Comcast and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) have affirmed reports that the companies are screening and removing problematic content in certain professional wrestling shows.
The acknowledgment comes after fans discovered several segments and matches were missing when the programs moved to Peacock, Comcast’s streaming service, earlier this month.
The segments, which were largely found in WWE pay-per-view events, were presented in an unedited form when they were distributed through the WWE’s own streaming service WWE Network several years ago. WWE Network is in the process of shutting down as content moves over to Peacock under an exclusive deal with Comcast.
In a statement offered to the New York Times, a Comcast spokesperson said the company was “reviewing WWE content to ensure it aligns with Peacock’s standards and practices.”
The spokesperson said the practice was in line with other content that appears on Peacock, indicating the company may have removed controversial segments from other TV shows and movies distributed by the service.
The segments removed from the WWE programs include an interview and match in which professional wrestler “Rowdy Roddy Piper” appeared in blackface while challenging a Black opponent.
In another segment, a cut-away from the 1995 telecast of “Survivor Series” featuring the WWE’s founder and executive chairman Vincent McMahon was removed due to his use of a racial slur in front of a Black wrestler and his wife.
Fans also discovered missing content on other pay-per-view events, including “Summer Slam 1998” and “WrestleMania 2000.”
Programs from the WWE’s library began moving over earlier this month, though not all shows and events that were once available on the WWE Network were made immediately accessible on Peacock.
Comcast, the company that owns and operates Peacock, said most of the WWE’s library should be available to stream by this summer. But some are now wondering if the delay is due to the cable giant scrubbing content that has not aged well over time.
“Obviously, Peacock will be removing anything that goes against their community standards and practices going forward,” Mike Johnson, a writer with PW Insider, wrote last Wednesday, noting that other WWE content — including its “Attitude Era” story lines and acquired shows from Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) — may be under a similar microscope.
Over the weekend, a WWE spokesperson added fuel to that speculation when it said company employees were working with Comcast to review “all past content to ensure it fits our 2021 standards.”
The edits involving professional wrestling content comes at a time when media companies are struggling to provide context and explanations for content that has not aged well in the era of rampant social media criticism where anything and everything is deemed to be controversial.
The armchair quarterbacking from a vocal few pressured Comcast to withdraw several episodes of their hit sitcom “30 Rock” at the request of producer Tina Fey and pull from circulation at least one segment from “The Office” in which a character appears in blackface.
Last year, AT&T’s streaming service HBO Max removed the feature-length version of “Gone with the Wind,” only to return it with an included four-minute monologue that offered the obvious context that the slavery depicted in the film was bad then and bad now.
The Walt Disney Company has also sought to offer full-length movies without edits but with added context for younger viewers that certain scenes in the movie “were wrong then and are wrong now,” according to a disclaimer warning about stereotypes in some films.
“Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together,” the unskippable Disney statement reads before certain films.