While the biggest impact is that All Elite president Tony Khan’s reportedly decided to deny all release requests, the entire situation’s also created tension between wrestlers and the media that covers them (or brought tension that was always there to the surface). For weeks we got stories about who may or may not have been contacted about returning to WWE, and whether or not talents were receptive to overtures from the new regime there. Now, some of those talents are clapping back.
Malakai Black reacted to reports he’d been released from his AEW contract yesterday, criticizing all who trafficked in those reports in the process. In the episode of his Undisputed podcast that dropped today (Sept. 28), Bobby Fish denied a rumor that’s already been shot down by another outlet — that he tried to recruit Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly to get out of their deals so the trio could return to WWE after Fish’s contract expired.
Like Black, the bulk of his remarks are about the so-called “dirt sheets” and the rest of the wrestling media:
“Guess what boys, after over 25 years or something like that in the wrestling business, I don’t know how contracts work myself! [laughs] Yeah, I guess what was most troublesome and amusing at the same time to me was how many outlets picked up on what was — cause if there’s anybody who knows that it’s totally fabricated information, it would be me, Adam, Kyle, Hunter [Triple H], like the people that they’re talking about, who didn’t do any of the things. So like, none of it’s real.
“Even people like Jim Cornette picked it up and commented on it. Jim and I always had a great relationship. If I’m being honest, Jim hurt my feelings a little bit by believing some bullshit about me so easily. But it is what it is, and I think that’s what sucks the most about it. is that the people that write this stuff, there’s no checks and balances, there’s no ramifications when you are in the wrong. Therefore, they continue to just write whatever it is that they’re gonna write, and it gets picked up by whomever, and then — like, the fact or fiction line really doesn’t matter. so the whole thing is just absurd...
“Let’s just all tell the truth. If you’re a piece of the media or journalistic integrity, quote-unquote, you’re supposed to deal in truth when possible, and you’re never as a journalist supposed to deal in mistruth unless you’re doing it ignorantly and unknowingly or whatever and then it comes out. And when that does happen, you should own up to and be like, ‘Hey, I’m sorry.’ But instead, it seems like people don’t wanna own the things that they’ve done.”
We’re not exactly impartial observers in all this, but we do understand where both sides are coming from here. It’s got to be frustrating to read misinformation about yourself, especially when it raises questions about your integrity, or can impact your career, or especially if there’s a discussion about personal matters that have nothing to do with the business. At the same time, though, it’s very difficult to get anyone on-the-record in pro wrestling, and there’s always the chance even those who will talk off-the-record have a political agenda, or are trying to advance an angle.
Fish may be hurt Jim Cornette picked up this bit of gossip and used it on his own podcast, but that does illustrate how an entire subsection of the industry is fueled by the rumor mill. That’s not an excuse for shoddy reporting or divulging personal information that isn’t relevant or hasn’t been shared publicly. But it’s a big part of how your most diehard fans engage with your work. Sometimes that will be to the benefit of a wrestler or wrestlers, sometimes it won’t.
Reporters and the blogs & aggregators who rely on them want more transparency from wrestlers & promoters. Wrestlers & other insiders want more accountability from the media. Hopefully each side will continue moving toward a relationship that works for both and will make everyone’s jobs easier.
But don’t be surprised if this all blows over with the tampering story, then re-emerges again the next time a thorny issue pops up that puts wrestlers and those that cover them at cross purposes once again.