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Pro wrestling is a rather disgusting industry.
Although it has us in its grasp, fans either know or need to learn that it is. Whether it be stories about animal abuse, necrophilia, or reinforcing ridiculous stereotypes, professional wrestling never ceases to amaze in the depths it will lower itself to for a view or a laugh. And, if we don't kid ourselves, it works sometimes.
We all know what was said by now. It was a joke regarding the 2003 Kobe Bryant sexual assault scandal, an issue involving sexual assault and tinges of racism. It happened on live TV and had to be acknowledged minutes after the joke with an apology from Michael Cole.
And yesterday, WWE handed AW his walking papers.
Whether or not you believe the firing was justified is up to interpretation, but what is clear here is that WWE completely bungled this situation.
An overwhelmingly alarming signal that this dismissal was botched was the lack of punctuality that this situation was handled with.
This joke was made live during RAW on July 30th. On July 31, the situation had picked up steam and had been reported by numerous media outlets. That same day, AW issued apologies to the fans and workers alike that were offended by the joke. WWE announced that they had handled the situation and presented their punishment.
After the opportunity for a few house shows, tweets hyping up and supporting WWE functions until August 9, and appearances on both RAW and Smackdown (with his "live mic" still on, mind you), AW was fired on August 10th.
If the WWE's punishment had been decided upon a week ago and AW just decided to report yesterday, then this situation is more understandable. However, the timeline of events proceeding this indicate that AW still had some job security, considering he showed up on RAW and Smackdown with no change in character presentation.
If the latter of that assumption is true, then the WWE's PR department needs to be given the pink slip with AW.
If the company had planned a release of AW the entire time, then it should have been done sooner rather than later. The idea of apologizing for the incident, letting it die down for a week, then throwing a bit of gasoline by firing him a week later is not all that smart. It brings attention back to a situation that was dwindling in publicity.
If AW is in fact being fired as a sacrificial lamb for Linda McMahon's Senate campaign, then a swift punishment that shows you aren't dealing with this kind of behavior is a much stronger play than what they did.
But what is more befuddling than the lack of timeliness the incident was handled with is the ranging severity of punishment for superstars who have committed worse than a verbal mishap.
Some notable examples include Heath Slater, Tensai, and CM Punk.
CM Punk is obviously the most identifiable of the three and has said some dastardly stuff in his day. His weapon of choice is Twitter, where he often berates fans who managed to work his nerves. His incident regarding him telling a fan to commit suicide over a homophobic statement warranted a long, half-assed Twitter apology that was quickly forgotten.
Heath Slater committed the most heinous infraction out of the three aforementioned wrestlers, as he was accused of choking a female security officer who wasn't willing to go up to Slater's hotel room. This situation didn't warrant any publicized punishment or apology and has seemingly been swept under the rug.
The most recent incident occurred with Tensai, who released a racially insensitive Tout, involving his companion Sakamoto and stereotypes perpetuated against Asians. The WWE released an apology, but Tensai has not made any known apology. In fact, he tweeted another remark regarding it after his Tout:
"I'm not kidding,driving with @WWEMrSAKAMOTO is scary. Taking him to his 1st Waffle House. He does not believe me,American tradition, he pays"
It is worth noting that Heath Slater and Tensai offered no public apologies or statements (more understandable in Slater's case, given the ramifications) and have not/did not receive notable punishments.
Given that small sample, it would be pretty clear that a public apology from the guilty party should suffice, if not be lauded since it seems to be rare. And with WWE's laundry list of questionable employees that worked for them in the past and current, it would seem that AW did his fair share to earn a pat on the back and a spot in the locker room.
Unfortunately, he needed to be made an example for the sake of the McMahon name. Is it something to be shocked over? Not necessarily. AW is an expendable commodity because he isn't an active competitor. Unfortunately, his kayfabe clients may be inadvertently punished without their flashy mouthpiece on the mic.
But, given that there are plenty who have committed equal or worse infractions that have the same stock as AW, it is apparent that there were plenty of more appealing lambs that missed the chopping block.
This is a harsh reality of pro wrestling, but that doesn't make it less excusable.