The IDW press release about their succesfully-funded Kickstarter (when did it get normal for established publishers to run kickstarters?) is still sitting in my inbox and proclaims,
“In April, the doors of Castle Cornette are being opened to the public! Jim Cornette, in association with IDW Limited are tag-teaming to bring you 60 pages of unrelenting and uncompromising action in the form of a limited-edition graphic novel!”
Well, that certainly seems interesting! I wonder what stories Mr. Cornette will be telling. His time with the Rock n Roll Express? Or the Midnight Express? Or when he took the express route off of some scaffolding at Starrcade in 1986?
Jim Cornette is often referred to as a divisive figure in professional wrestling fandom these days. This is the most polite way of saying that he seems to specifically say things he knows will anger fans and revels in the reactions he gets. Whether he’s a crotchety old man who hates modern wrestling or just a massive troll, the result is still the same.
Cornette has an issue with anything remotely fun or weird in professional wrestling. He is a proponent of wrestling being real, meaning it should look like a real fight, anything acrobatic or focused on specific spots is “killing the business.” Anything ridiculous and fun, like Joey Ryan’s obviously fake and humorous “dick flip” is “killing the business.” Anything involving Kenny Omega, possibly the biggest non-WWE wrestler in the entire world and certainly the most talented is “killing the business,” because Omega has done things like having a match against a 9-year-old girl. Anything that is based on primarily entertaining the audience instead of two men doing rest holds for twenty straight minutes is killing the business.
Oh, and also killing the business? Is choosing not to attract women to shows with the promise they can have sex with the wrestlers. In case you think I am exaggerating or taking this out of context, here is Cornette’s actual full quote:
“Women came because then they got turned on by [wrestlers] beating the shit out of each other. Then they knew where the hotel was, or either in the back parking lot, or car, or in a broom closet in the arena, or at the hotel, these same hot young guys, who were scantily dressed, would f*ck the dogshit out of these women and they would tell their friends, and more women would come next week and it fed on itself.”
So, yes, I cannot wait to hear “racist motherf***er” Jim Cornette tell his favorite stories of wrestling in the good old days, where women didn’t come to enjoy the show or the storylines or just the fun of being there. No, back in those respectable days of professional wrestling with no dives, no comedy bits and women handing out blowjobs to the talent like Impact Title reigns.
In case you think that’s an isolated example of offhand misogyny, let’s just take a look at Cornette’s opinions on the three women’s matches at this month’s Wrestlemania event. He complains that the pre-show Battle Royal didn’t follow the face/heel dynamic he wanted. Okay, relatively harmless. It’s while talking about the match between Asuka and Charlotte — the heavily hyped match with Charlotte’s title on the line against Asuka’s unprecedented undefeated streak — that Cornette really digs in.
Now, if you ask me, Charlotte and Asuka put on the best match of the night at Wrestlemania, a hard-hitting and emotional back and forth duel that highlighted both of their skills. They included moves and spots that were incredibly smart and creative, captivating the audience the entire time. Notably during the match, the women performed a standing vertical suplex from the ring onto the floor. Rather than try to explain it in words, here’s exactly what that looked like:
Jim Cornette’s commentary went right for that suplex, saying “that was too much for the girls. Yes, I’m sorry, I’m gonna be sexist here. There’s no reason…vertical suplex onto a floor, those girls don’t have any f*cking padding. They don’t have enough fat on them to f*cking do that, and it’s too much.” He ran them down after that for essentially doing too many dangerous things in the ring… for girls.
But wait, Cornette brought up fat yet again when talking about the other women’s singles match. Alexa Bliss faced off against her former friend Nia Jax in a storyline that had mixed reaction from fans. Essentially, the story was that Alexa pretended to be friends with Nia, but was caught backstage saying she used Nia…and mocking Nia’s weight. For some fans this was a cruel angle. For others, the participants included, it was a story about overcoming adversity, self love and body positivity. Nia, a former plus size model, triumphed in the end and won her first title in the WWE at the biggest show of the year…and got to be the good guy when she did it.
Cornette’s first words about this fight? “Here’s the problem….how is the baby face [the good guy] the girl who’s 3 times the size of the heel [bad guy]?”
