Hosted by former Lords of Pain 205 Live reviewer, “205 Clive”.
Clive: Welcome! To this, the first in a bi-monthly Brand Extension offshoot, where Chairshot Media’s Rance Morris and I take you to Wrestling Debate Club. In written form! Rance, thank you for joining me on this new and potential laden venture!
Rance: My pleasure sir! I’m still astonished that you were so willing and happy to lose a debate against me so publicly, but I’m still happy to be here with you.
Clive: There was me hoping for a cordial and respectful back and forth on this debut installment. Instead, you went for the jugular. If that’s how you want to play it, then let’s jump right in. Unless you have any preemptive sore-loser caveats you want to throw in beforehand?
Rance: Remember Braveheart? The Scot died. On your cue, Clivert!
Statement Up For Debate:
These past few weeks have seen the return of NXT UK to the WWE Network and TV outlets around the world. Considering there are still unaddressed roster members implicated in June’s #SpeakingOut Movement, should NXT UK even return at all? Rance, as a proponent for the show’s return, the floor is yours.
Proponent’s Argument: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, trolls and trollettes of the IWC, I’d like to speak to you about a word that has become a bit of a buzzword in recent times – diversity. Now, more than ever, society has realized the importance of diversity. And I’m not just speaking about racial diversity, gender diversity, or the diversity of sexuality, religion, or class. I’m talking about diversity of choice. In this wonderful business that we call professional wrestling, this particular form of diversity has been quite the major issue over the years. The WWE essentially ran a monopoly on the business for almost 2 decades; so much so that they had to create their own diversity. They tried to achieve this first with the initial brand split, then with the rise of NXT, and most recently, with what Triple H calls “global localization”. It’s because of this that one of the most underserved markets in all of professional wrestling, the United Kingdom, received a WWE offshoot brand in NXT UK.
Now, I know that there has been massive controversy associated with this brand. The timing of its inception with the simultaneous rebirth of World of Sport is fresh in people’s minds, what with the so-called “homogenization” of the British Independent wrestling scene, and most recently, the #SpeakingOut scandal. It’s important to state, as we’ve talked about ad nauseum personally and in our various mediums, that there was a cancer in the wrestling business and it needed to be cut out. For the most part, wrestling – and WWE in particular – has done that. So while there is still some uncertainty with a portion of the NXT UK roster, and there MUST be an amicable resolution on those performers who deserve swift and severe punishment, the point of the brand should not be lost. The diversity of the brand should not be destroyed. The sins of the few should not affect the many. The importance of this brand for the region it serves, and the possibility of what this brand represents is a fire that must be stoked. Not one that should be extinguished. NXT UK gives European and Commonwealth wrestlers a steady wage in their own backyard. They have guarantees that working for the various Indy promotions could not promise. And the prospect of what making it in the WWE can do for a performer is too great to pass up, especially if you don’t have to move stateside. So I’d like to finish my opening argument by reminding you all of the importance of what NXT UK can and should be. A diverse, bustling showcase for the best professional wrestlers that Europe has to offer. A few disgustingly unfortunate controversies should not end this medium.
Readers, WWE, as we all know, is a publicly traded company. In so being, it strives to be the standard bearer in all things professional wrestling. It even aims for similar standards in the world of entertainment as a whole. With that comes a responsibility. A base level of visibility. A transparency to show to the world that it is not this all conquering evil conglomerate some pockets of wrestling fandom believe it to be.
In the Speaking Out Scandal’s wake, WWE has failed to set the standard. While independent wrestlers around the world have taken quick, decisive, and foundation rumbling measures to not only ensure a safe working environment, but also to present an untainted product to the public, WWE has in some cases portrayed itself as a brush with which to brush under a rug its dirty little secrets. Especially when it pertains to NXT UK.
Yes, some of those with allegations have indeed been shown the door, or at least suspended, pending further investigation. However, other allegations have remained, on the face of it at least, ignored. Why are public statements made for some and not for others? Why, with such an incredibly sensitive issue nowhere near resolved, are some accused not also treated with the visibility given to their peers? The UK and European wrestling scenes are small. In turn, they are close knit. Guilt by association is not a word I wish to use lightly. Yet, innocent wrestlers have toured the world for years with colleagues who are now considered predators, and a cancer to the business.
