I imagine that when Ludvig Borga first stepped on American soil — probably off a boat because it reduced his carbon emissions — he lifted his nose aloft and took in a whiff, grimacing. “Look at this filth. This pollution,” the Finnish quasi-superstar said in one of his inaugural WWF promos that dropped in 1993. His voice was monotone. He wasn’t exaggerating; he took no joy in scolding Americans for destroying the environment. He was simply stating facts. “You call this the land of milk and honey. Well down here, it stinks funny.”
I was twelve at the time, and terrified of Borga, who looked like Brock Lesner’s eviler brother, an Aryan wet dream. Those were the days when heels were booed, faces were cheered, and having an accent deemed you as evil.
But the truth is, Borga’s character was the hero (not his adversary: the “all-American” mulleted mega-dork Lex Luger). The world needed someone to save us, someone who truly had a superior mind and wasn’t afraid to talk down to us about how we were destroying the planet. We still do.
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We have enough do-gooders ready to pontificate — preachy environmental advocates, politicians, and celebrities. Our earth is scorching, glaciers are melting, the sea level’s rising, and wildfires and floods are choking out communities and countries. Carbon dioxide is taking over the atmosphere quicker than the new World order. The planet will tap out — yet loads of people still deny global warming. Our society needs a villain to put us in our place.
Reduce, Reuse, Rassle
In elementary school, teachers taught me and my classmates that we should reduce, reuse, and recycle. I listened to them because I was a total mark for authority. But as I aged and entered high school, I stopped giving a crap and started tossing cans in the trash without a care.
Around the same time as I peaked in horribleness, pro-wrestling was shaken the night of Monday, May 27, 1996, the moment Scott Hall moseyed through the WCW Monday Nitro crowd and declared war on Dubya Cee Dubya. It seemed like the next day, my entire grade was rocking shirts emblazoned with nWo logos. We made crude jokes in classes and offered each other two sweet finger kisses. Anything the nWo did, we mimicked. The bad guys wielded great power, but in this case, with great power came very little responsibility.
I continued my path of terror on the planet through my twenties, leaving a carbon footprint the size of a swollen bigfoot’s. During my thirties, I learned more about living a sustainable lifestyle just because I had siblings and friends who wouldn’t shut about it. But I didn’t start to take responsibility for my destruction until I was thirty-seven, when one bastard took his power and used his villainy for good.
In November 2018, incessant fan favorite underdog Daniel Bryan announced that the old Daniel Bryan was dead, saying “I am not here to please you people. I am no longer the people’s champion — I am the planet’s champion.” He started shilling eco-friendly t-shirts and traded his glittering gold and leather WWE Championship belt for a hemp alternative.
He was judgmental; he was self-righteous; he was hilarious. He was the most entertaining performer in sports entertainment. Crowds booed him, but his YouTube videos ratcheted with millions of views. Mainstream media took notice. People were listening. I was listening. I began thinking about the choices I made. I ditched fast fashion trends and shopped for sustainable clothing. I popped a compost bin under my sink.
Even after Bryan became a dweeb again, I continued to implement his teachings. Even before businesses started charging for plastic and paper, I schlepped around reusable bags. I became mindful of the disposable utensils I used and started wiping my butt with eucalyptus toilet paper. Even my kids rock cloth diapers on their bottoms.
I am better than you … but no one really acknowledges it. I’m just a dumb writer schmuck. No one listens to me. And there’s no one left reprimanding everyone. Daniel Bryan jumped to AEW, flipped his name, and moved on from his quest to heal the planet by preaching. But the world still needs a planet’s champion.
Wrestlers Should Shame Fans Into Action
There are plenty of environmental nerds in wrestling, but nerds can’t get anything worthwhile accomplished. Lita, Zack Sabre Jr., and Pete Dunne are vegan geeks. The spectacularly cool Zelina Vega and Maryse are vegan, too, but they don’t use their swag to pressure fans into changing their horrible ways. Although I don’t know their views on the environment, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, Sasha Banks, and Bayley, would all make spectacular ambassadors for the planet.
Ben Atwood, an Agricultural Educator at Albany, NY’s Radix Ecological Sustainability Center and a legitimate environmental dork, says heels can do a crap ton to help the environment. “I think evil pro-wrestlers that advocate for the environment will make it seem cool for people who may be less well reached through other communications platforms,” he said via Zoom. “Because there’s always the people that think the bad guys are cool.” The best thing an evil pro-wrestler can do is make their fans feel empowered to realize that their individual choices matter.
There are many things, Atwood said, that pro-wrestlers can and should shame their fans into doing. Fans should avoid throwing out toasters, computers, and other electronic waste. Instead, they should drop them off at stores with recycling programs. Composting is important, too. When people don’t compost, food waste, such as potato chips and bananas and bread, get trapped under trash in dumps, unable to decompose because there isn’t any oxygen. This creates methane gas, a greenhouse gas 28 to 36 times more harmful than CO2.
“Not every environmentally friendly activity is going to be for everyone,” Atwood said, proving what a push over he is. “Society is not at a point where it’s ready to learn everything at once. So learning one thing at a time, it’s probably more sustainable in the long run.”
The Planet’s Champions
It’s not easy to be an evil environmentally conscious pro-wrestler. “There’s a trade off,” Atwood explained. Not only do you have to compete with haters like Kofi Kingston and AJ Styles, but being eco friendly can be more expensive. Sustainable clothing often costs more. Composting takes effort and can have a fee to be picked up. It’s easier to destroy the world. Fast fashion is exciting and cheap, but “your pants make a difference,” Atwood said.
Us filthy Americans trash 4.51 pounds of garbage a day. About a third of the food produced in the world gets garbaged, and in the US only 6.5% of the food we waste ends up composted. Meanwhile, 35% of trash in landfills could have been composted. We chuck 11.2 million tons of clothing per year. In real life, Ludvig Borga was a horrible human being. He legitimately was a Nazi! Even had a stupid SS tattoo to boot. But he was right about two things: Lex Luger sucked and America is the worst.
And I am, too. I’m fickle. I try to help by screaming at litterers and spitting at people who don’t recycle. But every now and then, I chuck a banana peel in the trash because I just took out the compost. I need someone telling me what to do, someone not afraid to remind me they are superior to me. I need a villain to help me be a decent human being.