The co-host of the show asks Cornette if he knows the background to the match, which Cornette admits he does not. Once the co-host explains it to Cornette, Jim says he “skipped through most of this” because Nia and Alexa couldn’t top Charlotte and Asuka. Because the men can have multiple matches of varying quality throughout the night, but once the women do a single good match, that’s it. Why would you care about any others?
He did fall all over himself to praise the wrestling debut of Rowdy Ronda Rousey, claiming the noted transphobe had “the best f***ing professional wrestling match I’ve seen in I don’t know how long.” The match saw the former Women’s UFC star and Sandy Hook Truther team up with WWE legend Kurt Angle to take on evil WWE Authority Figures Stephanie McMahon and Triple H in what was supposed to be a “mixed tag” match, meaning women fight women and men fight men. Rousey, however, was allowed to beat up Triple H like he was a producer on the set of The Ultimate Fighter, and Cornette proclaimed this was “perfect.” However, rather than credit Rousey for anything good she managed while being an utterly trash person, Cornette placed the success of the match entirely on the shoulders of…Triple H.
The problem here isn’t just Cornette’s terrible opinions about wrestling. It isn’t even just that Cornette is going to tell his stories in comic form. It is a question of “do we really need yet another man’s voice in wrestling comics?” Especially when there are so many women creators out there who could and should be included in the conversation.
Wrestling and comics have a similar problem when it comes to women, though. They want to put women characters out there, talk big game about them, point to them like the Wrestlemania sign as evidence that they’re “doing better.” But it usually turns out to be for the sake of spectacle and media attention. It’s not doing better, it’s seeming better, and of course this rarely extends to issues behind the scenes and in related areas. The current scene in wrestling comics fits into this discussion perfectly. I’ve done plenty of coverage about the WWE series by BOOM!, and how it routinely fails to include women in its pages and as creators. And it’s no surprise that Cornette’s creative team is two men.
The long-ongoing indie title Headlocked offers itself as an alternative, and while I like and respect Mike Kingston as a person, I do find it upsetting that his list of wrestlers who have contributed art to the project doesn’t include a single woman. But he does include, and often work with, Jerry “The King” Lawler, a former WWE announcer and witness intimidator who is infamous for spending entire women’s matches talking about their looks and his sexual attraction to them, completely ignoring any actual wrestling. One of his most memorable contributions was popularizing the term “puppies” as slang in WWE for breasts and yelling this, loudly and constantly, any time a woman was in the ring.
The humor comic Botched Spot is enjoyable and tries to touch on sexism in wrestling with varying results, but again, it’s written and drawn by a man, James Hornsby. Kyle Starks, a good friend of mine, is the man behind The Legend of Ricky Thunder, and I would like to believe he’d be open to working with a woman creator on another wrestling comic. But as it stands, its the men behind the scenes driving the narrative.
And before the argument of “but there’s more men in comics who like professional wrestling,” I’d like to drop the names Jill Thompson and Becky Cloonan, both of whom are proud wrestling fans as well as majorly known and respected names in comics. There are also the few women who have done creative work for WWE’s BOOM! series, including Tini Howard who’s currently writing their Asuka-focused backup story. Selina Espiritu contributed some of my favorite art ever to a story in the Summerslam special about Finn Balor and Seth Rollins.
Outside of these names are plenty of women creating on their own. Kat Tsai, an artist at Dreamworks TV, recently posted some incredible character designs based on last year’s Mae Young Classic tournament, just begging to be used in a full-length story. Meg Lovell is a gifted artist with a background in WWE fanart and, briefly, her own original wrestling-themed comic “Tagged.” Nadia Ramnlan has drawn WWE art, including an incredible series of art deco stained glass pieces featuring the likes of Mustafa Ali, Bayley, The Bar and more. J Renee Chappell, aka Elfdragon12, recently had the chance to give limited prints of her comic based on The Fashion Files to the wrestlers that star in the online series: Tyler Breeze, Fandango, and The Ascension. And for all of these names I am sure there are plenty I’m leaving out, not to mention the long list of WWE fanwriters out there.
But instead, I’m getting press releases about Jim Cornette & Sons wanting to tell me stories about the good old days. I think the “good old days” have done more than enough damage, Jim. Now, go find some more scaffolding to fall off of, k thnx bye.