NBC Exposes Itself . . . to a Lawsuit
"Exposed: Pro Wrestling's Greatest Secrets"
By Dan Moreland
Well the day of infamy has come and gone. On Sunday night November 11 eight professional wrestlers were broadcasted on the NBC special "Exposed: Pro Wrestling's Greatest Secrets" doing just what the ads for the show advertised: reveal the deepest, most sacred hidden workings of the greatest fiction con of all time: pro wrestling.
My well documented views on the eight wrestlers who betrayed their sacred oath of secrecy to protect the business aside, there is no doubt that the one hour documentary was well produced, entertaining and informative, if not 100% accurate. But despite the irreparable damage not only to the business but to the fans who just want to spend their twenty bucks and suspend their disbelief for three hours at a wrestling show even though they know its "fake" anyway, there is a huge, glaring flaw that I cannot believe NBC let slip through their fingers. There was absolutely no disclaimer and only a less than two minute segment tacked on at the end of the hour warning viewers at home that while the show was going to show how wrestling is "worked", that the eight wrestlers were highly trained athletes and one mistake in executing any of the maneuvers shown could result in serious injury.
I can envision it now- little Johnny practicing a piledriver on his little brother Billy- who didn't tuck his head in properly as his vertebrae are crushed one by one from the force of his cranium being driven down on the hard concrete floor of Mom and Dads basement. How could NBC and the producers of this show be so stupid? And more importantly, how many wheelchairs did NBC budget to hand out to crippled fans around the country who foolishly tried to execute the wrestling moves a s demonstrated on this show?
But first the show itself. It was well produced and a first class job by the producers. In the intro it was announced that these eight wrestlers concealed their identities since they were "risking their careers" and "personal safety" due to possible retribution from those in the business (or $20,0000 bounties put on the heads of each- click on "The Ugly Truth" at pwbts.com for details.) The wrestlers were introduced in silly costumes and masks that made them look like rejects from a bad video game, bu7t added to the pizzazz of the whole documentary. The "characters" included Brute Force (Pit Bull Gary Wolfe) and Colossus (Pit Bull Anthony Durante) plus other gimmicks like Ben Hurt, Private Pain, All-American Boy, and Brash Knuckles (most of the rest were workers from All-Pro Wrestling in California). The only one who wasn't fully disguised was the despicable seven time World Champion and one time sellout Harley Race, who was shown on interview segments in dark lighting and sunglasses.
Most of the show had camera shots of real action wrestling moves being narrated then the same action being shown in slow motion. During the slow motion replays it was shown how each move or trick was performed. In between each segment were interviews with the wrestlers in dark lighting with sinister music being played in the background. This was one of the most well produced parts of the show as the filmers conspired to make the viewer think he/she was being let in on the deepest most evil secrets of some secret society of some sort (which actually they were).
I was also impressed by the depth of the knowledge revealed on the show. Unlike the amateurish tape put out by Eddie Mansfield 15 years ago, there were secrets that were exposed that I didn't expect to be revealed. They revealed what a booker is, and showed how wrestlers verbally but discreetly call the action in the ring, not use scripts as many are led to believe. I was also very impressed at how much they exposed concerning the role the ref has to do with the unfolding of the match in the ring. And there was one secret that I was actually glad was revealed: blading. You don't know how many people insist that wrestlers use blood capsules or ketchup when they bleed in the ring. In the special they actually show a close up of one of the wrestlers using a small cut off piece of a razor blade, a "dagger" to cut their own forehead. Hey at least now the millions who watched this special can't say the blood's fake!
