In March of 2011, it was reported that retired wrestler and WWE Agent David “Fit” Finlay was released from his contract over controversy surrounding an angle that took place at a RAW house show.
The angle, which was said to have been produced by Finlay, saw despised heel and then WWE Champion The Miz interrupt a recording of the US National Anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner.
It was speculated that the representatives of US Army National Guard, a major sponsor of the WWE, were “upset” or “angered” at this display of disrespect. In order to keep the peace, it was Finlay who received das boot instead of The Miz. Go figure.
I realize that I’m extremely late to the party on this one, but I could not let the opportunity go by without saying something about this, especially in light of Batista's recent comments regarding the release.
A brief article from C-Cool mentions in detail Batista's comments.
To put it simply and as nicely as I can, this sucks.
The average fan more than likely picked up on this news and continued on their merry way as CM Punk suggested we would this past Monday night. Finlay’s release from the company is one of the many reasons why the WWE is in a creative funk right now, generally speaking.
I’m well aware that CM Punk’s historic promo lit a seemingly unquenchable fire in the pro wrestling world, and I agree wholeheartedly that the WWE product has become more interesting since the end of RAW Monday night.
CM Punk’s six-minute promo, however, does not make up for the past three weeks’ worth of uninspired, lackluster episodes of RAW that fans have willingly supported through their television viewership.
If there is any truth to this news regarding Finlay’s release, then it shows fans that the WWE is slightly more concerned with kowtowing to the demands of their sponsors rather than providing a quality product that fans will continue to get behind.
The WWE is would rather avoid “offending” their sponsors than they are with providing sports entertainment; I find this irony very hilarious, because they’ve been pissing off tons of fans for a while now and don’t seem all that bothered by it or their shrinking profits.
What business man in his right mind wouldn’t be concerned with pleasing their sponsors? After becoming a publicly traded company, the only way the WWE would be able to stay in business is if they got big money from big companies to continue doing the big things they’ve been doing for years.
This is actually one of the reasons why it’s taken TNA so long to get to where they are now; they don’t have too many major sponsors that are willing to invest into their product.
But it seems ludicrous to fire a producer for an angle that was intended to piss people off. It’s almost as ridiculous as Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Vince Russo for defamation of character stemming from Russo’s comments during a WCW pay per view!
For God’s sakes people, it’s professional wrestling! It’s scripted entertainment according to the WWE, so what's the big deal?
Why such an uproar for an agent such as Finlay?
Was Finlay a top star for the WWE? No he was not.
Did Finlay sell out Wembley Stadium for a landmark match with his brother-in-law? No he did not.
Was Finlay a star witness in a major trial concerning the rampant use of illegal steroids in the pro wrestling business, or was he indicted years later for being named as a purchaser of similar illegal steroids from a prominent doctor? No and perhaps so.
Fit Finlay is one of those legends similar to Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, a seasoned professional that can still go full throttle in the ring with stars half his age and three times less experience and still manage to pull off a four star match.
As an agent and producer for the WWE, Finlay brought years of experience, knowledge, and a certain perspective to the company that could not be replicated by anyone else. Finlay is credited for being responsible for helping develop the Divas Division at the height of its popularity and effectiveness.
From the article linked earlier in the piece, Finlay put in 10 years of work as an agent/producer for the company. He put in more time as a wrestler, putting on stellar matches even though having a bad leg!
All of that has to come to an end because he produced an angle where The Miz, a known heel, interrupts the Star-Spangled Banner? That doesn’t sound silly to you?
As a heel, John Bradshaw Layfield goose-stepped and did the Nazi salute at a house show in Germany (which is apparently illegal for various and very obvious reasons). These actions cost him his job with CNBC, but the WWE kept him on the payroll.
For the acknowledged four years that made up the Attitude Era (1997-2001), the WWE probably offended women’s rights groups, PETA, and the Parents Television Council (PTC) every ten seconds. No one to my recollection was fired for that mess.
Vince McMahon challenged GOD to a wrestling match and everyone in the company kept rolling right along!
Fans should be reminded of the infamous SmackDown episode that featured a huge angle involving The Undertaker and Muhammad Hassan some years ago. The angle, which was taped on a Tuesday to be aired that Friday on UPN, featured several masked “terrorists” strangling The Undertaker with piano wire and carrying him on their shoulders out of the arena.
Unfortunately on that same day, the London terrorist attacks occurred.
