Jim Cornette needs professional wrestling more than it needs him.
Take any journalism class, specifically one on news reporting and one of the first things you’ll be told — other than all of your work is garbage and you should do it over — is that you should never bury the lede.
This is what it is here, it means what it says, and from where I stand it’s something I would stand by even if it means standing isolated on a hill waiting for the wrath of the “wolf” were any comments to run foul of his sensibilities like the first time.
Professional wrestling has a unique history, dating back to the early 1900s when the first world championship was established and contested in catch wrestling events, with George Hackenschmidt and Frank Gotch among the first to hold it and defend it. That title was eventually folded into the NWA Worlds championship, which carries that lineage to this day, and was established long before Jim Cornette was born.
Wrestling changed quite a bit during that period from 1902 to 1948 in how it was promoted, over time relying more and more on predetermination of match outcomes in the mid-20s and known fully for its kayfabe through the ’30s and beyond. That trend away from legitimate competition into what we see today has only ripened with North American promotions leaning a little more toward entertainment and showmanship compared to more traditional, spiritual successors in Japan and elsewhere around the world.
The business has evolved and there’s no one person that could avert that evolution even if they tried, everything that has occurred has out of necessity. Had it not, there would be no Hogans, Austins, Flairs or Cenas, or any other major person who stepped into a ring to wrestle and entertain people; oftentimes putting themselves at risk for each person in an arena or at home.
In the expanse of that spectrum, Cornette is a blip in the totality of what wrestling is, was and has become. The more wrestling you watch it becomes fundamentally clear that no one promoter runs their company the same way, nor should they. Vince McMahon is not Tony Khan, nor is Khan McMahon. Joe Koff is not Don Callis, who is not Billy Corgan. Scott D’Amore is not Gedo. The core principle here is there’s no one way to run a wrestling promotion, just among these limited examples. No one is right, no one is wrong; we simply develop opinions based on what we like and support it. That’s the beauty of this brand of entertainment; it’s a buffet of desserts.
Until it all becomes toxic.
Navigate over to any site, any feed, any forum, any channel or any corner of pro wrestling twitter and someone will inevitably have an opinion on wrestling. Sometimes the ratio will be 1:1, oftentimes as we’ve seen in feeds or comments sections like the one below the ratio skews more toward 10:1, only to flip around on a separate topic, on the same site weeks later. It’s the nature of watching wrestling, and it has been this way for as long as I’ve been aware of other promotions. And inevitably you just start to identify with what you like, as though it’s part of your social fabric and take offense to contrary or conflicting ideas to those of your own. Those tastes can be narrow or broad, refined or new, but ultimately they’re yours. You decide what you like as a professional wrestling fan. No one else.
That might seem counterintuitive as this is an opinion on the lord of polyester, but it’s a necessary evil in interacting with other people with contrary opinions to that of your own. You can’t walk more than a foot or two, so to speak, without tripping over another person who looks at wrestling differently than you do. And that’s the way it should be. Yet, somehow and for some reason it’s become normalized online to become irrefutably hostile toward people you’ve never met over something like pro wrestling, dependent entirely upon what your promotional leanings are to ludicrous levels when the blunt reality of any situation of online debate is where there are conflicting ideas between people, where the two people don’t already have a rapport or respect for the other, that in the real world those two people will have a completely cordial debate about wrestling.
However, in the online sphere that isn’t the case, and it hasn’t been as far back as the first wrestling-based message boards. Online wrestling discussion has always been heated outside any one comfort zone, but more and more as social media or podcasts become prevailing mediums wrestling debate devolves into deconstructiveness, or with podcasting, power-based one-way communication. We’re being talked AT, not spoken to.
This very much sums up Cornette.
As a personality in wrestling, he may be one of the best ever within his niche. He’s also someone who devoutly believes what he does and downtalks all contrary opinions as though you’re an idiot for thinking anything other than what he thinks. He’s entitled to his opinion, but also as a known public figure in wrestling he additionally abuses his platform to spread deconstructive messaging about companies, people and the business as a whole derived from his narrow, outdated idea of what wrestling is or how to communicate those ideas constructively.
