The events of the last few days have been just cause to take a look at the state of professional wrestling. The art form that I love, and have dedicated my entire adult life to, is embarrassingly behind the times. It is beholden to outdated tenets that threaten to render it...obsolete at worst, and a punchline at best.
I know there are others, influential and celebrated, that imagine pro-wrestling to be a bubble in which the social norms from a bygone era are still relevant and valid. At CHIKARA, we rail against them, and those ideals, with everything we make. It is one thing to speak, to voice an opinion. It is one thing to call for change, to wish for change, to imagine how that change might come about. It is another thing to make it. At CHIKARA, we make it happen. It doesn’t matter to us in the least how many people show up to see it, or how many people recognize it for what it is. Our mantra is not about critical acclaim or pats on the back: “We believe pro-wrestling should be fun. That’s why we make it for everyone.”
Effective today, we are terminating our relationship with Joey Styles. Effective today, we are instituting a zero tolerance policy for misogynistic, racist, and/or homophobic speech, written or verbal, whether it’s directed toward our cast, our crew, or our patrons. This is the shape of CHIKARA.
To all that craft and shape pro-wrestling, we must fully understand this: the patrons of our art form demand more of us. It is to them - those that empower us to create the larger-than-life spectacle of professional wrestling - that we are beholden. Not to an archaic sub-culture made up of turn-of-the-last-century carny values.
The time for us to do away with antiquated and insulting vocabulary, like the term “mark,” is right now.
The time for us to relinquish any last vestige of power we’ve given to outmoded wrestling rhetoric is right now.
The time for us to draw a line in the sand, and to say this is where we stand on equality and integration in our art form, is right now.
The patrons of our amazing art form deserve not just our respect, but our thoughtful presence of mind in 2016 and beyond. We owe nothing to “the business.” The people our antecedents called “marks” are not handing us their dollars because they fail to understand what it is we truly make - they support us in spite of it. They come because they know our kind of live entertainment is a viable art form, not some midway hustle. They come for an inclusive experience where they can be bolstered by a passionate community of like-minded fans.
At CHIKARA, we love pro-wrestling every bit as much as our fans do. We love it so much, we want it to change. Let’s take a step toward a world where we need not be subject to any type of hate speech, and that the only violence we witness is of the neatly choreographed variety.