It’s been a couple of months since #SpeakingOut began trending. A hashtag created by women in the wrestling industry to tell their stories of harassment and abuse. It garnered a lot of attention for a short time and, like so many other movements that came before, it fooled us into thinking things would change. To be fair, some credibly accused performers were fired from their promotions or put on indefinite suspensions. Joey Ryan and Dave Crist were fired from IMPACT Wrestling and Marty Scurll was ousted from his role as head booker for Ring of Honor. AEW’s Sammy Guevara caught a thirty-day suspension for what he claimed was a rape joke aimed at a female performer from WWE. He was required to undergo “sensitivity training” and his pay during that suspension was donated to the Women’s Center of Jacksonville, FL.
Those were all the right moves, but there are still many performers who’ve largely escaped unscathed. Justin Roberts, an AEW ring announcer, hasn’t missed one day of work since his accuser came forward. Top WWE stars, Matt Riddle and The Velveteen Dream, are also working week to week despite their own harassment accusations. The WWE has officially stated that they take all allegations seriously, but have offered no specific transparency into their investigations. Since these performers are still working, we’re left to assume the WWE has been thorough and ruled these allegations as without merit, but given the promotion’s own history of treating female talent, how can we be sure?
Perhaps I am asking too much, but when Matt Riddle and Velveteen Dream are inevitably booked into top storylines, the curtain of kayfabe is tarnished. It will be extremely difficult to focus on the story being told without the thought of the WWE sweeping all of this under the rug to protect their top merch sellers. What angers me most is that I’m probably going to fall for it. Riddle and Dream are incredible professional wrestlers, and I’m going to enjoy watching their careers unfold despite my feelings. The culture of the wrestling industry needs to change. Punishing individual performers isn’t enough; like treating a surface growth without addressing the cancer festering underneath. The pressure must continue to be applied, or else, like The Undertaker sitting up after a third F-5 from Brock Lesnar, the industry will no-sell the entire movement.