Professionalism (noun) : the competence or skill expected of a professional. “the key to quality and efficiency is professionalism”.
In the world of business, the term “professionalism” is an integral part of a strong resume. The ability to put personal life aside, perform, and remain competent both inside and outside of the workplace is essential to company culture and overall success. Most companies will weed out the professionals from the masses, offering them higher wages, increased opportunities, and abilities to rise within the organization.
This idea of professionalism also translates to the world of sports. Oftentimes journalists, scouts, and even coaches will question whether or not a player is truly dedicated to the game, e.g. professional. A great example of this is Antonio Brown, a player who was once seen as one of the greatest wide receivers of all time yet tarnished his legacy due to off-the-field drama in one tragic offseason.
Where am I going with this?
Yes, the genre of sporting entertainment famed for zany antics, loads of steroid usage, and an insane amount of sketchiness surrounding its shadier promotions, has a standard for professionalism. One of the premier organizations in this business, World Wrestling Entertainment, have called themselves trailblazers of this high-standard of professionalism now needed more than ever in the wakes of the #MeToo and (as I previously covered) the #SpeakingOut movements.
So why in the world would the WWE place a spotlight on Lars Sullivan?
Don’t get me wrong: the 6’3” 330 lbs. hulking figure of mass destruction is impressive in the ring. His aura is completely based on the appeal of wrestlers like George “The Animal” Steele, Kane, and Gene Snitsky: a scary, ghastly-looking brute tearing through his competition as if they were made of paper mache.
But Lars Sullivan is different from those aforementioned wrestlers in one heavily important aspect: while the others demonstrated remarkable work ethic, Sullivan has had scandal after scandal.
For the sake of those who don’t partake in watching this niche sport, Sullivan made headlines in 2019 after the discovery of his old accounts on bodybuilding forums. From about 2007 to 2013, Sullivan (real name Dylan Miley) posted a slew of incredibly racist, homophobic, sexist, and generally offensive things on these sites. Many of these posts and comments referenced WWE personnel directly: most notable of these was a thread in which Miley commented about the sex life of WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon.
Following the exposure of these accounts, Miley was fined $100,000 by the WWE and ordered to attend sensitivity training. To add irony to the situation, it was leaked on December 28 of that year that Miley had participated in a slew of homosexual pornographic videos years earlier, under the name Mitch Bennett.
You would think that the story ends there, no? Well, buckle in. It’s about to get a lot stranger.
On October 9, 2020, Lars Sullivan returned to TV after a sixteen-month hiatus recovering from a severe knee injury, attacking The Miz, Jeff Hardy, and Matt Riddle. Seemingly rejuvenated both mentally and physically, Sullivan’s return had many fans excited for what lay in store for him.
This time, his unprofessionalism took less than two days to rear its ugly head.
On October 11, Reddit user u/Kalimera5 posted a screenshot of Instagram messages his wife had allegedly received by Sullivan. In these messages, Sullivan had asked the woman for lewd photographs, harassing her in the process. After the screenshot went viral, Twitter user @jussiejussie revealed that she had also been repeatedly sexually harassed by Sullivan via Instagram messages, ultimately being blocked by him after she referred to Sullivan as an “incel”.
In any other industry, Sullivan would have been butchered by HR and fired immediately after this second violation. But a lack of a public statement by WWE, as well as Sullivan’s frequent appearances on WWE television since then, have fans pondering only one question:
What does WWE see in Lars Sullivan?
Sullivan’s sole role is that of the brute monster, a role filled far better by other wrestlers on the roster. Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt, and even the recently-debuted Dabba Kato have all imposed dominance in Sullivan’s absence far better than he could ever be booked too. His intangibles are also rather stale, as Strowman and Kato’s usages of mobility and Wyatt’s character work put them at a higher level than Lars.
A far-more brutal realization is Lars isn’t even large enough to be portrayed as the monster WWE desire him to be: at 6’3”, he might appear intimidating next to a cruiserweight such as Kalisto, but is the same size as Roman Reigns and Edge. Due to this, Sullivan will never be able to portray the character he is designed to be.
Lars isn’t a monster of a man. He isn’t an amazing in-ring talent, nor a solid promo.
He is decidedly overwhelmingly average in every category.
To sum things up, Lars Sullivan is not worth the constant PR risk for WWE, and his firing from the company for bad behavior is not just a prediction but an inevitability at this point.
Not if, but when.