Warning: This post discusses stalking and suicide. If reading about these issues causes you harm, please contact a relevant hotline. Thank you.
Let's get serious for a moment.
Wrestling is supposed to be fun. Yes, it has serious stories. But at the end of the way, we watch professional wrestling for entertainment. It makes us happy.
And that's why the Samuel Shaw storyline worries me.
Do I like it? Hell yes. I think it's well-acted, incredibly creepy, and abundantly clear that Shaw is not somebody we want to model ourselves on.
So why do I also think that the way he's being portrayed is irresponsible and possibly harmful to a good chunk of TNA's fans?
First, we need to talk about the ladies. The WWE say that 35% of their regular viewers are women, and I imagine the percentage is pretty similar for TNA.
Let's look at TNA's viewing figures from March 13th: 1.2 million viewers. If we assume 35% are women, that makes 420,000 female viewers.
That's 35,000 stalking victims watching Impact Wrestling. 70,000 assault victims.
These women may have psychological scars from their experiences. They may still be traumatised from what they went through. They may have flashbacks, panic attacks, any number of psychological difficulties.
How do you think they're going to feel if they turn on TNA Impact and see Christy Hemme going through the exact same nightmare that they did?
It doesn't matter that Samuel Shaw's behaviour is not be endorsed by the company. It doesn't matter how often Anderson beats the heck out of him. It doesn't matter how many times the crowd chants "Creepy bastard".
The way he behaves is unnervingly realistic and it could cause psychological harm to people who have already been victimised once in real life.
But that's nothing compared with Shaw's behaviour at Lockdown, which brings me neatly to my second point.
Talking about depression and suicide is difficult. Often, when a person is desperate, even hearing suicide mentioned can be enough to trigger the urge to attempt. And the average man is three to four times more likely to commit suicide than the average woman.
Why do I bring this up?
Because Samuel Shaw threatening to jump from the top of the cage and take his life was dangerous towards TNA's core male demographic.
You may think that somebody mentioning suicide is not enough and that I'm being over-sensitive. But sometimes, it's the smallest, silliest things that tip you over the edge.
So am I saying TNA should change Shaw's gimmick?
Honestly, I don't know. I'm enjoying the stories myself, but should my enjoyment come before the mental health of other fans?
Is it TNA's responsibility to protect their fans?
Should they provide a list of warnings online so that the fans can prepare themselves in advance?
I don't know for certain. All I do know is that Samuel Shaw is a walking trigger factory, and vulnerable viewers should tread carefully around him.
Please stay safe, readers.