Tag Archives: Ultimate Warrior

Survival of the Fittest: Ultimate Warrior and Hate Speech

12 Apr

Heath-Ledger-001

“Leather Hedger had sleeping troubles and anxiety and dealt with terrible mood swings…By today’s standard, though, I do have to agree that he was a great father. Perhaps even greater then the father of the year, Hulk Hogan. After all, Leather Hedger did what it took to kill himself. His kid is without a father, yes, but the negative influence is now removed and his own child has the chance for a full recovery.”

– Ultimate Warrior on Heath Ledger, after the actor’s death

Jim Hellwig, later known as the Ultimate Warrior, was just one week ago enjoying induction into WWE’s Hall of Fame, an appearance at WrestleMania XXX, and a nostalgia promo on Monday Night Raw. He’s now dead. Beyond the wave of tributes for a legendary pro wrestling character, what about the person himself? What about his life’s mission, his beliefs, his passions and his principles?

wrestlamania6

The above quote about Heath Ledger, who had starred in a film Warrior considered gay propaganda, Brokeback Mountain, is relatively mild in comparison to Warrior’s infamous homophobic tirades, having spent a substantial proportion of his post-WWF career touring the United States to promote his principle of “survival of the fittest” while engaging in public speaking events where he could be afforded a platform for hate speech – attacking not just homosexuals but also ethnic minorities, women, and even the poor. Sadly, he became more of a figure of ridicule the more he tried to present himself as a serious political commentator of any credibility.

But one week ago, Warrior had ensured himself some forgiveness after burying the hatchet with several pro wrestlers. In perhaps his finest hour – years after his in-ring days had ended – he had every opportunity to follow up such an olive branch by publicly reversing his views on gay people, ethnic minorities, women, and those less wealthy than himself. He chose not to. And the WWE – even under the mask of their anti-bullying PR strategy – failed to have him do so. The mainstream media, meanwhile, remained silent.

Warrior desperately wanted to be perceived as intelligent, even attacking this writer on a forum many years ago using multisyllabic rhetoric, only to fall silent when I pointed out his long words lacked any real meaning; they just demonstrated that he knew such words, and – sometimes – how to use them. He showed his complete ignorance of the term Social Darwinism (animal kingdom principles of “survival of the fittest,” applied on to society) by suggesting it shouldn’t be used simply because, in society, people aren’t dying (unless you consider what he’d no doubt have claimed was the mere coincidence of poor people being more susceptible to low life expectancy). Yet all along, as I do here now, I afforded Warrior the respect of being a human being with a strong set of views that we shouldn’t ignore.

Beyond the Social Darwinist statement above, Warrior maintained an entire website filled with pages of hateful homophobia and bigotry until the day he died. (At the time of writing, much of it remains in the public domain, so you can see for yourself even beyond his death.)

Even as WWE suits from Paul “Triple H” Levesque to Stephanie and Vince McMahon praised pro wrestler Darren Young for being one of their first openly gay stars, their former CEO and Republican politician Linda McMahon inducted Warrior into WWE’s Hall of Fame and exploited the mainstream media’s ignorance towards their industry by getting away with endorsing him when they suddenly saw an opportunity to make money off a man even they had publicly buried.

While even staid international outlets like British newspaper The Independent covered the news of Warrior’s demise, the global mainstream media instead is, of course, armed with few facts about professional wrestling, and reduces itself to ill-informed presentations like those of Nancy Grace, who clumsily gave the impression that steroids killed all those wrestlers who died too young – including Owen Hart, who actually fell to his death when a stunt went awry.

Screenshot from 2014-04-12 21:47:05

So long as the media remain ignorant, and open themselves up to criticism and campaigns like #CancelNancy, the pro wrestling industry can conveniently remain relatively free from credible scrutiny, so as to continue making the same mistakes without being held to account, exploiting “independent contractors” with legally questionable binding contracts, no off-season, and no pension or health care coverage. This ignorance set the stage for the rise of the Ultimate Warrior himself, who looked out for himself, cared little for other wrestlers, and then found himself chewed up and spat out, spitting venom upon this outcome, railing against Vince McMahon.

