Most contentious figure?

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HIMSteveO

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I'm curious who people think is the most contentious person in wrestling? I feel like for this, it's about the figure who has the most bizarre mix of positive and negative, and the one I keep coming back to is Jim Cornette. Few have the historical knowledge he possesses, and Dark Side of the Ring makes him appear (mostly) sane - although his burial of Vince Russo is his most typically insane. But his constant 'criticism' and trenchant insistence that wrestling can only be one thing, and anything that steps a toe outside that box is to be derided and lambasted (his views on The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega come to mind for me).

What do others think?

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bigsocrates

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#2  Edited By bigsocrates

Is Cornette even in wrestling? He comments on it but he's not involved in any of the companies. He's also working a shoot most of the time. He thinks what he thinks, but he says a lot of stuff to get attention, which works. He's one of the most successful heel managers in wrestling history so nobody should doubt his ability to intentionally draw heat and turn that into cash. In the end I think he's mostly harmless, just chattering away on his podcast saying outrageous stuff for his fans, and not really influencing anything of note.

I think the obvious answer here is Vince McMahon. He's got a huge history of bad behavior, ranging from alleged sexual assault to all kinds of horrific business practices. He monopolized much of the North American talent and then has cut people for no reason during a pandemic. He is known to meddle in the booking of WWE, a company that has been putting out dreadful product for years, much of it tailor made to his horrible preferences. Yet he's also the most successful promoter in history and remains the most successful promoter right now.

Jim Cornette may believe much of what he says, or at least a version of it, but in the end he's just heeling for $$$. Vince McMahon has done incredible damage to the wrestling business in all kinds of ways, and is also the richest and most successful person every associated with it. I don't think it's a contest.

Alternatively you can look at all kinds of wrestlers who have done terrible things like actual crimes and hold reprehensible beliefs. The Great Khali killed someone in the ring and runs a promotion in India that has had a Hitler gimmick that went over. There are lots of wrestlers who have done all kinds of terrible things. Even almost universally loved figures like Stone Cold Steve Austin have histories of spousal abuse and the like.

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Gundato

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I would argue instead that Cornette isn't actually contentious. He is a racist misogynistic piece of human trash that always talks about how great wrestling used to be... which is like 70% of wrestling fans. it is why Hogan will eventually have his fortieth comeback (likely with New Day being told to stay in the locker room that night) and why we can expect to see Marty Scurl get a big comeback push in a year or two (Joey Ryan may have burned a few bridges with lawsuits). And why, when he is not in prison, Teddy Hart keeps getting booked.

"Contentious" implies people actually care enough to stop them in a meaningful capacity. Folk like Cornette get the "oh, he shouldn't say racist stuff but clearly he isn't racist because he makes that joke all the time. OH EM GEE!!! HE IS GONNA TALK ABOUT THE THING!!!"

So I guess my vote for a top 50 (I don't remember enough to do even a top 10) would be folk like Lio Rush. Impressive up and comer who basically had his entire career destroyed because he didn't carry luggage and water for the old timers. That felt like a very divisive moment where you had the long time fans who insist that all that bullshit is "part of the job", the younger folk who question why hazing is still so institutionalized, and the folk who acknowledge how fucked up it is that a black guy got "cancelled" for not carrying luggage for old (generally racist) white guys. Looks like Lio did a bit after getting fired from WWE before just retiring for health reasons.

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HIMSteveO

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Vince is an easy one for something like this idea, definitely. I just have such a negative view of Vince, and the things he has done, that I can't bring myself to admit to the positives, of which there are some monumental ones. Brock, for all of the shit he's said in the past and the ridiculous way he is booked (despite not giving a shit about the business, like Warrior - although Brock at least sold like a motherfucker for CM Punk, Joe, Keith Lee, and a few others). The Marty Scurl and Joey Ryan stuff shone a terrible light on the business too :(

And yeah, easy to forget about Austin's history.

I hate the obsession with tradition and hazing bullshit that goes on - the shit Lio Rush copped is so ridiculous. NBA vets used to do the same, but that has seemingly dissipated. I just wish wrestling would get with the times...

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sparky_buzzsaw

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McMahon's the easy pick and I agree with that one.

I'll add Hogan, both for his racist remarks and the creative control that amounted to the death of WCW and a lot of careers towards the end of the nineties and early 2000s.

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Rebel_Scum

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Jim’s just opiniated. I’d say every booker or television writer is the most contentious since everyone argues over storylines, who gets a push or who doesnt get a nudge, product quality etc.

