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    Monday, June 8, 2020

    Wrestling and Politics Do Mix

    A few days ago, both Philippine Wrestling Revolution and Manila Wrestling Federation released statements condemning the Anti-Terrorism Bill and the government's COVID-19 response, among other problems we're facing right now. Fans applauded them for using their platforms to raise awareness, but, as expected, there were critics. The sentiment that was repeated: "Wrestling and politics don't mix."

    One of the most important things I learned while writing for a feminist publication is that anything can be political: fashion, beauty, art, and yes, even sports. If you don't believe wrestling is political, then you probably aren't looking beyond the squared circle action.

    I started watching WWE when I was nine years old, a few weeks after WrestleMania XX. One of the rivalries I still remember vividly was between Eddie Guerrero and John Bradshaw Layfield. I never thought any of it as a kid—it's wrestling! People fight all the time! But looking back on it now, the rivalry can be seen as a reflection of Americans' racism and how immigrants often get the short end of the stick, which are still prevalent issues today. JBL was the rich all-American man who expected opportunities on a silver platter; Eddie was an American wrestler of Hispanic ethnicity who overcame obstacles and his own demons to become reach the top. It's the wrestling equivalent of reaching the American dream.

    That's just one example of how wrestling can be political. There are also other notable topics like Hulk Hogan's racist outburst; WWE's sexist "bra and panties" era; Vince and Linda McMahon getting government positions in the Trump administration; the industry's messed-up healthcare policies; and even Black Wednesday. Even the fact that wrestling shows are affected by COVID-19 is political since government rules allowed them to keep operating—WWE and AEW are still doing shows because the state of Florida considered them "essential." PWR and MWF don't have shows because mass gatherings are prohibited in the Philippines, except when it's a public official's mañanita. You get it.

    How do you consider something political? The simplest answer is when an individual or brand constantly uses its platform to raise awareness of social injustices. It doesn't have to be government-related. It can be about other issues like racism, body shaming, homophobia, and so on. Wrestling has always reflected current events in its storylines. When Hulk Hogan beat The Iron Sheik for the heavyweight title in '84, he cemented his icon status as one of the all-American heroes of wrestling. If you zoom out, the rivalry coincided with the US-Iran conflict in the '80s. Hogan was basically celebrated for defeating an "evil foreign villain."

    The power dynamics in rivalries resonate with viewers because we always root for the good guy to triumph over bullies. One 2016 article which compared politics to pro wrestling even compared Donald Trump's outrageous tweets to promos. Outside kayfabe, it's also important to look at the bigger picture and ask: Is this person/brand upholding basic rights? What do they stand for and how will it affect me and the people around me?

    "Wrestling is entertainment! It's [insert F-word here] anyway, why are you taking it so seriously?" I know. Wrestling is supposed to be outrageous and sometimes, offensive. However, fans have to remember that wrestlers are real people who have their own opinions and freedom to fight against injustice if they need to. 

    Perhaps the question I want to ask fans, especially the Filipino fans in the comment sections, is this: When your favorite wrestlers shouted "BLACK LIVES MATTER" on social media, why did you stand with them? You're supporting a movement that protects lives and in the same breath, you're defending our oppressive and allegedly violent administration in PWR and MWF's comment sections.

    When Hana Kimura died, were you one of the fans who condemned the cyberbullying and demanded change with how the Japanese government handled such cases? Shortly after her death, Japan's government announced it was taking steps to improve its cyberbullying laws. Public outcry, which included statements from the Japanese and international wrestling communities, contributed to this. But when Filipino promotions called to #JunkTerrorBillNow and demand government accountability, suddenly "this is no place for politics?"

    To quote Hasan Minhaj in Patriot Act: "Why are we shocked when people ask for revolutionary change? Dude, we support revolutions overseas." 

    What is happening in the Philippines goes way beyond your opinion that wrestling and politics shouldn't mix. You know what I see? Privileged Filipinos who fail to see the injustices that have been happening in our own backyard for years. It seems like many are okay with aesthesizing their IG feeds with black squares and the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. They are also the same people who declare that the so-called Anti-Terrorism Bill and the lack of mass testing don't affect them anyway. (News flash: You're not black either.)

    I understand that some people don't know about all of the issues in the world. The bare minimum is to understand that we deserve basic human rights like access to healthcare and freedom of speech. The next step is using your resources efficiently to educate yourselves and others. Use that privilege to inform and not censor those you don't agree with.

    If you feel like these issues don't directly affect you, the response shouldn't be condescension or silence. You listen and ask yourself, "What can I do to help?" If you can do that for the wrestlers you love, then you sure as hell can exert the same effort to your neighbors.

    Photo from 411Mania


    Jackie Arias is a writer and former Content Creator for a feminist lifestyle website. Aside from casually catching up on wrestling news, you can find her listening to music and playing video games she can never finish while drinking copious amounts of coffee. Her Twitter and CuriousCat are open for story suggestions and comments—or photos of your cats.
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    Item Reviewed: Wrestling and Politics Do Mix Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Jackie Arias
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