A CONTRACT WITH THE WRESTLING FANS

UPDATE--I wrote this commentary in January of 2010 as I was beginning to work for Cary Silkin's Ring of Honor promotion. While the purchase of ROH by Sinclair Broadcasting did not materialize in fulfilling my hopes, dreams and aspirations for Ring of Honor, this article accurately reflects my opinions at the time I left TNA and my intentions, albeit unfulfilled, to make ROH an alternative product that true wrestling fans could enjoy. I still dream in my heart of hearts that this goal can be accomplished someday, by someone, but the chances of it happening, and of me being involved in it, grow slimmer by the day. Read on--

 

You can call this an open letter. You can call it an early New Years' Resolution, an apology for abandoning my principles, or you can call it, as I am, a contract with the pro wrestling fans.

Over the past few years I have attended numerous fanfests and wrestling events, and spoken to hundreds, if not thousands, of true wrestling fans.
In the nine months my website, jimcornette.com, has been up and running I have received literally thousands of emails from fans around the world.

The overwhelming majority have said the same thing in a variety of ways--they want their pro wrestling back. They are sick of sports entertainment. They are tired of the sport they love being treated as a Saturday Night Live sketch.They are embarassed to admit to their friends or family that they watch wrestling nowadays, or worse yet, they have quit watching altogether.

They are confused and frustrated by the way bright young wrestling stars are passed over by the big leagues in favor of bodybuilders, bikini models, and quasi-celebrities, or given silly, kiss-of-death gimmicks guaranteed to fail, bestowed upon them by comedy writers who have never bought one ticket to see a wrestling match. They are disgusted by the same writers who have made the matches a meaningless backdrop for silly soap opera scripted by people who, as Bill Watts used to say, if were ever to be caught in an athlete's locker room would be whistling "Stranger in Paradise". They are fed up with the pervasive nepotism and the arrogance of Vince McMahon thinking he invented and/or owns the entire sport. Most of all, they are confounded by seeking an answer to the biggest question of all, generally phrased as "Why in the flying fuck does Vince Russo have a job?"

It's no secret that I feel the same way, that I despise "sports entertainment" and what it has done to our sport, and have long predicted the decline and ultimate demise of our industry because of it, a point that we are closer to in 2010 than ever before.

It's also no secret that for the past three years I abandoned my principles, and not only worked for a company that's moved even farther towards "sports entertainment", but went against every bit of my better judgment and coexisted with the man who has done more damage to our business than anyone else in it's history, the man who Bret Hart has said should be "taken out in the parking lot and hanged", the man who Jerry Jarrett has said "writes TV like a man on LSD", Vince Russo.

I am ashamed by this. Sure, there were mitigating circumstances, which I will list here, then summarily dismiss and never mention again--I went to work for TNA because it was the company best poised to prevent the WWE from having a monopoly on our industry--When Russo was hired, I tried to resign but was talked out of it because of my loyalty to the Jarrett family for giving me my start, and my friendship with and respect for Dutch Mantell, one of the true great minds in our business--My wishful thinking that sooner than later Dixie Carter would have a moment of clarity and fire the man responsible for more bad gimmicks, rotten television, ruined careers, unsold tickets, illogical booking and irreparable, lost potential than any 5 other bookers in history--My desire to help the great TNA talent roster and fine TV production crew overcome the Russo handicap and succeed in spite of him--and not least the fairly good-sized check I was receiving for one of the lighter schedules I have ever worked.

But none of this holds water if I was truly committed to helping produce a good product, to making wrestling better for the fans of today and the wrestlers of tomorrow. None of this matters if I had to embarass myself by being associated with this nonsense. Even if Dixie Carter is inexperienced in wrestling, she is a grown woman and should be able to spot a moron, especially when she's pouring tens of millions of dollars of her father's money down a well that same moron is digging. After 30 years, I am a whole lot closer to the end of my career than the beginning, and while I have nothing left to prove as a performer, I would still rather be remembered after I am gone as someone who helped produce good professional wrestling that was enjoyable for the fans and profitable for the wrestlers and the promotion than be remembered as a former star who produced inane corporate "sports entertainment" that limped along to a bitter end, decimated by the UFC and it's own inability to police itself from people who have no knowledge of or respect for the profession they were allowed into.

Even though it's true that I never publicly praised any part of TNA's booking or creative direction, dancing around on interviews, grasping for something positive to say, changing the subject, my very presence in a Vince Russo-booked promotion lent my tacit approval to it. I wasted three years of my life. I worked and sweated over something that ultimately had no chance of success. I abandoned my principles. I took the check. And for that, I hereby apologize to every wrestling fan in the world. I'm sorry. I'm ashamed of myself. Most importantly, I won't do it again. And I ask for forgiveness.

As Mama Cornette used to say, "everything happens for a reason". My total inability to force myself to back Vince Russo's vision of wrestling led to my release from TNA, but it also led to my return to Ring of Honor. I was there 3 years ago, and I made a mistake in leaving. ROH has made great strides since that time. It's a promotion that respects not only the sport but it's fans. It's run by good people who care about it's employees and it's product. It has the youngest, most athletic talent roster in the industry. It has the most competitive, serious in-ring product in this country. It has a national TV outlet and a devoted, growing fan base. And if the balance of power in wrestling is to shift, I'd like to make sure I have my thumb on the scale.

So I make this agreement, this contract, with all the wrestling fans who want an alternative, who "want their wrestling back." I don't care if you're a young fan who has never seen serious pro wrestling, or an older fan who has gone away because you gave up hope, ROH is new style with old school philosophy. I am committing myself to ROH, putting my reputation and credibility where my mouth is. I am not a "big name" taking a payoff to endorse something I don't believe in. I will not forsake ROH if or when a better offer comes along to reenter the "sports entertainment" cesspool. I truly believe Ring of Honor IS "the wrestling of the future"--and the future is NOW!

I make this pledge as my end of the contract--in return, I ask all the fans who want an alternative, who want their wrestling back, to support ROH as well. Watch the TV on HDNet--attend the live events in your area--check out the DVD's--go to their website, ROHwrestling.com--and most importantly, spread the word to your fellow fans, current AND disenfranchised. Just as ROH is bigger and better than it was three years ago, it's not nearly what it will be in 6 months, or a year, or two years, and you can keep track of, even be responsible for, it's progress.

ROH is a company that will listen to, not scoff at, it's fans' requests. But it needs your support, because NO promotion can thrive without the fans. Want your wrestling back? We want to give it to you! That's why I make this contract with you. I will not forsake you again. Don't forsake Ring of Honor. If you will give us your support, your attention, your dedication, I pledge to you that we will not let you down.

Jim Cornette