I went back-and-forth on whether or not I should even write this column. There was a lot of internal debate going on. A lot.
This is a topic that will ruffle feathers, no matter what is said. If I “side” with this argument, those people will be upset, and if I “side” with that argument, these people will be upset. Even if I don’t “side” with any argument and merely present facts, you’re going to get people who are upset that I didn’t “side” with them. It’s a bit of an uncomfortable topic of discussion, but it’s also incredibly important, and it needs to happen, so let’s do it.
Back in 2011, Jay Briscoe used a particular gay slur that starts with “f” in a random tweet. To show you how different society was in 2011 compared to 2022, he didn’t really get into much trouble for it at the time. Imagine what would happen if a wrestler used that word on Twitter right now, and how quickly that would explode. It would probably make the news, especially if it were a bigger star that said it.
In 2013, Briscoe would make more headlines on Twitter, this time by talking about the Delaware (where he’s from) Senate passing a bill that would allow same-sex marriage. He said that he would “fucking shoot you” if you tried to teach his kids that there was nothing wrong with same-sex marriage. This time, his comments wouldn’t fly under the radar, and the backlash was swift. Ring Of Honor had to come out and issue an apology, and Briscoe himself would issue apologies, as well. Briscoe would donate (probably as part of a punishment by RoH) his pay from the next two shows he worked to a non-profit charitable organization that was created to “help prevent, deter, and reduce juvenile hate-related behavior.”
It has been nearly nine years since that second incident for Jay Briscoe. In that time frame, Jay and his brother, Mark, have rumored to have lost out on a WWE contract because of the tweets, and now, it is rumored that they could be missing out on an AEW contract because of them, too.
Before we go any further, it is important to cover two points that have been made repeatedly.
One, people have said it was nothing more than Jay Briscoe being in character and trying to get heel heat. Even if that was true, Jay was only a heel at the time of the first tweet. It seems awfully strange that a face would try to get “heat” by tweeting what he did in 2013, don’t you think? Even as a heel, and even back in 2011, are you telling me Briscoe couldn’t think of ANYTHING better to get heel heat than dropping a gay slur? I’ve heard the man cut some fantastic promos through the years and, amazingly enough, he avoided slurs every single time. Now, he sure did curse a lot in those promos, but that’s something else entirely.
Two, the same line of thinking always comes out when people are “exposed” for the things they said on social media years and years ago… that they were “young” and “stupid” at the time. Jay Briscoe was 27 years old at the time of the 2011 tweet and 29 years old at the time of the 2013 tweet. I guess it depends on your definition of what “young” is, but that’s not exactly a punk kid saying dumb shit online.
So… as I said, there is plenty of rumors that have floated around about how Briscoe’s tweets have cost him and his brother a WWE contract and now, an AEW contract. Of course, it didn’t cost him much in Ring Of Honor, outside of his pay being donated for two shows. At the time of his 2013 tweet, he was the RoH World Champion, and although he would be stripped of the belt a month later due to a kayfabe injury, he would go on to win the title again in 2014. The Briscoes would also win the RoH Tag Team Titles on six occasions after the initial 2011 tweet, to go with a reign (with Bully Ray) as the RoH Six-Man Tag Champions. Jay Briscoe actually became a bigger star in Ring Of Honor after his tweets, which says a ton about any and everyone in charge of the company from 2011 until Tony Khan became the new Owner.
What about the punishment, though? Is it warranted? If so, how much of it is warranted?
After the 2013 tweet, Jay’s apology wasn’t very well-received by the masses. He apologized and admitted to showing “poor judgment” in the tweet, but he also made sure to make it known that he still feels very strongly about who should be teaching kids things, and what things those people should be teaching. Those types of “I’m sorry, but…” apologies never go over well in a public forum, no matter who does it and no matter what they’re apologizing for. Since then, though, Jay’s apologies and comments on the matter have gotten a lot more detailed and mature.
Do you buy the apology?
From the research I’ve done on social media, message boards and things of that nature, it sure seems like most people aren’t buying it. I’m sure you’ve all seen the discourse, no matter what side of the fence you fall on. You’ll see the people who said they stopped being fans of Ring Of Honor because the company didn’t truly punish Briscoe for his tweets. The people who openly celebrate the fact that WWE won’t be bringing The Briscoes in, and now, the people who openly celebrate the fact that it doesn’t look like AEW will be bringing them in.
