It was a sense of accomplishment for Max Zaleski when he learned World Wrestling Entertainment began adding subtitles to its DVD releases.
The fan started the “Wrestling with Subtitles” campaign almost a year ago, after he realized the the WrestleMania 28 Blu-ray he purchased didn’t have subtitles for any of the features.
“Not the main feature, not the special features and not even the Hall of Fame ceremony,” Zaleski said. “I had played around with the idea a month earlier, but I just did that through my personal account, and I didn’t start up the Twitter or Facebook until June 2012, when I got a lot of support from my friends on Twitter.”
He refers to the initiative as a labor of love.
“I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was 5-years-old, and I went to college [Seattle Central Community College] to become an interpreter for the deaf,” Zaleski said. “I have always been active in the deaf community, and when I thought I could help out with this, I took it upon myself to get things done.
“…I was surprised that WWE didn’t have subtitles on their DVDs because they are a publically-traded company, and I thought they had to abide by some Americans with Disabilities Act rules, but they apparently don’t. TNA, being a smaller company, I thought they wouldn’t have them because of the lack of knowledge that it was needed for the deaf and hard of hearing fans.”
Within the first week or two, he tweeted a link to the petition he created to WWE superstar Dolph Ziggler. Zaleski went to the world champion knowing he knew sign language.
“He retweeted our petition on Change.org and within a week of that, over 10 wrestlers had signed and tweeted out the petition,” he said. “The real help happened when TheWrestlingGame.com, of whom I have worked with for the past four years, put the petition link on their game site. ‘Wrestling with Subtitles’ quickly gained over 300 signatures within a month of TWG’s involvement.”
The Seattle resident spent hours on podcasts -- writing press releases and articles for wrestling websites to reveal his initiative.
“As I am only one person, I was given a lot of help on Twitter from various people, but the bulk of the footwork was due to me,” Zaleski said. “I worked into the early morning hours trying to get emails and letters sent out to WWE, TNA and Ring of Honor. I contacted different federations as well and had talked with Gabe Sapolsky of Dragon Gate USA a couple times, as well as Mike Quackenbush of CHIKARA.
“Both were interested but just couldn’t finance anything for a possible inclusion of subtitles on their physical releases. I didn’t get a response from TNA until Dixie Carter messaged me on Twitter telling me that they would talk with Spike TV, who does their DVD releases, to see what they could do.”
A month later, Zaleski was contacted by one of TNA’s media representatives saying they would be including subtitles effective immediately, which was February. They didn’t say it was because of his campaign’s efforts, but Zaleski took it as a win, regardless.
“I have only received one email back from WWE’s management, and it was the general ‘thank you for supporting our product, and we’ll take your request into consideration’ type form letter,” he said. “The only reason I know that WWE is including subtitles is that the ‘Top 25 Rivalries in Wrestling History’ release they’re doing has the SDH (Subtitles for the deaf or hard-of-hearing)/CC (closed captioning) logo on the back of Region A, which is the release code for North America. That means that there will be subtitles on the disc itself...”
WWE publicist Al Stavola confirmed that starting with the “Top 25 Rivalries in Wrestling History,” WWE DVDs will have subtitles.
He added: “Unfortunately, we cannot provide subtitles for pay-per-view [DVDs].”
“Wrestling with Subtitles” had the support of more than 50 wrestlers, past and present. Along with Ziggler, this included Bill Goldberg, Gail Kim, Roddy Piper and Jack Swagger, who each retweeted or mentioned the petition on social media. Zaleski even got Hollywood star Zach Braff on board.
Now that his mission is accomplished, Zaleski plans to continue to work with smaller wrestling organizations to get subtitles on their DVDs.
“WrestlingWithSubtitles.com and its Twitter will continue doing what we do, as we tweet live along with WWE Raw (#RawWithSubtitles) and slowly turn into a wrestling blog/interview kind of site,” he said. “As well, TheWrestlingGame.com takes up my time, and I have been adopted as their social media manager due to the success of WWS and the amount of networking I was able to do.”
Follow “Wrestling with Subtitles” on Twitter @WrestleSubtitle.
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• WWE will be at the BB&T Center, formerly Bank Atlantic Center, in (South Florida) Sunrise on Friday, June 7.
Bell time is 7:30 p.m. for this house show (no TV) with John Cena, Ryback, Sheamus, Mark Henry, Daniel Bryan, The Miz, Brodus Clay, R-Truth, The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins) and more.
Talent subject to change.
Tickets, starting at $20, are on sale via TicketMaster online www.ticketmaster.com, outlets or by phone 800-745-3000, or you can go to the box office of the BB&T Center, home to the Florida Panthers hockey team.