It wasn’t too long ago that I stepped up onto my angry little soap box, ranting and raving about how pro wrestling hates pro wrestling fans. I meant it. The industry mocks its fans. It mocks workers who still love the business. It even ridicules and minimizes the workers who “come up through the business,” the way all the veterans say a wrestler should. But the territories are dead, and apparently, the indies just aren’t going to cut it. The Daniel Bryans who fought their way to the WWE, working the indies here and abroad just for a shot at the show? They’ll never be looked at like a Randy Orton or a John Cena, who will never know wrestling beyond the 20×20 of WWE’s squared circle.
But the more Nick and I talk it out the more I realize this love-hate relationship between pro wrestling and its fans goes both ways. He’s written about this too and he was nice, the everybody-love-everybody hippie he is. But I’m me, and I won’t be so nice about it: there are pro wrestling fans who hate pro wrestling. I’m not sure when it started, but I can’t help but think it’s true. Wrestling fans who hate wrestling. Isn’t it enough to hear idiots tell us it’s fake? Now we’re going to complain it’s not everything we want it to be all of the time?
Maybe it started with ECW. Even now, Paul and the boys like to say it was the crowd that made ECW special. Why? They were “smart.” They bought and traded tapes, and thought their clever comments and “you f’d up” chants made them “part of the show.” Hot, interactive crowds are a good thing. Bloodthirsty crowds who crap all over anything that’s less than perfect? They’re obnoxious, and they ruin the show. Like it or not, selfish ECW-style crowds have ruined shows long after the company’s demise.
Maybe we should blame the Internet. After all, it’s the Internet that ultimately destroyed Kayfabe, right? The Internet gave every fan, smart and otherwise, a direct line of sorts to superstars past and present. And it’s the Internet that gave every half-wit with a keyboard or a cheap webcam a voice, to pretend they know what they’re talking about. How we have a world of knowledge at our finger tips and somehow became dumber is beyond me.
It’s part of the reason I’m here at Juice Make Sugar. We actually like wrestling, our slogan is “For people who know wrestling is fake but don’t let that bother them” for chrissakes.
Hell, maybe it’s wrestling’s fault. After all, the Monday Night Wars taught us that nothing was ever going to be awesome enough. Each week needed to top the last. Each show on USA needed to top the one on TNT, and vice-versa. Predictable job matches? No more. Bring on TLC. Bring on the blood. Bring on the quick-and-meaningless title changes. Make every match THE BEST MATCH EVER!
We’re spoiled. We demand instant gratification on the story lines we like, and we’re too impatient to let something vague or unpredictable play out. We bitch and moan that everyone looks and wrestles the same, and then we immediately dump on the first colorful character with an unconventional style. And when we’re given what we want, we immediately turn our backs on it like a bunch of pro wrestling hipsters.
Don’t believe me?
How quickly did you give up on Daniel Bryan’s WWE title feud with Randy Orton? The second Orton cashed in his Money in the Bank contract, half the crowd shit all over the angle, saying Bryan was being buried. Forget the fact he headlined the next two pay-per-views. Forget the fact he’s now SO over, they’re using him to build up the next generation of major heels. Which is how wrestling worked before titles got hot-shotted to hell.
How about the Dolph Ziggler push? We all marked out just a little bit when Ziggler cashed in on Alberto Del Rio. But then, he was a babyface. We can’t cheer a babyface, can we? That’s not cool. The nWo taught us that, and John Cena only reinforced it. As soon as Ziggler accepted the crowd’s cheers, he was dead meat. Now look at him. He’s just there. He should team up with The Miz, who everyone seemed to love…until they were supposed to.
Don’t get me started on the “they need to sign all the indy guys” arguments. I’ll be opening THAT can of worms in another week or so.
Somewhere along the way, we forgot how to have fun watching wrestling. It IS supposed to be fun, afterall. Why else are we watching? Why else would we dedicate hours a week of TV and pay-per-view, plus Internet discussions and more? Are we just looking for a reason to bitch?
Wrestling can be, and should be, fun. If WWE isn’t for you, there’s an alternative. You can skip Raw and Smackdown without giving up on sports entertainment.
You want a televised alternative? Watch TNA. Whatever they’re doing this week may just be different from what The Best for Business Bureau is up to. Lots of talented guys and girls are on the roster, fighting to impress.
You like your wrestling pure, action-packed and hard-hitting? Check out Ring of Honor. Some of the guys fall into that “they all look the same” category, but if nothing else, the action will be solid. If you want a show that’s nothing but guys like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins, here you go.
You want to see crazy bumps and superkicks galore? Check out Pro Wrestling Guerilla. A lot of overlap with the ROH roster, but presented as more of a nightly all-star pickup game than a promotion with long-running storylines.
Want to see fun wrestling with a deep canon, that’s enjoyable whether or not you know the back story? Give Chikara a shot. It can be so silly, but I’ve NEVER had more fun watching pro wrestling. My enjoyment of Chikara is probably the reason why I kept watching WWE and TNA. It’s probably the only reason I’m still a wrestling fan. It’s not for everyone, surely, but it’s definitely a lot of fun.
You CAN enjoy pro wrestling. If you don’t, it’s not the fault of the guys in the ring, or the guys in the back. It’s probably because you choose not to enjoy it. Stop making excuses. Stop complaining. There’s more than enough to enjoy – if you’re willing to enjoy it.