Wrestling news: #SpeakingOut one year later

OSAKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 10: General view during the New Japan Pro-Wrestling 'G1 Climax 30' at Edion Arena Osaka on October 10, 2020 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
OSAKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 10: General view during the New Japan Pro-Wrestling 'G1 Climax 30' at Edion Arena Osaka on October 10, 2020 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images) /

TW: sexual assault, sexual abuse, abuse, rape

This time last June, we were in the early stages of a global pandemic. People were on lockdown, working from home (if they didn’t lose their jobs), trying to find ways to fill their time while navigating the unknown. It was also when the wrestling community was turned upside down. The reverberations of the movement that would become known as #SpeakingOut would also be felt globally.

It all started when one of the scene’s best known and one of it’s most popular stars, David Starr, posted a letter to his ex-girlfriends. What seemed to be a narcissistic pity party snowballed into something no one really saw coming.

Of course, there had been whispers for years, but nothing like this. People were continually coming forward to bare their souls and speak their truths. It was hard to keep up with and even harder to read. It was overwhelming and emotionally draining to read story after story. I can only imagine what they had been going through. Many of us, myself included, felt we owed it to them to read their stories. They knew that so many wouldn’t believe them and they did it anyway. They were all incredibly brave.

#SpeakingOut reaches all corners of wrestling, including major companies

#SpeakingOut didn’t hit just the small, independent companies. A handful of people in WWE and NXTUK were named including Jordan Devlin, Trent Seven, Matt Riddle, and Velveteen Dream. The ones who were expendable were released. The ones who were stars or on their way to becoming one were spared. In fact, many of them held titles after their horrible actions were known.

WWE wasn’t the only major company involved. At first, AEW sent Jimmy Havoc to rehab before quietly parting ways with him. IMPACT Wrestling fired Dave Crist and the one who is fond of Blow-Pops (I will not give him the satisfaction of reading his name; he thrives off of any attention he gets and it only feeds his ego.) while suspending Michael Elgin.

ROH had recently re-signed Marty Scurll as both a wrestler and head booker when they opened their investigation. They eventually parted ways with him. Former ROH Women’s Champion, Kelly Klein, claims the company covered up sexual misconduct from Jay Lethal and J-Rocc.

NWA Vice President Dave Lagana resigned after pro wrestler Liz Savage came forward about the sexual assault she endured at his hands. An array of allegations came out against Jim Cornette and his wife including grooming and sexual favors to be booked.

How the Indies have handled #SpeakingOut

While many promotions claimed they’d never work with accused talent again, some haven’t kept their promise. PROGRESS booked Paul Robinson as an agent for several tapings and the company didn’t announce his involvement until after the tapings took place. Prior to this, PROGRESS had seemed to be making real change as they parted ways with Glen (Joseph) Robinson and Matt Richards. They added new people to leadership positions, one being Luce Cave, who would create their Safeguarding Policy.

RIPTIDE Wrestling took painstaking measures of removing footage that involved any talent named during #SpeakingOut. They also released this statement last August: “In response to the #SpeakingOut movement highlighting an endemic abuse problem within the wrestling industry, RIPTIDE has put live shows on hiatus to make structural changes relating to safeguarding, whistle-blowing, codes of conduct, and diversity and inclusion.”

RevPro has both a Safeguarding Adults Policy along with a Safeguarding Children & Young People Policy. However, both policies pertains specifically to Portsmouth School of Wrestling.

Wrestling Resurgence has a note about #SpeakingOut and says “In light of various recent revelations we continue to enhance and view our safeguarding and employment practices. We recognize that safety, health and well-being, inclusivity, and safeguarding must be ongoing processes. The policy outlined below and our Code of Conduct will therefore be subject to ongoing review and enhancement.” Below the statement is the Code of Conduct, although it’s not clear when it was posted or if/when it has been updated.

OTT Wrestling put out a vague statement ahead of shows resuming. There is no clear information on their updated code of conduct and no policies have been posted on their website. They also mention a fan code of conduct. It appears that they will still potentially book talent that has been accused. According to the replies and quote tweets of the statement, OTT Wrestling has been posting content and liking the content of Devlin, Riddle, and Scurll. Not exactly a good look when accused talent may be cleared to appear on their shows.

The wrestling community has much more work to do

Terra Calaway, wrestler, and founder of Dropkick Depression, has worked with RAINN to create a training program “to develop and deliver sexual misconduct and assault education, awareness and support training in the fall/winter of 2021. This training is being specifically tailored to cater to the world of professional wrestling, will be interactive, and will relate to our experiences of how sexual violence affects us.”

It doesn’t appear that any US promotions have safeguarding policies in place. I don’t recall any US promotions making statements regarding putting safeguarding policies in effect or that they were even creating such policies. Even if there happens to be a small number, it’s not enough. Not booking abusers is a start, but is not nearly enough.

All promotions should have clear safeguarding policies in place and they should be easily accessible. It’s not enough to say “X promotion will not tolerate this behavior.” Talent, staff, and fans need to know who to contact and what the process is. It is unacceptable for such policies to not be in place a year later. Especially when many weren’t running due to the pandemic. That is ample time to get something concrete in place.

At the very least, promotions should require at least one person to attend Dropkick Depression and RAINN’s training. Ideally, everyone involved would do it. One is a start and the promoters themselves need to be among those who take it.

In the last year, we’ve seen accused talent get booked. We’ve seen the one with the affinity for Blow-Pops try to book his own show under the guise of a women’s charity event, upload matches to his promotion’s YouTube (thus making money off of survivors), sue IMPACT Wrestling, and numerous others. He’s going to keep trying because he needs this business to survive and feel relevant. We absolutely cannot let him.

That same energy should be kept for all of the perpetrators, but since they’re worming their way back in, it’s not likely. That doesn’t mean we stop trying. Be loud, always. Tell promotions you won’t give them your money if they book abusers. Tell promoters you won’t be booked on shows with abusers. Tell promoters they must have clear safeguarding policies and they must be posted publicly and be enforced. Let them know what you need from them to feel safe.

Support survivors. Quite a few have had to start GoFundMe to defend themselves. Donate if you can, share the links regardless.

dark. Next. Roundtable discussion on #SpeakingOut

Now that more and more promotions are running shows globally, we will see who keeps their word, who is being performative, what changes still need to be made, and where people feel safe.

This last year has been a reckoning for many. Many people have swept it under the rug or have forgotten. So many of us have not. To the survivors, I again thank you for your bravery. You have made a huge difference in the wrestling community. I hope that you are getting the peace you deserve.