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 411mania » Wrestling » Columns

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John Bradshaw Layfield - Net Hypocrisy At Its Worst
Posted by Michael Benjamin on 06.10.2004





Last weekend at a house show in Munich, Germany, John "Bradshaw" Layfield made a very large error in judgement. During his match with Eddie Guerrero, Layfield used the Nazi-salute several times to turn the German crowd against him, and also incorporated the goose-step into his heel routine. The net quickly found out about his actions in Germany, and they were absolutely outraged.

Now, several days later, the net is still buzzing about Bradshaw's actions, with many members of the "IWC" calling for his job. Personally, I find this to be both ridiculous and hypocritical.

I honestly believe that as inappropriate as the gestures were, half of the net backlash is the direct result of previous hatred of John Bradshaw Layfield. Apparantly, he's made some candid remarks about his feelings towards the IWC. Personally, I could care less. I don't know the man, he doesn't know me, and as much as I like or dislike watching him on television, his opinion is basically as irrelevant to my life as humanly possible.

I believe that the net is so obsessed with their dislike of John Layfield that they are completely failing to look at the big picture here. Despite all the glitz, all the glamour, and all the millions of dollars in revenue, at its core, we are still talking about professional wrestling here. Not the Metropolitan Opera, not Disney Studios, but seedy, dirty, trashy professional wrestling.

I'm not in any way defending Bradshaw's actions, but for fans to expect anything less than poor taste and offensive angles from pro-wrestling is absurd. It's been this way for over a century, and will be the same way for decades to come. For better or for worse, pro-wrestling has never been about political correctness.

Ready the hate mail now, but John Layfield should not be fired for using the Nazi salute to turn the crowd in Munich against him. Should he be suspended? Of course. Fined? Definitely. But fired? Give me a break.

If this was anyone but John Layfield, the backlash would be much more muted. People would be offended for ten minutes, and then forget about it. Vince McMahon's WWE has been offending minorities for years. Where has the scathing backlash been?

Where are the hard-hitting reports and columns about the atrocious Hispanic and Latino stereotypes that the WWE has been propogating for years. From Razor Ramon's "orange thief" vignettes to Eddie Guerrero's lowriders, Vince McMahon's portrayel has been nothing short of atrocious.

Where was the scathing criticism of the "Billy and Chuck" angle. I can't imagine the homosexual population supporting the WWE much these days, because the way that they were portrayed on SmackDown was nothing short of a demeaning, negative, Hollywood-fueled stereotype.

Where are the heated editorials about the WWE's portrayel of the mentally disabled? Sugarcoat it with all the "heroic" rhetoric that you'd like, but at the end of the day, Eugene is there for us to laugh at first, and cheer second. Eugene lets us know that, yes, mentally handicapped people are dopey, blithering fools.

Need I remind you that a decade ago, Ted Dibease was marching around the WWF ring with a slave. A slave. Triple H incorporated very offensive comments involving slavery and race in his feuds with both Booker T and Shelton Benjamin. Where was the outcry? Where were the calls for Triple H's job? Exactly. They were nowhere to be found.

I don't know why anyone was shocked or surprised by John Layfield's actions last weekend in Munich. It wasn't the first time a wrestler had used Nazi references to rile up the crowd, and it certainly won't be the last. It wasn't right then, it isn't right now, and it won't be right in the future.

I recognize the offensive nature of this, but ultimately, I just ended up rolling my eyes and writing it off as trashy pro wrestling being trashy pro wrestling. It bothered me, but I'm not deluted enough to expect sensitive, high-brow entertainment from Vince McMahon, and I find it hard to believe that anyone watches wrestling for political correctness or reality.

Pro Wrestling is offensive and tastless. For better or for worse, it's the nature of the beast.

If John Layfield is fired, I honestly hope that Triple H, Eddie Guerrero, Eugene, Billy Gunn, Chuck Polombo, Mordechi and every single other WWE wrestler ever involved with making an offensive statement or obscene gesture in the ring is handed their walking papers as well.

John Layfield can not be the sacrificial lamb for decades and decades of offensive behavior in pro-wrestling. It was an extremely insensitive thing to do, but it was also one of thousands of insensitive moments in wrestling history, all of which have gone completely unpunished.

What I find even more ironic as I look around the net is that half of the people coming down on Layfield for his actions in Germany were "beginning to enjoy" his anti-Mexican character. Where's the hypocrisy there?

I don't think it's right to be selectively offended by wrestling.

Either be offended by every distasteful thing that has occured in the WWE for the last twenty years, or understand that this is pro wrestling, a business where class and taste don't exactly run rampant.

I can completely understand how the Jewish population would be deeply offended by Bradshaw's actions. Nazi Germany and World War II evoke painful memories for all of us, and this especially rings true for them. I do think there's a large difference though between ignorantly throwing out a Hitler hand gesture, and grabbing the house mic and making jokes about the Holocaust.

It's ridiculous to assume that Layfield condones the tragic extremination of over six million Jews just because he goose-stepped around the ring. I don't know the man. I don't know what kind of person he is, or of what character he holds. I don't know if Vince asked him to make this gesture, nor do I know if it was a spontaneous action.

The media is so obsessed with hype though that they want to turn a two-second error of judgment into a front-page witch hunt, 411 included. Bradshaw made an inappropriate gesture, the crowd booed him heavily, and in the end, the good guy won. I can't tell people what to be offended and what not to, but I can say that it's ridiculous to start labeling someone a racist, or a Nazi-sympathizer, or anything else without concrete proof. Correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't Layfield been best friends and tag partners with an African American for years.

I can also say this: at the end of the day, it was an insensitive mistake. The same kind of mistake that all of us make in our less-public lives, and the same kind of mistake that Vince McMahon and his performers have been making for years. At one point or another, they've offended anyone and everyone.

America has become so obsessed with political correctness that it's nearly impossible to even discuss these things objectively. I'm sure a large chunk of you reading this will fall right into that mentality, labeling me a racist and Anti-Semite for simply pointing out the hypocritical nature of these attacks, and the inherent offensiveness of the pro wrestling industry. If that's how you chose to read between the lines, so be it.

The problem isn't with Justin Layfield though. At the end of the day, the problem is with the wrestling business. If you want to lash out at someone, I honestly think Vince McMahon is much more appropriate target than Layfield. Layfield made one offensive gesture in his career. McMahon has made a career of offensive behavior.

Take an honest, hard look at the situation. Put aside all personal distaste for John Layfield, and take an objective look at the pro-wrestling business. When the haze clears, I think you'll wind up seeing a man who after a decade in the business made a stupid mistake, not a Jew-Hating, Nazi-sympathizing monster. The line of good taste has been blurred so much by Vince McMahon over the last decade, that Bradshaw probaby never even realized he had crossed it until he was standing on the other side. Because of this, he might lose everything.

I find that sad.





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