It's been a while, but the "Excellence in Wrestling Column Writing" is back and should be submitting regular entries now that work has calmed down. Mr. Tito, behind the mask, is a workaholic in the financial world. Part of why I had to "retire" during early 2012 was due to me overworking myself and then writing daily Tito columns around Midnight nightly. Insomnia was becoming my best friend. Recently, choosing between sleeping an extra 1-2 hours or relying on Caffeine the next day to write that next Tito entry, well, I chose sleep. Old man Tito, from the "retirement home" of course, writes when he's available and when he wants to write. No more forcing it daily...
As I was scanning the political news wires at work, I came across an interesting story about famous radio/television host and New York Times Best Seller author Glenn Beck commenting on the revised Jack Swagger character and his new manager Zeb Colter. Glenn Beck has been a big supporter of the political movement known as the Tea Party, which mostly believes in fiscal conservatism and believing in the Constitution in black & white terms instead of in gray terms. Many Tea Party members have the "Don't Tread on Me" yellow flag with the coiled snake, which Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter stand in front of during their promos. Glenn Beck has appeared at and hosted several Tea Party events.
On February 19th, I Tweeted the following @titowrestling: LOL @ WWE going overboard with Zeb Coulter/Jack Swagger and "We the People". I'm sure the WWE Corporation will get some calls... (Misspelled "Colter", but I'm betting the character Zeb Colter's last name is no coincidence with Ann Coulter being a famous conservative name). I was half expecting conservative groups to be upset with this angle, especially given that Swagger/Colter were going to be portrayed as HEEL wrestlers with the Tea Party-like gimmick. I assumed that would be insulting to the Tea Party movement.
Hook, line, and sinker... Glenn Beck took offense to the Jack Swagger/Zeb Colter gimmicks on his BlazeTV (maybe doubling as his syndicated radio show) program. Here are some of the loosely transcribed comments:
"WWE has me rooting for the WWF, and I hate the World Wildlife Foundation... The WWE has put out a new character that is demonizing the Tea Party. You know Linda McMahon, I'm sorry you didn't win. We should have seen your true colors early on."
"I can take it from a lot of people, I really can, but I can't take it from the stupid wrestling people. A lot of people who watch wrestling are not the 'New York Elites'. Now, I might be going out on a limb, but I don't believe that there are a lot of Harvard, Ivy League, professors watching WWE. I don't think a lot of the progressive administration official are watching WWE."
"I personally think when WWE starts coming against the Tea Party, that's like NASCAR coming at the Tea Party. Maybe at at a higher level with NASCAR (another host: in NASCAR, they are actually driving the cars). WWE hired new crop of writers 2 months ago... They either have no idea who this audience is or we're wrong."
"Let's go through the audio of Jack Swagger and his manager Zeb Colter. I don't know if there is any relation to Ann Coulter, purely coincidental I'm sure it is. Slightly racist, he's got the snake flag behind him, and he's a Vietnam Veteran. So now we're also taking on veterans and Vietnam Veterans, let's make those guys look crazy... Looks a lot like Charles Manson."
"He ties in racism, stupidity, and guns."
"Did George Soros (major left wing $$$ contributor) buy the WWE?"
"You're making a villain out of someone who represents 80% of your audience".
"I'm sick and tired of being miscast. It is lazy at best and I am certain am not giving any time or money to any organization that is miscasting. It is making it harder for and my family to stand up for what I believe in. You're mocking me for standing up for the Constitution of the United States of America? You're mocking me for standing up for law and order, equal justice under the law? You're mocking me for standing up for the same principles and values that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood up for? I don't think so. In my own camp, I don't think so. Get the hell out of here!"
