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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Most Wanted Volume III
March 23, 2006 by Langdon Beck


One day I WILL write that column about the resurgence of Europe in world wrestling. One day.

In July of last year, I decided to quit. No more, I told myself. I'm sick of it. And so I stopped. No more internet 'news' sites for me. I cut out 'news' completely, and low and behold! I was able to enjoy the wrestling I watched on TV a hell of a lot more. I was able to find a website that gave me all the show results, newspaper articles and interviews I could want, with not an 'inside source' in sight. That is, until the day of my writing this column.

Y'see, while browsing one of the forums I visit (because ya gotta go somewhere when none of your friends like wrestling) I came upon a thread about the fortunes of TNA and decided to click it. Once it loaded I discovered that it was in fact filled with 'news'. Now, that happens sometimes, and usually I'll just click the Back button (often in some haste) and be none the worse for it. But this time I happened to catch the first couple of lines, and was so intrigued I had to read the rest of the 'report' too. I haven't laughed so much since the last episode of My Name Is Earl I watched. Some of the stuff written in this 'report' was so ludicrous you couldn't help but laugh at it. But it was not just a laugh of mirth; there was some pity-laughter in there too. Pity-laughter for the people who will probably have taken this 'news' to heart as something serious and, um, real. Nothing unusual thus far: certainly nothing worth writing a column about, surely, but as fate would have it, reading this 'news' 'report' resulted in my having a revelation about internet wrestling 'news'. I understand the concept now, and I have a strange feeling I'm gonna rant about it.

I'd better say now that not every 'news' site is at fault. There are actually a few reputable, good places there if you want to know about that sort of thing. You can normally tell if they're any good if they want you to pay for some of their content. Just like the first two volumes of Most Wanted were not indictments of every internet fan, so is this one not an indictment of every 'news' site. Just most of them, that's all!

However, the blame cannot rest entirely on the sites or their 'reporters'. The fans are most certainly at fault for taking to heart everything they read. Most of these sites are the equivalent of a cheap celebrity gossip magazine. It's not unreasonable to say that if you were to read one of these magazines, it's pretty unlikely you're gonna believe much of what's inside - after all, if they spoke the truth, J.Lo would be a mother of five right now. You might even think those who do believe what these magazines say are gullible fools. Yet many of you do the very same thing with wrestling 'news'. Odd, that.

Anyway, I'll get to my revelation of sorts. It has become clear to me - and may already be clear to anyone with a half-trained mind for noticing these things - that the primary and perhaps sole function of the majority of internet 'news' is to either create or facilitate dislike of a particular wrestler or (less frequently) promotion. More often than not, whether the 'news' is actually true (I'm skeptical) is irrelevant. The intention is clear in many 'news' items; give the fans another reason to hate a wrestler, or give them another wrestler to hate. It's blatant spin-doctoring.

Ask a regular visitor of the internet what they think of, say, Jeff Jarrett, or Triple H, they'll very probably say they don't like him. Why" Is it because they can't wrestle" Not especially. Is it because they're useless on a microphone" No. So why is it exactly" You probably won't be told "I read that he [insert heinous crime here] on [insert 'news' site here]" in full, although you will almost certainly get the middle part of it. The fact that the heinous crime was read on a 'news' site does not matter; the heinous crime is assumed to be fact regardless. Despite having several years' worth of these crimes to fall back on, the sites have been failing recently with regard to HHHating and anti-Jarrett sentiments. Fans have begun to notice that maybe the two aren't as bad as the internet made them out to be. Triple H was a welcome re-addition to RAW when he returned last year, and even the most devout Jarrett haters have been interested by his (non-title) feud with Sting. In return the internet has gone to absurd lengths to make sure people don't start actually liking the guy. Apparently he's a cocaine user now! Surely I'm not the only one who read this in disbelief of its ridiculousness" I can see the guy who thought it up sitting at his computer, thinking 'what can he have done now" I know .... Recreational drug use! I'm brilliant!' Of course, for all I know there's a possibility it's true, but damned if you'd notice any indication of it if you hadn't (1) read about it and consequentially (2) been looking out for any effects, etc.

