7-13-05 -- The last article written for this section was published almost two years ago, but I have suddenly felt compelled to write a new article due to recent events. Of course, as this section does not focus on the same topics as the rest of Modified Mind, this editorial deals with a completely separate topic: wrestling.
I have been a fan of professional wrestling for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching UWF, WCCW, USWA, WWF and eventually WCW once my family decided to get cable. I grew up watching the Von Erichs, the Rhodes, Jeff Jarrett, and “Stunning” Steve Austin. I also grew up watching Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, the Rockers, and numerous Iraqi heel angles involving Sgt. Slaughter etc. I’m writing this editorial due to my love of wrestling and of a good angle.
The New York Post and Variety published articles regarding the recent angle involving Muhammad Hassan, Daivari, and Undertaker (Read more). These articles criticized WWE’s choices, primarily due to the recent attacks on London. WWE responded to this by airing on their website a promo cut during Smackdown tapings this week. I believe the promo had a lot of truth to it. Pro Wrestling Insider, one of the better wrestling journalism sites on the web, had numerous news articles regarding the story. One of these articles strongly criticized WWE’s choice to run the promo and called it “disgusting” and “saddening”. I disagree.
The original concept of the character of Muhammad Hassan made me uncomfortable…an Arab-American angry because he was being singled out for acts committed by people sharing the same culture. The character had a point, but a point that I would consider valid and made him a “face” in my opinion. Of course, I knew this wasn’t the direction that WWE would take the character. Instead, they made him overly angry and while claiming he was not responsible for the actions of terrorists they continued to take his character further and further in the direction of being a terrorist. From the initial promos, the audience has booed this character and chanted “U-S-A”.
What was saddening and disgusting to me was the fan reaction to Hassan’s promo. During the footage of his promo mentioning how he has been stripped of his rights, the crowd began booing and chanting again. Are they chanting “U-S-A” in opposition to Hassan’s request that his constitutional rights be protected? There was a sign in the crowd telling Hassan to “get the hell out of the USA”. So if someone voices their opinion, we kick them out of the country? If they don’t like their country’s politics and policies, then they shouldn’t try to speak out for change…instead they should go somewhere else? I think that opinion is more “heel” than the original premise of Hassan’s character. This country is based on freedom and Hassan tries to make this point, only to be met with boo’s. That’s sad.
WWE’s creative team has been anything but creative in most cases recently. Creative took Hassan’s character in the wrong direction to begin with and I did not like the angle that the New York Post and Variety referred to. However, the promo aired on WWE.com is the best thing creative could have done and I can only hope they continue to take Hassan in the direction of the promo and away from the terrorist-like actions he had been heading towards.
Wrestling has developed into a more realistic entertainment over the last decade, steering away from angles featuring clowns, cowboys and Indians, etc and towards angles featuring real life situations. The best angles stir emotions...upset people...excite people. When Lita came to the ring to get married to Edge and received chants of “slut” the fans were speaking from true emotion. The events between her, Matt Hardy and Edge were real and while it eventually became a work, the fans believed it to be real. When Matt’s video came on the Titantron during the wedding, you could feel the energy…even sitting in front of the television. How would that story have done if it had been creative’s story. If they had shown the affair on episodes of Raw, had shown Edge and Lita carrying on and Matt supposedly not knowing…how would this angle have turned out? It would have been just as boring as a lot of what WWE’s creative team comes up with. The crowd definitely would not have built up such excitement and energy surrounding the events.
WWE made a mistake in the initial direction of Hassan’s character, but now they have a chance to play off of just such an energy. The events portrayed on WWE have spilled over into reality through those articles. Not the bombings, not 9/11, not being a terrorist, but the controversy stirred up by the New York Post and Variety has led to one of the best promos ever cut by Hassan. The fans see Hassan's name outside of a two hour show they watch every Thursday...they see him in their newspapers and magazines. This angle, just like Matt Hardy's, blurs the line between fiction and fact, giving the fans something more to care about. Sadly, Hassan’s character will always be played out as a heel…but WWE could now run with an energy that fulfills the original premise of the character: an Arab-American persecuted because of his culture.
What do you think? E-mail your thoughts.