By Stu Salkeld
Being a news junky, I read a lot of different newspapers and scan lots of different websites every week. One particular set of headlines bothered me last week.
On the Yahoo Sports site the week of Feb. 22, the three top headlines were pro wrestling stories. Near as I could tell Yahoo Sports is a legitimate sports news site where factual information, such as final scores and injuries are supposed to be available. What’s pro wrestling doing on there?
In fairness to Yahoo Sports, they aren’t the only ones who are obviously trying to profit off the popularity of pro wrestling.Even so, it’s very disturbing to see the number of people in the general population taking this stuff seriously. Even sportswriters who work for respected agencies treat this stuff like an actual sport, which of course it’s not. Even one of the top men in pro wrestling testified under oath pro wrestling is fixed, and nothing more than a soap opera.
The owner/operator of the world’s biggest pro wrestling organization, World Wrestling Entertainment, stated on the record in 1989 that wrestling is fake. On Feb. 10, 1989 McMahon testified to the New Jersey Senate that pro wrestling was a scripted TV show in essence; McMahon, ever the savvy businessman, made the admission in order to dodge regulations and fees being placed on pro wrestling as a sport. Soap operas, for example, don’t have to have mandatory steroid testing.
According to a story in TV Guide, McMahon’s wife Linda admitted in 2010 during a run for senate as a Republican that wrestling “isn’t real,” and pro wrestling is a “soap opera that entertains millions every week.”
Pro wrestling is a soap opera, and it’s a business; in fact, some critics go so far as to call it one of the sleaziest businesses in the entertainment world. Don’t agree with that?
On May 23, 1999 pro wrestler Owen Hart fell to his death at Kansas City’s Kemper Arena. Hart had recently taken on the identity of the “Blue Blazer,” a good-natured and bumbling super-hero character. It was later revealed Hart was supposed to be lowered from the arena’s rafters down to the wrestling ring, and when close enough was supposed to activate a “quickrelease” catch on the wires, dumping him in the ring. The general effect was supposed to make The Blue Blazer look like a clumsy idiot. Unfortunately, something happened when Hart was still 78 feet above the ring, and he fell free, plummeting into the ring below. Hart suffered serious internal injuries and soon after died in a nearby hospital.
To make this tragedy even worse, the World Wrestling Federation (now called World Wrestling Entertainment) didn’t even call off the show as Hart suffered injury then died. They just carried right on filming as the poor fellow lay there. An announcer pointed out that Hart’s obvious injury “wasn’t part of any storyline.” I guess if they stopped the show they would’ve had to refund the gate, right?
Hart’s widow Martha ended up suing WWE for exploiting Hart’s name and likeness to (you guess it) make money for the business. Apparently, WWE settled out of court with her in 2000.
Does it matter that pro wrestling is fake? No, not at all. Everybody is entitled to the entertainment they prefer. Personally, I couldn’t care less if wrestling is phony.
The problem that concerns me, though, is when sports sites like Yahoo who call themselves legitimate news providers include television shows in their sports headlines. When you’ve got material that’s admittedly scripted and phony, then group it in with actual athletic competition; the line between fact and fiction is blurred.
Organizations like Yahoo that do such things damage the credibility of all news providers, regardless of size or location.
Stu Salkeld is the new editor of the Leduc/Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.