Shoot interviews, to me, represent the best and worst of pro wrestling at times. It’s great that there is an outlet for us fans to sit and listen to some of our favourite performers speak from the heart about how they got into wrestling, the ups, the downs, their most renowned angles, who they liked, who they didn’t and so on. But there is also a very ugly side, and one that parallels the greedy, exploitative world of mainstream journalism, which thrives off the misery and desperation of fallen idols.
Last week it was reported that WWE would no longer be paying for the rehabilitation of Tammy Sytch, who played the iconic Sunny for years, and has since struggled to cope with personal demons. The promotion has paid for the rehabilitation of former stars for many years now, with people like Sytch and Scott Hall taking advantage of the offer several times. Supposedly, the straw that broke the camel’s back was that Sytch supposedly buried WWE in an interview with Kayfabe Commentaries, claiming she was sent to poor facilities and claimed they told her she was “no Scott Hall” when she brought up much they spent on his time in rehab.
While people should certainly be held accountable for what they say and do, it reminded me of precisely why I hate the nature of these shoot interviews. The fact is, if someone in wrestling is down on their luck, struggling to pay bills, and just generally having a shitty time in life, you know someone will be right there with an open cheque book and a microphone, to make sure any amusing fuck ups will be recorded and sold for 20 bucks a pop, to equally vulture-like consumers. I feel like these DVDs, rather than offering any kind of real insight, can simply serve as a very public forum for people to shoot themselves in the foot.
There’s just something so sleazy about it all. I was trying to put my finger on what exactly bothers me about all this and then one of the actual ads for the DVD release caught my eye.
Now, I know this is just a masterful example of subtlety, so let me explain what we’re seeing here. Yes, that is Sunny’s mugshot. Yes that is the subtitle; INSIDE THE MADNESS. This irked me more than it probably should have. When I see magazines dedicated to the endless coverage of celebrities’ personal lives, often relishing their troubles because it’s more interesting to the public, I wonder why I got into journalism in the first place. When I see this; the minor league wrestling equivalent, it makes me question the nature of fellow wrestling fans.
Wrestling might be niche, but the same logic that applies to mainstream celebrity culture applies here. People love to see famous people fall from grace. Some might turn their nose up at the metaphorical dumpster diving journalists, scurrying around in the dirt for one more used condom to parade around in the gossip pages of whatever shitrag people are reading these days – but really, they’re only satisfying equally repulsive consumer habits. In short; they’re only selling what people want to buy.
There are two sides to everything, of course.
A former star down on their luck is newsworthy. It’s all well and good for me to talk about how much I disapprove of it and how sleazy I think it is, but the consumer is always right. People want to buy this stuff because they’re interested. And hell, I’m a hypocrite, because I’ve joked about the hardship of wrestlers for a cheap laugh from time to time, so it’s not like I’m standing on a pedestal saying wrestlers should never be ridiculed for their shortcomings. Plus, it wouldn’t be a very realistic depiction of life if people covered the careers of wrestlers during their peak years and then in the name of decency, didn’t talk about their downfalls. Slipping in the fight against personal demons is a reality. And at its core, interviews like this serve to cover things as they are.
I feel like at its core, there is nothing wrong with the idea of these releases. But the way it’s marketed makes everything seem worse. You can guarantee that a company like Highspots knows what they’re doing when they release brief, out of context clips of Davey Richards supposedly badmouthing his peers, and his home promotion. Or when three minutes of a two hour DVD is released online, showing Kenny King making questionable comments about that same promotion. They’re stirring the pot. It’s not about the person, or their story, or their motivations, or their aspirations; it’s about controversy. And as a not-so-wise man once said; controversy creates cash. These groups could market themselves however they please, they just chose to do so in a way that makes them seem as though they play everyone against each other.
In conclusion, I think there will always be a place for shoot interviews in wrestling, and that people will always be curious about the lives of wrestlers away from the spotlight. But so long as the hook for potential viewers is “look how low this person has sunk!”, I wont be investing in these shows any time soon.
Barry is a 21 year old journalism student with a passion for all things wrestling. Like many, it was a childhood interest that never really went away, and in fact only grew as time went on. After becoming more and more disinterested in the 'mainstream' wrestling shows, Barry decided to give independents a chance just a few years ago, after many years of buzz and hype. It was initially CHIKARA Pro that made him a fan, but since then Barry has become an avid follower of PWG, Dragon Gate, ROH, CHIKARA, and many, many more.
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