John Cena. John Freakin' Cena. Good way to start a paragraph. Probably should've put him in the title too ... would have guaranteed me a few more bitter readers! This man, it seems, is top of most internet fans' Most Hated lists. The man they hate so much it's become rather tiresome. Yawn. Soon it's going to become fashionable and en vogue among the internet crowd to actually cheer the guy. Naturally, all this hate has been cultured by 'reports' of mixed reactions and boos for Cena at WWE events, among other things. The fans act like these mixed reactions are something new and revolutionary, but I have serious doubts. I think, in fact I'm quite sure, that Cena has received mixed reactions from audiences since the day he debuted. Quite aside from being cheered during his days as a heel, it's entirely plausible that some fans have booed him since he became a (mostly) fan favourite in 2003, but because he was on SmackDown - a taped show - any negative reaction would have been relatively easily masked. However, once he was drafted to RAW last year, it became more obvious, not only due to the live atmosphere, but because the first two men he feuded with, Christian and Chris Jericho, were both very popular with fans despite their being heels.

The point I'm trying to make is that for a while at least, very few people noticed Cena was being booed. That is, until some 'reporter' somewhere just happened to notice this, and then just happened to 'report' that Cena was being booed slightly. Since you first read about this occurring on whatever 'news' site you frequent, haven't you noticed Cena's mixed reactions more" Haven't any boos he receives become more obvious to you" Can you prove that you would have noticed if you hadn't read about it beforehand" You may say so, but I'm not so sure. I'm not able to watch episodes of RAW in full, but from what highlights I've seen, I can't say I would have picked up on anything untoward going on. Think about it; without the internet fashioning your image of Cena, would he get on your nerves as much as he does" I doubt it.

Indeed, without the supposed benefits of internet 'news', you'd have very few people to hate. Just as an example, let's take the case of so-called 'bullies' in wrestling. To even begin to take 'reports' of this allegedly recent phenomenon at all seriously, first we have to completely disregard the fact that it has been going on frequently for decades. It was accepted among rookies and positively encouraged among veterans as a rite of passage for every young wrestler: sooner or later, someone's gonna beat the crap out of you, and by the way you handle it, we'll know whether you deserve to be a part of our business. It wouldn't necessarily have to happen in matches, as often guys would go through this while they were being trained to wrestle. Al Snow, for example, has talked in interviews about how much he had to endure when he was being trained. Stu Hart's Dungeon was practically a torture chamber... if Stu was still around and teaching young wrestlers today, I'm pretty certain the internet would tell you all about it and you'd be appalled by his methods. More recently, WCW's Power Plant liked to test its new guys, pushing them to the brink of exhaustion and beyond to see if they had what it takes. Hell, even Eddie Guerrero was willing to 'stretch' a rookie with an ego (don't believe me, read his book).

Internet 'news stories' didn't ever seem to claim that Eddie (or other veterans of a similar persuasion) was a 'liberty-taking bully who should be fired immediately'. I'm sure that's partly because Eddie was skilled enough not to make it obvious. I'm also sure that it was partly because Eddie was just too damned popular. Think about it; there have been very very few wrestlers that just about every fan on the internet likes. Eddie was one of them. Remember how mad you got at WWE a couple of months ago about their exploitation of his death" Not mad enough to actually do something about it and stop watching WWE, of course, but pretty mad. Compare with how mad you got about the recent exploitation of Road Warrior Hawk's death. You were angrier about Eddie, right" (another case of the internet dictating people's opinions). So think about how difficult it would have to be for an internet 'reporter' to turn you against him. It's too much work for them. So they picked a couple of guys without Eddie's level of support. John Bradshaw Layfield, and Hardcore Holly.

Now, I am no fan of JBL. I don't dislike his wrestling ability, or his promo ability, but I disagree with the opinions he has expressed in his columns and radio show, and stories about him in books written by other wrestlers (that of the Hardy Boyz, for example) do not do much to make me like him. There are plenty of others out there who don't like him either, but their reasons for it are constructed by their reading internet 'news' about his treatment of young wrestlers and various other exploits. Strangely, many of these reports began surfacing around the time Bradshaw underwent a transformation. In a few short months he went from losing tag team matches to Scotty 2 Hotty to winning the WWE Championship (albeit on a reversed-decision). Can you say 'easy target'" I can't be sure about this, but I don't think there has been a story about JBL's aversion to new wrestlers in recent months. Coincidentally, his last two Pay Per View opponents were Lashley and Boogeyman... both recent additions to the WWE roster.