Right now, I’m not one of those people. Do not… DO NOT… get me wrong about my reaction to what he tweeted. It was stupid, never should’ve been said, and he absolutely, positively should’ve been punished for them. Both times. However, after that initial “apology” that didn’t exactly set the world on fire, Jay has done a lot better in expressing himself and sharing his feelings about what he said. We’re about to reach the nine-year mark since that last tweet, and he hasn’t made any mistakes of that nature in that entire span of time.
To me, this is a simple concept. When someone screws up, there are consequences that they should face. Obviously, the bigger the screw up, the bigger the consequences. There seems to be a lot of misguided anger, frustration, and hostility here. Jay fucked up. He knows that. I know that. You know that. Could he have been punished more by Ring Of Honor? Yes. Absolutely. Should he have been punished more by Ring Of Honor? Yes. Absolutely. There should’ve been a bigger fine, and at the very least, some of that “sensitivity training” that companies like to dish out. I wouldn’t have complained a bit if they suspended him. As I said, he was stripped of the RoH World Title a month or so after his 2013 tweet, and there’s no way you can convince me that wasn’t a punishment, of sorts, by the company, but should it have gone further than that?
It’s difficult to talk about second chances here, considering the 2013 tweet saw the end of whatever “second chance” he was given. I just can’t ignore the fact that he has gone NINE YEARS without another screw up. I’ve known a lot of people who have changed their lives, either by choice or after being forced to do so. Addicts becoming clean. Drug dealers, murderers, robbers, thieves, and all sorts of criminals going the straight and narrow. Sinners finding religion. Promiscuous people settling down and starting families. You name it, and I’ve seen it. Change is definitely possible. Now, unless you know Jay Briscoe… and more specifically, Jamin Pugh… on a personal basis, it’s hard for any of us to say definitively whether or not he is a “changed” man. What we can do, however, is go by the opinions of those who DO know Jay Briscoe… and more specifically, Jamin Pugh… on a personal basis.
Since the “AEW won’t sign The Briscoes” rumors started to pop up, a lot of wrestlers have been sharing their opinions on the matter. The stories are the same… that both Briscoe brothers are not only different than they were in 2011 and 2013, but that they’re great guys who seem to get along with everyone. EFFY, an openly gay independent wrestler, recently did a podcast interview where he said that it’s “nice” to have The Briscoes “around” Game Changer Wrestling, even calling them “changed men.” Ring Of Honor Commentator Ian Riccaboni would go public with stories about how he would travel with The Briscoes. During those travels, Riccaboni, who used to be a Sex Educator, would often field questions from the brothers about the new terms in the LGBTQ+ community and what they meant. Riccaboni made sure to point out that those questions were delivered without prejudice and without any sort of humor. They genuinely seemed interested in wanting to learn about something that, up until that point, they had little knowledge about. EFFY, a gay man, and Riccaboni, a former Sex Educator that works very closely with LGBTQ charities, coming forward with these stories and comments goes a long way with me.
Another term that you’re going to read and hear a lot when it comes to Jay Briscoe is “cancel culture.” You’ve seen it. Some of you have even said it yourselves. They say that Jay Briscoe is a victim of “cancel culture” because people won’t let him advance beyond his past mistakes. First and foremost, there is no such thing as “cancel culture.” There is a “you should be held accountable for your choices culture” these days, without a doubt. People aren’t being CANCELED for things right now. Racists aren’t being canceled. Homophobes aren’t being canceled. Republicans aren’t being canceled. Democrats aren’t being canceled. Nobody. You know who really fell victim to a “cancel culture” and things like that? Martin Luther King Jr. Now THERE is someone who spoke his mind and got canceled permanently for it. Losing a job opportunity is not being canceled. Losing a job altogether is not being canceled. Having your Twitter account banned is not being canceled. As far as I know, nobody is threatening to murder Jay Briscoe because he said some things on Twitter nearly a decade ago. Of course, the irony there is that Briscoe himself was the one threatening to shoot people.
In the interest of full transparency, I feel the need to point out that I am a huge fan of The Briscoes, and have been since I was first introduced to Ring Of Honor in 2005. In my opinion, they’re in the conversation for the greatest tag team in the history of pro wrestling. My current pick for the biggest tag team “dream match” is The Briscoes vs The Usos. Obviously, that would mean, strictly as a fan of professional wrestling, I would love to see Jay and Mark in WWE. I would also love to see them in AEW. Both places would allow a whole bunch of new people to see their work.
Pulling myself away from that a bit, I’m slightly torn over the entire thing. I can’t just sit here and say “time to get over it” to the people who were truly affected by Jay’s choice of words. It’s one thing to be offended by something, but it’s another thing entirely for that thing to directly affect you. His slur wasn’t directed to me, and his comments on gay marriage weren’t about me, either. I’m not going to downplay someone else’s pain and suffering by simply telling them it isn’t a big deal and that they should just move on.
