Former World Championship Wrestling Announcer, Chris Cruise, is speaking out against the current direction of wrestling, particularly the WWF, which he says is inappropriate for children, one of its direct targets.
In this interview with David Skolnick, Cruise discusses his feelings on the subject, why he appeared on a Court TV program and why he wrote a letter to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter about this issue.
Cruise also talks about his attempts to join the priesthood, his most-recent stint in WCW, his managing career in the New Dimension promotion and his feelings on the impact wrestling newsletters have on the business.
Copyright Notice: This interview is Copyright © 1999-2006 Wrestling Perspective and may not be quoted, reprinted or distributed without written permission from Wrestling Perspective publishers Paul MacArthur and David Skolnick.
Wrestling Perspective: The letter you wrote to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (appearing in the November 23, 1998 issue) has caused some discussion on an issue that has been festering for a number of months. First of all, not to be facetious, but who are you to save wrestling and why does it need to be saved?
Chris Cruise: Yeah, I agree. You get that question a lot, especially someone like me, it's like, "Who do you think you are?" For instance, if you make a psychological examination of someone or you say something about their psyche. In fact, I was in court the other day. I'm a guardian for abused and neglected children. One of my foster parents, who we use a lot, made a psychological assessment and the attorney immediately jumped up with a cheap shot and said, "Do you have a psychology degree?" Of course, she said, "No." We understood her point. It's like you have to be some type of authority or have some type of degree in this society anymore in order for you to have any credibility. That's why I spent a lot of time in that letter developing, I hope, credibility three ways. One, as a guy who has loved wrestling for 30 years and whom as an adult it is still very important to him. As a child advocate, I've got 22 kids I'm a court-appointed guardian for and as somebody who has recently reconnected with my family after 10 years away and now knowing I've got three nieces and two nephews, it's very, very important for me. For me, I've never been a guy who will refrain from saying something just because I may not seem to have the qualifications. I hope in that letter that I did have the qualifications. As a guy who's known it from the inside as well as the outside and somebody who plain loves wrestling and wants this crap to stop.
Wrestling Perspective: Have you received much reaction?
Chris Cruise: Not at all. From friends and relatives, yeah. And that letter from Kurt Brown in the Observer (November 30, 1998 issue), but mostly it's just been a big yawn. I'd imagine because it took up a page and an eighth that most of the readers probably looked at it and their heads rocked back and said, "Woe, Dave (Meltzer, Observer publisher) is giving this guy a full page or more in his newsletter to express his feelings. Knowing Dave as we do, let's see what this is all about."
Wrestling Perspective: Did you speak to him at all about this?
Chris Cruise: I faxed him a shorter version of the letter with my thoughts and typically, if I want a letter published I'll say, "Submitted for publication," or I'll, as I have with you, "Not for publication." I said, "Not for publication" and then Dave said to a mutual friend, "Gee, I wish Chris would release that for publication." Then I worked it up from a page-and-a-half to the five or six pages it ended up being and faxed it to him. There's enough of the letter that is not in the Observer.
Wrestling Perspective: But even so, you don't normally see a full page plus in the Observer for a letter.
Chris Cruise: I never have. Our mutual friend told me that the reason Dave encouraged that is he kind of felt the same way. Maybe he's been saying it between the lines or bluntly, but coming from someone who is still involved in wrestling, someone's who's got somewhat of a background and somewhat of an authority as a child advocate and somebody who I think can write lucidly that maybe he was looking to have someone say what he's been saying or feeling for a while.
Wrestling Perspective: Towards the end of the letter you say, "My guess is people in wrestling will say, 'Cruise is just overreacting. Wrestling is just a harmless act.'" Do you think that will be the end result?
Chris Cruise: Yes, I do. I think the end result of this will be two or three months from now it will be forgotten. You may think the letter is negative. It certainly is negative, but it is also very practical and realistic. I'm not a guy who lives anywhere but the real world and you can hope and you can dream and you can fantasize and think if you do this then things will change. Well, one letter ain't going to change things. A number of conversations with attorneys general ain't going to change things. The fact is if Americans want to watch this stuff, there is this inexorable rush toward watching it. The one thing I wrote at the end was "pull back Vince. Make it so my nephew can watch Raw again or at the very least stop marketing this child-inappropriate stuff to children. Enough is enough or is snuff wrestling next?" Interestingly enough, since I wrote that letter in mid- to late November, we've actually seen this attempt at snuff wrestling. The very stuff I was using hyperbole about with a shovel readily available to kids nowadays to whack it across somebody's head and then to bury people alive or embalm them. God, at 39, it's obvious I must have the mentality of a 69-year-old old fart. I'm just an old fuddy-duddy who's not up to the times.
Wrestling Perspective: Children ape a lot of things they see. I don't let my daughters watch Road Runner cartoons, but if they saw them, I'm not too concerned their going to drop a heavy object on someone's head. Obviously, you don't agree Raw is appropriate for young children and I would agree with that. But is your concern that they will imitate what they see on it?
Chris Cruise: It never used to be. The most I ever did as a kid was body slam a guy or monkey flip him. But now they're doing this type of stuff. I'm not saying every kid has access to gasoline or a pile of bodies, but a lot of them have access to shovels. I don't think a lot of kids are going to ape this stuff. It isn't inappropriate in the sense that it does have the power to possibly motivate kids to do stuff. I think a movie with guns is a lot more motivating than pro wrestling toward evil. But at the same time, my question is it's rooted not only in this stuff is inappropriate for kids, but rooted in my belief that wrestling doesn't need this. Maybe it does for the ratings that Vince and Eric seem to think they need.
Wrestling Perspective: Maybe it doesn't need it, but like you said, they were pretty successful without it to a certain extent. But pushing the envelope further and further has brought the WWF more success than ever before.