As for Hardcore Holly - boy, is he hated. All the quintessential 'bully' 'reports' have been written about this guy. Disregard the fact it's about respect, earning it from the other wrestlers, and paying your dues to get into the big leagues, he's a 'bully' and he's mean and we don't like him because of it. Disregard the fact that his treatment of the 'True Champion' Matt Cappotelli and Cappotelli's admirable reaction to it proved to everyone that Cap deserved to be in WWE better than any Tough Enough challenge could. Disregard the fact that one of Holly's frequent travelling partners was Jamie Noble, and if Holly really hated young wrestlers as much as the internet said he did, that would never happen. He's just a big bully and 'times have changed'.

To digress momentarily, let me bring to your attention to an excerpt from a 2005 interview with D-Von Dudley:

"When asked about roughing up the new guys, D-Von says he has no problem with what guys like JBL and Holly do. Some young guys come in with bad attitudes and guys like Bradshaw and Holly knock them back in line. D-Von says that he's surprised by the attitude of some of the independent wrestlers. What JBL and Holly do has been happening since the 70s and the 80s, only nobody heard about it. Guys like Andre, Big John Studd, Don Muraco, and King Kong Bundy used to rough up the young guys all the time. If Andre the Giant didn't like you "You were done!""

Yeah, times HAVE changed. Time was that only the people who had respect for the wrestling business and the desire to wrestle themselves could become wrestlers. Time was that a young wrestler or trainee would have to pay his dues and really, truly earn every opportunity he got. Time was that a rookie would be tested, ribbed, and occasionally 'stretched' and beaten up for real in a match to make sure he deserved whatever chances he was receiving. Nowadays it's not like that. Nowadays, anyone who shows up to his local wrestling school with the appropriate amount of money can get a couple of hours of training and call himself a wrestler. Nowadays, with WWE contracts being handed out to Diva Search and Tough Enough winners (and most of the losers too), and some people being given WWE developmental deals purely on their 'look' or size, maybe dues aren't being paid. Nowadays, a lot of young wrestlers don't seem to have the respect for wrestling and the desire to be a wrestler that their predecessors had. WWE Superstar Nathan Jones quit because he couldn't take the travel schedule ... boy, he must have been glad he wasn't around ten years ago when they'd be on the road for weeks at a time. A certain former WWE Undisputed Champion had it all ... and quit to try something different. As Harley Race put it, "A lot of young guys don't deserve the breaks they get. For instance, you had that guy who left to play football."

Maybe I'm just old school, but I have no problem with Holly. And neither, recently, does the internet. Holly's been off TV, but they need someone to call a bully ... and as luck would have it, the latest 'bully' was in the very 'news report' I accidentally clicked on. Who is it" Why, Brother Ray of Team 3-D!

This gives me an opportunity to go off on a couple of tangents. First, I'll point out that sometimes 'news' stories don't stick, and sometimes they fail in their purpose to manufacture or intensify negativity. Last summer, 'news' sites tried to turn fans against the soon-to-return-to-WWE Dudley Boyz. It didn't work, and as it turned out, the Dudleys left WWE soon after, so any continuation in this vein would be futile. This recent 'news' about Brother Ray seems to be a rejuvenation of last year's failure in addition to fulfilling the 'he's a bully' quota. Handily, the Dudley-related failure was reversed into an attempt to turn the net fans against one of their most beloved legends. Yes, unbelievably, 'news reports' tried to make the internet fans hate Jim Cornette! Although a few fans fell for the foolish effort, the vast majority either saw right through it, or simply admired Cornette too much to care about anything supposedly bad he may or may not have done. This can be shown to demonstrate why many 'news' sites tend to focus on wrestlers you don't really like much anyway.

My second tangent also relates back to Brother Ray, and TNA in general. I think I'm correct in pointing out that a substantial number of 'news' stories about the promotion focus on their wrestlers that have formerly been in WWE or WCW. Think about how many 'news' items about TNA you've read that talk about Kip James, and then think about how many have talked about Monty Brown. More about Kip, right" Why is this" Well, it all comes back to a major dilemma the internet faces: just how do you get someone who has never watched TNA to hate it" 'Reporting' about wrestlers who may be well-known to indy or TNA fans but are mysteries to the mainstream internet fan is not going to do it. If you've never heard of the guy, you are not going to care what he allegedly does behind the scenes. Hence the lack of 'news' about Monty, Lance Hoyt, Alex Shelley et al, and even the major indy stars like Christopher Daniels. So, going back to 'how do you get someone who has never watched TNA to hate it' ... you concentrate on the guys that more people have heard of. Easy. Not everyone, though ... it'd be idiotic to try and turn the fans against Christian Cage. True, Christian's popularity has waned since he's actually been permitted to realise his potential, but he's another one of those all-too-rare wrestlers that just about everybody likes. Hence, you will read about Jarrett, or Kip James, or BG James, or (trust me, it'll happen sooner or later) Steiner, or Brother Ray. Once TNA becomes more mainstream and starts getting more viewers, I can guarandamntee you'll all start hating AJ Styles. All it'll take is one 'report' about his homophobia (human being in 'not perfect' shocker!) and it'll take off from there.

