Straight Shooting: Why is Pro Wrestling Being Singled Out?
Other violent sports and raunchy soap operas are never under the same microscope
June 5, 2000
By Fritz Capp

In the long storied history of professional wrestling, one thing has forever been a constant. No respect! No respect from mainstream media, no respect from sports fans and sometimes even no respect from within the business itself for its own alumni. Even in todayís widely more accepted product, professional wrestling still takes heat from all sides. Pro wrestling is blamed for almost every fault that is plaguing society at large. From Bob Costas to Phil Mushnick to the PTC, professional wrestling is just something to take shots at for whatever reason.

Is there a good reason for all of this negativity towards the sport? In days gone by it was because wrestling was "fake". But in todayís "sports entertainment" arena, wrestling is now being accused of everything from degrading the morals of minors to being blamed for fans' actions and ideology.

In Florida a child kills a playmate and the lawyer attempts to blame pro wrestling for the childís actions. A New York Times writer blames pro wrestling, mostly fixated on Vince McMahon and the WWF, for declining social and moral values.

Stop and ask yourself this, what would todayís anti-wrestling journalists do with this headline?

"Terry Bollea arrested for 2nd degree murder"

or how about

"WWF star arrested for sexual assault"

Not only would the story be run, but then everyone would come out of the woodwork saying how deplorable pro-wrestling is. One only has to look at how the media jumped on the prospect of "hardcore" wrestling being banned from New Jersey to get the picture. It would then go beyond the person and put a black mark on the sport as a whole. This is what has me bothered this week, two-sided journalism.

While it is commonplace for the world to be able to take their shots at pro-wrestling every chance they can get, if these same headlines were true of other sports, there would be no way that any journalist would blame the sport itself for the problems. They would "shield" the sport as a whole and focus on the person that was charged. Donít believe me? Letís delve a little deeper into this.

Below is a list of names and charges against those people listed. In all fairness some of these are still or going to trial and others may have been dismissed while others have been sentenced, but the headlines remain. These were gathered from ESPN.com:

  • Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis - murder

  • Green Bay Packers tight end Mark Chmura - sexual assault

  • Kansas City Chiefs running back Bam Morris - drug trafficking

  • Kansas City Chiefs kick returner Tamarick Vanover - felony car theft

  • New York Jets wide receiver Wayne Chrebet - disorderly conduct

  • Indianapolis Colts running back Keith Elias - disorderly conduct/resisting arrest

  • Dallas Mavericks' rookie forward Leon Smith - aggravated assault, criminal damage to property and protective order violation

  • Boxer Vinny Pazienza - drunken driving, recklessly eluding police, resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer

  • Carolina Panthers reserve running back Fred Lane - drug and weapons charges

  • Carolina Panthers Rae Carruth - fatally shooting his pregnant girlfriend

  • Los Angeles Avengers quarterback Todd Marinovich - sexual assault

  • New York Rangers forward Kevin Stevens - felony drug charges

  • NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor - drugs/tax evasion

  • Charlotte Hornets power forward Anthony Mason - assault

  • Dallas Stars goalie Ed Belfour - assault/resisting arrest

  • Miami Dolphins running back Cecil Collins - burglary

  • Indianapolis Colts defensive back Steve Muhammad - domestic battery

  • St. Louis Rams Leonard Little - vehicular homicide

  • Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Andre Rison - felony theft

  • Denver Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith - third-degree assault and harassment

  • Boxing heavyweight contender Ike Ibeabuchi - sexual assault

  • MLB Hall of Fame candidate Dick Williams - indecent exposure

  • San Diego Padres' outfielder Al Martin - assault-physical injury and threatening or intimidating

  • San Francisco Giants pitching coach John Montefusco - sexual assault/making terroristic threats/violated a restraining order

  • Boxing former heavyweight champion Michael Dokes - physical/sexual assault

    These are the heroes of the sports world. You can buy memorabilia, you ask for their autograph, they are on trading cards. But yet in each instance the sport itself was not blamed, which is as it should be. Why is wrestling different?

    Donít get me wrong, pro-wrestlers do have their problems with the law, but mostly they are prone to hurt themselves more than other people. Steroid and drug abuses have to be the biggest detriment to the professional wrestler. It is rare when a pro-wrestler makes the news unless it is for something very stupid and avoidable. For the most part pro-wrestlers are usually involved in victimless crimes.

