Former WWE announcer Justin Roberts posted the following blog, discussing Connor “The Crusher” Michalek receiving the Warrior Award at last weekend’s WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony. Roberts discusses that he had a strong relationship with Connor and his family, that he was left out of the story and that WWE is using the story to help their image…
Believe Half of What You See and Portions of What You Hear
My thoughts and feelings on Connor “The Crusher” Michalek, WWE and his recent Hall of Fame induction. The following blog is my opinion, from my perspective, based on being there and experiencing all of this personally.
Hi, my name is Justin Roberts. I was an announcer at World Wrestling Entertainment for about 12 years. Sometimes when you’ve worked there and you speak up about something company-related, it’s easy to be painted as a bitter, ex employee. What’s strange is that my unhappiness at this dream job didn’t start after I left; it started while I was there.
The last time I wrote a blog here, it was about how I loved professional wrestling. I was with the company at the time and loved (and I still love) professional wrestling. There were reasons why it wasn’t titled “I love WWE.” My unhappiness started in my last couple of years with the company and I was actually just as happy when they decided not to renew my contract as I was on the day that I signed. They told me I wasn’t getting fired, there was nothing that I did wrong, that they were going a different direction and the door was always open. I politely closed it behind me and with that said, I’ll now share one of the contributing factors on why I wouldn’t want to go back to this company.
I have always been a fan of the movie “Basic” where “telling the story right” is the theme. WWE also tells a story, week after week. Sometimes their stories seem “real” and we forget that they’re a company… that tells stories. Remember “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s jealousy over Elizabeth and Hulk Hogan? Matt Hardy and Edge battling over relationship reasons, CM Punk taking the title and leaving the company? Daniel Bryan overcoming the evil bosses who did everything to keep him down? These were memorable, reality-inspired storylines, but overall, they were stories that WWE told us fans.
This past weekend at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, they told a story. While using real life people and real stories, they did what they do best: they told a story and they didn’t let the facts get in the way.
Last year, just days before his unfortunate, sudden death, the legendary Ultimate Warrior suggested during his Hall of Fame induction speech that WWE should honor the hardworking people who work behind the scenes at the company. He spoke about those people who worked there: “Some of them for years, 20–25–30 years,” he continued, “To have a category in the Hall of Fame where you honor these people.” Unfortunately, the WWE track record shows that many people who work there and give their lives to the company for 20–30 years don’t get rewarded, they get released once they’ve been there for too long.
I can name numerous employees that I worked with at WWE who would be deserving of such an award. Those people devoted all of their time and energy to WWE, because they loved their jobs and thought they were working for a good cause. A guy like Mark Yeaton who was let go on the eve of what would have been his 30th anniversary. He was the guy that worked all morning and afternoon in the production office of the TV shows, then sat at ringside and rang the bell for the show, while communicating on headset with the bosses to make sure everything ran smoothly. Then he would return to the production office where he made sure the operations ran as they should while accommodating everyone who approached him about needing something done. Then he would go through the locker rooms to make sure no one left anything behind. He even cleaned up the towels and did anything else asked of him. Mark would take a bullet for the company and would have made an excellent and deserving award recipient, but he was let go for a budget cut. (You probably won’t hear much from Mark publicly as far as saying anything negative about the company, or the many others like Mark, as their employee contracts prevent them from speaking out. Mine doesn’t.).
Who else could be a good nominee? Lots of folks. There are so many hardworking men and women that work behind the scenes at that company. How about Sue, who arranges all of the great Make-A-Wish events, Adam who manages fan services…All of these people deserve recognition by the company, and that’s what the Warrior was trying to say. But the question is, how much publicity could those awards make for the company? Or how could you market that award to mean something to the public?
So rather than honor those people that you don’t see or hear about , who work hard to put on the shows that we all love, the company decided to tell a different story. This year, they spliced and spun the Warrior’s speech to make the award about “warriors” outside of the company, because that might make for a better story?—?and for better publicity.
“It’s inspiring to see people helping people.” …”I think it would be appropriate to have a category in the Hall of Fame where you honor these people.” But wait. I watched his speech last year. They took what he said and twisted it to become something totally different. Ok, you don’t want to honor the hard working employees? Ok, no problem. You’re going to honor people who help people, soldiers, Special Olympians, warriors? Ok, it’s not what he was going for in the speech, but I personally am ok with honoring these warriors.
They gave the award to my friend, Connor Michalek and I am very much ok with that, but I might be biased. Eight year-old Connor was a tough, witty, smart & lovable person. I met him in the crowd of the Pittsburgh Royal Rumble in January of 2014. He caught my eye as it looked like maybe he was going through some rough times.
Anytime I thought that about someone in the crowd, I felt like I should do something, anything, to try to help them, or at least give them an extra thrill. Whether it meant giving the heads up to a wrestler so they would approach them, grab them an autograph, merchandise, setting up an impromptu meet and greet?—?if there was any way I could help make someone else’s life even a little bit better from this crazy, lucky position I found myself in, I would do it. And it was so easy to make people happy by pulling these strings. It didn’t take away from the company and it made these fans feel special. Have you ever done something really nice for someone? You know that feeling, where you just feel beyond happy about it? I loved that feeling and I loved seeing smiles beam from the faces of these fans. I’ve always thought being kind to others just makes you a happier person in the end.