SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: The state of veteran affairs
By ALEX RISTIC -- SLAM! Wrestling
Getting older doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to go senile.
Aging isn't always a sign of diminished skill or virility. And being in
a mid-life crisis doesn't mean you have to have a meltdown of epic
It doesn't matter though -- for every life lesson one is taught, there's
always an exception that pokes fun at the rule, or people who refuse to
accept the world as it is around them. Wrestling, whether it be a your
life or a business, is no exception. Some veterans or even legends of
the squared circle have gotten better as time has passed, or at least
recognised the times and scene changing around them and learned to
Prime examples of the above are Dean Malenko, who really didn't break it
big in the biz until he hit WCW in 1996, at that point, over 35-years in
age, and Kevin Nash, who kept trying every gimmick in the book until
"Big Daddy Cool" took off sometime in 1994, his first stint in the WWF,
at which point he had already entered into his 30s.
Of course, by conventional means these wrestlers and many others aren't
exactly old, but with most retiring in their 50s, and not really
starting the job or training until their late teens or early 20s, the
most you can reasonably expect out of these guys is a 25-year career. So
after 10-years in the biz, you're pretty much a grizzled veteran of the
Then there's the other side of the tracks, one that is the inspiration
for this column -- those who haven't adapted, can't evolve, or who've
lost their way. The list is long and the names easily recognizable --
some you still see on TV on a nightly basis.
Recently at the HWF show in London, Ontario, there was a veteran-laden card,
rounded out by stars who achieved their greatest notoriety in the WWF
boom of the 1980s. These six individuals are Jake "The Snake" Roberts,
Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, The Iron
Sheik and Luke and Butch of the Bushwhackers. For whatever reason, these
six are now appearing on independent promotions all across North
America, and we can assume it's because they need the money. Wrestling
has taken up so much of their lives they probably know no other way of
making a living, and because they no longer fit in with today's TV scene
they have to work in the smaller grappling promotions.
While some of them are victims of the new "cutting edge" style of
wrestling, namely promotional acumen over actual wrestling skill, others
in this group can still contribute -- yet none are on a "Big 3" roster.
Why is that? Well, it's because of their failure to adapt, evolve or
refusing to accept reality.
The Bushwhackers and The Iron Sheik fall into the victims of "cutting edge"
department, the Sheik never fully learning the English language being
his major set-back, and the Bushwhackers lacking the necessary impact
and charisma needed in the new wrestling mentality.
As for the other three, well, their problems are in their control; they
just appear not to exercise control over them. The substance abuse
problems of Roberts have been well documented, heck, he let them be
filmed for the movie Beyond The Mat. His reasons are his own, and
varied, yet he has seemingly done nothing to correct his situation. He's
gone to rehab in the past, I'm sure, but has never stuck with it, and as
a result, like the HWF show where he appeared to be at less than 100%, he needs his vices to get through the day. It's a shame too, as
Roberts is one who has the ability to cut a promo no matter what his
age. He never relied on catch phrases, but had a camera presence, where
he could relate his intensity through his words, much like Arn Anderson.
Until he realises his true enemy is himself, he will fail to impart his
knowledge and be a contributor to the wrestling world today.
Valentine's problems are an amalgamation of several factors. While
there's not been a lot written about any substance problems he may have,
in London "The Hammer" appeared hammered, and it showed whenever he spoke,
moved or breathed. Second, he too has failed to adapt, never really
learning to cut a promo, which is probably why he's not on a big roster.
Lastly, it appears that Valentine isn't on the same plain of reality
that everyone else is on. Once, he was one of the best bump takers and
sellers in the business, with his face-first fall being only second to
Ric Flair's. He would have a lot to teach in skills, or even ring
psychology sense, but wallows instead.
Lastly, Ed Leslie's (Beefcake) problems aren't anywhere near as tragic,
but in a way worse. His narcissistic attitude is what's keeping him away
from a big payday, that and diminished skills brought forth through his
arrogance. Being best friends with one Terry Bollea (Hulk Hogan), Leslie
went wherever he did, getting by on who he knew instead of what. When
his affiliations couldn't cover up his lack of skill, did he go back to
training, or possibly evolving his style? No, he went on the independent
circuit, relying on his most famous persona to get paid. Lazy, and
ultimately his downfall, as he's still waiting for Hulk Hogan to give
him a job if he ever starts up that promotion with Fox.
The funny thing is, these aren't isolated incidents, uncovered by a
roving reporter. You can see much of these problems, as well as others,
just watching TV on Monday, Hell, they're even making angles out of some
the stuff with WCW's New Blood/Millionaire Club feud.
While it's more of an ego problem than anything else, the sad state of
veteran affairs in many organizations runs in parallel with failure to
change or accept change. While Mick Foley, now considered a ring veteran
and legend to some, was never afraid of putting anyone over, former
mega-stars like Hulk Hogan always had to have the high profile feuds and
spotlight. He's living in the past, and refusing to accept a new place
in the order of things.
While recently he's changed his tune in a program with Billy Kidman,
there's no denying his past. Hogan made his name on cutting promos and
his in ring presence -- not mat ability or respect from his peers. Many a
wrestler has been quoted on how Hogan would quash a match because he
didn't want to lie down to certain individuals. While his legacy as a
top draw and a person who helped bring wrestling into the mainstream
will always be untarnished, his refusal to accept new wrestling
climates, and in his in ring ability (he only performs three moves),
leave him limited to what he can teach and impart upon to those just
breaking into the business.
The list doesn't stop there, but unfortunately bringing up any other
names would just be a repeat of what's already been discussed. This
problem, however, just won't go away, until the industry itself changes.
