What we have learned over the past few days serves as nothing short of shocking, disgusting, and abhorrent. The world of professional wrestling has been shaken by revelations of sexual assault, misconduct, and overall wildly inappropriate behavior on the part of several influential figures. The epicenter of this storm surfaced when a former significant other of independent wrestling personality, David Starr, came forward and gave her side of a story that featured numerous offenses committed by Starr of a violent and sexual nature. Since Starr’s accuser has come forward, countless individuals throughout the world of professional wrestling have created a movement known as “Speaking Out,” in which they detail how other prominent performers have used their status to curry sexual favors and take advantage of people that placed their trust in them.
As someone that has spent my entire career working in an all-women’s wrestling promotion, these allegations were nothing I had not heard previously. So many strong, talented, powerful, and fierce women have anecdotally informed me of incidents and events that would have people behind bars if they were to ever become public. Co-workers of mine have told me stories that feature everything from creepy, stalker fans to men in high-ranking positions with other promotions propositioning them and making them feel obligated to do things they did not wish to do.
First, I must say that I am proud of each and every woman and man that has decided to summon the courage necessary to speak and write down these unfathomable acts that have been committed against them. I commend them for taking back the power stolen from them by these lowlifes that have inhabited the wrestling world for far too long. It is never easy to discuss trauma, but these courageous individuals have decided that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes must accept responsibility and must be held accountable for the viciousness they have decided to put into the world.
Although these individuals have shed light upon monsters and inhumane creatures walking among us, they have also stirred controversy. For as we all know, when a topic enters the court of public opinion, you will always have people that will defend the indefensible. You will always have people that try to give someone the “benefit of the doubt.” The problem is when it comes to violence and violation, there is no “benefit of the doubt.” It is not up to the accused to determine whether the human being on the other side of these incidents feels violated or not. It is not for those reading and digesting these stories to make others feel awful about the wrongs done to them, because these people reading don’t wish to believe these stories about their favorite wrestlers–their idols. This is not up for discussion, and yet, it has become the hottest button issue that everyone wishes to subject to conjecture.
One of the latest events surrounded AEW wrestler, Sammy Guevara. A soundbite from 2016 has resurfaced in which Guevara details his experience after his involvement with a WWE show that took place shortly before the interview. In the clip, Guevara mentions Sasha Banks as someone he observed while at the show. Guevara says, “I would rape her.” Unabashedly, these words came from Guevara’s own lips and into the world. The events seemed to be forgotten as Guevara accumulated several accolades in the world of wrestling, ultimately leading to his signing with All Elite Wrestling in 2019. The clip sparked outrage and heated debate among the wrestling community. Many people–including myself–demanded that AEW terminate Guevara’s employment. Others, however, dismissed his comments as jovial conversation. Some people stated that we cannot indict people on rhetoric alone. To some, they were only words and he meant no ill will. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not up to us how victims interpret their trauma, and that’s exactly what was happening. That’s exactly what has been happening.
I was asked by Wrestle Royalty as to how I believe this should be handled. One reporter, whose opinion I respect and hold in high esteem, said, “You can’t kick everyone out of the business” – meaning that we will never truly eliminate each and every single piece-of-garbage entity that has ever worked in the wrestling business.
Some people have covered up their wrongdoings far too well. Others are too influential and will make sure they never have to see their name in the blinding light of tawdry headline. That, however, is not the goal. The purpose in all of this is not to begin a manhunt for every person that has ever said or done something ignorant and stupid. The purpose of all of this is to create a safe environment for those that have been wronged so that we can eliminate as many bad people as possible. Each and every career field has awful, reprehensible people hiding in plain sight. However, wrestling has this wonderful, beautiful sense of togetherness and community that other fanbases do not possess. It allows us to connect with each other like we never thought possible. We don’t just get to trade tapes of our favorites; we can trade each and every insight with people that share the same fervent passion as the rest of us. This is one of the most splendid times to be involved in the wrestling business, because we can be there for each other in ways we never dreamed could be real. So, while we will never find every devious character lurking in the shadows, we can bring a large amount into the light and hold them accountable for their atrocities.
The other goal in all of this is to show that companies with the ability to give people careers, money, and fame cannot allow these vile individuals to make a living and continue to gain fan following. These companies have platforms that these men have utilized to convince people that they are good men and women. These chameleons have blended in and hidden for so long. The mission of these brave souls is to hold companies accountable as well as individuals.
When AEW made their statement that Sammy Guevara has been suspended without pay for his actions, it seemed more than appropriate. Of course, Sammy owned up to his actions and sought forgiveness from Sasha Banks, but his words are recorded and are out there until the end of time – just like the pain and torment that victims of abuse struggle with day after day. The pain they feel is real. The hurt they suffer through is eternal. It never fades. It never goes away. The least these abusers and ignorant fools can do is live with their sullied reputation for that same tenure.
No, we will never capture every monster that’s out there. What we can do is punish those with insurmountable evidence against them. What we can do is treat every claim with respect and seriousness. Investigate these malfeasances. Take the time to listen to the victims. Some crimes may seem less to you than others, but the pain is so much more than any of us can ever imagine.