To some, Glenn Beck could be called a conservative "heel," which is what they call a bad guy in pro wrestling. And Beck has now "chickened out" of the WWE's challenge to fight in the ring, which is a classic heel move. All of which would be pretty funny, if Beck understood that the WWE didn't "love to hate the Tea Party" so much as love to entertain its Latino audience.
Last week, we told you about the WWE's new Tea Party-inspired characters, the "Real American" Jack Swagger and his (pretty racist-sounding) manager Zeb Colter. The two use not-so-oblique Tea Party references during their anti-immigration themed rants on the WWE's extremely popular Monday Night Raw, which is all part of the WWE's plan to make fans hate them — all in advance of Swagger's showdown with Mexican-American world champion Alberto Del Rio in pro wrestling's most popular show of the year, Wrestlemania 29, which is scheduled for April 7. When the WWE first re-introduced the characters earlier this month, ringside "commentator" Michael Cole played up the Tea Party angle perhaps most directly by bragging that Swagger routinely received fan mail from conservative commentators like Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, and Rush Limbaugh.
Which was a great idea until there was a huge backlash against the WWE from conservative commentators. The day our post went up, Beck got so worked up about Swagger and Colter's new schtick that he called them "stupid" on his online TV show. Beck did not take the idea of Tea Party villains lightly: "Maybe — you know what? Maybe we’re wrong. Maybe that’s the way WWE people view the TEA Party. And maybe they love to hate the TEA Party," Beck said. He couldn't believe a company owned by long-time Republicans Vince and Linda McMahon (who ran for Senate a couple months ago!) would create characters mocking the Tea Party. Also, how could they do this to their conservative audience? Beck went on:
"I just don’t see a bunch of progressives going and buying their tickets to the WWE. Do you? I mean, and maybe there are. I tend to notice that the progressives are not as popular in the South unless they’ve moved from the North. So I’m just trying to figure out exactly who they’re trying to appeal here, who they’re appealing to."
But the thing is, the WWE has an enormous Latino audience. That's the point of the whole fake feud. Del Rio, the Mexican-American hero, is standing up to these two guys who want to throw all the "faces not like" theirs back across the border. And the WWE said as much in one of several responses to Beck, by way of a statement released late Monday:
WWE is creating a rivalry centered on a topical subject that has varying points of view. This storyline was developed to build the Mexican American character Del Rio into a hero given WWE’s large Latino base, which represents 20% of our audience.
Never content to back down from a fight, or to capitalize on controversy to create ratings, the WWE had a brilliant idea last week: Invite Beck to respond to Colter and Swagger on their flagship television show, Monday Night Raw, which also happens to be frequently one of the most high rated on cable. Colter and Swagger released this video on Friday:
In a major disappointment to pretty much all of America, Beck didn't take the bait. "Unfortunately I am currently booked doing anything else," he said. But the WWE wasn't going to take a disrespectful dismissal lying down. So they sent Michael Cole to Glenn Beck's studio, which is also in Texas, just a few miles from Dallas' American Airlines Arena, where last night's episode of Raw was filmed. It didn't go well:
The WWE's Monday statement went on:
WWE attempted to get comment from Beck but was unable to gain building access after Beck’s representatives said he was “not in the building,” which clearly couldn’t be the case just prior to his show airing live from the same studio.
The ambush on the enemy's turf is an old WWE trick. The company famously sent their Degeneration X stable to the Atlanta offices of Turner broadcasting, who owned their chief rival WCW, during the late 1990s — at the height of pro wrestling's modern popularity. In both instances, they were escorted off the property. But damn if it doesn't make good television.
On last night's episode of Raw, Beck was only briefly addressed. "Well, you know, I was looking forward to the opportunity to talk to Glenn Beck, but since he chickened out I look forward to talking to you, Mr. Del Rio," Zeb Colter said, before launching into an anti-immigration reform rant while standing in front of the Mexican-American world champ. That feud moved forward. They have to keep building it on time for the big show. But the WWE's separate feud with Beck is, for now, simmering on the side. Even if Beck doesn't really get that Latinos like pro wrestling, too.