Fans and reporters can’t possibly comment on how good a wrestler is because we’ve never stepped inside the ring or received formal training as a wrestler. Moreover, we don’t even have the right to comment.

That’s the gist of “Cyrus” Don Callis’s column this past week, which in part was a reaction to a column by Lance Storm. Here are the highlights from the “Top-500 lists are useless” column in the Winnipeg Sun on May 21, 2001:

  • Some well-meaning Internet guys decided to rank the top 500 workers and Lance took exception stating that the guys have never been in a ring to work and therefore are in no position to rate workers.
  • Folks get upset because they feel that even though they have never wrestled, they have the ability to rate workers. Matches perhaps, workers no.
  • Rating workers is a highly subjective business to begin with and is, at best, an inaccurate, non-empirical business. Stop trying to figure out who is in your top 500 and just enjoy the work. That’s the name of the game, after all.

I’ve heard this argument before from those within the industry and I think, to an extent, they have a point. But while I appreciate where he’s coming from, the fact of the matter is Don Callis is dead wrong.

Callis was responding to the recent controversy over a ranking of the top 500 wrestlers in the world by the┬áDeath Valley Driver web site. Callis took exception with the ranking, stating that the folks at Death Valley Driver “have never been in a ring to work and therefore are in no position to rate workers.”

I wonder if Callis sees the irony in that statement because I’m sure there exists some reporters who graduated journalism school that might have a problem with Callis writing a weekly column for the Winnipeg Sun newspaper despite lacking any formal training in journalism. Some might argue because Callis has never worked in a newsroom with demanding editors hounding him for news copy and having to meet tight deadlines that he has no right to pen a newspaper column.

In criticizing DVD’s list, Callis writes “it seems what these non-workers have been doing is rating matches, not work. In other words, what they watch on TV or videotape is the finished product, thus they cannot comment on what is actually going on in the ring.”

Fans of Callis and regular visitors to his web site know of his love for the Cracker Barrel chain of restaurants in the U.S. Callis makes a point of eating at the restaurant whenever he’s on the road because according to him the food and service is excellent.

What qualifies Callis to make such a critique? He’s had no training as a chef and has never worked in the food preparation industry. He wasn’t in the kitchen when his meal was prepared and didn’t see the hard work put into it so how can he possibly say whether or not a meal if good or not.

Callis writes “Folks get upset because they feel that even though they have never wrestled, they have the ability to rate workers. Matches perhaps, workers no.”

Does Callis have a favourite movie director or actor or film? Because unless he has a degree in film studies, has taken acting lessons or directed a film himself, he can’t possibly offer an opinion on whether a movie is good or not. Or offer an opinion as to whether one actor or director is better than another.

You see where I’m going with all of this?

While first hand experience in a certain field is one factor in determining whether someone is “qualified” to speak on that subject, it is not the only factor.

What bothers me most about his comments is the rather glib way Callis summarily dismisses fans’ opinions as not having any worth or value. Callis thinks because fans have never been a part of the industry, they can’t possibly offer any constructive criticism.

And yet Callis himself, who is not a reporter, has had no problems in the past commenting on the state of wrestling journalism. He’s often gone on tirades commentating on what he perceives to be the low standard of wrestling reportage by certain individuals and particular wrestling web sites.

It’s a clear double standard.

If we use Callis’s logic, we can argue that voters can’t possibly criticize politicians and the work they do because voters have never been in politics and they don’t know the pressure politicians are under.

Which of course is a bunch of bunk.

What gives voters the right to criticize politicians is the fact they voted them into office in the first place.

What give Callis the right to pen a weekly column is that, although he’s not a reporter by trade, he’s a gifted writer who has an intimate knowledge of the wrestling business and can communicate it in a clear, entertaining fashion.

What give Callis the right to offer an opinion on The Cracker Barrel is that he’s a paying customer who’s dined there on more than one occasion and enjoys the food.

And what gives fans and reporters the right to rate and critique wrestlers is the fact we buy the tickets, the pay-per-views and all the merchandise that keeps the wrestling business afloat.

In essence, we pay the wrestlers’ salaries. That give us every right (repeat EVERY RIGHT) to criticize.

Callis writes “rating workers is a highly subjective business to begin with and is, at best, an inaccurate, non-empirical business. Stop trying to figure out who is your top 500 and just enjoy the work. That’s the name of the game, after all.”

Part of “enjoying the work” for many of us is comprising such lists. Lists like the one on the DVD web site spark and incite debate, discourse and the exchange of ideas and view points. How that can be conceived as anything but healthy for the business is a mystery to me.

While first hand experience has it merits, it also has its pitfalls.

I argue that in some cases fans and reporters who don’t have first hand experience are even more qualified to judge wrestlers than the wrestlers themselves. Having interviewed hundreds of wrestlers, I’ve noticed that each of them (no matter how down to earth or humble they are) exaggerate, embellish or overstate their skills, drawing power and general value to their respective wrestling company.

(Lord knows how many times I’ve had to listen to guys b.s. me about how great of a draw they were or what a great worker they were when history clearly remembers them differently.)

As fans, we have the perspective of an outsider and that allows us an objectivity that wrestlers don’t enjoy. This outsider perspective does not preclude us from having a clear view of the wrestling business. Quite the opposite is often true. We often can see things as they really are, not as wrestlers, who are sometimes blinded by their own self-interest, tend to see them.

Perhaps Callis, like many of his colleagues in the wrestling business, is an insider who views the wrestling world through his own unique pair of rose-tinted glasses.

POLL QUESTION

Q1: Following the columns by Cyrus and John Molinaro, do you think that it’s fair for fans to rate wrestlers?
Total Votes for this Question: 966
48% voted for Yes, for sure
13% voted for Only sometimes
14% voted for No, not qualified
25% voted for It’s stupid to rate people anyways

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