With police taskforces regarding #SpeakingOut still ongoing as you read this, it is irresponsible for WWE to operate with a business as usual mindset. Not enough has been done to assuage the collective anxiety felt by the Internet Wrestling Community. Until that has happened, NXT UK, now the hub of the BritWres scene, should not be back on our screens.
My counterpart stated that WWE is the standard bearer in professional wrestling, and as such, should set the standard in situations such as this. He’s absolutely correct. Unequivocally so. He also states that WWE seemingly has brushed it’s dirty little secrets under a proverbial rug. Again, absolutely correct. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t acknowledge and lament WWE’s extremely checkered history of shoddy business practices, unfair treatment of performers, and overall crassness. These are all facts. But the question being asked is should NXT UK be ended because of all of the above.
Let’s talk about a few of these dirty little secrets that have been brushed under the rug by WWE. Chris Benoit committed a double murder homicide while under the employ of WWE. There is a very public and saddening list of professional wrestlers that spend the majority of their time under WWE’s employ that died at extremely young ages, with their demise ultimately being tied to the rigors and demands of the WWE model – most notably, Eddie Guerrero. There is a history of racist undertones in gimmicks, who’s pushed to success and why, and in treatment by wrestlers and management. The absolute same can be said for the treatment of the women of WWE historically, probably even more so. And then there’s Vince McMahon, as shrewd a businessman that’s ever lived, but a man who is as devilish as any we’ve seen in this generation. These are all verifiable facts. Do they mean that WWE should cease operations?
The answer should be, and is no. For all of the atrocities that WWE has been responsible for, they have given us just as much, if not more. The amount of lives that the WWE has ruined is likely quadrupled by the lives that they’ve positively impacted – professionally, financially, and for some, even personally. WWE’s success is directly involved in the success of every other wrestling company in the business, and that’s even before they became a conglomerate. In more recent years, WWE has taken a heavy philanthropic charge, placing heavy emphasis on their fight against multiple forms of cancers, the Special Olympics, and women’s empowerment to name a few. There are multiple redeeming qualities that WWE has, and we haven’t even talked about the product. For all of the conjecture about the enjoyment of it, there’s no debate that the biggest and most memorable and important moments in the wrestling world happen in the WWE.
So, am I arguing that the ends justify the means? No, that’s not my decision to make. For every issue that I’m somehow able to accept, millions more can’t. I accept that and I honor that. What I am arguing, however, is that this isn’t a black and white situation. It never is in entertainment. The issue is simply, “What does NXT UK have to offer, and is it still worth it?” With this being the ACTUAL question at hand, I feel that the answer is an unequivocal yes. I ask you, if you shut down NXT UK, what do you do with their near 40 person roster? Are the masses worth sacrificing for the transgressions of a few? I also ask, especially to my counterpart, if you are a wrestling fan in the UK and Europe, what are you supposed to watch? NXT UK has given the European wrestling scene it’s only weekly episodic show. Yes, the bigger Indy companies will still do shows and televise them, but will it have the ease of watching and production quality that the WWE has?
Finally, if we do shut down NXT UK, what does this mean for future brands, shows, and companies? This sets a precedent that if any show has issues with some of its performers, that show should cease. That’s a dangerous precedent to set. One that gives entirely too much power to a society that more often than not abuses it. Instead of destroying what is essentially 50+ people’s livelihoods, let’s get rid of the ACTUAL abusers. Let’s clean up the show, clean up the brand, and clean up the business. Don’t throw it in the trash because a handful of guys are trash.
The question posed today isn’t whether or not NXT UK should be done for good. Rance posits several salient points as to the deeds of the few being outweighed by the needs of the many. Rather, the question asks if it is too soon to bring the product back to the masses.
I was a huge proponent of its arrival on the Network. Proud of its venture onto normal television. Even with the backlash of its apparent harming of the BritWres scene as a whole. But Rance mentions charitable causes and women empowerment programs as WWE’s positives. Indeed they should be. However, when, on the face of it, a complete lack of action has been taken for some still accused, their victims who spoke out are far from empowered. With WWE’s success, as Rance suggests, this problem is a microcosm of the entertainment industry. For WWE to rise above its peers in that arena, more has to be done.
