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Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Pro Wrestling--- There has been a lot of reaction in the past week to Vince McMahon and WWE's blatant exploitation of Eddie Guerrero's death on last week's Tuesday night Smackdown Special. The signature low-rider that was supposedly at ringisde "in loving memory of Eddie Guerrero" (who had died just two weeks earlier) was used in a pro wrestling storyline to help get Randy Orton more over in his role as a top heel.

Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer confirmed that was indeed the motivation for the closing segment, as he wrote that the purpose of the angle was to make viewers outraged, though not at WWE management for having its lack of basic human decency in scripting such a segment. It was meant to make fans outraged with Randy Orton, and the purpose of any pro wrestling heel is generally to make fans hate him as much as possible.

A reader named David Gur wrote into the Observer web site, "It's time to stop making excuses for the wrestlers themselves. It's time they grew a spine and stood up for their profession and their passion. It's too late for Big Show, Rey Mysterio, and the others who cold have stopped the degradation of a beloved man's memory."

The response to that from Dave Meltzer was, "You don't know the situation Show or Mysterio are in. Triple H could say no. So could Undertaker. Anyone else would have to deal with booking repraisals."

To that, I say this: What's more important? Booking repraisals, or not pissing on the memory of your dead friend? I understand the general point and I know it's the pro wrestling business, but come on! Also, as Meltzer acknowledged, The Undertaker doesn't even have that excuse. Due to his position in the company, he could have said no without any consequences. So does he just got off scotch-free from all of this even though he's the only one of the bunch who could have said no without any consequences? I was particularly offended that it was Undertaker participating in the show-closing segment because this is a man who has always put his stupid gimmick higher on the priority list than honoring his dead co-workers, so for him to be the one in this angle was just another kick in the stomach.

There were apparently a lot of other people who agreed that the wrestlers should have refused to participate in such a trashy, exploitative storyline. The next day on the Observer web site, Meltzer wrote the following: "The Eddie Guerrero death exploitation angles remain very polarizing, both in and out of the company. Chavo Guerrero was put on Byte This yesterday to defend it, saying that Eddie would be glad they are keeping his name alive and saying he liked it. A couple of people were upset with the situation, but not necessarily with Chavo because they know the situation he's in, and it may even be his honest feelings (although even if it wasn't, he'd pretty much be pressured into doing it); and another noted how the company has gotten terribly defensive of the criticism."

Meltzer continued, "Several of Eddie's best friends have e-mailed me in the last day or called and all of them were mad, including being disappointed at Rey Mysterio for going through with it. One of Eddie's best friends (and one of the company's biggest stars of the past decade) wrote this: 'Everyone has the power to say no. Booking reprisals be damned. There comes a time when you have to stand up for what you believe in. Vincent Kennedy McMahon may have a hissy fit for a few weeks, but with the talent roster as thin as it is right now, nothing majorly bad would happen. Even if it did, it wouldn't last, because he has nobody else to carry the load. Shame on all of those guys.'"

For reasons that any logical person could not grasp (maybe WWE just thinks exploiting death is fun), the next week of Raw featured a storyline in which current wrestler Adam "Edge" Copeland and former wrestler Michael Hayes had a verbal confrontation. At one point, Edge said, "Your tag team partner, Terry Gordy, isn't here to back you up, and you know why? Because he's dead! Ha ha ha!" I'm sure Vince McMahon got a big laugh out of that scripted line, but is the fact that Terry Gordy died prematurely really funny, and is it really something that should be fodder for furthering a pro wrestling storyline?

A few months ago on an episode of Smackdown, the young heel tag team MNM were having a confrontation with Road Warrior Animal (Joe Laurenitis), who combined with Road Warrior Hawk (Michael Hegstrand) to create one of the most legendary tag teams in wrestling history. Hawk died of heart failure in 2003, in his early 40's, just as he was about to move into a new house with his wife and kids, and just as he had finally found peace in his life.

So, MNM were having a verbal confrontation with Road Warrior Animal and were about to beat up him in a two-on-one assault, at which point they said something to the effect of, "Maybe Hawk will come out to help you. Oh, wait. He can't... he's dead! Ha ha ha." Again, even though it may give Vince McMahon his jollies, is the fact that Michael Hegstrand died prematurely really funny, and is it really something that should be fodder for further a pro wrestling storyline?

The answer is obviously no. No is also the answer that all of the participating wrestlers should have given to WWE management (no matter how severe the consequences) when they were told that they would be furthering a pro wrestling storyline and making a punch-line out of the deaths of Road Warrior Hawk, Terry Gordy, and Eddie Guerrero. Sadly, exploiting death is nothing new for WWE, and it doesn't look like that's going to change anytime soon.