On March 26, just nine days after World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and GLAAD announced their decision to join forces in an anti-bullying alliance, WWE commentator Michael Cole hurled the word “faggot” at fellow WWE anchor Josh Mathews via Twitter.
Cole’s slur — a rejoinder to Mathews’ tweet, “Chicago!” (where an episode of WWE Raw was scheduled to shoot) — was removed 30 minutes later, and Cole tweeted a pseudo-sorry: “I apologize to any and all who were offended by my tweet toward young Josh Mathews. It was obviously not meant the way it was taken.”
When hounded, a WWE rep offered the following statement to tmz.com: “WWE has alerted GLAAD to the situation and spoken to Michael Cole about his post. He has removed it and apologized for using hateful language. Michael will be included in the training session being done by GLAAD. WWE takes this very seriously and is against discrimination of any kind based on sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or other.”
Let’s back up a minute.
The WWE/GLAAD partnership, announced March 17, was prompted by the homo-bashing taunts employed by wrestler John Cena during two WWE Raw appearances in February.
On Feb 21, Cena delivered a homo-obsessed fear-and-loathing promo rap directed at longstanding adversary Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, using The Rock’s film career as fodder.
“You left us hanging high and dry to play a fairy with a tooth? And then you walk into this ring and tell these people that I’m lame, man? [You] wore lipstick in Get Shorty and rocked a skirt for The Game Plan… [D]on’t go racing to Witch Mountain, Rock, ’cause your mountain is Brokeback.”
And on Feb 28, Cena challenged The Miz to battle by flaming the relationship between Miz and wrestling partner/apprentice Alex Riley, suggesting that the duo shack up, cozy the bedroom with duvets from Bed Bath & Beyond, sip pinot noir and ogle Bachelor reruns. Cena concluded: “You’re working on being a mentor to [Riley]; you’re trying to train him… Well, tonight I’m going to train you on how to be a man.”
Not surprisingly, the WWE/GLAAD partnership has been met with heavy fire. Critics of the unlikely marriage are skeptical of the WWE, given the company’s substantial fag-bashing history (see, for example, virtually every rivalry to hit the ring since the WWF’s 1985 inception; and don’t forget the 2002 scandal, wherein WWE hustled GLAAD for creative assistance and promotional support in the Billy/Chuck homo-wedding storyline, only to expose the flame as a gimmick mid-ceremony).
Other critics, spouting homophobic outrage (Fuck those faggots! PC killjoys! Stop being such sissies!), claim that gay-bashing is an inherent and integral part of pro wrestling (This is our world. You don’t like it? Get the fuck out).
Indeed, “faggot”-tweeter Cole employed a similar justification in the immediate wake of his March 26 slur. In a subsequent tweet (since deleted), Cole reiterated his “wasn’t-me” attitude by emphasizing his heel role (read: villain) within the WWE: “I was not ordered to apologize. I said I am sorry because I am. Now can I get back to being a character again please?”
Witness that “character” effectively means having no character.
Indeed, within the WWE, “character” is a bloated body/bawdy that depends upon grunting buffoonery, jejune trash-talk and fag-bashing. (Not to mention “out-manning” rivals by — yep — threatening to “out-gay” them. Indeed, Cena has vowed to give The Rock a pearl necklace and salaciously solicited him: “Go ahead and blow me.”)
What’s most troubling about the online dialogue that’s ensued post-partnership is the degree to which WWE defenders seek to protect and uphold this brand of masculinity.
Of course, herein lies the paradox. Given culture’s stranglehold on straight masculinity, wrestling marks the only arena wherein men can watch brawny, greased-up compatriots clad in neon short-shorts and lace-up booties grope, nuzzle and body-slam one another. And, under the pretext of fandom, arousal — the scopophilic nature of the sport — is chalked up to sheer adrenaline.
It makes sense, then, that pro wrestling has largely been synonymous with homophobia: without it, wrestling is, quite simply, men loving men.
The WWE, then, simultaneously a bastion of heterosexuality and the queerest of the queer, marks a slippery slope wherein the mass-marketed mythology of masculinity — strapping, sweaty and steeped in hyperbole — is at its greatest and most glorious fail.
Tongue Lashing appears in every second issue of Xtra.