There were several inaccuracies, or at least , "secrets" that I think were from 30 years ago and have little relevance to today's business. The biggest laugher is when they showed a "reenactment" of the "booker" handing out posters to fans for them to hold up during the show as they entered the arena. I've known promotions to hand out posters and even tee-shirts in the audience, but I'd say 90% of the fans bring their own posters, and I'll be damned if I've EVER seen a promotion blatantly handing out posters at he door! Also the special tried to portray certain fans as "shills" or "plants". They showed a wrestler tearing an autograph book in half and pushing down an old lady down in the front row then hugging her in the dressing room to thank her for a "con well done" which was to help him to get cheap heat. Now when in Gods name is the last time you've ever seen any of that happen? I'll admit there are still plants at wrestling shows, but these are two examples of the producers digging up examples from 30 years ago (perhaps Race's input)..
I also had problems with the way the concept of heel and babyface was portrayed. The good guy wrestlers were called "babies" when the correct term is "babyface" and we were told that "babies" never "cheated". Exact terminology aside, I'm one of the hold-outs that still believes that there are true heels and babyfaces in wrestling. But tell me Steve Austin, Mankind, Kevin Nash and Tommy Dreamer never cheat. I also have issues with the producers showing that underneath the ring there is a spring to make it easier on the wrestlers backs as they are slammed on the mat. Maybe some promotions use springs in their rings, but I know many indie rings that do not, and tell Mexican wrestlers that their rock hard rings bounce like trampolines.
And finally, the special tried to get over that chair shots are not dangerous. While it is true that wrestlers whenever they can will not try to kill each other in the ring, just watch and ECW show and tell me that those guys aren't swinging chairs over each others heads as hard as they can. Or just look into Matsato Tanakas eyes and tell me he doesn't have brain damage from too many chairshots.
Which leads to the ultimate downfall of this special- a downfall that could potentially cost NBC and the producers of this show millions in dollars in legal damages. Watching the special, one gets the impression that professional wrestling is really easy to do. As a matter of fact, so easy why don't I call over my best friend and we try some of these moves on an old mattress in my garage!
What this special does a poor job of is informing its viewers that these athletes have trained for years in wrestling schools how to PROPERLY execute these moves. Sure its pointed out that one wrong move in a piledriver you'll be paralyzed for life, but how about a concussion form a poorly executed chairshot . . . or a broken back form a poorly executed bodyslam. At the end of the show there was a great segment about how truly dangerous wrestling really is. Gary Wolfe revealed he had 16 concussions in one year. Anthony Durante pointed out how many broken necks there have been (Wolfe, Steve Austin, Marcus Bagwell), and if weren't for the physical condition of these athletes in the ring, many would have died (like Japanese female wrestler Plum Marinko). They even closed the show with Gary, backed up by all the other wrestlers, telling fans the classic old line that if you think its fake then step into the ring (which is a very good point because 90% of those in the business can clean the average persons clock). This is all well and good. But here is the problem:
The segment was LESS THAN 2 MINUTES LONG AND AT THE END OF THE SHOW!!!!!
Where were the disclaimers telling people that these were professionally trained athletes and you really shouldn't try this at home? Jeezus even the WWF ran this disclaimer a few years ago on their show and they are IN THE BUSINESS!
The complete idiocy sand foolishness of NBC to allow this special to air without this disclaimer or at least with a LITTLE more of an explanation as to how one can get easily injured in the ring trying to emulate the actions demonstrated by the athletes in the special is an absolute outrage.
So what will the fallout be? In a way, deep down I was hoping that this show would be a personal redemption of some kind. Over the years I have been unfairly ridiculed by friends, relatives and girlfriends for my love of and involvement in professional wrestling. In a way, while I hold deep resentment for those that sold out and participated in this TV show, I was hoping that my tormentors would watch it and at least have a respect for the talent and athleticism that goes into putting what I feel truly is the Greatest Show On Earth. After watching this special I fear that will only hold true if they watched the last 2 minutes.
In the meantime NBC get your lawyers ready. And as for you eight wrestlers that broke you secret oath of "omerta" when you first entered wrestling school, the bounty is still on.
Dan Moreland is a columnist for Pro Wrestling's Between The Sheets - for comments or opposing viewpoints please e-mail to Dan Moreland