By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
I’m not the world’s biggest Kenny Omega fan.
At some point along the way, he became one of – if not the – industry’s most polarizing figure. Maybe it was because some people are unrelentingly bullish on what they believe is his talent. Maybe it was because some people are unrelentingly bullish on what they believe is his lack of talent.
However we got here doesn’t matter, though, because we’re here: You love this guy or you hate this guy. You think he’s wrestling’s Jesus Christ incarnated with his innovative, singular style, or you think he’s wrestling’s surefire Satan with his history of fighting blow up dolls and tendency to get a little too comfortable no-selling high spots.
Me? I don’t believe the hype, but I also don’t think he’s ruined the business. His work is good, of course. I don’t think it’s fair to turn a blind eye to that. But I also don’t think he’s a revolutionary in the way others believe that. He’s pretty good. Some of his matches are great. That’s about it.
One thing I do know, however …
Is that he doesn’t deserve to be bullied.
Actually, nobody really does, if you think about it. But in the case of Kenny Omega, things are beginning to get a little out of hand. Take as an example a tweet he wrote over the weekend to help promote AEW’s Battle Of The Belts (minus hashtags and Twitter handles):
“A great AEW main event tonight! Riho’s combination of technique, hear, and natural ability are unparalleled. Can she dethrone the DMD megastar Britt Baker? (No spoilers). Excited now for the next barn burner between Serena Deeb and Hikaru Shida in their ongoing feud.”
There isn’t much to it. He’s an Executive Vice President of the company, remember. It makes sense he’d want to help promote the main event of a card that’s the first of its kind in the company. Plus, from what I understand, he’s been instrumental in the development of the women’s division in AEW anyway. Of course he’s going to try and shine some light on a match like that.
But then, as they say, boom went the dynamite.
Now, I’m not going to quote any of the abusive, abhorrent Tweets that Omega received in response to his initial message. Some of them are disgusting and pretty much all of them are uncalled for, so I’m not so sure it’s best to give them yet another platform. If you want to dig in, I’m sure you can find some website somewhere that has the highlights.
What I will do, though, is quote an eventual tweet that he sent into the Internet ether after his back and forth with some fans (or, I guess, not fans) concluded:
“It felt nice to tweet something I was passionate about, but yikes, what a mistake. What compels people to leave cruel comments about others on my page? If you like someone/someplace else, congrats. No need to go out of your way to tweet at someone you already hate.”
Now, this is the part …
GONE TOO SOON
… where I bring up May 23, 2020.
Hana Kimura. She was a professional wrestler and the Internet Wrestling Community decided to aim its target squarely on her emotional crosshairs. It was on that day – May 23, 2020 – that she posted some disturbing things on social media and ultimately took her own life. She was 22.
I don’t get it. I really don’t. There should be no bigger lesson learned for people who think it’s funny or cute to attack people online than an actual death occurring due to those precise attacks. Kimura was barely old enough to legally drink in the United States and she felt so degraded, so low, so sad, that she ended a life that had hardly begun.
Yet here we are, less than two years later, and we continue to see these hateful instances occur on whatever form of social media you choose and/or prefer. To think those practices will change – or, for that matter, be completely eradicated – is silly at this point. There will always be assholes out there trying to bring people down and there will especially be assholes out there trying to bring successful, famous, and talented people down.
But here’s the thing …
PEOPLE BEING PEOPLE
The operative word in that is “people.”
At the core, we are all people. And people have feelings. People have flaws. People have sensitivities. So, at the risk of sounding even more obnoxiously obvious, it’s only fair to be mindful of other people’s feelings, flaws and sensitivities. Nobody is perfect, as we all know. To think that it’s justified to drag someone through the mud for not being perfect – or, for that matter, just being human – is gross at best, irresponsible at worst.
We see it all the time throughout the Internet Wrestling Community. Someone does something or says something that a group of people disagree with or simply just don’t support and from there, the gloves are off and all hell breaks loose. After so long, the wrestling personality can take only so much and he or she hits back. Then, after he or she hits back, the fingers come out, pointing directly at the more famous individual in the equation, and for whatever reason, that person is ridiculed for sticking up for him or herself.
But why? Everyone has a breaking point. I do. You do. And if you or I ever reached a wildly large level of success doing what we do for a living, why should it change our rules for living? Why should it expose us to the nasty underbelly of people who have no respect or consideration for their fellow human beings? And then, after that exposure, why should it negate our right to respond like any other human would and go to bat for ourselves?
Some of Kenny Omega’s responses to those vitriolic tweets weren’t great. And it wasn’t the first time he might have hit below the belt a few too many times in a verbal sparring match with some idiot on Twitter. But I do know that you can’t blame him. I mean, if you were repeatedly called a sex offender, don’t you think you’d take a few more steps than you wanted to in the first place?
Plus, he’s not the only one. Look at almost all of wrestling Twitter’s most prominent personalities. They’ve all said a questionable thing or two while sticking up for themselves and you’d be hard pressed to find a single wrestler who hasn’t at least once said they were either deleting their social media accounts altogether or “stepping away” for the time being. It’s a tough place out there in the throes of the Internet Wrestling Community, and it’s certainly not for the weak at heart.
