There’s no doubt that we love wrestling. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t, and neither would you. Just as is the case with the people you love, you also want the best for wrestling – you want the best storylines, the best characters, the best matches. We go online and foam at the mouth when things don’t go how we want them to go, and we TYPE IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE THAT GETS OUR POINT ACROSS BETTER. We question the ability of the superstars; we question the judgment of the bookers; we question the direction of the promotion.
The one thing we rarely question is ourselves.
Kayfabe Comedy has always said wrestling fans are the worst. That seems a little harsh, but if you’ve spent any time reading the site, you know what we mean. It’s not that wrestling fans are bad people or enjoying wrestling makes you an undesirable person. It’s rather that we tend to suck the fun out of whatever we’re watching. We’re the kings (and occasional queens) of missing the forest and seeing the trees. While each individual tree may have a flaw or two, they make up a rather good looking forest.
It’s the issue with enthusiasts. This is the thing we’ve chosen to love, and because of that, we’re more familiar with it than the average person. It’s not enough for us to simply turn off our brains and enjoy what we’re seeing. We must critique. We must inspect. We must judge. We must compare to the past. We must project to the future.
You need only look at the word “enthusiast” to understand our position among wrestling fans. En theos. We are inspired by the divine. We are not among the rest of the population; rather, we’ve been touched by a god. The God of Wrestling. As such, it’s our job – our job alone – to be better than the rest and demand better than what we’re given.
Are we the ones that should be making the demands, though?
Let’s look at another word: brony. In case this term has passed you by, I’m referring to the segment of fans of the TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic that consists of males or females in their teens or older. I’m in no mood to pass judgment on these individuals (my friends and I watched Pokémon well beyond the age where it was acceptable) but they make me consider the nature of their fanship. Would we scoff at a group of bronies at the mall if we overheard them complaining about a current storyline or the current direction of a character? Would we say to them, “What are you grumbling about? You’re watching a kid’s show.” You may have heard these same words said to you…
It’s hard to admit, but perhaps today’s wrestling just isn’t for us, at least as far as the WWE is concerned. Wrestling has gone through many phases – it was a sideshow act, then a regional entertainment show, then a brightly colored showcase, followed by a gritty redesign, and now today. It’s not hard to see the cycle. We grew up with the big characters of the 80’s. We were dazzled by their reds and yellows, by their face paint and bicycle streamers, by their sequins and their big hats. As we grew older and came to understand more of the world, we learned it wasn’t as simple as good vs. bad or American vs. Russian. Wrestling was there for us, though. They spoke to our independent spirit, our high school rebellion, our college freedom. Our heroes didn’t tell us to drink milk. They told us to drink beer. The women weren’t meant to be cared for and protected. They were meant to be lusted after and chased.
Which brings us to today. We’re older still, and we may have a family. Our kids might show an interest in this thing called wrestling that mom and dad talk about and watch several nights a week. Does it make sense for wrestling to speak to us or should it instead speak to the younger generation? We see a lot of complaints about John Cena being one-dimensional and “for kids.” What’s wrong with that? Why shouldn’t he be?
My dad was never into wrestling, but he loves car racing. I can remember when we’d watch races on Sunday; he’d have his driver and I’d have mine. We would talk trash and cheer and make bets on how our guy would do. When I see a match between John Cena and C.M. Punk, I’m reminding of those Sunday afternoons on the couch. Cena speaks to the kid, Punk speaks to the adult. It’s a battle of family member avatars.
It’s easy to look at the TV-PG movement and say it’s all because Linda McMahon wants to be in the Senate for whatever reason. That’s probably the most reductive and cynical way to look at it. But ultimately, WWE is speaking again to a market that wasn’t the focus during the Attitude Era. They’re speaking to the ones that have the direct line to their parent’s purse or wallet. The same parent that was likely a wrestling fan themselves and knows the importance of getting a special wrestling shirt or mask or wristband.
I’m not saying it’s not ok to want certain things out of wrestling, or to disagree with a certain direction a promotion has chosen to take. We should, however, have a little perspective on what this program is trying to do. Before we take to the computer and bang out another harshly worded rant about how ridiculous it is John Cena continues to get a push, we should consider if this is really our show anymore, or are we just squatting? Are we wrestling bronies?