At this point, we all know that Ring of Honor starts on Destination America this coming Wednesday. And we all know that IMPACT Wrestling is also going to be on Wednesday nights on the same channel. That news has been all over the internet wrestling world and it has spawned some serious (and, sometimes, sad) interactions between people who call themselves wrestling fans, the actual wrestling talent, hosts of radio shows, hobby podcast people, and those who consider themselves professional reporters but refuse to deal in confirmed reports or solid, factual information.
In short, the bickering over last week was exhausting for those of us who are just fans of professional wrestling.
As I’ve observed the interactions between “reporters” who desperately need your clicks, views, and subscriptions to maintain a quasi-professional lifestyle that includes zero oversight (including the lack of an ombudsman to correct the frequent mistakes in their work), I can’t help but be reminded of a movement that is now over 15 years old. Granted, I understand that most of the folks reading this column have no idea what was going on in the internet wrestling world 15+ years ago. And I understand even more that many of the folks with the loudest voices in today’s internet wrestling world weren’t even out of diapers (if they were even born) back in the late 1990s/early 2000s. And yet – an incredible movement of wrestling fans took place during that time.
The movement was called Wrestling Fans Against Censorship (WFAC) and it was led by Bob Magee of PWBTS.com and others including Fritz Capp, Corey Hickman, and Tony Lewis. Now, some of you may have already clicked on the link for WFAC and you might have been surprised to be taken to a freely-hosted Tripod website. There’s no flash, glitz, or glamor on that website (you may have noticed the same thing if you clicked on the PWBTS link). But I caution you – do not be deceived by looks. In the 20 years that I’ve spent playing in the internet wrestling world, no movement drew in as many supporters across the fan spectrum than the WFAC program. It was truly powerful.
A brief history lesson for those of you who might not have been as engaged in the sport during that time: not only were WWE and WCW battling each other along with the fire being started by ECW, but national lobbying groups were battling against all of the promotions, though against WWE most prominently. A national lobbying group blatantly lied about WWE programming by trying to connect it to child deaths. They also lied about which companies advertised during the wrestling shows. But WFAC wouldn’t have it – they fought back. Under Magee’s leadership, a massive, multi-year campaign was launched to go after that national lobbying group’s advertisers and members of their online marketplace. And by “go after,” I mean that Magee and the WFAC (of which I was a big supporter and member) would simply contact those advertisers and tell them the truth about all of the lies that the national lobbying group was spewing about our beloved professional wrestling.
Further (and this is what prompted me to write this article), WFAC mobilized online wrestling fans to contact the advertisers on WWE programming to thank them for their support of professional wrestling. They also organized wrestling fans to report the truth about those advertisers who the lobbying group claimed had pulled their advertisements from WWE programming – the truth being that they did not, in fact, pull their advertising. At the end of the WFAC campaign (the campaign ended when the national lobbying group settled with WWE and had to retract their statements), the following was printed as part of their retraction:
By this retraction, I want to be clear that WWE was correct in pointing out that various statements made by MRC, PTC and me were inaccurate concerning the identity and number of WWE Smackdown! advertisers who withdrew support from the program. Many of the companies we stated had “withdrawn” or pulled their support had never, in fact, advertised on Smackdown! nor had any plan to advertise on Smackdown! Again, we regret this error and retract any such misleading statements.
Very interesting, folks. Very interesting.
This is the very reason that the WFAC campaign came to my mind as I observed the ROH, IMPACT Wrestling, and general chatter over the last week. I think it might be time for another call to action for wrestling fans. I think it might be time for a Fans of Professional Wrestling coalition to be formed in support of both ROH and IMPACT Wrestling and their television home on Destination America. Here’s the truth, whether we currently accept it or not:
– Those sources of “newz” use plausible conjecture as a substitute for truly verifiable facts.
– Some of these sources have spent years and, in some cases, decades conjuring their own versions of the wrestling world where their unfounded assertions are plausible (even if not probable) and the plausibility of their “reports” builds upon themselves with each new bit of conjecture.
– There are not many wrestling fans who have been engaged for a long enough period of time or who are professionally experienced enough to realize that these sources are only concerned with selling subscriptions and increasing clicks to their website. For them, it’s all about the money – not the truth.
– If we, as wrestling fans, truly support this sport, then we should support the men and women who put their bodies at risk every time they enter the ring – no matter where they work.
That’s the truth, folks. If you can accept that basic, reality-based view of the world, then you also have to accept that the sport we enjoy watching is under attack from the sometimes-false and sometimes-sloppy reportage of some of these sources. As wrestling fans, we need to do something about it. We need to take action.
No, I’m not calling for wrestling fans to attack those sources of news or their advertisers. I don’t think that’s necessary simply because the world is so wide open these days that consistently telling falsehoods will ruin a person or group’s reputation on its own. Instead, I’d like to see a Fans of Professional Wrestling coalition organized to do the hard work of thanking those sponsors that advertise during Ring of Honor’s upcoming Wednesday night show as well as IMPACT Wrestling (and Lucha Underground for that matter).
In a social media-focused world, I attempted to start this “thanks” campaign last Friday. Take a look:
— Joe Vincent (@JoeIWH) May 30, 2015
— Joe Vincent (@JoeIWH) May 30, 2015
The question, though, is whether or not the current crop of internet wrestling fans have the fortitude to make that happen. It’s not easy to mount this type of campaign even though the campaign is based in positivity. It’s not easy to send an e-mail to 2, 3, 5, 10 advertisers each week or every other week thanking them for their continuing support of your favorite television show(s). It’s not easy reaching out to well-positioned companies and asking them to consider purchasing an advertisement during your favorite television show(s).
However, let’s not forget that a group of online wrestling fans banded together more than 15 years ago and accomplished these goals – and so many others. It’s not easy to do, but then again – it’s not impossible.