Professional wrestling has been one of my favorite things since I first found it on the television one fateful Saturday morning when I was five years old. I generally prefer my entertainment to be a bit over-the-top and ridiculous, so I was sucked in immediately. As I’ve grown, I’ve come to genuinely appreciate the craft and the psychology involved in making people enjoy a fake fight with a predetermined outcome. It’s art, and I will always defend it as such.
But I am also fully aware of wrestling’s shitty history. A lot of performers and decision-makers within the industry have been shitty human beings for a long time. Wrestling’s been bigoted, homophobic, sexist, and pretty much every other negative word you can think of at some point in my lifetime. I’m embarrassed by some of the filthier stuff I enjoyed when I was younger and dumber. I maintain, however, that wrestling can be better than this. It doesn’t have to sink into the muck to work well; it can be better than its sordid past when it wants to be.
The problem is that the biggest wrestling company in the history of the planet earth doesn’t always want to be. I give you, ladies and gentlemen, WWE Crown Jewel, an event put on in Saudi Arabia at the behest of the royal family just a few weeks after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. This will be WWE’s second trip to the country. Their inaugural visit last year turned into an odd bit of propaganda pushing Saudi Arabia as a place making some serious progress. It was more awkward than trying to explain your wrestling fandom to someone you’ve had a few nice dates with. This time around, however, it just seems dirty. John Cena and Daniel Bryan, two of the company’s biggest stars, have already backed out. Twitter and reddit suggest at least some fans are cancelling their subscriptions to WWE Network because of it.
It’s all about the money, right? Right. The problem is the way the decision to move forward with Crown Jewel conflicts with the company’s constant attempts to generate positive PR. Their first ever all-female event, Evolution, was a smashing success—but it’s sort of stuck in the shadow of the Saudi Arabia show. That sucks.
I’m still trying to figure out what my response to all this is. I know what you’re thinking: “Scott Colby, if you really care, just cancel your subscription, donate your ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin painting to Goodwill, and make a statement already, you dink!” That’s hard. Like, so hard I can’t even fathom it.
You know what’s always been there when I needed it? WWE wrestling. No matter how life kicked me in the ass, there was always a show full of faux ass kickers there to help me pick myself back up. It’s like that old blanket you don’t want to get rid of, or that tub of chocolate chip ice cream you always keep in the freezer, or maybe that cam girl you spend $500 on every month. There are reasons to cut ties, sure, but it’s so familiar and so ingrained that giving it up would be sort of like losing a limb.
I know what you’re thinking next: “Ugh, cut the crap and just watch Impact or New Japan or some Lucha Underground! You don’t need those scumbags!” It’s not the same. Those are all great products, but they’re not my wrestling. You can get a new blanket that doesn’t have holes in it, but it’s going to be too soft and not quite long enough. Rocky road ain’t no chocolate chip. And CherryBomb889 might say she loves you just as much as GingersaurusSex did, but you know she’s lying.
So I don’t know what, if anything, I’m going to do about my unhappiness with this Crown Jewel bullshit. I haven’t watched any of the usual weekly shows in a while because my enthusiasm for the product’s sort of died out, but I don’t doubt for a second the urge will come back in a few weeks. Does that make me a spineless SJW cuck who’s all talk…or am I just another human looking for stability who doesn’t understand why so people can’t just cut the shit and stop being assholes to each other so we can all enjoy the ridiculous play fighting in peace? I’m on the fence about this one. I’d argue we all want things around us to change without really being willing to change ourselves, but there’s also a chance I’m just making excuses here. Also, I just lost my shit watching Matt Hardy try to give an invitation to his Halloween ball to a kangaroo, which is not making being outraged any easier.
Anyway, I really hope someday WWE makes it easier to be a fan. Being sports entertained shouldn’t be so complicated.