    Recently the Parents' Television Council tried to garner some more publicity for itself by attacking MCI Worldcom for itís sponsoring of WWF programming, namely Smackdown. Dr. C. DeLores Tucker spoke at the MCI Worldcom Shareholders Meeting in Clinton, Mississippi, to demand that the corporate giant pull its ad dollars from "the most violent and vulgar program on prime time television, WWF Smackdown". "Bear in mind, our outrage over WWF Smackdown! is fueled by the fact that three million children weekly are treated to heavy doses of violence, racial stereotyping, foul language, graphic sexual innuendo, and sexist comments. Moreover, a portion of Smackdown! airs during the traditional 'family hour,' a time when impressionable children are most likely to be watching television," said Dr. Tucker in her statement. She went on to list numerous examples from the show, repeatedly asking, "Are these MCI's values?"

    Quite honestly, the good doctor could have been talking about 95% of today's television programming. If the name Smackdown wasnít implanted there, how many television shows would you have thought of just by that description?

    Is WWF the most vulgar and violent programming out there? Hardly. In fact I would sooner let my kid watch wrestling than say, soap operas. Although wrestling is called a "male" soap opera, it is on for say 4 hours during the week. Sure they have their screwjobs, deceit, sexual innuendoes and the like, but as opposed to the normal everyday soap opera the WWF is tame by comparison. Just in duration of viewing time soap operas are on for no less than 3 Ĺ hours a day, on three channels, Monday through Friday. That is no less than a combined 52.5 hours of lies, sex, murder, deceit and manipulation that children could be subjected to each week. Wait, I can hear the PTC now, "But the children are in school and are not subjected to it like they are with Smackdown, which shows its filth during prime time television." WRONG! The real fact of the matter is that children between the ages of 2-6 (where they are the most susceptible to having outside influences shape their lives) are subjected to this programming everyday. Forced to watch it because their mothers/fathers/babysitters watch it. Ever ask a woman to turn off her soap operas for other programming? You might as well try to take a freshly caught fish from a hungry grizzly bear. You would have better luck.

    While, in my mind, the everyday soap operas that children are subjected to against their will (ever hear a kid ask to watch General Hospital over Blues Clues?) are nothing more than glorified filth with their murders, adulterous escapades and such, they are readily accepted for what they are by today's adult community, and that is they are nothing more than television programming. Why is it pro-wrestling cannot be held to that same criteria? Now let's take a quick glimpse at the sports that are so readily and easily accessible for children to watch that do not come under scrutiny.

    Professional boxing has many times showed children that not only can you beat your opponent senseless, but if you make them bleed it is a good thing. On the football field it is okay to "take your opponent out," in fact you are usually rewarded for it, even if in todayís politically correct world team owners publicly call for a "kinder and gentler" game. There are the bench clearing brawls in baseball and do not forget that in hockey it is okay to slam your opponent into the glass. If you want to take a purely puritanical viewpoint, are any of these safe for children to watch? The easy thing to say here is "just donít let them watch it" or "the parents should take responsibility" correct? Why is it not the same with pro-wrestling? The fact of the matter is simple, it is the "PARENTS'" responsibility to see what their children are watching.

    If sportscasters and loudmouths like the PTC and Phil Mushnick were to hold everything to the same standards that they hold professional wrestling to, there would be nothing to watch on television.

    In a world where everyone is looking to blame someone else for their own or society's shortcomings, pro-wrestling is one of their favorite scapegoats. Along with the rock genre in music, pro wrestling is blamed for more ills in the world than anything else. When was the last time you heard that the evening news was blamed for a schoolyard shooting, when it is the news that spread the word that these type of things happen, often depicted with graphic images, thus planting the ideas in other misinformed, maladjusted people? In my opinion, both rock, along with other forms of music, as well as professional wrestling, get their ideas for songs or storylines from what is going on around them, not vice versa. I guess the people that are the most vocal against these genres of entertainment are too short sighted to see that though. They would sooner place blame on others than admit their own failures.

    Iíd say it is time to bring everything to a level field and let the chips fall where they may. I know a lot of people who have been watching pro-wrestling for the past 20 - 30 years and we havenít ever let it influence our real world thoughts. But then again, we listened to Ozzy.

    And with that I am outta here. Remember wrestling is nothing more than it appears to be.


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