Let’s Talk About That Joey Styles Joke

Joey Styles, the former ECW and WWE play-by-play broadcaster is now banished from the industry he loves. He did nothing to “expose the business.” Joey didn’t “go into business for himself” on air.  Joey Styles was fired from pro wrestling over a joke referencing the President-elect. No one learned the Election Night Lesson, and now even my beloved pro wrestling has jumped into the world of self-censorship.

On the November 12 EVOLVE pay-per-view event, Joey Styles was in the middle of an in-ring promo with EVOLVE’s ring announcer Joanna Rose. Styles was apparently in an ongoing feud with his color commentator, Stokely Hathaway. During the opening moments of the show, Joey said the following to Joanna Rose:

“Joanna, you look great tonight. And if our next President were here tonight, he’d want to grab you by the…And speaking of my broadcast colleague…”

It was an off-color joke intended to throw heat on Stokely Hathaway. Never you mind this was in a business which regularly toys with racial stereotypes, built itself on everything from self-mutilation to human sacrifice, and featured more “bra and panties” matches than pearl-clutching third wave feminists would count. This was completely unacceptable to EVOLVE promoter Gabe Sapolsky, who twitted out the following to EVOLVE fans:

I deeply apologize for Joey Styles’ comments and am furious

We’ve parted ways with Joey Styles and that’s my final comment on this. Thank you for your support.

It didn’t take much longer for two other wrestling promotions to fire Joey Styles. On November 14, Beyond Wrestling axed Styles with the following twits.

Despite his unprofessional behavior I would like to extend him the professional courtesy of a phone call before making an announcement.

That was at 11:11 AM on November 14. By 11:44, Beyond twitted Joey all the best in his future endeavors.

Joey Styles will no longer be appearing at Sunday’s live event in Worcester or any future Beyond Wrestling live events. Thank you.

The world will never know if the phone call to Styles occurred, or the substance of that call. Did Beyond’s management give Joey a chance to speak on the matter, or was it a simple termination? That is left in the air. What runs clearer are the thoughts of CHIKARA Pro Wrestling’s Mike Quackenbush, who took great pains in a blog post to defend the promotion’s termination of Joey Styles.

The events of the last few days have been just cause to take a look at the state of professional wrestling. The art form that I love, and have dedicated my entire adult life to, is embarrassingly behind the times. It is beholden to outdated tenets that threaten to render it…obsolete at worst, and a punchline at best.

I know there are others, influential and celebrated, that imagine pro-wrestling to be a bubble in which the social norms from a bygone era are still relevant and valid. At CHIKARA, we rail against them, and those ideals, with everything we make. It is one thing to speak, to voice an opinion. It is one thing to call for change, to wish for change, to imagine how that change might come about. It is another thing to make it.

Effective today, we are terminating our relationship with Joey Styles. Effective today, we are instituting a zero tolerance policy for misogynistic, racist, and/or homophobic speech, written or verbal, whether it’s directed toward our cast, our crew, or our patrons. This is the shape of CHIKARA.

Ladies and gents, I give you the pro wrestling version of Twitter.

One person who didn’t seem to understand the significance of Joey’s termination was legendary pro wrestling manager Jim Cornette. During the latest edition of the “Jim Cornette Experience,” Cornette railed against Quackenbush in a hilarious fashion, slammed the outrage culture that bubbled up once Cornette defended Styles online, and questioned why a person who made essentially the same remarks is now set to hold America’s highest office, but another lost a job. “If you can’t take that joke, you need to get laid,” Cornette mused.

I like Jim Cornette. He took the time to speak with me personally during a really serious time for my family. He signed a tennis racket that sits in my office. He’s also one of those guys who’s really nice, wrong on a lot of things, and tone deaf to others. This is my plea to Jim Cornette: Google Justine Sacco. You’ll learn why Joey Styles is no longer welcome in pro wrestling circles, and why he may lose his “day” job too.

You’ll also learn why we have Donald Trump as President-elect.