If you’re asking me, strictly as a wrestling fan, if Jay Briscoe (and his brother) should have the opportunity to be on a major television network and wrestling every week, my answer would be that he absolutely should. The thing is… I think I’m leaning that way, no matter what. This is someone that has, whether it was intentional or not, been on a “zero tolerance” policy for almost a full decade now, and he hasn’t failed yet. He has apologized on multiple occasions. He’s done things behind-the-scenes to educate himself on something that was once very unfamiliar and, obviously, very uncomfortable for him. He hasn’t gotten into any trouble in the nine years since. What more does he need to do? I can’t help but think that Ring Of Honor could’ve squashed a lot of this if they had just handled the situation differently when it happened. If the company had REALLY punished Jay Briscoe, would we be having this conversation today? I don’t think so. His comments would’ve still been offensive to a lot of people, but the less-than-a-slap on the wrist he got was ridiculous. A real punishment… whether it was a big suspension, outright release, or whatever else along those lines… would’ve satisfied a lot of people who have just wanted to see him “pay” for what he said.
I apologize for the frantic back-and-forth nature of the column. As I said, I’m torn over this topic, so I had a lot to say about both sides of the debate.
I’m dying to hear from you on this one, folks. Right off the bat, do you want to see The Briscoes (specifically Jay Briscoe) on WWE or AEW television? If so, why? If not, why? For those of you who are upset over what he said on Twitter, is there anything Jay Briscoe can do to be in your good graces, or did he permanently cast himself away in 2011 and 2013? If you’re just someone who doesn’t want to see The Briscoes on television because you don’t think they’re good wrestlers, I guess I need to hear from you, too, but this is more about the stuff out of the ring, you know? As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
- AJ Styles vs Seth Rollins: A pay-per-view quality matchup that delivered. What a concept! I still don’t like the stupid idea of “top superstar won’t be wrestling at WrestleMania” as a story, but hey, at least it has been fun watching Rollins slowly slip into insanity as he goes yet another week with no path to Mania.
- Darby Allin vs The Butcher: Darby won the match, sure, but this was a showcase for The Butcher, without a doubt. He looked fantastic as this badass, almost monster-like, heel. Of course, performing your offense on someone like Darby Allin, who does not give a shit about his own safety and wellbeing, really helps in that regard.
- Bron Breakker vs Robert Roode: More kudos to Roode and Dolph Ziggler for the work they’ve been able to put in during this run in NXT. They haven’t been involved in a bad match yet, and they both seem as motivated as they have in a long, long time. They’re really helping to make Bron look even more like a mega stud for the future.
- Solo Sikoa vs Roderick Strong: It feels like Roderick Strong has lost his last 50 matches. Looking it up, he hasn’t won a match since the War Games event in December. We’re coming up on four months since that happened. Since then, he has lost five matches on NXT programming, one match on Main Event, and two dark matches before episodes of Smackdown went on the air. With that said, I like the idea of Solo winning here, putting him in the Ladder Match for the North American Title at Stand & Deliver. As a relative unknown, he goes into the match as a “wild card” type, which should make for a fun watch.
- Chuck Taylor & Wheeler Yuta vs Bryan Danielson & Jon Moxley: Just give Danielson and Moxley all the titles already. ALL. THE. TITLES. Men’s. Women’s. Tag. Six-Man. Mixed. X-Division. UFC. WCW. I don’t care. They’re so much fun to watch together. Like Ziggler and Roode, they seem to be wrestling with a new level of motivation, which is scary to think about, considering the level of quality they were already delivering.
- Gable Steveson: He just won his second straight NCAA National Championship, ending his amateur career as one of the most accomplished and dominant collegiate wrestlers to ever participate in the sport. With his official retirement from the amateur game, his full focus can shift to WWE, where he will arrive as one of the most hyped and promising rookies of all-time. Oh, and he’s still 21 years old for another two months. There hasn’t been a ton of word about how much pro wrestling training he’s been able to do, but the latest rumors say that he’ll be making his debut on Raw “very, very soon,” which says a lot when you think about it.
- “Hangman” Adam Page & Jurassic Express vs Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish: A six-man tag in AEW that ended up being entertaining? Well, gee, that NEVER happens!
- Kevin Owens: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s music hits, and the Chicago crowd went nuts… only to realize it was Kevin Owens dressed up as Austin. He got everyone, and he got them good. Then, during Owens’ promo, Austin’s music hits again, and the Chicago crowd went nuts… only to realize it was a troll job by Owens. He got everyone again! Good stuff.
