Mike Quackenbush responds to Dawn Marie
Blog: Mike Quackenbush (11.17.16)
Posted: November 17, 2016
Got a letter that was kinda angry, but also, kinda true.
It’s true that when I was first breaking on the East Coast independent scene I was different, and by wrestling standards of the day, small. I was 19 years old, dumb, gawky and immature; I liked weird wrestling styles and did overly-complicated moves and showed up in my pathetic homemade gear. People rolled their eyes, and I was often the punchline of jokes. In the locker room, it was always made clear I did not belong. I was made to know it backstage, and sometimes, made to feel it in the ring.
Back then, I was starting as a freelance writer for the wrestling magazines of the day. Insider newsletters were growing in popularity to keep pace with the Monday Night Wars, and the internet was expanding exponentially. I had connections in all those realms, and it’s true that I manufactured my notoriety. I manipulated every aspect of the media that was available to me for maximum exposure and coverage. I did it shamelessly. There’s no denying the truth of that.
It’s true that I was never one of the boys. The generation of pro-wrestlers, and managers, and valets, that think the only way to honor tradition and legacy is by clinging to the old ways of doing things…I will never be one of them. The performers who were hand-selected, because of their size and stature, and then afforded every opportunity at success by the old guard…I will never be one of them. That old paradigm has no room for an undersized nerd with a pathetic homemade costume and weird ideas about “the business.” For that reason, and for so many more, I will never be one of them. It’s so true.
I think about the favored few, those well-tanned guys and their awesome physiques, and those gorgeous ladies and their perfect poise, and me – the awkward neurotic freak in their midst. They were not my tribe. I’ve always been a misfit toy and no matter how hard I work, that will never change…and I guess in the intervening decades I forgot that. I needed to be reminded, and luckily, this letter said just that in explicit terms that could not be ignored.
Thank you. Thank you for reminding me not just that I am an outcast, but also the feeling of being ostracized. You’ve given me new resolve. This simple reminder of the sting of exclusion makes it so clear to me that pro-wrestling must grow to include everyone. These last couple days have been filled with impossibly complicated decisions and conversations, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t second-guessed the things I’ve said and done. It’s been so hard. But nowhere near as hard as it was to swim with the sharks that mocked me, and pummeled me. Thank you for the insults and the lumps that have made me who I am today. Thank you for excluding me, so that I could grow up to learn the value of inclusion.
I’m not that gawky kid in the homemade gear anymore. And better still: I’ve found my tribe. Because I’ve spoken loud enough and often enough about what I believe professional wrestling can be, I’ve attracted a tribe all my own. So many misfit toys in one place, we are practically an island unto ourselves. We are not the hand-selected. We are not the favored few. We will never be one of them, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. I had only to read this letter, and then it Dawned on me: my responsibility is to manipulate and manufacture an island where no misfit toy will ever feel the alienation that I did.
Ideologies like the one in this letter, they are relics of the past. And yes, the old paradigm has written the history books. But the future? That is ours to write.