Lutz's Blog: Twitter is a major factor in the dying mystique of the wrestling business
By Jeffrey Lutz
I don't follow many professional wrestlers on Twitter, and lately I'm grateful for that. Much like three-hour editions of Raw, pay-per-view post game shows in which heel characters suddenly become reasonable analysts and secondary champions who rarely win matches, Twitter is killing the mystique upon which the wrestling business was built and has thrived on for decades.
The lengthy Raw shows, unnecessary post-show analysis and poor positioning of secondary champions are all WWE problems, but WWE, as we've seen from embarrassing moments from TNA and ROH performers over the last couple weeks, is only about 10 percent of the problem on Twitter. WWE still contributes to it, however.
The company shouldn't assume that only smart fans follow its wrestlers on Twitter. I don't know if WWE makes that assumption, but when John Cena tweets a picture of himself power-lifting a massive amount of weight right before a pay-per-view in which a primary storyline is that he's dealing with an Achilles injury, it makes me wonder where WWE lost touch with what made the company a household name in the first place.
There is a reason why the Undertaker isn't on Twitter. Or Kane. Or Brock Lesnar (not the real Brock anyway). Just like it would be difficult to imagine Andre the Giant or Vader or Ultimate Warrior on social media during their wrestling primes, because the aura around those characters, and many others, is so great that it would be ruined if I found out they were just normal people. There is still something to be said for protecting the business, even if the business isn't what it used to be.
WWE sells fans on wrestlers being bigger-than-life. The company doesn't even use the term wrestlers -- no, they're superstars. But can someone be bigger than life if he is tweeting pictures of their breakfast or posting an innocuous detail about his day? Those posts should be saved for my neighbor, not someone who is supposedly bigger than life. There's something to be said for fans feeling as if wrestlers are on the same level as them, but it's not worth the damage it does to the business.
Twitter in WWE is a necessary evil. WWE is a publicly traded company which looks to build its brand in any way possible. It would seem pointless to hype on Raw every aspect of the show that was trending on Twitter if the company itself didn't have a major social-media presence. Most WWE performers on Twitter stay in character most of the time -- just not all the time -- so it seems obvious that WWE has some sort of Twitter policy that keeps its performers reined in to some degree.
That's more that can be said, apparently, for Ring of Honor and TNA. I don't follow any ROH stars and the only TNA personalities in my Twitter timeline are Dixie Carter and Hulk Hogan, so maybe those companies show amazing collective decorum and restraint on Twitter and I just don't see it. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, the mainstream public only hears about the Twitter habits of TNA and ROH wrestlers when they say something stupid, like Jay Briscoe of ROH recently did before TNA's Austin Aries followed suit a week or so later.
Briscoe's intolerant post about shooting anyone who taught his kids that gay marriage was OK was, of course, disgraceful. So was Aries' post that made light of his blatant, public sexual harassment of ring announcer Christy Hemme during a live edition of Impact. As we came to find out, though, Briscoe and Aries were taking advantage of ROH's and TNA's inattention to what its wrestlers were saying on social media and an apparent lack of a policy to keep them in check.
I can't say for sure that TNA and ROH don't have a Twitter policy, but if they did, what took them so long to discipline Aries and Briscoe? Both of their transgressions were fireable offenses, but short of that, be out ahead of controversy so it doesn't grow to the levels these did. TNA's wait to discipline Aries was especially egregious and appalling, and we're not even sure he was actually punished because the statement from Dixie Carter shed little light on what his punishment actually was.
During his in-ring apology at an ROH event, Briscoe hid behind his heel character in explaining away his out-of-touch Twitter comments. Aries was clearly playing into his heel persona when he made juvenile jokes about the Hemme situation after the show. Those offenses are even worse than Mark Henry proving on Twitter that he's probably a really nice guy even though he's playing the meanest character in WWE.
Twitter is an awesome tool for normal, everyday people. But fans have been trained to believe, especially in WWE, that wrestlers -- no, superstars -- are not normal, everyday people. In mainstream society, Twitter is an excellent tool to follow the news and get a good laugh now and then. In the wrestling business, however, Twitter does more harm than good.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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