegations against him.
Response to the situation has been split down fairly predictable lines. The chorus against DeMott is largely made up of wrestlers who actually had to train under him, while his supporters are veterans who never had to deal with DeMott’s methods in person, but today’s kids could use some toughening up, dammit.
Enter Jim Ross, whose opinion on the situation is meaningful for a couple reasons. He’s one of the most respected voices in the business, and more importantly, he actually ran WWE’s development system for years. Ross’ initial response expressed a fair amount of sympathy towards DeMott…
“Bill DeMott, formerly the head coach at the WWE Development Center, has resigned amid controversy even though none of the allegations against have been proven to be true at this time. It’s been way too long since I was in Orlando to observe that operation but I was nothing but impressed with it the many times I was there. I even thought at one time of volunteering to move there and help in a more hands on manner I liked it so much. Some people who have never been that involved in organized sports often times take stereotypical locker room talk or hard coaching in a negative way when that technique of motivating athletes to become their best was the norm in the past. This whole matter of the allegations against DeMott somewhat reminds me of how Adrian Peterson disciplined his child by using a switch on the child that got AD in major trouble. […] I’m not condoning child abuse in any form whatsoever but one has to wonder just what is the proper method to discipline children in today’s society? But I digress.
Bill DeMott was a hard nosed, demanding coach somewhat along the lines of men like Bill Watts, Verne Gagne, Ole Anderson, Eddie Graham and others who trained some of the biggest stars in the business but in different eras Certainly DeMott wasn’t sort on passion but, according to some that have accused Bill of less than professional behavior, based on today’s standards, [he may have abused his power]. I like being somewhat demanding on rookies because it has to be ascertained if the prospect truly wants to be in the business or not. It’s better to find out early so that the prospects in question can move on, train elsewhere, or simply move to the next phase of their professional lives.”
Pro-tip, Jim: Don’t bring up Adrian Peterson when trying to make a point about anything, ever. Ross also had some harsh words for today’s defiant, candy-ass millennials.
“Younger people are noticeably different than the same age individuals were not that many years ago. This generation of 20 something’s often times bring with them complex personalities and at times a feeling of entitlement and a certain level of defiance. These traits often times complicate the training or coaching in a variety of sports as well as in sports entertainment.
I do not condone abusing any one in any ‘arena’ of life whatsoever but in challenging endeavors such as WWE, NFL, etc where mental and physical toughness are required, it seems to continue to be increasingly challenging to train potential talents in a manner that today’ s society accepts. […] If the goal was for some of the disgruntled ‘whistle blowers’ or ‘victims’ was to get DeMott replaced, then they succeeded and now let’s see where else it goes as the next shoe to drop may indicate the true motive of the accusers. This I do know, Bill DeMott was a hard working, die hard wrestling guy whose track record of developing talents is hard to ignore. Was he tough and demanding? Absolutely he was but that doesn’t necessarily make him the person that some are attempting to make him out to be. He was in a role that brings with it naturally a level of angst and controversy at times especially from talents who do not get ‘live their dream’ when all is said and done.”
Unsurprisingly, Ross’ response didn’t go over well with the Twitter crowd, and Jim returned to his blog to better explain his position on the DeMott story, and he doubled back a bit on some of his more charged statements…
“Many people have taken me to task about what I wrote recently about Bill DeMott and some reacted very callously and with no respect, apparently not practicing what they preach. Many of these people I’ve answered and very few have I ‘blocked’ even though their expressing themselves was often times hurtful.
I do not endorse the old school method of coaching whether it be on an athletic field, the gym or in pro wrestling classes. I do believe in pushing students to improve in all areas of their game and their presentation and to challenge them to achieve every thing that they envision earning as it relates to their career. The physical and mental toughness that is required to be a successful pro wrestler can be ascertained during drills and other exercises in the camp quite easily. Most talent evaluators can determine rather quickly, as in a few days, if someone has what it takes to thrive and grow in most pro wrestling camps.
I do not endorse any type of bigoted or bullying behavior in any walk of life and not just in sports or entertainment. How could any reasonable person embrace such behavior?
All young people aren’t defiant or suffer from entitlement but I will argue that many do and are, at times, challenging to coach. Again, no excuse to abuse them. Again, being defiant or feeling entitled gives no one a free pass to exercise abuse in any form. Bigotry and discrimination must die or it will continue to decay our society.
If Bill DeMott is guilty of the many allegations that have popped up then Bill needed to step away from his role, as he has, and re-evaluate his philosophies and reassess his professional approach to coaching future pro wrestlers if that is what he pursues. Society has changed and we all must change with it.”
There you have it. You don’t have to start hating Jim Ross after all. Phew.
It’s undoubtedly time for for wrestling to re-assess it’s approach to training. To stop glorifying the drill sergeant approach. “I suffered, so the next generation has to suffer, too” is a destructive, poisonous mindset, no matter where it’s applied. That said, Jim Ross is in his 60s, so don’t be jerkasses if he expresses the occasional antiquated thought. Just let wrestling grandpa know that we don’t talk like that anymore, like an adult person. Let’s show Bill DeMott how civil and non-abusive wrestling can be, okay?
via JR’s BBQ