Chris Cruise: Absolutely. If you look at this as who's wrong and who's right in terms of ratings than Cruise is way off. Cruise is naive to think this is not all about ratings. The part I said on Court TV (during a Nov. 18 broadcast) that did not air because it went over like a lead balloon is that my main complaint is with parents. Given American parents and the American population in general, a reporter I spoke to not too long ago, I think he works for the Wrestling Perspective said, "Yeah, Americans have very bad taste." You recall that conversation?
Wrestling Perspective: Absolutely.
Chris Cruise: Given the opportunity to choose between something in good taste or not...it's funny because I was watching cable TV the other night and there was a television preacher on. Usually, I can't stand those guys. There was also a documentary on and Jerry Springer. The documentary was on cats and I have cats and I love them. But, man, I'm flipping back and forth. Here I am a guy who believes he's of high-moral character in standing and I'm flipping back and forth between the documentary and Jerry Springer and the television preacher. God, what self-control do I have? Obviously, very little. I'm as guilty as the next guy. But I tell you, if there were kids sitting there, I wouldn't be flipping back to Jerry Springer. It wouldn't be on. I'm an adult. I can make those decisions. I can make those judgments. It all goes back to the point and the overall tone that parents need to watch this stuff and protect their children from it. It is not harmless, innocuous wrestling anymore. It's guys hitting people over the heads with shovels. It's guys pouring gasoline on a pile of bodies. It's guys threatening to embalm other wrestlers alive.
That's just a small excerpt of the Chris Cruise interview.
Cruise's insights are keen and articulate and should be read by every wrestling fan.
The only place to read Cruise's insights is Wrestling Perspective #79.
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Also featured in Issue #79: Part II of The Controverial Tom Cole Interview
In the second and final part of this interview, former WWF employee Tom Cole explains his second term of employment with the WWF after his sexual harassment suit was settled with the company.
In this interview with Paul MacArthur, he also talks about his dismissal from the WWF, the unusual nature of his unemployment hearings and testifying before a grand jury prior to the famed WWF steroid trial.
Copyright Notice: This interview is Copyright © 1999 Wrestling Perspective and may not be quoted, reprinted or distributed without written permission from Wrestling Perspective publishers Paul MacArthur and David Skolnick.
Wrestling Perspective: The settlement with the WWF created a rift between you and your brother.
Tom Cole: Yes, he was telling me I made a mistake. I was like, "Well, if I made a mistake, I made a mistake. Let me learn for myself." I gave him like $20,000 out of my settlement because he'd helped me along with the case and everything else. Like I said, it was never about money with me. I think that's what bothered the WWF a lot because they could never say it was about money or I was greedy. A lot of people were jumping on the bandwagon looking for money and I wasn't. I was not in any way looking for money and I think that had a lot to do with the way they looked at me because it was never about money. But everyone else was about getting paid. My brother, I guess he started being a real pain in the ass. He started going on radio shows and talk shows saying that they had me brainwashed and this and that. I don't know, maybe in a sense it was true. Maybe they did in a sense. Maybe they did. Maybe they didn't. I don't know. But I thought it was a decision I wanted to make, but he wouldn't let me. It was terrible. I couldn't concentrate on anything. It was so hard because I was being pulled from both ways because I was under subpoena by the federal government for the sex scandal for the WWF, the steroid scandal that they had and everything else. The WWF at the same time wanted me to share information with them about what the government was asking and I did. But every time I went before the government, I was to the point where it was driving me nuts. I said to Linda, "I don't want to share any more information. I can't handle this anymore. I just want to work. I don't want to bothered with all this stuff. I don't want to tell you anything anymore." She got really pissed and things started deteriorating on that part. It started falling apart relationship-wise with my brother and relationship-wise with Titan Sports. I knew I probably wasn't going to be there much longer.
Wrestling Perspective: How long did your second term of employment last?
Tom Cole: About a year-and-a-half.
Wrestling Perspective: While you're employed by them, you're being subpoenaed by the federal government to testify. But if I'm correct, they never brought forward the charges on the sex scandal, just on steroids.
Tom Cole: No, they didn't. They couldn't find anything involving Vince McMahon so they looked at it like they wanted Vince McMahon and possibly they could get him on steroids, but they couldn't find out anything about him sexual-wise or anything else. So they let that go.
Wrestling Perspective: You can't seize property on a sex conviction, but you can on a steroid conviction.
Tom Cole: I had said to the people in the federal government, "Nobody cares about steroids. Nobody cares. You're not going to do anything to this guy. It's a waste of time. Go after what people will care about." They said, "We're gonna." But they never did. I told them that they wouldn't get Vince McMahon. Maybe in a weird way when Vince got off, I was kinda happy in a sense because I felt it was like, "Yeah, I told you so. But you guys wanted the big fish." That's when I realized the government doesn't care about going after somebody for something that they did wrong. They want a marquee name. It's like anything else in life. It's like publicity. It's all about publicity. It's all about that big name you can get and who can become an attorney general or a big shot politically if they get a big fish. They let Terry Garvin and Mel Phillips go. They had to have a ton of crap on Mel Phillips. I know personally a couple of kids who went forward although a lot of kids wouldn't say anything because they're embarrassed and it's not an easy thing for a guy to say, "Yeah, some guy played with my feet; kind of molested me." I guess it wasn't that easy for people to come forward. They had more. They could have gone in another direction, but they couldn't include McMahon so they didn't bother. They just let it go. That was a shame, you know. Terry Garvin's dead now so he's not going to hurt anyone anymore. But you got Mel Phillips and who the hell knows what he's doing. I'm sure he's still up to his old tricks. No doubt about that.
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