In addition to his own rant, Glenn Beck played parts of the Zeb Colter introduction promo and was sharply critical of the perceived racist portrayal of the Tea Party when Colter said that he didn't recognize the faces around him or the language spoken to him. Glenn Beck had a REAL problem with the "we should just get rid of them" comment, which Beck said that the Tea Party has never made as its platform. The accusations that the Tea Party is a racist movement has been in the media since its inception provided that the movement ramped up when the first ever black President, Barack Obama, took office in 2009.
The WWE HAD the reaction it wanted. Congrats to them... Glenn Beck is a big media and political name and just having the reaction, alone, should have been a trophy to the WWE. But instead, the WWE reacted in return and has officially exposed itself as wrestling company. WWE should have just kept quiet about Beck's comments and kept pushing buttons with the Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger characters. MAKE GLENN BECK RESPOND MORE!
But instead, the WWE not only reacted, but they overreacted. In doing so, the WWE foolishly exposed their own wrestling business.
The WWE reacted by having a promo posted online with Zeb Colter, with Jack Swagger now with slicked back hair, responding directly to Glenn Beck. Problem with the promo was that we didn't get Zeb Colter's "Tea Party" character but rather the Corporate WWE responding through Zeb Colter in attempt to defend the pro wrestling business. In doing so, the WWE didn't defend the pro wrestling industry but EXPLOITED IT.
The WWE actually thinks that Glenn Beck's comments were mostly belittling wrestling fans. Sure, Beck had a few words about the WWE's audience (Harvard, Ivy League professors weren't watching), but his comments were directly attacking the WWE for their "racist" portrayal of the Tea Party political movement. And then, Zeb Colter said the following about pro wrestling "characters" which completely exploited the pro wrestling business and diminishes the belief in the characters of Zeb Colter/Jack Swagger:
"We have about 60 characters on our show, a lot more than say NCIS or Glee, but we're that much different. Some of our characters are really likeable but some are detestable. Good guys and bad guys. We don't use guns and we don't depict murder or rape, typically seen on Prime Time dramas. Our programming is PG"
"We look forward to telling provocative, funny, dramatic, and sometimes controversial storylines with characters of all backgrounds and beliefs. Many of your followers are WWE fans and they understand the difference between reality and entertainment"
"We coordially invite you to Dallas this Monday where you can deliver a 5 minute unedited rebuttal to our global TV audience and a sold out crowd of 12,000 stupid wrestling fans."
Amazing... How on earth are wrestling fans going to suspend disbelief in the characters of Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger when they openly ADMIT to being characters and not being much different than other television characters?
OK - I get it. We're in 2013. The carnival belief that pro wrestling was "real" has been gone since the late 1980's. The wrestling business was exposed by the over-the-top World Wrestling Federation of the 1980's and its colorful characters of the time, but also thanks in part to Vince McMahon having to officially declare his business as "entertainment" so that many State Athletic Commissions avoid drug testing his wrestlers and requiring certain sporting licenses to hold WWF (now named WWE) events in certain states. We're more than 20 years away from the pro wrestling industry being exposed as being "fixed" and not a legitimate sport. Being that I grew up as a wrestling fan and mostly knowing that it was fake the entire time (since late 1988), I get it.
HOWEVER - For the past 20 years, especially during the late 1990's, the pro wrestling industry made lots of money DESPITE fans knowing that it was staged. When the New World Order arrived, wrestling fans suspended disbelief to play along with a group of super villains attempting to take over World Championship Wrestling (WCW). WCW, by then, was owned by the Time Warner Corporation. Do you honestly believe that Time Warner would tolerate illegal attacks on its WCW wrestlers by the NWO? Better yet, the Steve Austin versus Vince McMahon feud during 1998-1999. It was widely known that Vince McMahon was the owner and operator of the WWE and was thus clearly writing checks to Steve Austin. Yet, fans bought the feud and the WWE made lots of money. Triple H drugged up a Stephanie McMahon and married her in Las Vegas. Fans could have laughed at how ridiculous it was but the Stephanie/Triple H pair completely dominated the WWE storylines for the next year in 2000 and made the WWE lots of money. The entire Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) was based on getting the fans to play along and their fanbase was completely buying into Paul Heyman's storylines and wrestlers.
