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When Wrestlers Attack
June 28, 2004

by Denny Burkholder
Courtesy of WrestleLine.com


Call me late to the party, but I'm gonna throw in my take on a subject that pops up every other month, and will continue to do so as long as there is pro wrestling, and an Internet full of fans discussing it.

Honestly, the quibble will never be resolved. It's rooted in the lowest, least factually supported arguments one can make. Wrestlers and others within the employ of a pro wrestling organization resort to this when they've grown tired of being criticized, to the point where they harbor actual, palpable contempt for those passing judgment.

Fans and Internet writers - one and the same, if you ask me - bite back, sometimes doubling up on the insults, and other times becoming righteously indignant. The only certain thing about the argument is that it will never end, so long as there are simple-minded idiots on either side of the discussion (or intelligent people willing to stoop to the required level of ignorance, either out of anger or revenge).

It's us vs. them.

As fans, we visit our favorite web sites and discuss pro wrestling because we love it. We choose to spend our time this way, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. That ought to be a compliment to the men and women running the show. However, like any other walk of life, the Internet occasionally goes overboard with criticism. Sometimes it's warranted, and sometimes it's done just for attention, perhaps by a writer desperate for a larger audience (or making up for a lack of real writing ability by being overly "shocking"). But here's the thing: for better or worse, we all enjoy the freedom to express ourselves. The same freedoms that protect the most level-headed and logical of Internet fans also protect the unskilled heat-seekers that write because they're bitter. As long as their words don't break any laws, they can speak freely. They MUST speak freely. If they can't, then WE can't. There is no two ways about it. You take the treasures along with the trash, you sort it out on your own, and you continue reading the work of those you choose to patronize.

A lot of pro wrestlers don't get that. Moreso, they feel like every instance of criticism is a personal attack. So they respond in kind. All of a sudden, a very valid argument with a chance to become a lively discussion ends with the same old cliches: Wrestlers A and B are lazy, unskilled, overpushed, or have a terrible gimmick, says the 'net. Oh yeah? Well, 'net writers C and D are nothing but fat, greasy-haired, 12-year old virgins criticizing something they know nothing about, retorts Wrestler A, while Wrestler B giggles. So there... you started it.

Nothing like a little intellectual discourse to stimulate the brain cells, huh?

The latest example of this came near the Judgment Day PPV in May, when John Bradshaw Layfield took it upon himself to bite back against his dot com critics, calling them (us) pretty much what I just typed above. Perhaps realizing it's not a good idea to openly attack quite so many loyal wrestling fans with one punch, Bradshaw backtracked slightly, and said who he REALLY hated were the OWNERS of the web sites these people congregate on, because THEY are the ones who are the ball lickers! Brilliant.

Until I attended Raw in Miami this past Monday, I reacted to Bradshaw's comments the same way I have in the past: I brushed them off and said nothing. But upon having a great time at the event, and spending over $200 of my paycheck on WWE and its performers, I felt a bit less forgiving.

Maybe I don't enjoy every match. I certainly wasn't impressed by Chuck Palumbo vs. Norman Smiley. I'm not the world's biggest Bradshaw mark, although I'm a lot less of a JBL critic than most writers are. I could live without Kenzo Suzuki, I'm not very high on Billy Gunn, and I could certainly live without the Kane-Lita-Matt Hardy angle.

But I still love pro wrestling as a fan. I will write about my experiences, good and bad. If I hate your match, I'll say so. If I love it, I'll say that, too. (There's also the small bonus that if I love your work, I might go out of my way to watch it, or even buy your merchandise).

I do NOT criticize as a form of personal attack. I have actually met Bradshaw and had a very pleasant time talking to him. I found him to be one of the more well-mannered pro wrestlers outside the ring, when it came to interacting with someone he knew was an Internet reporter, and could very likely roast his next performance before thousands of readers.

When I criticize something, it's because I don't like THAT ONE THING, be it a match, an angle, or a performance. I'm sure the people responsible for it are great people behind the scenes. It's nothing personal. But if I go to Ruth's Chris and drop $200 on an expensive meal, and it tastes bad, you bet your ass I'm going to bitch to the waiter.

If the waiter were a pro wrestler, he'd respond that I have no right to complain about my meal because I've never set foot in a commercial kitchen and I suck at cooking steak. This is the logic pattern pro wrestlers use when discounting our right to criticize: until you've tried it, shut your mouth.

Well, fuck that. I earn my right to bitch when I drop $200 into your wallet with the expectation of a satisfying product in return. Could you imagine what would happen to that waitor if - instead of discounting my bill, or fixing me a new meal, or doing SOMETHING to make it better - he simply called me a fat loser who knows nothing about good food, and walked away laughing with my $200 in his hand, and me with my nasty overpriced meal?

Would you ever go back to that restaurant again? I wouldn't. I wouldn't be allowed to. Not after the scene I'd cause.

Wrestlers have a very difficult job, and we respect that as fans. That's part of why we ARE fans: we recognize how amazing a great wrestling show can be, and we know it doesn't come easy. Of course we want a great show every time: we're FANS! We don't criticize out of disrespect or hatred. But sometimes, that's how the wrestlers respond to us. By calling us names. By categorizing us without truly knowing or caring if they are correct. By mocking the people who put food on their tables, shirts on their backs, and gas in their rented cars.

Your talent got you to WWE; that's a fact. You worked hard to earn the money WWE pays you. But WWE gets that money from us. Your talent would not compute into a paying full-time job without people like me - FANS like us - who give our money to you in exchange for a potentially good show. And on behalf of fans everywhere, to the amazing performers AND the shitty wrestlers alike: THANK YOU for entertaining us, even on your worst night.

And I'm not saying the wrestlers owe us thanks for being the "asses in the seats." Nor do we owe them a good review every time. All I'm saying is the next time a wrestler resorts to personal attacks to explain why their critics are wrong, they ought to look into their wallets, their bank accounts, and their children's piggy banks first.

That's from me. You're welcome.


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