Very few people who read my work or who interact with me on the Internet are fans of misogyny, homophobia or other kinds of talking points used by wrestlers that hearken feelings of hate based on things like looks, religion or sexual proclivity. In theory, WWE should be backing off those kinds of storyline tropes, given their participation in the B.A. Star anti-bullying campaign.
It’s tired when the best The Rock can come up with is a designation of John Cena’s wardrobe which has homophobic connotation. It’s disappointing when Cena in turn calls Rock a bitch, or even worse, puts Eve Torres on full blast for being a whore despite the fact that her greatest sexual crime was kissing someone (as an aside, no one should be called a whore unless they literally have sex for money).
I don’t know what that says about the art form we love or the fans of those who share the passion for wrestling that we do, but whatever it is, it can’t be good.
Above all else, wrestling is a business, and businesses make decisions that make them money. If the paying customer reacts positively to Rock calling Cena a Kung Pao b*tch, then doesn’t it come to pass that WWE should assume future crowds will react as such? It’s a sad truth, but it seems to be truth. That leaves WWE with a few options.
The first is to continue down the course and keep having Rock and Cena try to out-chauvinist each other for the dueling reactions of the crowds. Obviously, this is the easiest answer, but it’s clearly not the best. Cena is clearly positioned as a role model, so when he acts like a cad, he entices children to act as such. When children act like cads, either their parents play along because they don’t care, or if they do, well, the kids stop watching and they stop going to live events and they stop buying merchandise.
The second is to cut losses and move to a TV-14 program again. If one were to believe a certain vocal section of the fanbase, this would cure all the WWE’s problems, ignoring the fact that quality is wholly independent of how mature a product is. It would excuse WWE of the responsibility of branding its entertainment to children, marketing only to adults who, in theory, know right from wrong and watch for the spectacle though, and that’s good right? Well, no, given that cutting an entire part of the fanbase out (children, and thus, parents of said children) is never a good business idea, and sponsors aren’t too keen on supporting a product as racy and raunchy as TV-14 WWE tended to be. This is not going to happen.
The third would be for WWE to actually follow through on its ostensible and superficial social mission and actually have their good guys be good people on top of being cool. I’m not saying Rock has to be a nice guy, but maybe he could find some insults for Cena that didn’t result in calling the guy gay without using the word gay. Cena doesn’t have to coddle Eve, but he could probably dress her down without implying that she has intercourse with anything that moves just because she did one crappy thing that we knew about in the last six months.
Everyone can call Vickie Guerrero on her BS rather than attack a strawman of her weight, one that anyone with two eyes and a functioning brain can see would crumble under the light flick of a pinkie finger. This would take work from both the writers who script for the underling performers and for the wrestlers themselves, at least the ones like Rock and Cena who end up working without a net, to be more socially conscious, and more importantly, come up with material that is clever and cool without resorting to the same tired and offensive insults that have put WWE under fire in the first place.
Hopefully, that attention is gotten sooner rather than later, because I really don’t want to have to be ashamed to watch professional wrestling. Furthermore, I want to be able to get excited about the main event to this year’s biggest wrestling show. I don’t want to have to groan each week when RAW comes on and Rock and Cena do nothing but take turns using colorful ways of calling each other gay.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.