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sombre

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The Bucks. They think they're God's gift to wrestling, but they're just absolute geeks who spend too little time in the gym, and too much time on twitter.

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HIMSteveO

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So I just watched the Dynamite Kid episode of Dark Side of the Ring, and MAN... He really was a terrible person towards the end there - and his ex-wife was surprisingly defensive and justified a lot of his later actions. The extent to which a lot of people talked about how Dynamite didn't deserve getting punched by Jaques Rougeau... To me, he absolutely did...

Watched the CNN investigation mentioned in that episode as well, and both Vince and Linda come off so shitty and so terribly... Linda seems to be someone a lot of people 'miss' when talking shitty people in wrestling...

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bigsocrates

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@himsteveo: Nobody 'deserves' to be punched in the face with a roll of quarters. I'm not defending Dynamite Kid here, but a brutal assault is never justified. Two wrongs don't make a right, and people who have nostalgia for the days when problems in wrestling were 'solved' with real violence have screwed up values. This is one of the worst parts of Cornette's schtick, when he talks about how in the old days wrestlers used real violence to keep people like the Young Bucks out of the business. That wasn't a good thing, and neither were the brutal and sometimes dangerous 'ribs' or the violent reprisals.

Dynamite Kid is also clearly no longer in wrestling because he's dead. If we're opening this up to all time we've got people like Jose Gonzalez, who murdered Bruiser Brody, or Grizzly Smith who, well, suffice it to say that compared to Grizzly Smith Vince McMahon is basically a saint.

Wrestling has had a lot of truly terrible people associated with it over the years. That's why I feel like a comparatively minor league asshole like Jim Cornette who mostly runs his mouth and has been accused of sexual impropriety by a potentially shaky source doesn't really rate.

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Gundato

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@himsteveo: The moment Linda started considering a political career they distanced her from the product. And since most people's issues with Vince have to do with him being mean to Stone Cold rather than sexual assault, enabling sexual assault, rampant racism, contributing to the murder of multiple people, etc... just not being on TV is more than enough to make most people not care about her.

Which I think also contributes to "most contentious figure" being something incredibly tame. When people do the REALLY bad shit they are generally taken off TV until the heat dies down a bit. So most "figures in wrestling" are almost entirely defined by storylines and PR.

Hence why people still say bullshit like how Cornette "just runs his mouth" when he has a long history of some pretty vicious racism and has been in positions of power where he can act on that. We don't hear about that even in The Dirt Sheets and instead just notice he "ran his mouth and got thrown out of the announcer's booth again".

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bigsocrates

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#11  Edited By bigsocrates

@gundato: Since you called me out in your post, I'm going to return the favor?

Has anyone actually accused Cornette of "Vicious racism" beyond making dumb, bad, racist comments (mostly ill conceived jokes) on the air? You say he has been racist in positions of power but what has he done in those positions of power that was actually racist?

And don't just say "well he is a racist so by being in power he has acted with implicit bias even if he didn't do anything specific" because, while that's true, it's also true of basically every promoter and behind the scenes person in wrestling.

Is Cornette a sexist? Of course. Does that mean that he probably failed to give women their proper opportunities while in power? Of course. But we all know what Vince Russo and Vince McMahon did with the women's division, and how women were generally treated in wrestling until the fans basically revolted at the excesses of the "Divas" era.

So if you're going to accuse Cornette of vicious racism beyond saying bad stuff you're going to need to provide some kind of receipts beyond examples where he...ran his mouth.

Incidentally, while Cornette has obviously said some heinous stuff over the years he also supports BLM and extensively covered the Breonna Taylor murder on his podcast with a ton of criticism towards the cops in Louisville. And given who Cornette is and the stuff he's done it seems very unlikely that he did so out of fear of backlash or a desire to hide his true intentions. Did he also allow Tracy Smothers to sell confederate flags while in Smokey Mountain wrestling? Yes, of course, and that's bad. But look how many promoters featured Kamala over the years. It doesn't make what he has done okay, but it makes it just part of how messed up the business has been.

Honestly his misogyny is much more clear cut and open than his racism. He is very clear about sneering about "girls matches" while the racist stuff generally comes through in the forms of racist jokes when he is...running his mouth.

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Gundato

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@bigsocrates: Yeah... I already addressed that entire school of thought earlier

"Contentious" implies people actually care enough to stop them in a meaningful capacity. Folk like Cornette get the "oh, he shouldn't say racist stuff but clearly he isn't racist because he makes that joke all the time. OH EM GEE!!! HE IS GONNA TALK ABOUT THE THING!!!"

