So, sitting around being really annoyed by the current state of WWE (Samoa Joe/AJ Styles feud somewhat excused) trying to think of what to write about next when Fridays with Andrew mentions in a group chat that I have fans.
Anyways, Andrew goes on to explain that three guys at his work read my articles, the wrestling ones. He says, “But he look super normal, so I never knew he was into it.” Ah, the old adage that if you watch wrestling something has to be wrong with you. I forgive Andrew for his thought process because it is not entirely his fault. I am thankful though, because it led me to write about something I have pondered writing about since I started with 10YS last year – the idea of a wrestling fan.
But Everyone Watched Wrestling
Before I get into deconstructing the negative stigma associated with being a fan of professional wrestling, aka sports entertainment, aka men fighting in tights, aka soap opera for men, I just need to remind EVERYONE who was born between 1980 and 1990 that all of you used to watch wrestling.
**EDITOR’S NOTE: SAY IT LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK**
EVERY LAST SINGLE ONE OF YOU USED TO WATCH WRESTLING
Maybe some of you weren’t as intently into it as others. But if you can claim that you have no idea who these people are, then you are lying.
If you were in high school from at any point between 1997 and 2002, you watched wrestling. You knew all the catchphrases:
“And that’s the bottom line, cause Stone Cold said so…”
“Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass…”
“It doesn’t matter what your name is…”
“Know your role and shut your mouth…”
Now, I say that knowing full well that with the exit of Austin, The Rock and others aligned with the typical point at which people are expected to “age out” of being fans and as such, they did. Austin quit, The Rock became a movie star, HHH and Stephanie took over the company behind the scenes about 15 years before they actually became poised to legitimately take over the company and people were out. Don’t get me wrong, I know that story because I was one of them. After I graduated high school, I stopped watching wrestling every week for about five years, basically for all of my college life. I can’t say with a clear conscience that I completely stopped watching, but I was a fringe fan and not the avid fan that I was during my high school years. In any event, we’re going to do two things, look at the common types of wrestling fans and then look at some of the myths associated with wrestling fans in general.
“It’s still real to me dammit.” aka Marks
If you don’t know the reference above, I forgive you. But it is necessary to understand what I am about to say next.
To me, this category is usually reserved for the kids and the baby boomer dad/granddad wrestling fans. Note that when I say dads, I am typically talking about the 50 plus crowd. I can pull two references for this type of fan. The first is my dad. The second is a friend of mine’s grandfather. And note that when I mean kids, I mean anyone younger than 10.
These are the little kids who think John Cena was essentially Superman or Captain America but in real life. These are also the fans who watch wrestling as though not one ounce of it is scripted (basically with the heart/mind of a child). I’ve heard my dad talk about how terrible a heel character (bad guy) was, or how great a face character (good guy) was as though the personalities displayed on the show were who these people really were. I’ve also heard my friend say the same about his granddad. I don’t know if it is a generational thing or what, but there is definitely a segment of the wrestling audience that does talk about it and watch it as though it is all very real.
I don’t know how they reconciled the Vince McMahon death story all those years ago, but “it’s still real to them dammit.”
As fans of what I will dub regular sports for you non wrestling folk, we all have that one friend that thinks that they could have made it in the NFL, NBA, MLB etc. For some it was they were too small. For some they had some cataclysmic injury or condition. For others it was because Nassau is was really terrible at shaping athletes and preparing them for competing at the pro level. In much the same way, there are a contingent of wrestling fans who almost hate watch it because they can either wrestle better, write better, act better etc.
These are the fans who crap on the product but do so in a technical way as to make it seem like they’re hate is more intellectual. Or do so in regards to the writing as to make it seem like their fantasy booking is better than what WWE cooks up (I get this complaint, I really do). Or in regards to promos as though they are the second coming of The Rock or Stone Cold. It’s the same way the “I could’ve have made it in the NBA/NFL guy will call out player’s flaws and weaknesses as though they have all the talent in the world but somehow life just screwed them over.
** EDITOR’S NOTE**
I’d be remiss if I didn’t count myself as someone who would do anything short of illegal to become a writer at WWE. I don’t necessarily think that I could do such a better job that the current crop of writers, it’s just a job that 15 year old me would go apeshit over having the opportunity. Maybe some day, if certain squinty eyes people work the connect.
Still a Fan
You have some people who started watching wrestling at a certain point, and just never really stopped (all those people who watched The Rock, Austin, D-X etc.). I consider these the types of guys who just still happen to watch it. They don’t necessarily need to talk to anyone about it. They don’t necessarily want anyone to know or not know that they do. Watching wrestling to this type of fan is just what they have been doing every Monday night for as long as they can remember. They are not the most passionate or adamant of fans. If their favorite wrestlers wins or loses it doesn’t move the needle that much. Think of these fans as every coach’s favorite mantra “You’ve got to manage your emotions. Never get too high or too low.”
The Closet Fan
You have some people who started watching wrestling at a certain point, and just never really stopped (all those people who watched The Rock, Austin, D-X etc.) but don’t let anyone know. This type of fan can range from one that is super secretive about their fandom to one that really just wants to find ONE person that they feel safe to watch or talk about wrestling with. They definitely don’t want anyone to know. The hiding fan usually is in tandem with one of the other types. So you can have a closet mark, a closet wannabe, a closet smark etc. I will stop short of saying this is the worst type of fan, but what I will say is with, “I know you watch wrestling, and it’s ok.” There are a wide range of fans out here for you to share your love of the artform with. You don’t have to be alone or in the closet. PAUSE. Honestly though, you can come out, it’s safe.
Smart Marks aka Smarks aka Guys like Me
I’d like to think that me, and most of the guys I know who watch wrestling, fall into the Smarks category (or the Still a Fan category). We are the people who watch wrestling knowing clearly well that everything is scripted and even when something isn’t scripted, it eventually will be. And while we know everything is scripted, we are willing to go along with it with a wink and a nod when the storytelling, the wrestling or both makes us invested enough to do so.
These are the fans that I’d say discuss wrestling in a mostly mature manner. The fans who discuss how a certain narrative or arc makes sense and doesn’t make sense. Those who discuss how a particular wrestler’s moveset may have to change because of a previous injury. The fans who have a hearty appreciation for the wrestling that was when they became fans but have watched wrestling evolve into something smarter, better, and overall mostly more entertaining.
Do we still buy wrestling tshirts? Yes, I have a drawer full. Do we buy action figures? I’m going to use me as an example and say no, we do not. Do we congregate in much the same way that basketball and football fans do to watch the big events on a semi regular basis? Yes, we do. Are we perpetually single guys, who live at home with our moms, have limited people skills and have a hard time interacting with other human beings? For the most part no, but there will always be some sort of exception that proves the rule.
Wrap It Up
Every one of my friends who watches wrestling is generally a good dude holding down a steady job with a fairly normal personality and life. In a nutshell, in my humble opinion, much to the contrary of what people think, the average wrestling fan, especially here in The Bahamas, is pretty normal.
So, no Andrew, most of the people I know who watch wrestling do not fall into the weirder or scarier archetypes that people probably think.
All in all, it’s 2018 and it is very much okay to be a wrestling fan. Like I said, we know you watch wrestling, and it’s ok.