Yet, as it’s clearer each day he’s incapable of doing that to the detriment of one of the few things he purports to care about. He undercuts it, he undermines it and he sews discontent, discord and dissent through the way he communicates with others directly in or outside the wrestling business as though he were an absolute authority. Yet, with respect, were that the case he’d be working somewhere as opposed to being an errant critic incapable of stringing successive thoughts together without a “whatever the f–k.”
One idealistic notion we’re brought up to believe in growing up and through our adult years as we endeavour on whatever path we choose is to leave the world — our surroundings — better off than how we found them. It doesn’t appear, at least on the surface that Cornette subscribes to that all. Instead he talks down to fans, wrestlers, promoters and companies outside his following; all the while being detached from what wrestling has evolved into as it’s bigger than he ever was or thinks he is to this day. It existed before, and it’ll exist after.
Think back to your first moments as a fan. There was no negativity, there was just you, your mom, dad, family member or friend watching. For me it was those Saturday mornings when Superstars was on, and then again in the evening around dinner time. Then there were those select weekends when I got to watch WCW too. That morphed into Monday Night Raw viewings with my dad and brother. I didn’t criticize it, much like you didn’t inside whatever your own stories are. So the question is, how did we get here, right now, to this point as a fandom where we infight over the most trivial things and in this case literally subscribe to someone in a cult-like fashion who by all appearances hates his former profession as much he might fashion his platform as being from a place of love — it doesn’t come off that way, and those he does support like an FTR is so very clearly conditional. So why support him? Why give him validation at this point when he doesn’t deserve it; when his actions include using derogatory language toward women, changing people’s names for cheap pops in an effort to get fans to tune to see what “Corny has to say” this week, or just otherwise being an ignorant human being.
It serves no purpose. He doesn’t anymore, not really; were he to care about wrestling as he claims he could approach it a better way, but he chooses not to. Take the last few days with the Miro situation as an example. Cornette was out of line, and Miro handled it poorly. But there was a moment that sticks out where as Cornette was responding, he opted not to continue talking TO Miro over Twitter. Rather, he said his “promo” was too good to waste online and that everyone should tune in to his podcast to hear what he has to say.
Further up we talked about one-way communication, and this is what was meant. Jim Cornette would rather talk at people in a way they can’t respond to him, all the while increasing his own profile via social metrics, subscriptions or through patreon. Like any other shock jock before him, he’s thriving off the business that made his name, but he is doing it as a leech that undermines all of its history; flying in the face of the people who came before him and devaluing those trying to make their way now. And for what? Other than keeping his name above water, devaluing himself with each stroke.
Earlier we spoke about communication, two-way conversations specifically. There are people working for promotions right now who actively work to improve their surroundings both as mentors and workers. Keiji Muto (Great Muta), who’s a year younger than Cornette, is the current Pro Wrestling NOAH GHC heavyweight champion and is working with younger talent. Sting, Christian and Edge all recently returned and are looking to give back to the younger generation. Dustin Rhodes spends most of his time it seems training AEW’s women. Take someone like Daniel Bryan, Jerry Lynn or Dean Malenko who thrive on working with people and passing on their knowledge. Let’s move the discussion to his current realm. Take any one person working in a podcast role — ask yourself seriously whether any are as volatile as Cornette, while sometimes making many of the same points. Possibly yes, most likely no.
How we interact matters, how we debate matters. At the core we’re all fans of some aspect of wrestling, even if we disagree on the specifics sometimes. But there’s a way to have those debates while respecting one opinion from the next, and it’s something Cornette has proven incapable of accomplishing. In fact, he sometimes outright balks at the notion and epitomizes the “hates everything” fan. What is his value when he seemingly respects no part of it, instead acting like any other stereotypical elder who believes their era is the cream of the historical crop?
Professional wrestling doesn’t need his destructiveness, it doesn’t need his opinions, it doesn’t need his disrespect toward wrestlers and fans alike; it just further widens a divide between fans that doesn’t need to exist, especially when some of his comments are transcendentally ignorant of modern times and of modern wrestling. He may very well love wrestling, but for someone who profits off the luster of his old gimmick through sheepish shock value, he clearly doesn’t respect it enough to treat it with the care shown to him as he came into the business and grew into the polyester-clad, tennis racketing wielding manager of legend. But in falling short of paying his respect and passing his knowledge forward constructively, he fails wrestling, he fails himself and he fails everyone who came before him via his cult of personality.
Professional wrestling doesn’t just not need him, it’s simply better off.