If WWE isn’t as transparent as it can be with these investigations, as the standard bearer that it is, why should companies aspiring to be affiliates buck that trend? If WWE doesn’t call a halt to proceedings until ALL accused have either been routed or cleared, why, then, should anybody else? With the accused (from NXT, Raw, and Smackdown also) wrestling away as if nothing has happened, how long will it be before independent companies wait for the fires to die out again before bringing their own accused back in? It might not take as long next time for a similar scandal to hit the scene.
Proponent’s Closing Statement:
Ladies and gentlemen of the IWC, I’d like to make it known officially that I agree with my opponent on pretty much every point he has. I absolutely think that WWE should be held accountable for the inconsistency of how they’ve handled the #SpeakingOut movement accused. I think that there should have been a clear, concise, and most importantly PUBLIC plan as to what happens with those mentioned. I also think that WWE is and should continue to be the leader in the wrestling business, which means that they need to set the standard. And Clive and I both believe that they’ve missed the mark in this regard.
Where we disagree, however, is on one fundamental issue. What do you do until that happens? I’m not going to pretend to be a lawyer or a contract expert, but it’s more than fair to assume that all of the performers signed to WWE have morality clauses in their contracts. The people who have been released thus far have all openly admitted to what they did. The ones still under contract, however, have not. Some of which are actively fighting the allegations legally. This puts WWE in a precarious situation. I’d LOVE to see that WWE released Matt Riddle or Velveteen Dream today, but can you imagine the potential legal firestorm that may bring? They’d have legal recourse to say that WWE stood by them this far, and if rumors are believed to be true, both men informed WWE of their situations before they became public. So this is absolutely a lose-lose situation in the eyes of the WWE.
Now, I’m not sticking up for Riddle, Dream, or any of the accused. I’m not even sticking up for the WWE in this regard, who have the capital and gravitas to deal with any legal firestorm that may come their way. I’m simply trying to point out the delicacy of how this situation has to be handled. And not simply for the performers mentioned, but for the accusers as well. This situation is one that must be handled with care, diligence, and time. That last point – time – is the issue on which my opponent and I disagree. So to end my statement, I’ll ask you this. In a post-quarantine world, do you really think that the NXT UK brand could handle a full on shut down until all legal issues have run their course? Do you think that the WWE can afford to completely shut down a brand, one so important and synonymous with their second biggest market, to wait for the official situations of a few potentially guilty parties?
I believe that the answer is no. I believe that all of the accused should deal with their transgressions, and if true, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and fired. I believe that there is ABSOLUTELY no place for sexual assault, sexual deviance, abuse, domestic violence, targeting and grooming, or any of the other things mentioned in the allegations in society, especially in wrestling. But most importantly, I believe that the innocent should not be punished for the guilty. I believe that NXT UK should continue.
Opponent’s Closing Statement:
With this being such an incendiary topic, it’s heartwarming to know that Rance and I are on the same page on the majority of the issues arising from this. So much so, it would be pointless for me to reiterate the points my opponent has so eloquently put across.
The issue with time, however, is that its very abundance can lead to complacency. Not just by WWE, who might not be as rigorously investigating matters as it was in June and July. But also by those accused whose status remains unresolved. Whose social media has slowly but surely become more active. Whose friends – even family members, with whom I struggle to believe would have been blind to such behaviour all this time – wait for them to be ingratiated back into the fold; their own potential guilt by proxy equally diminished.
Rance is spot on with the negative ramifications a prolonged postponement would have for third parties and wrestlers themselves. Knowing said wrestlers like I do, however, what with them having lived in each others’ pockets for lifetimes, this disease has to be thoroughly eradicated. Before it can come back, even more damaging to the wrestling community than it was the first time.
Handshake/Outro/Posit Question to Readers:
Clive: Well, Rance, thank you for joining me on this unique venture. I like to think this back and forth will have conjured up several talking points and issues for those reading to ponder.
Rance: Man, I thought we were supposed to fight? Like joust style. Like on American Gladiators. This was waaaaayyyy too friendly, but you are my brother, so I guess I’ll let this slide. Let’s do it again sometime!
Clive: Oh, indeed we will, sir. Indeed we will. If, however, we are going to do that, a tally has to be kept to see who is more in keeping with IWC sentiments. This where you, the reader, get to have your say. Hit us up in the comments below, or if you find this on social media. Tell us who you think won this debate, why, and if you have an alternative option.
Read my previous Brand Extension columns here.
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