Speaking of the weak at heart …
One thing the wrestling world has done a good job embracing over the last few years has been mental health awareness. As it’s taken a higher profile in popular culture, it’s also been talked about openly for the first time this frequently in professional wrestling. Fans and wrestlers alike have rallied around the issue, making sure that it’s front and center in people’s minds all the while sticking up for everybody’s ability to confront it naturally and honestly.
Two people who deserve a lot of credit for that are the two people who gave this world a hell of a wrestling match that aired over the weekend. Gabriel Kidd pulled no punches when he made his return at the New Japan Strong tapings in Philadelphia last October, talking about how he considered ending his own life throughout the pandemic, convinced things were never going to get better.
The other has been Eddie Kingston, who penned a fantastic read for The Players’ Tribune a couple months ago, chronicling his daily struggles with his own mental health. Never one to shy away from how he’s feeling – and also never one to be quiet about it – Kingston continues to be open about the importance of staying focused on that type of internal work to this day. And for being such an on-screen tough guy, that vulnerability matters far more than words can say.
It doesn’t stop with Kingston and Kidd, either. People like Cody Rhodes, Big E, and more have been extremely open about how important paying attention to our own mental health can be on a daily basis. It’s all to say that there’s a clear groundswell of awareness throughout the real world wrestling community that seems …
BE KIND … PLEASE?
… detached from the Internet Wrestling Community.
And that sums up all I’m trying to say here. If you’re going to talk the talk, walk the walk, too. It seems convenient for everyone to champion mental health awareness, but for whatever reason, it seems awfully hard to adhere to that in 240 characters or less. Beyond that, I mean … maybe just be a decent person? Is that too much to ask? Don’t verbally abuse people online for reasons that have to do with how they throw a roundhouse kick or some such nonsense?
The notion appears simple in nature, but it feels impossible in practice. Feel free to dislike anything you want to dislike, but as Omega, himself, stated in one of his tweets, there’s no need to go out of your way to tweet at somebody you hate anyway. Not only is that unnecessary, but the repercussions of what those actions could lead to are horrific. Thick skin, thin skin, whatever skin – it doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t be this hard just to be a fair (and maybe even kind) human being.
Think of the magic in the ring that Hana Kimura could be making today if the world was less cruel. Think of the happiness she would feel, the success she would enjoy, if there weren’t people online who used words as weapons without any respect for the emotions they would ignite. Think of all the people the wrestling world has lost because of an inherent lack of self-love that becomes instilled in people over time throughout that business. It’s not fair to them, it’s not fair to their families. The lives lost and the moments wasted could never be replaced.
So, yeah. I’m not the world’s biggest Kenny Omega fan. But what he endured on Twitter over the weekend serves as a reminder that we, as a wrestling community, can and should do better. We should have more respect for people’s emotions and we should certainly have more compassion for people’s souls. Mental health is no joke and it’s something that should never be taken lightly and/or for granted.
Omega didn’t deserve what he got for merely tweeting that he was looking forward to watching a wrestling match on television on a Saturday night. So, the next time, before you’re ready to eviscerate someone in 240 characters or less, maybe take a second to think about how that message will be received, how it will effect someone, and how it could run a day, night or moment.
And then maybe, instead of hitting “send,” look for that tiny “x,” delete the post, and make the internet just a tiny bit safer than it was before you decided to start typing.
I didn’t see the comments and don’t care to seek them out, but I’m sure many of the comments are similar to comments elsewhere I have seen. Sadly, being able to anonymously type something online gives some people the ability to say things they wouldn’t have the courage to say in person
This is an ongoing symptom of society as we know it today – and no one likes it. This toxicity reeks, and this article not only calls out said toxicity, but also makes reference rightly to it’s most obvious victim – Hana Kimura. And this is just in relation to pro wrestling, because this is not an issue limited to pro wrestling. There have been instances of other innocent people taking their own lives because of online bullying. The worst part is that these people have no real names. They are anonymous internet user names who think they can be bullies and get away with what amounts to murder. They are cowards – it’s that simple. I’ve been fighting bullies for a long time online and where I can I do use my real name. This article is absolutely magnificent and a timely call out in a time when mental health and physical health are clashing in needs – and just when we really need to lose the selfishness, said selfishness goes in the opposite direction.
Do we even have journalism anymore? It’d be nice to read who, what, where, when, why, and how without “my opinion of this person is…” to lead off the story. #justSaying
It’s more of an editorial then an article, but does state how the internet has become a bully pulpit for anonymous cowards and definitely turned into something it was not intended to be. Nice job.
People would really hate it if I was in a position of power. This problem has gotten to where I would have a person’s internet activity tied to their identity. No fake usernames, no side accounts. Bam. The situation changes pretty quickly.
Yeah i saw it all went down and i figure that was my calling card to leave Twitter forever. That place is a cesspit for this kind of behavior, unfortunately. If only they put as much energy to the actual offenders…
Omega isn’t anything special. He lashed out at people who had nothing to do with any of this. He needs to retire as a somewhat acceptable Wrestler and leave his career in the past.
Just a side note, it wasn’t actually the internet wrestling community that was responsible for Hana Kimura, it was primarily fans of the reality show she was also appearing on(Terrace House). Essentially, the show wanted some “drama” so they insisted she get into a big argument with then slap another (really popular) cast member. While she surely had wrestling fans harass it at times, it was fans of that cast member then began hounding her and bombarding her on social media telling her to kill herself etc. Same problem, different fandom.
The worst the IWC has to offer is the inanity that props up people like Omega and the Bucks as stars.