The general fandom that has spent the last several months getting comfortable in its own opaque cynicism has this week shown a new light through the charcoal sheen. Homophobia. Vince McMahon bares his ass twice over the past two weeks, and seemingly the entirety of wrestling fandom is up in arms over seeing "man ass" on TV. "I don't want to look at Vince McMahon's ass!" they scream. "This is disgusting!" they shout. "The WWF is trying to get back the 50 year old homosexual demographic!" they cry.
Oddly enough there was other ass shown on the screen over the last two weeks on WWF TV as well. The Turkey Bowl Match Thursday evening on Smackdown! showed as much of Stacy Keibler's ass as Vince McMahon showed off when William Regal went down on him. This past Monday night on Raw there was ample Keibler rear during her Bra & Panties match with Trish. So, really, it's not just ass that these people don't want to see -- it's Man Ass. What's more, it seems to be Vince McMahon's Man Ass in particular. This because, what? The male rear end scares them? If Stephanie McMahon were in her father's place, doing exactly the same thing, how much of this complaining do you think we'd see? None is my vote.
It's plainly obvious what Vince is doing, yet the impact of it is shrouded -- not by the distasteful way he chooses to present it, but by the way fans have over-reacted to the sight of another man's butt on a wrestling show. Long taunted by the ages old notion from outside voices that wrestling -- due to its content of large, sweaty men rolling around half naked on the mat -- somehow fed into the latent homosexual desires of its fans, many wrestling viewers have become overly sensitive to anything involving sexual innuendo where the man is the focus, rather than a woman. Goldust, for instance, I recall drawing quite a backlash because of his warped behaviour.
Now, growing up, I saw countless nude male asses ON WRESTLING. Whenever the camera was focused at the right angle during a school-boy roll-up involving the ancient, diabolical heel tactic of "grabbing the tights" plenty of man-crack could be seen for all to behold. Likewise, there were times wrestlers would be pulled down from the ring apron to the arena floor by the back of the tights, thus exposing their bottoms. At no time did I close my eyes in horror of seeing "a man's ugly ass" -- as is frequently the cry heard after the McMahon incidents.
So clouded, so quick to leap to the defense of one's heterosexuality are many fans today that they've not once mentioned the obvious -- at least obvious to those secure in their own sexuality. Vince McMahon is at his best when he is playing off real life perceptions of himself. The real life perception of Vince McMahon when he screwed Bret Hart was that he was a manipulating evil boss who stepped on employees to get what he wanted, and would happily screw over anyone in his way.
Jump ahead to now, to the waning days of 2001, and the public perception of Vince McMahon is that he is an ego-driven megalomaniacal engine, fueled by yes-men and buttkissers who stroke his ego at his every turn. That he is the Ruler of Wrestling, and someone who loves bathing in his own greatness, even when that greatness seems greater from his own perspective than from anyone else's. In fact, just two weeks ago was this not the very subject of a much heralded and publicized promo by one Paul Heyman? Did Paul not bring up the very idea that Vince loved to have "men kissing his ass"?
And did we not all ooh and ahh about how close to the mark Paul was in his saying this?
So now Vince is taking our own perceptions of him, ratcheting them up to the Nth degree, and polarizing our "hatred" of him. He's not doing this solely because he thinks it is funny. He's doing it as if to say "You think I like getting my ass kissed? ... You ain't seen nothin' yet!" It's classic Vince McMahon.
Yet some people, so squeamish in their own skin, so doubtful of their own sexual identity, see it only as a deviant sexual escapade. Therein lies the true shame. The true tastelessness.
Wrestling has shown a lot of borderline, uncomfortable things in its time. Gunplay, crucifixions, true sexual deviancy (Mark Henry), male whores (Meat?). They've flirted with incest (Beaver Cleavage?), danced with devil worship, shown men beating-up women, shown 'skid-marks' on a grown man's undies, had a rotund Samoan "back that ass up" into men's faces and women's faces (essentially "forcing" them to take a face-full) and never once did we see this level of criticism for the WWF product.
I think it's time for wrestling fans to take a few steps back and look hard in the mirror. You're working yourselves. Vince McMahon is not ruining your enjoyment of wrestling -- YOU are.
The Internet has changed wrestling in many ways, some say. But I contend that the largest change the Internet has made to wrestling is by completely reshaping members of its fanbase. Many of you reading this aren't even really wrestling fans anymore. You're wrestling Internet fans. Wrestling isn't something you watch for pleasure anymore. You're no longer watching it to be entertained by a television program. You're watching as the first step in some new regimen wherein the product is only the appetizer, the pre-cursor to the real fanatic meal of going on-line and critiquing what you saw when the show ends.
You sit down and you watch wrestling, cocked and ready for action. You're ready to pounce on anything just to "go off" on it later on-line, in chat rooms, message boards, or in e-mails to Meltzer, Scherer, or that bald putz Bob Ryder (who doesn't even want your e-mails, so save your breath). Quite simply, you're watching to take issue, rather than to reap enjoyment. And you've just about ruined it for yourselves.
As the month of November draws to a close, I challenge you to step away from the Internet in December. Stop reading 1wrestling.com and the Observer. Instead, try watching wrestling without a notepad, and without that acutely trained Ebert-eye. Just watch, for a whole month, without the rhetorical questions (that were never rhetorical to begin with), without the analogies of Car Wrecks, without finding out what the pundits think is wrong in wrestling. Without -- dare I say it -- Smackdown! spoilers, where many of you begin your tirades, before even seeing the show.
Those pundits and untrained writers have never really liked wrestling, either. At least not the content. What people like Meltzer and Scherer aren't telling you is that they've haven't been completely happy with any wrestling product since they were 10 years old. There's ALWAYS something wrong to them. They don't get off on content, wrestling sport, or sports entertainment. Neither appeals to them. They get off on politics and backstage turmoil. It's how they make their money. So you'll never hear them say "Wrestling was great" -- because the minute they do, you'll no longer to read about the "backstage soap within a soap" that they exploit for cash.
So take some time away. Watch wrestling like it was any other TV show. Watch it in hopes of being entertained; and turn it off as soon as you would turn off any other show that stops entertaining you. Don't sit and stew and boil under the collar until you feel you have to erupt in harsh criticism of something that's somehow letting you down. Do you sit through bad movies and bad television throughout all your viewing choices?
Ask yourselves how much a part of your life wrestling truly is. And, above all, stop watching it with the burning question running around inside your head. That guilt-charged question you all know you ask... "What would none-wrestling fans think?" -- who gives a shit, truly? Watch what you like, and don't watch what you don't like. There are people who hate western movies, hate soap operas, hate classical music. Do you think Soap fans or classical music fans are watching General Hospital or listening to Brahms wondering what the fuck people would think if they were to see them in the process of doing something they enjoy? Fuck no.
Some of you treat wrestling as if you'd rather be caught watching a 10 hour Ginger Lynn marathon on the Smut Channel than you would watching Regal piss on the Big Show. Why? One is an obvious fake, bawdy depiction of a man pissing on someone -- the other is a real, graphic depiction of loveless sex shown only to titilate. Which is more tasteless? In the larger scheme of things, I mean?
Just step back. Watch. And try to be wrestling fans again. Or simply walk away. Buy OVW tapes, go to an indy show. It's quite possible many of you have outgrown the type of entertainment wrestling can provide you. If this is so, you need to take the hint, and find yourselves something new. But don't bitch constantly because the WWF is failing to satisfy the insatiable "fans" you've become.