WWE CEO Vince McMahon is using RETRIBUTION to further a false narrative.
Recently, a faction in WWE has been making waves. They are masked, dressed in black hoodies, and cause destruction to the establishment through vandalism, graffiti, hacking and attacking anyone in sight. They are known as RETRIBUTION.
RETRIBUTION is Antifa. It may not be that in name. It may not be that in what it truly hopes to achieve. It’s not even that in the fact it revolves around mainly destroying rings and causing chaos in WWE. But in Vince’s mind, RETRIBUTION is his response to antifascist action.
Which is why, week after week, you are bombarded with the idea that RETRIBUTION is wrong. With every defeat, every brief victory by swarming and every moment where they dress in “ruffian” clothing with villainous masks, you are being told by Vince McMahon that RETRIBUTION are going about what they want the wrong way. And even that they are wrong to want it.
“Cos we’re not a bunch of little kids, hiding behind some damn mask!”
This line from Bobby Lashley, after having chased out the larger RETRIBUTION group with the Hurt Business, already sends signals. That RETRIBUTION, when they talk of greed corrupting wrestling. When they speak of the deserving being looked over in favor of the privileged. When they preach of WWE’s inherent issues, that they are simply children throwing a tantrum. The fact that Dominik Dijakovic-Sorry, T-Bar calls fans “Wh****” only emphasizes that they are meant to be viewed as immature.
And while we’re on the subject of T-Bar, let’s look into how they are booked: They’re booked like the Alliance of the Attitude Era. A group who can only win when they cheat. When they overwhelm the opponent. They win when they resort to “immoral” means. And in the wrestling world, an immoral victory is a hollow victory. Compare this to how Mia Yim used to go one-on-one with Shayna Bazler, widely pushed during her NXT days as one of the most dominant women in wrestling. Or Dominik Dijakovic, who was positioned as a dominant big man in his beginning. It’s as if WWE is saying that by embracing this ideology, they have weakened themselves.
And that’s not even getting started on Ali.
WWE’s booking of RETRIBUTION is respectability politics at its worst
This booking leads to the idea that RETRIBUTION is wrong for using their means to get what they want, and by doing so, have proven that their goal is just as immoral as those means. You’ve heard it countless times if you’re a marginalized person.
“You can’t fight fire with fire.”
“If you hit back, you’re just as bad as them.”
“Rise above it.”
And this is embodied by their opposition to the Hurt Business.
The Hurt Business, led by MVP is all about high living and living proudly in wealth, glory, and the finest made suits.
As a faction comprised entirely of Black men, The Hurt Business are people who have faced much marginalization. But yet, they do not align with RETRIBUTION. Instead, they are portrayed as the “right way” to go about things. The “correct” way. The “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” way. A way Vince McMahon believes in.
There is the concept of assimilation in many marginalized communities. By becoming as much like the majority community, only then can you find success. To become “respectable”. The Hurt Business is, by the nature of its gimmick, capitalistic. They are based around wealth and success. Connections to knowing who to know. And all around flaunting it. You need to work with capitalism and the majority in some form to get ahead in this world. But by parading the idea and opposing it to the anti-capitalist nature of RETRIBUTION, Vince is saying something by using Hurt Business:
“This is how you get what you want. Not your way. This way.”
It comes down to respectability politics. You have to appease the majority as a marginalized person to be accepted. Not to cause issues or be unseemly. Act in a way they want you to and you get ahead.
And the fact that time and time again, all the real wins in the feud are going towards the Hurt Business while every “hollow” victory goes to RETRIBUTION is another reinforcement of this message.
But let’s finally bring it home with a point I brought up earlier: Mustafa Ali.
Mustafa Ali, as a face, is a bloody superhero. He fights against all odds and never stops fighting because he knows he’s right, He knows he needs to fight. And he will never back down. In the words of a past promo “Evil wins when you don’t show up to fight.”
But as a part of RETRIBUTION, it’s as if all that has been thrown out the window. Gone is the man who would stand against opponents three times the size he is. Now standing in his place is a coward who refuses to fight a battle without a gang of fellow “agitators” behind him.
Ali is no longer positioned as a man who brings the light in the darkness. He now only brings chaos, according to WWE.
I’m going to leave this article with a final point, emphasized by Ali’s own words in a promo:
“This corrupt company couldn’t make a BUCK off someone named Mustafa Ali.”
Ali has brought up how he has faced racism. How-as a Muslim, Pakistani-American man-he has had to fight and struggle to get where he is. But simply because now, rather than thanking others for “accepting him” and portraying a feel-good story, he is angry and mad that he HAD to scratch and claw for a scrap of what those privileged got, he is now portrayed as a villain.
Because that’s what Vince thinks someone who uses force to his status quo is. A villain who needs to be humbled.
As a trans woman, I’ve dealt with my fair share of people trying to humble me for not taking my oppression lying down. And we don’t need to see it in wrestling. There’s far too much of it in the real world as it is.