One final example, that'll hopefully help show how obvious it is that so much net 'news' is there to produce stories to generate or assist you in whomever or whatever it is you find objectionable about wrestling. That example is Goldberg. If you told me that before 2003, you hated Goldberg and had no desire whatsoever to see him in WWE, I'm 95% positive you'd be lying. If you said you always hated him, chances are you'd just be proving my point. From the day WCW went out of business to the day he debuted you could see a Goldberg sign on almost every RAW or SmackDown. If you said after 2004 that you loathed Goldberg with a passion, I'd probably believe you, but I'd have to wonder why. While his year in WWE was not particularly successful, and did not succeed in hiding his weaknesses, ostensibly it wasn't terrible. So what changed to make Goldberg so darn hated" You can bet it starts with 'I read on ...'

Perhaps these 'news' sites have qualities in common with other aspects of professional wrestling: like most successful wrestling characters, the sites take something rooted in reality, and exaggerate it a thousand times. I doubt that this column is going to convince you to stop reading these 'reports' and just enjoy the wrestling. But hopefully you might think to reassess and re-evaluate the 'news' sites you choose to read, and maybe, just maybe, stop you from believing so wholeheartedly, and taking to heart, some of their preposterous stories.

by Langdon Beck --- [View Langdon Beck's Column Index]..


Jack MacLaine wrote:
Wow, I don't know what to think of your article Beck. The internet has changed wrestling. News sites can post just about anything on a wrestler. Some of it is justified like HHH and Jarrett. But stuff like John Cena is a little harsh. People have not given Cena a fair chance. I know his matches are repetitive but thats because McMahon has dumbed him down so he won't get injured. Has anybody seen the Throw-Back" I know his gimmick sucks but at least he is a fighting champion. And the stuff about bullies is just stupid. I mean no one likes a bully but just suck it up and get some respect.
Jesse Smith wrote:
I have to say agree with the many, many, many valuable points you have in this column. I've kind of noticed that myself, about how people could care less about a wrestler unless about 50% or so also dislike them. I, however, just always thought I enjoyed cheering for the underdog or the disliked. First off, I like Hardcore Holly and JBL very much as two of my favorite wrestlers. I know there may be bad reports here and there, but y'know what" I really don't care what happens to the Blue Meanie, he's not the one everyone is paying their money to see. Sure, it was wrong and it really was taking liberties, but there are many more who've done worse than that to other wrestlers. As far as Holly goes, he's never going to make it into the top-roles of WWE due to the fact that he's about 46 years old and isn't Ric Flair nor Hogan. Remember when he had that shot to be in the top cards" Most people loved the football player back then. I never really liked Cena nor Goldberg, sure they had their moments, but I never connected with them. I'm not big into rap and saw little of Cena before the change (wasn't home much on Thursdays) nor have I been big on three-minute matches. When Goldberg got to WWE, I gave him a chance to become a favorite, though the angles he was put in never appealed him to me. Just my opinion. I won't get into a big rant about it, since that's what Langdon Beck has done for me. I'll just leave it off with my last sentence. People rely on the internet source too much to gain "inside information;" perhaps fans should attempt to stay away and see how well they can exist without the need of the time when Wrestler A stole Wrestle B's pencil.
Kevin Roberts wrote:
Thank you Langdon. Its very rare that you find a columnist on here, that is true to himself and his readers. I think there is a valuble lesson to be learned here, which goes back to the age-old saying of : "dont believe everything you read." Youre right about Goldberg too 'cause damn-near every wrestling fan was EXCITED to see him and fellow "hatee" Kevin Nash co-star on "The Longest Yard" with Stone Cold. There are bunch of followers within the internet community and Im glad to someone taking a stand. Thanks for keepin' it real.
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