Sunday, January 18, 2009

The hullabaloo over "The Wrestler"

Just as I predicted last fall, the new indie film The Wrestler has got a lot of people talking about the business and as one might expect, it's polarizing the industry.

Unfortunately for me, I haven't been able to see the film yet so I can't comment on it directly (and won't-there's few things worse to me than people who comment on something they haven't seen). I am looking forward to it and have been since I heard about it. Regrettably, I haven't been able to find it locally and I've been sidelined with the flu the last week.

According to reports over at, Vince McMahon saw the movie and hated it. First off, his opinion may have more to do with his questionable taste (anyone who produced No Holds Barred is immediately suspect in my book when it comes to taste) more than anything else. Even if you discount Vince's taste in entertainment, you can't say his opinion is unexpected. This is after all, the guy who wanted to take wrestling out of "smoke filled halls". It's easy to see how McMahon could be offended at comparing the indie circuits and old school promotions to his WWE (not that I'm arguing that the company should be held up as some sort of paragon). To be totally frank, anyone who expected a big thumbs up from Vince McMahon needs to pull their head out of their ass.

Speaking of pulling your head out of your ass, the funniest story related to The Wrestler was a Sports Illustrated reporter comparing Mick Foley to The Wrestler's protagonist Randy "The Ram" Robinson. While Mick Foley looks like Boxcar Willie, it's clear that he's far from a washed up has-been looking for a chance to break back into the spotlight. The SI review began with this: "At a recent New York city screening of 'The Wrestler', one decidedly homeless-looking fellow stood out in the smartly dressed crowd." Given Mick Foley looks like Boxcar Willie, it's not too hard to tell who the reviewer was talking about (Foley was at the film's premiere to review it for The Slate). Proving that appearances can be deceiving, the SI hack made outrageous assumptions about Foley, implying that he's a washed up has-been looking for a chance to break back into the spotlight. Foley soon schooled the reporter in an online response.

What's really funny to me is how many feuds are developing out of the movie. I haven't seen this much hate since the East Coast/West Coast rap feuds of the 90's. Take for instance a seemingly harmless comment on the film from Matt Hardy (Hardy reportedly blogged about the film but I couldn't find the direct quote anythere. Trying to find anything on Hardy's web site or blog is like trying to find the Ark of the Covenant. I haven't seen a web page this inaccessible since I cancelled my Torch subscription years ago):

"All I can say is WOW, it's an amazing piece of cinema that you will feel," Hardy wrote. "Whether it's good or bad, you will feel it. I can think of several '80s performers that fit a similar mold. One thing I can say though, regardless of what anyone says, the business has evolved.

"The guys and gals are so much more intelligent and responsible in this day and age then they were in the '80s/early '90s. And that's a good thing. A very good thing."

Eric Bischoff didn't take kindly to Hardy's comments and had this to say:

Matt, you are a friggin goof. Lets set aside the fact that your brother is walking a “three strikes and you’re out” tight rope as a result of his drug abuse, and if internet “news” was accurate, suffered the loss of his home and property due to a fire because he was too irresponsible to insure it. Your recent recap of your “lifestyle” frames you as a candidate to the Jake Roberts Hall of Fame. Your suggestion that you and your generation are “smarter and more responsible” than previous generations of wrestlers makes me sick. You are a mid-card talent that should be grateful to even get a check every other week. Enjoy it while it lasts. And rather than looking down your nose at previous generations of professional wrestlers, donate a portion of your check to one of them and ask them to point out all the parallels between your current career path/lifestyle and theirs.

It would be the smartest and most responsible thing you could do.

WOW! While I can't say I agree with Bischoff's comments here (first off, his comments that Matt is a mid-carder and that he needs to look after Jeff first are classic ad hominem attacks.), I could see why he's so hot to defend his generation of wrestlers (hopefully today's generation won't have as many horror stories as his did but it's too early to tell). .

No matter what though, I almost always find Bischoff's comments to be interesting. Whether you agree with him or not, he is entertaining and he's one of those guys who while he couldn't pass a bullshit detector, he's easy to listen to. If you don't read Bischoff's blog, I highly recommend that you do. His recent take on the question of whether or not the government should regulate wrestling hit a bullseye.

Now back to The Wrestler. The film itself is going to spark the whole "culture of death" debate back up. Expect the usual suspects in the IWC and the sheets to try and enlighten the unwashed masses on how much the business needs to improve as they continue making a buck covering it. Like just about any industry, wrestling can be improved.

Wrestlers share a lot with other businesses that deal with celebrity and where Father Time can be a bastard. Anyone who thinks wrestling is the only career where you can be a star one day and a guy managing a Target the next need look no further than the slew of celebrity wash-out shows. VH1's new has-been series Confessions of a Teen Idol is but one showcase for people who couldn't make the transition from fame to obscurity and/or couldn't cope with success.

Are there guys like Randy "The Ram" Robinson in wrestling? Hell yeah! You'd have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to acknowledge them . However it's not specific to the 80's generation and more importantly, it's not specific to wrestling. When I first started watching wrestling, there were guys working in the ring who were bonafide superstars once upon a long distant time More than a few ended up working what some would call menial jobs, drinking themselves to death, or both.

The sad reality is that there is no guarantee of success in life. You can be on top of the world one day and on the skids the next. The cool thing is that we live in an age where second acts (and even third) can happen with a little luck and a lot of hard work. We all know people who worked in factories or other businesses that saw the bottom fell out. Some learned a new trade and found new success while others sat on their ass and complained about the glory days. What's different about wrestlers? Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

So please, for everyone's sake, if you're ready to enlighten us about the "culture of death", please shut the fuck up. Stop patting yourselves on the back for pointing out "the culture of death" and what a mess the wrestling industry is. You haven't done anything to clean up the business and it's clear you're happier talking about it (and profiting from your websites and sheets) than making a difference. Find something else to bitch and moan about. If you want to make a positive change in the business you can start by finding a new career.

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