Sports Entertainment sure is ‘big business’. Nowhere is it more readily evident than in the WWF’s head offices where decisions are made which directly affect the marketplace, the fans and the news media. Though SLAM! Wrestling commends the WWF for their over-enthusiasm in defending their product and their company, Wednesday’s judgment to severe all ties with the professional wrestling newsletters and websites is nothing short of shooting down a pigeon with an anti-aircraft rocket. It is also just as absurd.
What the WWF did is akin to what my two-year-old son has done on occasion when he has become miffed at me for telling him not to throw his ball into the neighbour’s yard or use his broom as a baseball bat rather than purpose for which it was intended. He cries…”No play with Da-Da no more!” and God bless him, defiantly stomps off in a huff with his toys as fast as his little feet will carry him.
In my mind, there is no difference between the two circumstances. Angered at having their “dirty laundry” aired in public despite benefiting from the mega-hype for WrestleMania X8 over the last few weeks, the WWF decided we weren’t playing fair, gathered up their toys and headed home. It’s not exactly a mature approach to a problem.
I expect such a reaction from my toddler not a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
For a firm striving to shrug off the unfair negative connotations of being a pro wrestling company and desperately wanting to be viewed as a legitimate world-class corporation, Wednesday’s action only serves to embarrass the company as a whole. The “shadowy” statement posted on the WWF’s Internet site (to which nobody has stood up and taken credit for) was unprofessional and certainly not the way a multi-million dollar firm should do business in this day and age. In my books, such a knee-jerk and rabid reaction certainly doesn’t inspire confidence in the company’s leadership if a real crisis ever erupted.
With one statement, the WWF damaged valuable relationships with the news media. Relationships that took years to build. Relationships that may never be repaired as this is the second time the WWF has unexpectedly taken this course of action. Sooner or later, even the most patient people can longer just forgive and forget.
Any public relations expert worth their salt knows that nothing good can from banning everyone, especially those who in the past have acted in a forthright manner and given you equitable coverage. Turning friends into enemies is not good business sense. A far better solution would be to work with those people to find an agreeable resolution or to counter the supposed “misinformation” with a statement of your own.
That, of course, requires keeping the lines of communication open. Under the current WWF policy, a roadblock has been erected effectively cutting off any reasonable and positive dialogue. It wasn’t a smart move on their part. Neither was posting a surprise statement on their Web site instead of doing the professional thing and contacting those involved to notify them of or discuss the change. It all boils down to a matter of common courtesy. Respect, after all, is a two-way street.
As far as the issue of “anonymous sources” goes, they are a fact of life for the news media. Having covered everything from criminal court cases to school board meetings and everything in-between, I can honestly say that no reporter wants to go that route but sometimes it is the only option. The person providing the information could face being fired or even worse for agreeing to be your source. As long as the source is verified and can be contacted as a way of sustaining their identity and claims, there is no problem. Some readers don’t understand the reasoning behind the “anonymous source” categorization and therefore jump to all sorts of fanciful conclusions. If faced with the decision of costing someone their job, life or reputation over criticism from the public or the subject of the story for using the “anonymous source” label, I think the choice is obvious for any ethical journalist.
Wednesday’s statement also made reference to the WWF’s continued dissatisfaction with the happenings and results of their taped Smackdown! broadcast being revealed beforehand. I don’t know about you but I am tired of hearing the same old bitching and complaining. Who or what is the real issue here? The WWF itself. The problem ends and begins with them. They are the ones who tape the show instead of airing it live. The solution to their nagging concern is in their own hands. They have no one to blame but themselves.
What the WWF doesn’t realize and the producers of Internet sites do is that the readers have expressed the desire to know the details and fire off a nasty message to you when you don’t publish them. In my experience, the number of want-to-knows far outweighs those who don’t. It is as simple as this…fans want to plan their Thursday nights and what is going to happen on Smackdown! is a factor in that. Everyone’s time is valuable and nobody wants to waste two hours watching a do-nothing, mean-nothing episode. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t some grand plan to ruin WWF ratings. They seem to be doing a good job of that on their own with pet dogs and the like being worked into the storylines.
The WWF has given us a chance to prove to them why SLAM! Wrestling should be exempt from the current ban. We are stating publicly that we refuse the invitation. The decision to decline the offer isn’t some sort of protest on our part. It is that the WWF should have a firm understanding of who is legit and who is not. If they aren’t aware of that now, they never will be and nothing will change that. If they don’t have the desire to familiarize themselves with the newsletter and Internet landscape then they are doing themselves and you, the fans, a great disservice.
SLAM! Wrestling has, like others out there, strived to function as a true journalistic wrestling site. We carefully scrutinize and validate information before posting it. For example, you won’t read here who’s been hired or fired without us verifying the story. You need not look any further than John Molinaro’s pieces on the return of Hall and Nash or Jerry Lynn and Rob Van Dam to see that. My piece on the Big Show’s gaffe on an edition of Raw Is War is yet another example.
Since the blacklisting of SLAM! Wrestling in 2000 by the WWF, we have worked diligently to meet with the WWF’s policy on obtaining interviews and clarifying news. To their credit, the WWF has always held up their end of the bargain with flying colours. With Wednesday’s decision, it just goes to show you that even if you go through the “proper channels” as they request, you can still get screwed in the end when the WWF decides to once again…paint everyone with the same brush and issue a blanket ban.
What is most disturbing about all of this to us — besides the obvious — is that a person whom SLAM! Wrestling has the highest regard for as a true gentleman and an individual who has the same respect for the business that we do, couldn’t or wouldn’t break the news to us himself. As you can imagine, the situation is disheartening to everyone here in the office especially after a relationship of mutual admiration, trust and respect was established.
We wish the WWF continued success. However, it is important for the WWF to understand that business will go on as it always has…with or without their support. Their action on Wednesday won’t colour or influence our coverage of the World Wrestling Federation, as the posting of our readers’ various reactions today proved. As always when something like this occurs, it is the WWF fans who suffer and the legitimate news media who tries their very best to bring you the news and views that we hope adds to your appreciation of pro wrestling.
One day my son will grow up and mature as a person. The temper tantrums will disappear and he will have the tools to act in a civil way towards any tough situation life throws at him. I hope the same is true of the WWF…one day.