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The complicated legacy of the WWE and Vince McMahon that fans should think about

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WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon speaks at a news conference at Wynn Las Vegas on Jan. 8, 2014 in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images/TNS)

By Kevin Lopez

I love pro wrestling, specifically the WWE. I have been a fan of wrestling since I was about 5 years old. It was the thing that connected me to my older brothers and it was my outlet that I used when I was sad or upset.

Now, as a college student who has social media, I am aware of everything. The WWE is in trouble, specifically the owner and now former chairman of the WWE Vince McMahon.

He is being investigated for alleged sexual misconduct and harassment toward several women and additional allegations that he used company funds to keep them silent.

This event has made me wonder if I can support the company who has a bad history for its treatment of women.

It makes me question if I should even be a fan of this thing that I’ve loved since I was just a kid.

Well, that’s the situation I’m in, along with millions of other WWE fans around the world, as WWE television ratings are at an all time low, with struggling attendance, and a rising new foe on the horizon. 

As a kid, you never really notice the bad things around you, unless they are blatantly obvious, you tend to be on the more optimistic side. I loved wrestling for the characters, the cool music, the amazing atmosphere, and the video games.

I just thought the WWE was the coolest thing in the whole world. I mean where else would you see characters like a deadman, a heartbreak kid, a beer drinkin’ S-O-B, and a guy who actually believes he’s a superhero.

I never realized the rampant drug problems, the concussions, the unsafe work environment, and the fact that wrestlers die so young.

All I saw was the pizazz and none of the actual hardships behind the scenes, I mean what kid would know all of that? We were too busy caring about how John Cena was the World Champion and how he was gonna take down the bad guys, and not how a wrestler for the WWE around that time killed his wife, his son, and then himself.

I saw these wrestlers as just these cool characters on TV, the awesome action figures in my room, and the buff people I’d choose in my video games. I never saw them as people who were never home and constantly in pain.

As I got older and I realized wrestling was all predetermined, yes it took me a while to understand that. When I realized that my perspective on wrestling changed.

It started to become hard for me to watch the shows or even go to the live events with my dad because I knew every single one of those wrestlers was in pain and frustrated in some way. 

Whether that be their position in the company, their beef with other wrestlers, problems at home, or even problems with themselves.

I began to grow up and once I started to go through my own hardships, I began to relate to these so called “super heroes.”

I stopped watching wrestling for a couple years, I just couldn’t get myself to do it anymore. I felt that I was almost guilty for watching and supporting the situations that would allow these hardships to keep happening.

That begs the question, is it wrong to support something that has captivated and made fans around the world, but is built on the backs of those who have died young, not making enough to support themselves, and deal with issues in their personal life stemming from the WWE.

Now it’s time to talk about the man who monopolized the wrestling industry, and has recently been dealing with the scandals that have rocked his company and eventually caused his unprecedented retirement, Vince McMahon.

Now McMahon has a very complicated legacy as he has changed wrestling forever, by buying the company back in 1982 and from that moment on, he went on a quest to acquire talent across the country and kill all his rival’s companies–which he did–and make wrestling mainstream. From 1982 to 2022, McMahon had a stranglehold on the wrestling business. 

With that much power, he was able to create stars for the world to love. He made Hulk Hogan a worldwide icon in the ‘80s, he made wrestling edgy and cool with Stone Cold Steve Austin in the ‘90s, while showing his ruthless aggression in the 2000’s and making The Rock and John Cena movie stars.

While he gave kids like myself an outlet and heroes to root for and aspire to be, he had ruined the lives of so many and many blame him for wrestlers dying so young. He was investigated by the government for distributing steroids to his wrestlers and while he was acquitted, it is a known fact that many wrestlers under his company were indeed using steroids.

Now he is being investigated for misconduct and using his company’s funds to silence these victims, which should never be tolerated. Whatever punishment comes McMahon’s way is what he deserves.

Seven years ago, I decided to see how the WWE was doing and eventually was pulled back in and now I am once again a fan, but seeing these allegations made me revisit all these thoughts once again.

Is it wrong to support and watch the WWE, despite everything they have done? Now, of course, the company has evolved and many would say that the company is doing the best protecting their wrestlers and now women wrestlers are being respected and pushed as stars rather than eye candy.

However, it doesn’t change the fact that it took this long for change to happen. It took several key things to happen within the last 20 years to cause change. There are three specific moments that made the WWE what it is today.

The first one would be in 2005 when beloved wrestling legend Eddie Guerrero died of a heart attack at age 38 the night before he was supposed to wrestle. His death was so sudden and heartbreaking because Guerrero had dealt with major substance abuse and had been sober for the last few years of his life, but the damage was too much. The WWE in response had instituted a wellness program that was designed to help and protect the wrestlers, and while it may be flawed, it definitely has saved many wrestlers lives.

The second key point would be Chris Benoit’s double murder suicide in 2007. Benoit was still wrestling for the WWE and was considered one of, if not the best wrestler of his generation. When Benoit killed his family, many attributed that to his repeated and untreated concussions and substance issues that he had from working with the WWE. In response, WWE outlawed unprotected chair shots to the head and went from being TV-14 to now being PG.

The last key moment to change the WWE would be the Divas Revolution. Before 2015, the WWE treated women as eye candy and would be encouraged to show their “puppies” and be servants to the male wrestlers. Now, of course there are many that did not follow this mold such as Trish Stratus, Lita, Mickie James, Beth Phoenix, and Gail Kim. Still, they were the outliers and many women in the company are still reduced to this role. 

In 2015, a blink-and-you-miss-it match that only lasted 29 seconds, just happened to be the only women’s wrestling match on WWE’s three hour TV show. Many were outraged at this and demanded change, which in return made McMahon respond that things will change. Since that response, women’s wrestling has grown tremendously from side piece to main event. The WWE has now had two main events featuring only women for their biggest show Wrestlemania. The women in the company have more respect than ever, but it took a long time to get there.

I am still a fan of wrestling and the WWE, it’s hard to get rid of that love you have for something that really helped you when you were a kid.

As long as you acknowledge the issues something has and actively try to push against it and hope your voice does something to cause change, then I would say you are doing the right thing.

The WWE is now under new management, McMahon has retired, fleeing from the sunken ship that was his legacy, he is now replaced by his daughter and son-in-law. How things will be different under their management, only time will tell.

I will always love the WWE and wrestling as a whole, but I wilnever forget all the travesties the company has committed against people and you shouldn’t either.

 

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