An Open Letter to Jim Ross
Written by Jeff McGinnis
Dear Mr. Ross,
I hope, if you do read this letter, you take it in the manner in which it is being written. This is not hate mail, nor is it "flaming" you, which as a writer of a blog I am sure you have had much exposure to, as I have as well. I am a big fan of yours, sir, and believe you to be the greatest wrestling announcer who ever lived. So I hope you'll respond to this letter in the spirit of open debate.
I, like many fans, were outraged and disgusted by the release of Brian Danielson from WWE this past Friday. In an effort to express my displeasure, I wrote a column which was eventually posted on several websites, including PWInsider.com.
In this column, I criticized WWE for the action, and what has been widely reported as its cause, namely Danielson's use of a tie as a foreign object. I connected this decision directly to WWE's "PG"-oriented programming.
It has been reported numerous times in the wrestling media that one of the main motivating factors in the push to become more "family friendly" is Linda McMahon's Senate campaign. It doesn't take much effort to look at the timeline and note that the change in programming happened concurrently with McMahon's campaign for a seat on the Connecticut Board of Education -- which, it was noted at the time, was her first step toward running for the Senate.
Therefore, I felt a connection could be made between Danielson's firing and the McMahon Senate campaign, and said so in my story. Ergo, I hope you understand that I feel the need to respond to your recent blog, in which you took an editorial which made that connection to task.
Now, I am not so vain as to think your writing was about me. The email you wrote in response to was anonymous, while mine was clearly signed. Also, that author apparently made the claim that someone directly connected to the McMahon campaign made the order to axe Danielson, like some kind of Mafia-style hit. I made no such statement. But still, the general argument was the same.
And while I respect you immensely as a broadcaster, and while you clearly have much more experience within the wrestling business than I do, I still must stand by my earlier argument.
The first notion you challenge is the idea that Vince McMahon's actions would never be dictated by an outside force. While McMahon's controlling nature is well-documented (to confirm this, we'd just have to ask your former broadcast colleagues), it is also extremely difficult to believe that as shrewd a businessman and as canny a promoter as McMahon would have made such a nonsensical decision entirely on his own.
Four days after being involved in an incredibly effective storyline, wherein they were involved in the decimation of his company's flagship personality, Danielson was fired -- right when he was at his point of highest popularity and visibility, virtually handing TNA a main-eventer if Danielson chose to go there. I can't believe that McMahon would be so stupid to make this decision of his own accord, and several reports indicate that this was, indeed, a result of pressure put on the company from an external force. Not necessarily from the Linda McMahon campaign, but from somewhere other than Vince himself.
And the relationships that have led to such stringent guidelines being enforced on WWE programming, whether from networks, sponsors, business partners or whoever, are all seemingly connected to Linda McMahon's decision to run for office. These absurd guidelines have led to turning segments of older footage black and white just because they feature blood, the immediate stoppage of any match when a competitor receives a cut, and any number of arbitrary ideas of what makes something okay for family consumption -- all of which started right when Linda's political career began.
Now, the argument could be made that Danielson's dismissal owed more to the Chris Benoit tragedy than the PG guidelines. The choking of someone with a foreign object brings up too many bad memories, I suppose. But that was nearly three years ago now, and I find it hard to believe that WWE really felt an audience would still make such a connection. And all indications from respected news sources are that WWE officials were incredibly pleased with the angle in the immediate aftermath -- hardly the horrified reaction one would expect if Danielson's dismissal were their decision alone.
Granted, I am not an insider with the same track record within the company as you have. But right now, we fans have to make due with whatever knowledge we can get from secretive sources, such as the ones you so deride in your blog. Lord knows no one else is talking. Not Danielson, not McMahon, and especially not anyone in WWE -- the media embargo has seen sure to that.
As my friend J. Michael Bestul has pointed out, when you do something genuinely puzzling and provide no reason as to why it was done, people will fill the information gap with whatever they can. This would be solved if WWE would be a little more transparent to the media, a policy that has long been rejected by the WWE's hierarchy.
So right now, all we have are those "anonymous sources" you discuss. And they must stay anonymous, lest they lose their jobs. All we can do as fans is find news through journalists, who often rely on anonymous sources just like -- gasp -- in the real world. And just like in politics, it's up to us as fans to discern the reliable, reputable news sources from the poor ones. And in this case, every single reliable source I trust is telling the same story. While it's not the "conspiracy theory" your blog illustrates, it's one that raises a number of troubling questions about how WWE is conducting its business these days.
If we're wrong, let WWE tell us why. But when a company leaves people in the dark, they shouldn't scold us for grasping for a light switch. Especially in a situation as utterly incomprehensible as this.
At the end of your editorial, you call the quoting of anonymous sources "stupid," and then, quoting the oh-so-witty comedian Ron White, you say, "You can't cure stupid."
Actually, the line is, "You can't *fix* stupid." Personally, I've always found that line incredibly ignorant. Yes, you can fix stupid. It's called "educating." And it's something WWE has been very reticent about doing in recent years.
Email Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com