BUT never once did anyone from WWE, WCW, or ECW outright come out and say "we're characters like other television shows". That's what the WWE made Zeb Colter say in response to Zeb Colter. Thus, Glenn Beck is correct when he calls the WWE "stupid wrestling people".
For pro wrestling to continue to make it through 2013, it has to make fans buy into the fantasy of the product. Part of the problem with the Muhammed Hassan character during 2004-2005, for example, was that he wasn't a very effective character in portraying a Muslim who was enduring stereotypes by Americans since the sad events of the 9/11 attacks. In addition to booking him like a chump, the WWE had rabbit ears to critics. The Hassan character used to praise Allah, but Islamic groups complained. Then, Hassan had 5 masked individuals attack the Undertaker with piano wire at a Smackdown taping which was going to air on the same day of the London terrorist bombings. WWE was "unable to edit" the show and received tons of heat for the angle. The Hassan character was pulled and the wrestler behind it was released. In each case for Hassan, they weren't acting like he was just a character and he could never be successful as a character with the WWE undercutting and exploiting him because the WWE was afraid of a little criticism and heat from the mainstream media.
Now, fans have witnessed Zeb Colter flat out admitting that he's a character like a television character. How on earth are wrestling fans going to suspend their disbelief for the Colter/Swagger characters who are insisting that Alberto Del Rio should be deported? The WWE has painted themselves into a corner by their recent actions with Jack Swagger, anyway. After having and embarrassing 2012 year with a 9-34 win/loss record, the WWE had Jack Swagger win the Elimination Chamber 2013 #1 contendership. I guess they are explaining this with a character change. It's very much like the quick character turn of John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL) during 2004 that made Eddie Guerrero's WWE Title reign very brief. You can't just change a character and instantly expect fans to buy into them as a legitimate World Title contender. Pro wrestling lives on hype and making the fans believe that a character is credible enough to be the top star of the company. You have to make fans believe!
So congrats, Glenn Beck... By simply stating your beliefs, you made the WWE expose its business. One would think that a publicly traded Corporation would be able to respond better to criticism but instead will justify Beck's comments of a poor portrayal of the Tea Party.
WWE should have just SHUT UP and ignored Glenn Beck. Don't acknowledge him. Instead, ramp up the intensity of the Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter gimmicks. Convince Glenn Beck to continue to talk about the Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger characters, and by Beck continually talking about them, it will convince the Bill O'Reillys, Sean Hannitys, and Rush Limbaughs (maybe he'll be "ashamed" of the WWE?) to join in on the conversation. However, the WWE's stupid and immediate without thought reaction to Glenn Beck's comments will cause other conservative, Tea Party commentators to back off. The McMahons continue to be too reactionary and once again, it costs them millions of dollars in lost opportunities.
When you stick to your beliefs, it will take you places. Glenn Beck was damn serious in his WWE criticisms and will always defend his Tea Party based conservative beliefs. The WWE didn't stick to their own set belief system that people outside of the locker room shouldn't know their own trade secrets. And now they'll get burned for it with yet another failed gimmick.
I expect that the WWE will make a BIG DEAL about the Glenn Beck stuff on Monday Night RAW but in the following weeks when they've realized a) Glenn Beck won't respond further and b) that it's distracting from Wrestlemania 29 hype, they'll pull back. I fully expect Alberto Del Rio to defeat Jack Swagger at Wrestlemania 29 and this "We the People" gimmick will be another negative towards Jack Swagger's career. Failure of the "We the People" gimmick will be blamed on Jack Swagger's 30 day post-Wrestlemania 29 Wellness Program suspension and NOT the ridiculous WWE response to outside criticism that exposed its business.
Don't hold your breath on that RAW appearance by Glenn Beck, WWE.