Last year, Darren Rovell of CNBC.com’s SportsBiz discussed his concern over a WWE storyline that featured the death of WWE CEO Vince McMahon. According to Rovell, using such serious overtones in a storyline involving someone integral to the organization could have unexpected consequences. In the McMahon case, Rovell believed that perhaps investors might take the storyline seriously and pull their money out of WWE.
At the time, I disagreed with Rovell. It’s just a storyline, I rebutted. No story can go too far. It is absolutely impossible for the fabricated world of professional wrestling to impede on reality. No one takes pro wrestling that seriously.
I may just have to change my tune.
According to a recent press release by independent wrestling promoter Shannon Rose, American Pro Wrestling tag team The Heartbreak Express (Sean and Phil Davis) caused an international incident in The Republic of Panama this past weekend. Rose’s release states that the two wrestlers “took the flag of Panama and threw it on the ground and stomped on it” on “The Republic of Panama’s most watched morning television show, TU MAÑANA, in front of an estimated 5 million viewers”. Unfortunately, no YouTube clip exists of the incident.
Rose further claims all of the Republic of Panama is in a tiff over the actions of the Heartbreak Express. According to the report, the US Embassy has been contacted and Panamanian officials are demanding the Heartbreak Express “have their passports revoked and be banned from returning to the country”. Also, the President of Panama, the Chancellor of Panama, and the leading candidate to be the next president of Panama have all promised to punish the wrestlers.
This may be a first. Not since SGT Slaughter aligned himself with Saddam Hussein in 1991 has pro wrestling potentially caused this much international turmoil.
(Note: check out this link. Apparently, Robert Remus, aka SGT Slaughter, received death threats for “allying” with the Iraqis. And he was also supposed to burn an American flag in the ring but instead settled for a Hulkamania poster.)
Now could Shannon Rose’s press release be part of a marketing ploy? Could he just be drumming up promotion for an independent wrestling federation? Adam Lash of indywrestlingnews.com may think so. In a recent post on his site, Lash attempts to follow up on Rose’s report only to find no additional details.
Surely, if an antic on national TV caused so much turmoil it would have to be reported somewhere, right? Especially if the president of a nation is getting involved.
The question remains, however, what part, if any, is true? Did the Heartbreak Express go to Panama? Did they disgrace a Panamanian flag? Was there a reaction? Or is the entire incident a creation of the mind of Shannon Rose?
As an outsider observer, unfortunately, I don’t know what to think. From the SGT Slaughter incident, I know people are smart enough to not burn an American flag as a gimmick, but I am not too sure about a foreign flag. I would like to think they would hold that sacred as well.
That’s why, if this is not true, I don’t think Shannon Rose did a very good job with this storyline. As a promotional tactic, it is too ambiguous. Like the McMahon death angle, the idea that perhaps the Panamanian government could be after the wrestlers in the Heartbreak Express is too real and doesn’t leave enough of an escape into fantasy.