Main article: History of professional wrestling
Originating as a popular form of entertainment in 19th-century Europe and later as a sideshow exhibition in North American traveling carnivals and vaudeville halls, professional wrestling grew into a standalone genre of entertainment with many diverse variations in cultures around the globe, and is now considered a multi-million dollar entertainment industry. While it has greatly declined in Europe, in North America, it has experienced several different periods of prominent cultural popularity during its century and a half of existence. The advent of television gave professional wrestling a new outlet, and wrestling (along with boxing) was instrumental in making pay-per-view a viable method of content delivery.
I came across this description of professional wrestling when I was doing my research for this column this morning. The first sentence is something that I've always suspected; wrestling originated as a popular form of entertainment. You can even fast forward to about 1973, around the time I first started watching the genre. Immediately as a 12 year-old kid, I knew that it was a magnificent form of entertainment. I also knew that on May 1st, 1987 when my son Will was born and I was disappointed that I had to forfeit the tickets I had bought previously, to see Steamboat/Savage go at it in a steel cage at the Nassau Coliseum. Years later, I was again reminded of the wonderful entertainment factor when I had the absolute privilege of being a part of the highest rated segment in the history of professional wrestling, "This is your life, Rock", a segment that in fact caused the standard bearer of dirt sheet writers to say that he was never watching wrestling again.
As they say in Hollywood, "THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT!"
"Vince, if they're going to be stars, they have to look like stars!"
That is something that Vince McMahon told me early on in my working relationship with him. Vince made me understand that the presentation of a wrestler, was the very first step in making him/her a star. I used that wisdom bestowed upon me directly from Vince, when I wrote in a series of articles that neither Sami Zayn, or Kevin Owens were being presented as stars. And, even though I made it absolutely clear in all my columns that AS TALENTED AS ZAYN AND OWENS WERE IN THE RING, the WWE machine had let them down, and fallen short in "presenting" them as stars---my words were mangled and taken out of context to the point of them meaning something else entirely different. . My original message was clear to anyone who had the ability to understand the words they were reading. It couldn't have been any more clear.
Of course, through the dirt sheets, and those that read words and take from it what they want, this equated to my absolute HATE of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, and my inexcusable BURYING of both. That's what my detractors waned to believe--so that's the way they spinned it. So of course, last night when Owens beat Cena, I was bombarded with hate tweets with the message, "IS OWENS A STAR NOW?" From there, the messages started coming fast and furious, and as I'm reading them I'm starting to understand that a good majority of those who were spitting their venom directly my way, actually thought that Kevin Owens pinned John Cena last night---no---FOR REAL. In their glorious tizzy, they had forgotten that nobody "actually" beats anybody in professional wrestling--it's just a form of entertainment going all the way back to the 19th century. For a second I actually thought that I was maybe living in Wayward Pines, a town where professional wrestling has somehow, someway, actually become REAL. Honestly, it was frightening to me. Obsessed with the idea of wanting to prove me wrong about Owens not being a star---which I clearly never said in the first place---they were using a staged, and choreographed fake fight as proof that Owens was indeed a star---because he had won.
Guys, honestly, at this point I just tapped out. I was dealing with people that were just being irrational, and in trying to once again make the words that I actually did say concerning Owens clear---I just gave up. People who chose to hate me, and are going to hate me simply because I have a different view of professional wrestling that they do---just aren't going to stop. No matter what I do, or what I say, they are just going to twist it to the direction of hate, and more hate.
A few days ago an e-mail that I wrote to Dixie Carter NINE YEARS AGO was released on the internet. How, and why it got out there---I have no idea. The e-mail was written at a time where we were just about to go prime time on Spike. In the body of the e-mail, I suggested to Dixie that perhaps we were sending a "mixed message" to our audience. On one hand, we had a really hip and cool product with LAX, and the reality-based feud between Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle, while on the other hand we had an authority figure who was very traditional, very southern and dressed in a canary yellow sports coat. In the e-mail I made it absolutely CLEAR to Dixie that the issue was not a personal one with Jim Cornette, but that the two different directions in which we were presenting the show---just weren't matching up. Again, my words were clear, just like those concerning Zayn and Owens. Next day directly from the dirt sheets:
RUSSO BURIES CORNETTE TO DIXE CARTER.
It's a no win situation for me, and I understand that. However, I'd be lying to you if I told you that all the harsh and personal attacks didn't fuel the depression that I have been dealing with for the past 32 years. Every day when I get on my computer I have to block comments from people who absolutely hate me with such a vile, that you would think that I murdered one of their own family members. None of these people know me, have ever met me, know my family---they just know that my views on wrestling different from theirs. It's the hatred, man, where does it all come from? We were not put on this planet to hate people, that wasn't the goal at all. But yet, we do, every second, of every day, over trivial things that just don't matter.
I'd like to think that the world is better than this, that we, as a society, are better than this, but with a 1-2-3 in a meaningless wrestling match that was produced simply to entertain us---I am wrong . . .dead wrong. And . . . it's sad.