Warrior often spoke of himself in superior tones and even in the third person, capitalised as He or Him or His, and rarely ever admitted flaws, vulnerabilities, or mistakes – his return, as evidenced by his Hall of Fame speech, was only ever about defeating Vince McMahon in his own mind.

Hate kept his blood pumping, and it is perhaps fitting that as soon as he felt redeemed, his heart stopped, following perhaps the greatest amount of steroid abuse known to the pro wrestling industry, an incredible achievement in itself. Yet despite this drug use and abuse, he always felt comfortable mocking the drug addiction of other wrestlers such as Jake “The Snake” Roberts or the drug-induced deaths of high-profile names like Heath Ledger for being “weak” in accordance with his own Social Darwinist outlook. We can only hope that Warrior – after years of ‘roid ravage – receives more respect than he afforded others. So how do we show him respect now?

v3-jake

One thing Warrior – as with any man who fought for his principles – would surely shudder at the thought of, is fans whitewashing his beliefs mere days after his death, and he’d scoff at the fawning from his peers who just years ago were lining up to attack him in any way they could because few of them saw him as a true peer. One former long-time WWE photographer this week painted the picture of the Warrior as a hateful, selfish man.

For Warrior to truly hurt WWE though, and challenge McMahon’s huge corporation, he would have had to admit weakness by accepting the reality that all wrestlers – not just him – have been at risk of exploitation by a largely unregulated industry. He couldn’t bring himself to do that though, because he firmly believed in the Social Darwinist doctrine of “survival of the fittest,” and thus all of his complaints dissipated as soon as Vince shook his hand, booked him a Hall of Fame spot, and inked a lucrative deal that would never be lived out.

No, Warrior saw himself as special; unique – and when you take that to its logical conclusion, you can claim that the exploitation, too, was merely exclusive to you, rather than a symptom of an entire industry. Warrior, then, got to make the Hall of Fame and for him, all was suddenly well with the world.

And yet, when pro wrestling news sites such as the Pro Wrestling Torch take an honest look at Warrior’s life – his actions and words – they are faced with criticism themselves. Suddenly, traces of Warrior’s true endeavours are being removed from the internet; his character is taking over the human being, so that integrity, or intensity, are now entirely attributed to the man born Jim Hellwig. And yet what made the man intense was that integrity to stand by his beliefs even in the face of social decency.

But just as the man sometimes had trouble separating the two, the character has begun to blur with the person, and it’s threatening to consume it if we don’t afford him the respect of honest tributes that absolutely must endure, and survive. If not, are we truly fit to call ourselves commentators of any kind? There have been some websites that have covered Warrior’s life in honest ways; one overtly political site, I provided the source material for just this week. But it’s sad when little more than a blogger has to prompt successful websites to present true retrospectives.

ultimatewarrior

Former “Million Dollar Man” turned Christian, Ted DiBiase, who has been a leading critic but received a friendly acknowledgement by Warrior at the Hall of Fame, will be expected to reverse his views now, too. Because regardless of the intense and dedicated performances of the limited, reckless, green yet muscular poster boy for McMahon’s steroid-infested 1980’s, Warrior remained a hateful, ultra-right-wing bigot, but this now must not be addressed at all costs.

Indeed, in this wave of apologism for homophobia which just years from now will have stopped being acceptable and be damned to the annals of history alongside slavery, any true statements about Warrior are attacked. Whereas to call Heath Ledger or Philip Seymour Hoffman drug addicts who ran themselves into early graves is, in conservative American society, perfectly acceptable and even commendable, the sad fact remains that it is not yet ready to hear criticisms of dead celebrities if these criticisms don’t suit the cause.

“To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.” – Voltaire

Is John Cena the Prototype?

25 Apr

In a January 11th piece on Cageside Seats, the writer suggested John Cena is a “prototype” of the American worker who “shows up early” and “leaves late.” Aside from the fact that this sounds a lot like the United States of former president George W. Bush Jr who, when told by one citizen that she worked three jobs, replied, “Uniquely American, isn’t it?” few Americans want to live in a society where they’re run into the ground. This naturally affects quality of the work they do conduct – and this brings us to John Cena.

