Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Internet Wrestling Community, the List, and Vera

Trigger/Content Warning (TW/CW): the following blog post contains mentions of various forms of ableism and homophobia. Reader discretion is advised.

I, whether I like to admit to it or not, am part of an online fandom called the Internet Wrestling Community (also known as the IWC). There are a bunch of us marks, or fans, who "mark out", or fan[gender] like hell over some of the smallest details happening in our favorite wrestling promotions: WWE, NXT, ROH, NJPW, PWG, CZW, WCPW, WWN, GWF, RevPro, Evolve, AIW, etc. and so on.

Also, we love gimmicks, or characteristics of a wrestler that makes them stand out among a field of talented performers. My personal favorite currently is "The Villain" Marty Scurll, who also happens to be the wrestler with the hottest selling merchandise in the entire world. Yeah, you can say I'm "mentally dating" him, heh, but I digress.

And, of course, there are catchphrases, or word structures, that people catch like a virus and spread it all over the place. Here are examples of some of my favorite all time catchphrases:
  • "OOOOOOHHH YEAAAAAHHH!" | "The Macho Man" Randy Savage, z"l, WWE
  • "To be the man, you have to beat the man." | "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, NWA/WCW
  • "Rest....In....Peace...." | The Undertaker, WWE
  • "DAMN!" | Farooq (say: far-OOK), WWE
  • "Get the tables!" | Bubba Ray Dudley, ECW
  • "And that's the bottom line...." | "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, WWE
  • "You can't see me." | John Cena, WWE
  • "The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be." | Bret Hart, WWE
And, trust me (Jake "the Snake" Roberts, WWE) when I say this: this list is far from exhaustive. Plus, there are catchphrases, which I also enjoy, from currently active wrestlers:
  • "I'm the BO$$. Bank on it." | Sasha Banks, WWE
  • "Live by the sword, die by the Swords of Essex." | Will Ospreay, WCPW
  • "Cero miedo (zero fear)." | Pentagon Dark, Lucha Underground
  • "If you're going to do it, do it with flair." | Charlotte Flair, WWE
  • "Who's ready for storytime with Adam Cole, baybay?" | Adam Cole, ROH
  • "Speed and go!" | Ryusuke Taguchi, NJPW
  • "When my hand goes up, your mouth goes shut." | The Miz (which is probably what he had learned in elementary school in Parma, Ohio, USA, because I sure as hell learned that at the same time in elementary school in Lakewood, Ohio, USA, heh)
There is one wrestler I haven't mentioned on either list, but deserves to be on both lists: Chris Jericho, WCW/WWE.

Chris Jericho has provided many catchphrases over the years, whether he was working as a babyface (a good guy) or a heel (a bad guy):
  • "Welcome to Raw is Jericho!"
  • "Will you please shut. The hell. Up!"
  • "I am the best in the world at what I do."
  • "You will never, EEEHHHHVVVEERRRR, be the same again."
  • "I give to you the Gift of Jericho. Drink it in, maaaaannnnnn!"
  • "Do you know what happens....? Huh? You just made the list!"
There is one catchphrase that raises my ire, though. "Stupid idiot." Yes, Jericho has somehow managed to make a double negative (opposing) into a double negative (emphasizing). Ugh, why?

Screen cap of a wrestling meme that says:
"Being that close to a man that size is
probably giving [Kurt] Angle Vietnam style
flashbacks." Then below, "Angle is like:
'Please don't kiss me.'" Next, an image below
depicting Braun Strowman (left) and Kurt
Angle (right) with a thought bubble above
Angle's head and a picture in it of Angle
kissing another man.
I mean, I get it. It's quick. It's effective. It makes money when printed on merchandise. But right there underscores the bigger problem: people profit from their own ableism in the here and now.

I have talked about ableism before, in regards to speech. It's nothing new. It's everywhere. It's in the news media, movies, and even advertising (get this "crazy" deal, "insanely" low prices). It's in our everyday lexicon ("wow, that was stupid of...."). It's even shared amongst members of the disabled community. Even I am guilty of ableism, so I am not exempted from this.

So, why isn't anything done to curb this derogative segregator?

