It’s Time We Blurred the Lines
2007 is going to go down in WWE history as a very dark year. After seeing their rosters plagued with injuries and a god portion of their top tier players like Triple H, Rey Jr. Batista, Edge and Booker T taken away, Chris Benoit murdered his wife and child and committed suicide. After the absolutely horrific details of the Benoit tragedy came to light, the United States Government started noticing that the WWE Wellness Program had some serious holes in it in order for this to happen.
Fast forward a few months. Chris Benoit has been all but erased from the WWE history. You can’t find a match of his on WWE 24/7, nor any description of his matches in the “official” WWE title histories or DVD match descriptions. Who know if they will ever put that wrestling footage back into their programs. Now the Albany NY DA’s offices are involved in investigating an online pharmacy that has been known to sell illegal prescriptions and, surprise surprise, the list was leaked. And even less surprising, names of WWE wrestlers are on that list. A lot of WWE names are on that list. Two current champions, two other men that headlined Summerslam less than two weeks ago, one on screen General Manager and six former world champions, not to mention three dead wrestlers. This list according to ESPN and The Daily News, not including the deceased, is larger than the current active roster of ECW.
- Chris “Masters” Mordetsky
- Randy Orton – Former World Champion, Headlined Summerslam
- Charles Haas, Jr. – Former Tag Champion
- Adam “Edge” Copeland – Former World Champion
- Robert “Booker T” Huffman – Former World Champion
- Shane “Gregory” Helms – Former Cruiserweight Champion
- Mike “Simon Dean” Bucci – Talent Development Manager
- Anthony “Santino Marella” Carelli – Former Intercontinental Champion
- John “Johnny Nitro”/”John Morrison” Hennigan – Current ECW Champion
- Darren “William Regal” Matthews – Current General Manager, RAW
- Ken “Mr. Kennedy” Anderson – Former US Champion
- Chavo Guerrero – Former US Champion
- Eddie “Umaga” Fatui – Current Intercontinental Champion
- Shoichi Funaki – Former Cruiserweight Champion
- Dave Bautista – Former World Champion
- Eddie Guerrero – Former World Champion, deceased
- Chris Beniot – Former World Champion, deceased
- Brian “Crush” Adams – Former Tag Champion, deceased
As the public, there isn’t much in terms of options that we have to let the WWE know our opinions. As a WWE stock holder, I can sell my stock in the company, but as of 10:30 am the morning after the names were released, the WWE’s stock is up between 2 and 3%. We could stop watching, but unless we have Nielsen boxes, that’s moot. We could stop going to shows, but there are too many people who would still want to go to the shows anyway. And come on, if the internet stops going to the shows, then Cena won’t have anyone to boo him. And we can’t let that happen!
And so this brings me to a morbid conversation to have. And it’s one that we’re going to have.
When Chris Benoit died, the ratings didn’t go up. They might have had a little spike (why does NO ONE have a graph of ratings over time?) the next night or two to see the tribute show or Vince’s apology for the tribute show, but they didn’t go up. As a matter of fact, I know many people who turned off the TV because of it. Some of our writers could no longer stomach watching the company that seemingly allowed and encouraged Benoit to become the deranged testosterone driven monster that he became. My best friend stopped watching as well. We bonded 21 years ago over the WWE and now he’d stopped watching because of Chris Benoit’s death and murdering spree.
I’ll pause here for a moment to say that in no way do I think that the WWE should have attempted to profit in the wake of Chris Benoit’s death. I’m against this idea. However, the opportunity was there to gain more viewers, but it didn’t happen. The exact opposite happened. People stopped watching. Benoit’s death wasn’t intriguing, it was depressing.
However, these names are intriguing. To quote the title of Eric Bischoff’s book, controversy creates cash. This is something that could potentially draw in fans who haven’t watched in a while and fans who turned the TV off after the Benoit’s death.
In the past wrestling companies have blurred the lines between the show and reality, occasionally in poor taste. Montreal 1997, Hawk’s drinking problem, the Matt Hardy/Lita/Edge love triangle, Scott Hall’s drinking problem, Ric Flair’s firing from WCW, Hulk Hogan’s dismissal from WCW, and the list goes on and on. In recent years, the WWE has shied away from blurring these lines, I believe in fear of retaliation from a society that’s too politically correct for its own good.
But now the opportunity is back. Just because these wrestlers have been outed for buying illegal drugs online doesn’t mean they’re done wrestling forever. We’re wrestling fans, we’ve forgiven or forgotten about Jimmy Snuka for possibly accidentally murdering his girlfriend, Steve Austin’s domestic abuse against Debra, Hulk Hogan’s steroid abuse and Sid’s stabbing of Arn Anderson with a pair of scissors comes to mind off the top of my head. We can forgive these guys for taking steroids or HGH or whatever makes them feel like a man.
It’s time to blur those lines again. There’s no reason why John Hennigan can’t be called out for taking steroids on TV by CM Punk just before Punk takes the ECW title. Imagine how much more people would want to see Rey Jr. beat Chavo if they knew that despite his uncle and friend’s deaths due to these substances if he was still taking them. This would do two things, the first would be to stir up some controversy. The second is to reward these guys who are CLEAN. Or at least, clean right now.
So the question will come up. Why? Why should they do this when they already have the scarlet letter in public? It’s a simple answer. People are going to watch at least for a little while to see what the hell the WWE is going to do about this.
Okay, okay. Maybe they should suspend these guys right here and right now and not let them be on TV. No doubt the writers are searching for reasons why over a dozen wrestlers are suddenly missing. What’s wrong with the truth? The viewers of the program already know that the WWE is being looked into by the US Government. They’ve admitted to it on television. Now it’s time to come clean and on your own TV shows.
What about the children? We don’t want them to think that taking steroids is okay. I mean, what are they going to think when they find out that “The animal” Batista took drugs to get as big as he is today? Batista’s a pretty well spoken guy and can handle himself in front of a WWE crowd. They’ll find no better spokesman to talk about how what he did was wrong. Put the man in a suit, don’t show his body for a while, while in the process he works on losing weight and slimming down.
Forget PSA’s or a good will tour of shopping malls across America. Everyone knows that those things are PR bullshit. It’s time to address this in front of a crowd of millions, not dozens or hundreds.