Outraged by this storyline, officials at the UPN Network said something to the WWE that led to the angle being dropped unceremoniously and Muhammad Hassan’s release from the company.
Cloudy information regarding his release began to surface, with speculation that cited his poor ring skills and a backstage attitude that accused him of using the WWE to launch his acting career.
All of these things were unverified.
Whatever the reasons were, fans were given two important tidbits of information: Hassan did not appear on episodes of SmackDown after the incident, and he was released from the WWE shortly afterwards.
Fans should also recall the erasing of Chris Benoit from the WWE history books.
After the terrible tragedy that saw Chris Benoit murder his wife, young son, and take his own life, the WWE erased everything that dealt with the superstar.
He was removed immediately from that year’s popular SmackDown vs. RAW video game.
His championship reigns were ignored and his best matches were mentioned in passing without referencing him.
Even in the Best of WCW Nitro DVD, references to WCW’s version of the Four Horsemen stable are without mentioning the iteration Benoit participated in.
I would be remiss for not mentioning the infamous “Tiegate” scandal involving WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan and ring announcer Justin Roberts.
Just as the WWE is concerned about keeping its sponsors happy, the company is also deathly afraid of anything that scandalizes the company on a whole. In this day and age, unlike the Attitude Era, negative publicity is something the company works diligently to separate itself from.
In Finlay’s case, fans are hard pressed to believe that his release was simply related to a harmless angle in order to protect investments and public image.
Perhaps the company was looking to trim the fat and needed someone to release in order to reserve revenue for a new project or superstar. Maybe the company had been looking for a reason to can Finlay for quite some time now.
It is very possible that Finlay asked for his release on the heels of receiving a reprimand for this angle.
Things seem really suspect when speculation surfaces that a harmless angle intended to create heat for a heel causes an employee to be fired, especially if that firing was due to pressure from a financial backer that willingly chose to financially support a pro wrestling company!
The US Army National Guard has no problem whatsoever with the WWE’s anti-bullying campaign even though Jerry “The King” Lawler continues week after week to make insensitive remarks about Vickie Guerrero’s weight (completely dismissing the fact she’s lost tons of weight since starting with the company).
But yet the representatives were “offended” by a heel interrupting the Star-Spangled Banner.
In light of this country’s right-winged fascination with immigration, the US Army National Guard had no problem with Sheamus and Kofi Kingston, two non-US born wrestlers, holding the United States Championship.
But they were “bothered” by a The Miz interrupting the Star-Spangled Banner.
There’s a fine line between patriotism and nationalism, just as there is a fine line between protecting one’s interests and defending the product you produce for consumption by the masses.
The WWE treads this line as if walking on thin ice daily, and the executives in Titan Towers make huge decisions daily that will benefit the interests of the company first, the expectations of the fans last.
The damning nature of this beast is that the fans will ultimately suffer at the hands of the unrealistic demands from corporate sponsors. It is shameful to ban the word “wrestling” from sports entertainment simply to appeal to the Hollywood types that don’t want to be bothered with it in either case.
It’s confusing for the company to bend to the will of a sponsor that was horrified to see a man choked with his tie, yet dutifully creates action figures for characters that beat each other up and fight on television weekly.
It’s even more distressing to know that the corporate dollars pumped into the WWE speaks louder than the hard earned cash generated from fans by merchandise sales, pay per view buy rates, house show and televised event ticket sales, and revenue from television ratings.
It is what it is, right?
Finlay’s release from the WWE did not send shock waves through the pro wrestling galaxy, and is just another release in a list of releases that have come and will continue to come.
The scary part is that the company that brought us Stone Cold Steve Austin, that raided NWA talent (including Hulk Hogan) across the country, that allowed Jacqueline Moore’s breasts to be exposed on pay per view in front of millions of fans, that saw men put numerous women through prop tables, and that dared to spit in the face of everything conventional in this country, doesn’t even have the balls to stand up to a sponsor and say “it’s just an action packed, soap opera drama.”
They told the fans that, and we were expected to take it.
For the sake of the largest sports entertainment company in the United States, and possibly the world, I hope that the tons of corporate dollars will comfort you as you watch your revenue from our measly little disposable incomes shrink exponentially.
Who knows? We just may realize that our dollars are better utilized to support a pro wrestling product that dares to be different.
In case you’re wondering, Fit Finlay will face Sami Callihan at EVOLVE 9 on July 26.