Although it might suck to fans, maybe if wrestling were treated with
more cold calculation things would be different.
In other sports you do what you have to win as a unit. Even if you're a
star veteran on a baseball team, if your skills in the field are lacking
you get moved to Designated Hitter. You may complain, but you know if
you're going to win the pennant it's the best chance. Also, with more
cold calculation and a business attitude there wouldn't be backstage
politicking, where certain wrestlers actually control all the booking or
input into angles. Maybe, if everyone was treated the same from day one,
there would be no hierarchy, there would be no politics, and everyone
would know their roles -- whether the veterans would like it or not!
In the case of Hogan and others, they've actually been lucky. The
business has been good to them, so they've no need to turn to the
independents or wallow in their self pity. For those who were less
fortunate they have no recourse. Today's Kurt Angle could be tomorrow's
Roberts -- just ask Scott Hall. He's well on his way. There isn't even a
sure solution, but there are avenues to better the odds. Make yourself
indispensable like Foley, learn to adapt like Malenko, and always try
new things. Look at Paul Wight/Big Show if you need proof. He may not be the
best performer or worker, but since his stay in the WWF he's worn many
hats, and all to get over with the crowd.
Being a veteran no longer insures anything. Politics goes a long way,
but even that's limited in scope and influence depending on who in your
company likes or dislikes you, and as of yet, there's no union in
professional wrestling. It's an age old adage, and it's true, but your
life is what you make it, and the only people responsible for making the
lives of veteran wrestlers miserable is themselves.
April 27th: Where are the competent journalists?
I liked your column this week John, and you bought up some good points on
the type of journalism out there in the Internet wrestling world. I too
have also believed true objectivity doesn't exist, and anyone who claims to
be totally objective is lying. However, no one has to claim that they are
objective, like SOME guys out there do, but they do have to be
honest. Admit their favorite and work from there (I know everyone out
there likes one over the other, even if just a little bit). The best Raw
review will probably come from a WCW fan, and vice versa, because as one
guy once put it "If Jack's in love, he shouldn't be judging Jill's beauty
However, like beauty, objectivity is in the eye of its beholder as well.
If someone is a WCW fan and sees a string of negative comments about Nitro
and a string of positive comments about RAW, he's bound to think someone is
biased. Whether that reporter is or not isn't the point, but whether the
perception is there depends on one's own biases. Maybe that fan will think
the reporter is biased because the fan himself is biased. And objectivity
isn't seeing the same review for both products. WCW deserves much of its
criticism I believe, because Vince Russo brought it on himself and the company.
I've never heard McMahon saying he is the reason they are number 1, (or
anybody else from WWF) but Vince Russo did. That's what sold him to WCW.
You should know that hype brings scrutiny, and Vince Russo gave himself a
ton of hype. Whether he likes it or not, that will bring his work more
scrutiny than normal. That may be unfair and unobjective, but is the
logical end result of calling that amount of attention to yourself. And if
you watched Thunder this week, he has plenty of reasons to be criticized
That's the way I see it. A wrestling fan who is more leaned toward the
Your recent article "Where are the competent journalists?" was an excellent
editorial by one of the best wrestling sites on the Internet today. As a
journalism student at Carleton University in Ottawa, I can tell you that
objectivity and impartiality are, as you've said, the cornerstones of any
good journalist. Professional wrestling 'news reporting' is nothing more
than teenage fanatics who wish to pass rumors and gossip across in an
attempt to get banner hits for their site.
If you ask me, a major problem in online pro-wrestling journalism today is
the lack of accountability - another key term in a journalist's vocabulary.
There are no editors or publishers, and therefore no management to hold
reporters accountable for their actions. You cannot lose your job for
reporting false information, and to an extent, the public sometimes never
discovers what is false and what is true anyways. I wish that somehow a
level of accountability could be found so that instead of resorting to
lawsuits for liable (which will never happen due to the cost and general
ineffective nature of such an action) some sort of ethical code could be
adhered to. I know, it sounds far-fetched, but I'm getting sick and tired
of BS journalism by grade ten kids who are nothing more than cut-and-paste
artists of false information.
Keep up the good work at Slam! Wrestling, editorials like yours are the
reason I keep coming back on a regular basis.
I applaude your recent editorial on today's wrestling journalism, or lack
of! I spend endless hours listening to my friends cutting down WCW and
independent federations because of what they read on wrestling rap sheets
on the Internet. I might be old fashioned, but I remember reading Pro
Wrestling Illustrated as a teenager and almost every issue had a small
article or mention of journalistic integrity and a need to report
unbiased facts. That is something that is rarely seen today.
I can even remember an issue when they "bugged a private meeting of the
Four Horseman" in hopes of stopping their out-of-ring ambushes on Sting and
Luger in the late 80's. There were entire articles about whether it was
breaking journalistic ethics to print the transcript of the meeting in Pro
Wrestling Illustrated. Some reporters almost "quit" over it.
We all know that wrestling is "pre-determined", but even a magazine that
deals with suspension of belief tried to bring a matter of journalistic
integrity to the forefront.
It is refreshing to see that someone is asking us to step back and take a
look at this sport we all love and how it is reported.
Just a quick email to touch on two items. First to tell you how much I
enjoy your writing, keep up the good work! Second, I couldn't agree with
you more re "Where are the competent journalists?". I post for "Pay
Windah.com" and stay away from gossip and "put-down" articles instead
concentrating on upcoming events and results, especially for the AWA and
NWA as I feel these two organizations don't get enough coverage. Finally,
I'm a wrestling fan, and I love ALL wrestling and as you put it yourself,
the better they all do, the better it is for the fans. So, add my voice to
the ones telling these "journalists" to make their coverage fair.