You are basically arguing Cornette isn't bad because everyone is bad which is.. hot bullshit. And a complete insult to all the people over the decades who have tried to make pro wrestling NOT a completely racist shitshow and all the people who had to work ten times as hard to even get an opportunity because of those racists and misogynists in power.

And that is why Cornette is not contentious. People love that racist piece of shit and will defend him to his last because he is part of the old guard and has fun stories. So what if he probably did some bad stuff because he was a racist in power. There are lots of those so folk should stop getting pissy about it, right? So what if he made a totally hilarious joke about ethiopians chasing fried chicken. He is just making a joke. Can't you take a joke? If it was racist he wouldn't say it constantly. Jeez, all these people trying to make it the World Woke Federation, am I right?

And he said something good about BLM? Good for him. You know who else has a decent history of saying some good PR bits while still pushing incredibly toxic beliefs and figures: Jericho. Just because you can see a nugget of corn doesn't mean you should eat that turd.

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Shindig

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#13 Shindig  Online

It does make me wonder if we'll get the a post-carnie Wrestling world.

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bigsocrates

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@gundato: Show me where I am arguing that Cornette isn't bad. Please.

This is a thread about the MOST contentious figures in wrestling, not whether or not Jim Cornette is a decent human being. It's naturally going to be a competition and involve comparisons. If Cornette is guilty of doing the same stuff that every other promoter of the time also did then that doesn't excuse what he's done but it does make it hard for him to stand out. I've never said that people shouldn't get upset at Cornette in and of himself for what he's done and I don't believe it.

What I said was that A) he's not really in wrestling right now because he isn't involved with any promotions and B) most of the bad stuff he's been directly accused of (or is obviously guilty of) involves running his mouth. I am not excusing that horrible chicken joke (or the watermelon comment more recently) but they definitely fall under "running his mouth." In a business where a lot of people have committed lots of sexual assault or murder, and there's so much racism and misogyny that it's more or less baked into the product and was openly featured until just a few years ago, that makes it hard for him to be the most contentious.

If you want to say independent of everyone else in wrestling that Jim Cornette is a crappy human being with a lot to answer for then I won't argue about that. It's obviously true.

The reason I brought up the BLM stuff is because you've accused Cornette of being a "vicious racist" in ways that go beyond "just running his mouth." That implies that he is directly and consciously racist beyond making some really unacceptable comments. Instead his record is that his stated position is anti-racist but he has said some really racist things and been involved in racist angles (like having Smothers be a face in his company who was involved with the Confederacy.) The anti-racist public statements don't excuse the other stuff but I think that "vicious racist" goes beyond a bunch of bad comments over the years. In the context of our society, and especially white guys from the South, he doesn't really rate. Again it doesn't excuse any of it but we need to contextualize it.

If you want to say "Jim Cornette has said so many racist and sexist things that he should never again be in any position of power in wrestling" I think that's obviously true. But unfortunately that doesn't really make him stand out from the crowd, especially during his generation, and again this thread is about MOST contentious figures, not whether or not Jim Cornette is an asshole.

For the record, Jim Cornette is obviously an asshole.

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sombre

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@shindig said:

It does make me wonder if we'll get the a post-carnie Wrestling world.

Isn't Nikki Cross currently in a Super Hero gimmick?

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I had typed a long response regarding some of the other names put forward and assertions about Vince and Cornette, but I somehow lost it all after accidentally hitting F12, so I'll just say:

  • Dynamite was not an innocent victim - he assaulted the shit out of Rougeau and deserved getting cracked one - but Rougeau also shouldn't have hit him with a roll of quarters;
  • Cornette can present/be portrayed positively, like on DSotR, but also, when unfiltered, says a LOT of stupid/shitty things;
  • Grizzly Smith and Jose Gonzalez are absolute pieces of shit, to the point where no-one I've seen/read offers any kind of positive spin on them, so I don't feel they can be called contentious;
  • Vince is a c*nt, for so, so many more reasons than 'being mean to Stone Cold', with an insane history of c*nt behaviour/business decisions - whatever positives there are to his actions (and there are some monumental things he's done), for me, are completely cancelled out, and then some, by his c*nty history.

I wish wrestling could move past the carnie bullshit (and NJPW/AEW seem to be the best chances for that, to a degree), I can't see wrestling ever completely escaping the carnie-arsed bullshit it is saddled with...