I always start out by saying it’s been a long time since I wrote, and that’s usually a nice blend of motivation and finding time to write on my favorite topic: pro wrestling. This particular bit of writing will be a little different than usual, but nonetheless, I hope you find it interesting and hopefully I’m not too far off my rocker with my opinions.
As “sports” and “entertainment” pro wrestling falls somewhere in-between competition and movies, or at least that’s my view. The outside world sees individual athletes putting on a “show” of sorts. And that’s where this discussion begins.
I’ve always been of the opinion that if you don’t like something, then don’t watch it. The majority of the internet wrestling community tends to stray toward critiquing every bit and piece of the wrestling world, much like film critics review movies or sports fans squabble over every move their team or team’s player makes. The more surprising aspect, however, is how much stock the wrestling community puts into the internet criticism, whether it be positive or negative.
For this particular discussion, I will stick with the negative, as I read far more negative views of our sport around the web than I do positive. As mentioned above, if what you watch sucks, then why continue watching? I, for one, can recall many movies or TV shows where I have changed the channel or walked out of the theater. As for my favorite sports teams, win or lose, I will generally stick with them (unless my bedtime has passed; hey I’m getting old!)
This is where wrestling falls in the middle. No matter if the wrestling is good or bad, I generally find that the comments trend toward the negative. I don’t believe that wrestling has the luxury of hardcore fans, at least not as many as traditional sports, where those people will stick with the product through thick and thin. The hardcore fans that bash events, TV shows and individual wrestlers, I believe, have a tendency to turn other potential fans away. Again, if I hear a movie is bad, I would not invest the time or money into watching it. (Right?)
Now, I’m aware there will be cynics out there that will say that maybe I, myself, don’t like getting negative feedback. While that might be true (who would like it?) in some circumstances, advice or criticism is what you make of it. At times it’s something that goes into my toolbox to improve and at other times, it’s “thank you sir for the advice” which means it goes into the trash bin. And advice sometimes is only as good as the person giving it. Trust me, I won’t be doing a Tarzan gimmick anytime in the future, but thanks for asking!
Alas, I guess the old adage of negative gossip traveling more/faster than positive news is true. By nature, I believe people are more likely to vent about something they disliked than praise what they did like. I can live with that idea, but there is another group of that internet fan base that should understand what affect their negative comments might have on our business: the actual wrestlers themselves.
On Monday nights, I peruse Facebook and Twitter, only to find endless negative comments about particular WWE stars and matches… all made by indy wrestlers aspiring to make it to the big time themselves. This is what I don’t understand: if we’re sitting at home, on the couch, and say “Wrestler X” is the most horrible wrestler in the history of the world, then what does that make us? We’re obviously not in WWE and not on TV!
Also understand the effect this could have on an indy wrestler’s own career. Think about the NFL. What effect did Santonio Holmes’ public comments about quarterback Mark Sanchez have on those too and the entire New York Jets team? Does one really believe they will make it into WWE when making harsh remarks about, for example, John Cena or CM Punk? Why would either of those two want to work and travel alongside someone who thinks certain aspects of their work “suck”? Here’s a newsflash: they won’t. The wrestling locker room is like being part of a team and bringing the good into this environment can only have a positive effect on everyone involved in the production of a wrestling event.
Hell, even fans can help with this too. I cringe at the thought of “you f’d up” and “boring” chants. Sit and enjoy. Some people like vanilla, some like chocolate. You’re not going to like everything you see on the card, but I bet you find something you will like at some point. Don’t ruin the pleasure for the other spectators. No one likes the cynics and drunks sitting behind them at a baseball or football game. Besides, we don’t always like every play call Bill Bellichick makes for the Patriots and as for “f ups”, even Tom Brady or Kobe Bryant are capable of making mistakes. No one’s perfect!
And at that, we as fans are spoiled by having a variety of different styles of wrestling to watch, again, a chocolate/vanilla comparison can be made. Do you like slower paced, old school wrestling or are you into high tempo lucha matches? Your fandom can extend to a personal preference of one over the other, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other style is bad either.
I guess that’s where the makeup of the fan base comes into play. I often wonder who comes on the internet to complain about a wrestler or wrestling event. I’m fairly certain that small children are barely allowed on a computer, let alone seek out “insider” wrestling websites. Likewise, the parents of these children are probably busy and don’t spend their leisure time doing the same. Yet these two demographics make up a surprising whole of the live attendance gate. That means we could focus on the 18-30 male crowd as being the vocal majority.
Is that necessarily a bad thing? No. In fact, it’s the audience that most businesses desire, whether you’re WWE or Coca-Cola. But I feel it’s important to point out, that even on my own Facebook, a very small majority of the fans in the crowd are on a computer at night paying attention to my status updates. (Despite my efforts via t-shirt and photo sales.)
So why do we put so much stock into the opinion of the internet, especially if they represent such a small sample? Maybe it’s because this is one of the only channels where we receive feedback. Yet, we must understand, where that criticism comes from, whether it be fans or other wrestlers (as mentioned above) when taking those comments and applying them toward our work.
We must also understand how much wrestling there is to consume. I’m sure that many fans do not see every single second of every single wrestling TV show or live event. They may see snippets of video or read results on the internet. This might be my biggest pet peeve, as I would never comment on something I didn’t see with my own eyes! Likewise, I’m willing to give something a second chance (usually) and don’t dwell on a first impression. Again, wrestlers are human beings capable of making mistakes.
Remember that it’s impossible to make everyone happy, but I believe we can make SOMEONE happy. Tastes are different and tastes change. Wrestling always was and always will be like the circus, a variety of different acts. You have muscle men, underdogs, high flyers, brawlers, and everything in-between. In theory, there should be something for everyone.
So what does this say of the fans that watch wrestling? I know my own tastes grew from that of the adults around me. My favorite football team is that of my family. Pro wrestling was also a staple of my household, and luckily for me, my Dad and Uncle liked variety and exposed me many different styles of wrestling at a young age. That grew my passion for this business to where it is today.
Just as I grew from a young fan, to a teenage fan, to an adult fan, so goes the cycle for all wrestling fans.
So, should we cater to a particular segment of the audience? My answer is no: cater to them all.
Give them chocolate.
Give them vanilla.
Give them swirl.
Throw in strawberry.
Maybe a whipped topping.
And most importantly, don’t forget to ENJOY!