Bully Ray probably wishes it was 1998 today. - Photo by daysofthundr46 of Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
Now we know why Bully Ray apologised on Twitter yesterday for making an "inappropriate comment" to a fan at TNA Impact in Chicago last Thursday night. Said remarks were of an extremely homophobic nature, likely said to generate cheap heat.
As so often happens in pro wrestling, when a performer is on top of the world and starts thinking that their shit doesn't stink, that is when they are at their most vulnerable and are most prone to making a cardinal error.
The latest demonstration of this rule of thumb is TNA's Bully Ray, currently enjoying the biggest push of his career as the President of Aces & 8s and the newly crowned TNA World Heavyweight champion by beating Jeff Hardy in a steel cage match at Lockdown.
Just as he had hit the ball out of the park with a powerful performance where he relished showing Hulk Hogan his true colours on the March 14th episode of Impact, at the end of the show he undid all that good work with a foolish, heat of the moment decision that apparently landed him in hot water with TNA management.
At the end of the show, Bully Ray picked on prominent fans at ringside to verbally berate, but totally crossed the line of good taste and decency in his bid to maximise his heel heat. He took the brain dead option of using a series of gay slurs on a seemingly innocent victim to make sure everybody knew that he was the baddest motherf***er on the block. Unfortunately you can't do that in 2013 without having a bystander whip out his camera phone, press record and upload the video for the world to see:
At the 6:15 mark of the above video of the incident, Bully Ray walked up to a surprisingly tall and muscular male fan, got into his face and proceeded to let rip:
"Sit down, faggot. Yeah, what are you stuck up? What are you gonna go? You ain't gonna do a damn thing. You punk, you got punked in your own frigging town. I'm punking you out in front of [Bully leans to the side, looks at who's sitting next to the fan, and says], I'm gonna say your daughter. You got punked! You invented fags, you fag. You got nothing, you should've did something already, you should've did something already, but you ain't doing nothing. I'm punking you in front of your hometown. You frigging queer. You shave your frigging chest."
What on earth was he thinking to go off on such a hateful diatribe?
Maybe he was already pissed off and nursing a bruised ego from having a fan take a shot at him earlier in the night, and was ready to go off on someone at the drop of a hat, but that's no excuse.
This was the worst homophobic incident in the pro wrestling world in recent history, as it wasn't merely tone deaf onscreen innuendo by John Cena on Monday Night Raw, or a quickly deleted tweet by Michael Cole to good friend Josh Matthews that wasn't meant for public consumption, or a momentary slip up by CM Punk of responding to homophobic hecklers in kind caused by burnout. Ray repeated one gay slur after another without much, if any, provocation, that this can't simply be chalked up as some silly accident, especially as he continued his rant when he noticed a young girl nearby.
Indeed, Wade Keller of PWTorch.com summed it up nicely why this form of heel crowd baiting just shouldn't be tolerated anymore, especially on a mainstream platform:
"The lowest form of heel heat is resorting to walking up to someone and using a term like "faggot," "fag," and "queer." In 2013, after decades of discrimination and hateful language like that contributing to a culture that has instigated and empowered bigoted people to teasing, beating up, and sometimes killing people who were gay or they suspected were gay or just had effeminate traits, that language flat out shouldn't be part of a heel wrestler's vernacular (or anyone's, for that matter)."
Given Bully Ray's reputation as someone who is very smart to the business, I'm really shocked that he didn't realise that such inflammatory language has no place in the modern corporate wrestling world, as it's not an image that television executives and sponsors are willing to hold their nose and be associated with any longer.
It may have been acceptable 15 years ago working in front of bloodthirsty adult fans for a renegade promotion like ECW in bingo halls and other low rent arenas (and I'd argue that the company's excesses were ultimately partially responsible for its unfortunate demise), but American culture has moved on a lot since then.
Of course, as Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff are two of the main creative driving forces in the company, I would be foolish not to raise the possibility that this was an elaborate work with a conveniently placed plant to get over Mark LoMonaco in viral fashion as a real life loose cannon. Though that would be at odds with the reports about how he regrets the mistake and feels horrible about it.
With all that being said, personally I found the vague cryptic apologies that were tweeted by both Dixie Carter and Bully Ray yesterday more offensive than the actual profanity laced tirade done in character.
As the owner of a company that launched an anti-bullying campaign called "Eliminate The Hate" in November 2010 after a series of high profile suicides amongst gay teenagers, Carter should be ashamed of hiding behind the meaningless jargon of "inappropriate comments", perhaps in the vain hope that what Ray actually said would never make the light of day. She should have made clear that the remarks were homophobic in nature and that she would take action to ensure that such discrimination based on (perceived) sexuality would never happen again.
Instead of following his boss's cowardly lead, Bully Ray should have had the balls to man up like CM Punk did, being completely transparent and open about his "bullshit", how he was willing to be held accountable for it and stressing that it didn't reflect his true feelings about the LGBT community.
After all, we wouldn't want people to think that being gay in professional wrestling was still a latent problem.