There’s no doubt he trains hard; his almost inhuman physique is a miraculous testament to that. There’s no doubt he goes without sleep in order to make a plethora of public appearances on behalf of the WWE corporation. And there’s no doubt he cares about charity work for those less privileged than himself, including members of the armed forces that sponsor WWE events. He even makes a soldier’s salute on his way to the ring – despite the fact greater men than he have lost their lives after executing that gesture.

But again, the quality of Cena’s work is questionable. The writer of the piece argued:

“Let’s quit with this idea that he is some kind of horrid worker. He is competent enough in the ring to be the top star in the company and work with the very best in wrestling and has not ever caused, that I can recall, a major injury. Sure his offense looks soft, but it’s wrestling, looking soft or looking like an MMA fight means very little when these guys aren’t hitting their opponents either way. A good worker is based on the personal tastes of the viewer.”

Cena’s “competence” to get by at the top of the roster depends on your perspective and “personal tastes,” that much is true. Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior were both sub-par in terms of in-ring work, and they got by on ability to draw and work a crowd whilst abusing performance-enhancing substances. Yet you look at the crop of talent that followed them – Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and even today’s stars such as CM Punk and Daniel Bryan – and it’s evident that it’s possible to promote all-rounders who don’t just merely possess the ability to manipulate audiences, but also stand up to scrutiny from viewers both dedicated and casual.

Pro wrestling is about suspension of disbelief. We’re all fully aware that it’s nothing like MMA. It’s a soap opera sporting event that incorporates athletics with theatre, but one where – as with a movie – you can be carried along by the storyline-induced emotions presented to you. When you see bad acting on the big screen, or lousy special effects, why does it bother you? You’re bothered because it breaks your suspension of disbelief. It’s the reason people ridiculed Jenna Morasca’s match with Sharmell Huffman at TNA’s Victory Road in 2009: if it looks terrible; if it isn’t executed properly, then people boo.

People boo John Cena. His inability to sustain an audience’s suspension of disbelief is one of the significant reasons for this. Cena’s offence, as well as his selling and even his habit of irresponsibly calling spots in an audible fashion, are not conducive to suspension of disbelief.

What the writer of said article gets right – and what too many people forget – is that Cena’s acting (perfectly described in the article as either “sombre” or “preachy”) is shaky to say the least, and yet he is at the order of the WWE corporate and creative machine. Why is nobody instructing him differently? If the fans, the smarks, the pundits and his own peers can see Cena’s shortcomings, why can’t they? Why is no one successfully communicating these holes to Cena himself?

The only explanation is that Cena is incapable of grasping these concepts, carries on as ever, and yet still gets pushed because the office have little faith in anyone else as figurehead. The problem here, though, is that the office actually book him to, for example, destroy Nexus upon bouncing back from an arena floor DDT that put Ricky Steamboat on the shelf for months. This may be another sign of the failings of a creative team model geared towards Hollywood television writers rather than savvy veterans who understand pro wrestling and its history.

Of course, what it comes down to is Cena’s inherent lack of ability. The writer may suggest that Cena will do whatever is expected of him, but we’d hope that a prototype of an American worker is not just one who does what’s expected of superiors without considering colleagues or customers.

It’s also the duty of a captain to question the course of his ship, and the facts show WWE is not entering clearer waters just yet, based on stock, ratings, and non-WrestleMania buy-rates. Cena doesn’t seem to question anything, or attempt to put in good words for up-and-coming wrestlers, from all accounts. He’s obviously just a Yes Man for the office. The Miz was, too – determined to show his loyalty to the company as one of its top champions, but soon fell from favour in an era of fickle booking…because Miz can’t rely on merchandise sales to preserve his promortion.

Cena can’t cut it. He does not possess the all-round ability of a Hart, a Michaels, or even a Punk. If WWE refuses to turn their cash-cow heel, then what they must do is learn to utilise him to elevate more stars than just Punk. Their future depends on it.