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In their effort to ‘de-monetize’ videos with inappropriate content, the video site has arbitrarily punished the creators of wrestling commentary, leaving the entire industry reeling.

This year, multiple incidents of advertisements that include hate-speech and inappropriate content have been running before videos on YouTube, and, as a result, many major brands have decided to stop providing ads for the site, due to the possibility of being linked with one of these controversial videos.

In order to quell this mass-exodus, YouTube made changes to their advertisement system, in which videos that are deemed inappropriate can be left without advertising. The problem with this, however, is that many content creators who relied on their YouTube ad-revenue to support themselves have seen their income steadily decline; for some, it has been completely erased.  In many cases, a blanket demonetization of entire genres was put in place, rendering it impossible to sustain a living wage off YouTube ad-revenue alone.

One of the industries that was most affected by these changes was professional wrestling, which was deemed inappropriate due to the perceived notion that it is violent, therefore not advertiser-friendly. Multiple popular wrestling channels and promotions that relied on YouTube’s advertisements have been left without the proper means to continue using the site as their primary source of revenue, and have had to either begin charging their viewers for more content, or cut out entire branches of their channels completely.

The de facto spokesmen for all wrestling channels on YouTube has been “WhatCulture Wrestling.” Not only have they been very vocal about how the “ad-pocalypse” has affected their own channel, they have given smaller channels the opportunity to share how it has affected them, as well. On June 8, “WhatCulture” posted a video giving multiple channels a chance to explain their situation. In creating a connection between all wrestling channels, they hope to garner real change.

Adam Blampied from “What Culture” (Image via YouTube)

One of the channels featured in “WhatCulture’s” video was “Wrestling with Wregret,” which does not actually include any wrestling. The entirety of the channel’s content is the creator, Brian Zane, speaking to a camera about wrestling, yet he has still seen his ad-revenue drop significantly. “Basically, there are a finite number of ads available, so they get spread thin,” Zane told me in an email, “so sometimes our videos get them, and sometimes they don’t.”

Separate from their main channel, WhatCulture created their own wrestling promotion called “WCPW.” “WCPW” is streamed exclusively on YouTube, and their original format included a weekly, free show called “WCPW Loaded,” which was funded by the advertisements that would play before and after each stream. However, due to the defunding of wrestling content on YouTube, “Loaded” has been cancelled, as “WhatCulture” can no longer afford to run the show for free.

In response to the loss of “Loaded,” “WCPW” put on a show called “Fight Back,” in an effort to raise awareness of the controversial decision that YouTube made. Before the show began, “WhatCulture” writer Adam Blampied spoke about how wrestling deserved respect, and how unfair it is to classify it in the same vein as content that includes hate-speech. Blampied insists that “hate speech tears people apart, wrestling brings people together.” He also implored viewers to support a petition that was started by HeelBook, which aims to remove wrestling from the “offensive content” list. The petition can be found here, and as this article is being written, it is approaching its goal of seventy-five thousand supporters.

“WCPW’s” struggles with YouTube’s advertising system is not an isolated incident either. Multiple promotions are struggling to find ways to compensate for the loss of their ad-revenue. One of the largest independent wrestling channels on YouTube, “Beyond Wrestling,” posted a tweet on April 8 that said, “Just to further illustrate how damaging this is, we would need to sell an extra 250 DVD’s…to make up the difference.” For an international brand like WWE, this does not seem like a massive loss, but for a smaller promotion like “Beyond,” it could be pretty crippling.

What may be the most frustrating aspect of the entire situation is that professional wrestling is being unfairly isolated in comparison to similar forms of entertainment. Yes, wrestling depicts scripted-violence that on occasion leads to the legitimate injury of the performers. UFC, on the other hand, sells unscripted-violence, which often leaves its competitors bloodied, yet was unaffected by the advertising changes.

Defining professional wrestling as wholly inappropriate is completely ignorant to the current climate of the business. As a whole, wrestling is more family-friendly than it has ever been. WWE airs for five hours per week on national television, and is rated TV-PG. The face of the company, John Cena, has worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant over five hundred wishes, over two hundred more than anyone else, and WWE continues to combat issues like bullying through their Be a STAR initiative.

A popular stigma that follows professional-wrestling is how poorly women are depicted within their programs. However, in the past few years, women’s wrestling has made more progress than it did in the previous twenty combined. Women are often featured in the main-event of WWE’s programs, and a women’s match was named WWE’s Match of the Year in 2015. This summer, WWE will put on the Mae Young Classic, the first all-female tournament in the company’s history, which will include the most talented female-performers in the world. In other promotions, such as Lucha Underground, women routinely compete with male performers, and are treated with the same amount of respect in terms of in-ring ability.

The only explanation for the decision to deem wrestling content inappropriate in 2017 is that the proper research was not done in the first place. Again, wrestling is built upon violence, and no one is denying that, but to declare that wrestling as a whole is “offensive content” is missing the point of the entire medium.  Professional wrestling is more akin to a Broadway performance than a cage-fight, and people watch it to marvel at the spectacle of it all. To go one step further, the fact that channels on YouTube are being demonetized for talking about wrestling is beyond all logic. In an age in which new media is dominating all forms of entertainment, it makes no sense to punish those who are attempting to make their living off of the advertising that YouTube is able to provide, and grouping an extremely popular form of entertainment such as wrestling with channels that promote hate and real violence is crooked, to say the least.

Writer Profile

Patrick Murtha

Eastern Connecticut State University
New Media Studies

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