Like most civil rights gains over the past 156 years, to rid of ableism from our daily structure is going to take time, a lot of time. And even some aspects of civil rights now are being threatened because of prejudiced views against race, color, gender identity, religion, and sexual orientation, for example, still exist in modern day minds. It doesn't help that prejudice, leading into racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism is on full blast in the news, in dank internet memes, and even in our cliquish cultures. To cleanse ourselves of ableism is going to take a monumental effort from all of us.

And in the realm of professional wrestling, to rid of ableism it will take more than just scrubbing out "stupid idiot" chants from the mouths of the paying audience.

I recently discovered that there is an actual disabled tag team in the independent wrestling scene, known as the Handicapped Heroes. Zach Gowen, an amputee due to cancer, and Gregory Iron, who has cerebral palsy (and also a Cleveland native), have competed in various promotions, including Wrestling for Warriors, Pro Wrestling Syndicate, Mr. Chainsaw Productions Wrestling, Pro Wrestling All-Stars of Detroit, and PRIME Wrestling. So ground has been broken for disabled wrestlers in the world of the squared circle. However, having a disabled wrestling tag team does not erase the ableism that exists, both in and out of the ring.

Screen cap of a Facebook wrestling meme
page, where an angry emoji button was
selected, and me typing out: "Not cool for
our folks who had to serve in Vietnam and
struggle with PTSD. Especially with our
Independence Day tomorrow. (angry emoji
face)". The response was: "Or you could
simply keep scrolling if you don't like it.
There is nothing PG or PC about this page."
Ableism is not going to go away anytime soon; especially with an American president who seems to thrive well on it. Hell, ableism will probably not be eradicated before my life ends. That doesn't mean it's a lost cause. It starts with small steps that lead to bigger opportunities.

One day, in my Torah study class, there was a discussion about going to a family's home during the holidays and "having to deal with the crazy uncle." I jumped in with: "isn't there another word you can use to describe the uncle instead of 'crazy'?" A few other folks chimed in with: eccentric, wild, obnoxious. Let's face it; I'm sitting in a room with folks who have at least a bachelor's degree or higher, and you mean to tell me that they can't come up with a word or phrase to better describe a person's behavior than to call them something that actual disabled people have to live with on the daily? Come on. This may look obnoxious, but it's small tweaks in one's language that can really make a difference.

The same technique can be applied also to the world of predetermined grappling matches. Start at the top with, say, Vince K. McMahon of the WWE. If Mr. McMahon were to implement strategies to combat the ableism in his company (preferably to fire John "Bradshaw" Layfield for his bullying tactics on one Mauro Ranallo), imagine the windfall of profit McMahon would be able to obtain for himself and his employees. Eventually, this ableism-be-gone process will cascade down to WWE's employees, their audience, and, most importantly, to potential sponsors, in which clearly WWE has a hard time captivating as of late.

Recently, I got into it with a couple of folks from a Facebook wrestling meme page over one of their posts regarding having a "Vietnam" style flashback. I called them out on it for disrespecting folks who have posttraumatic stress disorder *raises hand* and/or have served during the Vietnam War. The page's response was more like, "Keep scrolling if you don't like what you see."

Except, folks like me refuse to "keep scrolling".

When there is an injustice against a community, expect to hear it from the folks who are members of it.

If you see someone, for example, selling a Confederate "Rebel" flag at a county fair, you don't just "keep scrolling." You go to them and ask them why would that seller want to be affiliated with a bunch of sore losers.

If you see a march where they are excluding members of one community because they are perceived as "oppressors" of another community, you don't just "keep scrolling." You stand up and say, "No. Either everyone or no one. Period."

If you witness black voices or voices of color being ignored and trolled upon by white voices, you don't just "keep scrolling," especially if you are a white person like myself. You tell your fellow white person to knock it off, because for once it's not about them.

Small, simple ways are the keys in getting the 1-2-3 pinfall against various forms of social oppression. Force yourself, your loved ones, your colleagues, and so on to put their ableist language into submission. And don't countout to excuses from oppressive assholes. Have a theme and make an entrance that will captivate the attention of an audience who will listen to what you have to say. And make every moment count.

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