Wrestling's ugly incarnation Bad influence: Just what today's children don't need -- more glamorized violence.

November 22, 1998

WHILE WE'RE negotiating for billions from the tobacco industry to be rid of Joe Camel, maybe we can divert some of the payout to exterminate another nasty influence on youth: professional wrestling.

Do we really need violence -- faked though it is -- made more appealing to children?

Professional wrestling, in the midst of a resurgence, isn't as campy as it was in the 1970s. It's darker. It's edgier. It's bloodier.

Wrestling has always drawn a large proportion of young fans, but in today's niche marketing, the focus has been sharpened. In malls and elsewhere, young kids overwhelmingly are the ones wearing the black NWO T-shirts -- for "New World Order" -- and other paraphernalia.

Professional wrestling's growing appeal as entertainment was furthered by the recent election of Jesse "The Body" Ventura as governor of Minnesota.

Fun is fun. But marketers wasted no time capitalizing on the event and its violent connotations. T-shirts and bumper stickers in Minnesota now boast: "My governor can beat up your governor."

Certainly, the nation's first professional-wrestler-turned-governor warrants recognition, even if it's by Jay Leno or David Letterman and on T-shirts.

Unfortunately, though, the valuable real-life lesson of Mr. Ventura's rise from bodybuilder to mayor, radio host and governor is likely lost on the young people for whom the brutish buffoons of pro wrestling hold such great appeal.

Pub Date: 11/22/98

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