- “Keith Lee Seems Like…”: Last week, I made a mention about how Keith Lee seems like the kind of guy who reads the dictionary on a daily basis just for fun. Then, social media was swarmed by “Keith Lee looks/sounds/seems like…” posts everywhere you looked. I’m not saying I’m responsible for the trend, but I’m not not saying it, either.
- Dr. Britt Baker, DMD vs Thunder Rosa: The internet’s reaction to this match has been fascinating. You have the portion of fans who are calling this a Match Of The Year type of classic, full of violence and storytelling. Then you have the portion of fans who are calling it a terrible match that was too focused on violence and not-at-all focused on anything else. There aren’t a lot of opinions in the middle. Pro wrestling is subjective, of course, but it’s crazy to see the back-and-forth differing opinions. I liked the match. It wasn’t as good as their “Lights Out” Match last year, but it was nowhere near the shit show that some folks are making it out to be. Now, we see if Thunder Rosa’s reign as the AEW Women’s Champion goes smoother than Ol’ Doc Smiley’s reign went.
- Io Shirai & Kay Lee Ray vs Dakota Kai & Wendy Choo: Io Shirai is, arguably, the most accomplished woman in NXT history when you look at everything she has been able to do. Wendy Choo has no business being as entertaining in this current gimmick as she has been, especially coming off of being behind the Mei Ying gimmick, which is about as far on the opposite end of the scale as can be from what she’s doing now. Those stories are fine and all, but my big concern is Dakota Kai. I’m pretty sure she has lost the last 93 “big” matches she has been a part of. Is she ever going to do anything in NXT? What are we waiting for?
- WWE Pay-Per-View In The United Kingdom: It has been a long, long time since the United Kingdom has been the host to a full-fledged WWE pay-per-view, but according to rumors, that wait is about to be over. It is being said that WWE will be holding an event at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales on Saturday, September 3rd. There’s no word on what the show will be called, but it would be a major event, as the venue can hold nearly 80,000 fans in a wrestling setup. The date of the show is interesting for a couple reasons. One, that’s during Labor Day Weekend in the United States, and will be the same weekend that AEW holds their All Out pay-per-view if they continue their trend. Two, with SummerSlam taking place at the end of July this year, an event in Wales, and then an event in Saudi Arabia, we’re looking at a stretch of nearly four months (SummerSlam on July 30th to Survivor Series on November 26th) between WWE pay-per-view events in North America. That’s pretty crazy.
- Sasha Banks & Naomi vs Rhea Ripley & Liv Morgan: Is Naomi on the hottest in-ring streak of her career right now? Yes, I believe she is. I’m glad that both of these teams have been added to the Women’s Tag Team Title match at WrestleMania. They’ve earned the spot.
- Veer: After coming and coming and coming and coming and coming, and then coming some more, it looks like Veer will be showing up on the April 4th episode of Raw. Of course, “2022” was never specifically mentioned, so WWE could be continuing the troll job by having him show up on the April 4th, 2033 episode of Raw. All jokes aside, does anyone else get the feeling Veer is going to get a huge pop from the night-after-Mania crowd?
- Jericho Appreciation Society: I still don’t like the group’s roster at all, but their promo segment was a hit. If there’s an easy way to get booed by AEW fans, it’s by basically dumping on “pro wrestling” and praising “sports entertainment.” This kind of thing really worked for Mick Foley in ECW, and it will work for this group now. They’re going to get plenty of heat.
This Week’s Playlist: “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You” by George Benson… “Give Me The Night” by George Benson… “Breezin” by George Benson… “The Lightning II” by Arcade Fire… “Hustle Blood” by Big Boi & Jamie Foxx… “Ridin’ Low” by L.A.D. & Darvy Taylor… “Same Song” by Digital Underground & 2Pac… “Perfect Proposal” by Wayne Wonder… “Nuttin’ But Love” by Heavy D & The Boyz… “Now That We Found Love” by Heavy D & The Boyz… “All I Have” by Heavy D… “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran… “Human” by The Human League… “Dr. Feelgood” by Mötley Crüe… “Diggin’ On You” by TLC… “Baby Baby Baby” by TLC… “What About Your Friends” by TLC… “Free Your Mind” by En Vogue… “Return Of The Mack” by Mark Morrison… “With You” by Tony Terry… “18 and Life” by Skid Row… “I Remember You” by Skid Row… “Heaven” by Warrant… “High Enough” by Damn Yankees… “Once Bitten Twice Shy” by Great White