Interesting things appear when we go back and watch Raw segments again. As you know, we record RingRap Audio on Wednesdays, so I spend my Tuesday evenings preparing and writing notes, which generally involves watching Raw segments back among other things. Something caught my attention in that process that I think WWE should really deal with.
Alicia Fox faced Naomi in a Divas match. The commentary team was joined by the current WWE Divas Champion, Paige, as well as Naomi's tag partner Cameron. You can read my full thoughts on this match in the live coverage and Raw Afterthoughts, but essentially the basic story being told here was that Paige was out there to engage her next contender, Naomi. Naomi picked up the win, and she and Paige had the traditional staredown.
But take a look at the picture above. What is Jerry Lawler doing in this shot? Yup - learing at the 21-year old Divas Champion's ass. And this isn't something I had to go digging for, because Jerry Lawler did us one better - he tweeted about it! The tweet has since been removed, but it said simply this:
Best seat in the house...mine, and hers! (Photo attached)
WWE even included the stare in their segment that they released on YouTube. And the two items together point to a pretty substantial problem within the business.
A little history for you. If you don't know, Jerry Lawler was charged and indicted for statutory rape of an underage female in 1993. Eventually, it was revealed that the young lady lied and Lawler was cleared of the charges and declared innocent. Lawler hasn't been excused of it in the industry though, taking ribs from talent (AJ Lee cut on him one time saying "I'm too old for you, Jerry." when she made a commentary appearance) and got taunted pretty hard in his ECW appearances for the incident.
I'm a red blooded American male, just like many of you reading this article. Like you, I've been known to take a glance or a gawk at an attractive woman. Hell, you've all heard my initial commentary on Lana and what I think of her figure. But in public or in private, I never let it get to the point of being uncomfortable. And for God's sake, I never post a pic of me staring at them online!
Jerry Lawler is not one to hide his feelings about the female body. Throughout the Attitude Era, the phrase "Puppies!" was far too common. Given Lawler's history, the last thing he should be doing is tweeting a picture of himself staring at the ass of a 21-year old woman. Lawler is a voice of a publicly traded, multi-million (if not billion) dollar corporation that promotes their brand of entertainment as "family friendly." He, and in turn WWE, should go out of their way to not call attention to that 1993 incident.
I know. You're sitting there reading and saying "Bill, he was cleared. Let him be. Let him do whatever he damn well wants." But re-read my previous statement. He is a voice and recognizable face of a multi-million dollar corporation. Things like this are public relations nightmares just waiting to happen.
But this is simply a sign of a bigger issue. The issue of sexism is something that pro wrestling as a whole has had a recurring pattern of through the years. In the process, they've managed to alienate female fans and make some of their female employees feel unsafe or uncomfortable. If you recall, Lita's escapades were made into storyline fodder, while CM Punk's alleged promiscuity never made it out of the backstage area, as just one example.
Professional wrestling is a microcasm of society in that is male dominated. Add in the "work" dynamic of wrestling and the backstage antics of the boys, and you've got an intimidating environment for just about anyone. Just because the Divas or Knockouts roster appears to be okay with it, or a figure like Stephanie McMahon is somehow insulated under that wrestling bubble that her father and grandfather created makes none of this okay.
As a professional in a corporate environment myself, I've watched women struggle in getting corporate leadership to address any problem she has with the behavior of a long-term, higher ranking males. So in that same microcasm of professional wrestling, women face the same issues of respect. If a younger woman were to speak out about an incident such as what Lawler committed last night during Raw, it's nothing short of career suicide for her.
Whether Paige is or isn't okay with it is not the point - it's just not okay in 2014 or any other year for that matter. It's incidents like this and the direct and/or indirect publicity it got via WWE and Lawler that influence current or future employees of the company (including roster talents) and investors. No one's reaction - whether a fan or someone under the corporate umbrella - to the incident should be discarded.
Professional wrestling has done a lot of good in the world, despite its checkered behavior. WWE has involved itself in Special Olympics, the recent foundation of the Connor Charity in Pittsburgh (in honor of Connor Michalek, a young fan and patient that lost his fight with disease), and the Komen Foundation just to name a few are wonderful things. TNA assisted in the raising of money for the Red Cross and other charities in time of natural disasters. There are federations that do charity shows to raise money for local causes. The product has entertained people for decades.
Let's apply this to WWE only for the moment, since this is where the incident occurred. WWE promotes itself as anti-bullying and family friendly entertainment. So, what part of this incident is either of those two things?
WWE has struggled with investors and stocks of late, especially with the news of their new television deal not netting them as much as they expected. TNA has yet to sign a television deal to my knowledge (for a number of reasons). Because of their visibility, WWE not working to address these kinds of things - racial stereotyping, sexism, etc. - manages to keep all of pro wrestling in a pit of sorts. In turn, advertisers and investors view it as a bad business investment, and it isolates fans.
I can only hope that someone in WWE sat down with King to discuss what happened last night. It's time to start changing the status quo of pro wrestling in order to create a better example of managing and handling all talents no matter their race or gender to ultimately create a better overall example for the industry, and a better image for investors and advertisers to keep the business strong for fans and talents alike for years to come.