You may read this and wonder, “What is a meme wrestler?” The best way to sum it up is that a meme wrestler gets over ironically with the crowd. The determining factor may vary from wrestler to wrestler, but the same ironic crowd enjoyment classifies a meme wrestler. With the significant internet presence in wrestling today, there has been an increase in meme wrestlers. Let’s explore if meme wrestlers are a good thing or if they are “hurting the business” as some would say.
The first name to examine is Hook from AEW. Before Hook made his in-ring debut, he was seen multiple times in segments with Team Taz, usually eating a bag of chips. This young, handsome, silent figure stood there ruffling a bag of chips for what felt like months before he competed in the ring. Every time he was on television, the crowd would go absolutely crazy. Then on December 10, 2021, Hook made his in-ring debut on an episode of Rampage to a thunderous ovation. The audience had not even seen him perform one wrestling move yet he was the most over wrestler in the company. It turns out there was some fire behind all the smoke because Hook’s abilities between the ropes were incredible for it to be his debut match.
Looking at where Hook is now on the AEW card, he is the FTW champion, in a feud with Jungle Boy Jack Perry, and has remained undefeated, it can be said that he is doing well. Many fans have stated that Hook deserves a title reign aside from the FTW championship. Hook has had a great run where he has gone from being a meme wrestler into a legitimate x factor in AEW. There is a chance that fans will see him become TNT champion or International champion sometime in the future but it depends on how his feud with Jack Perry ends. Hook is a great example of how a wrestler can go from being a meme wrestler to a genuinely over wrestler but not all meme wrestlers are that lucky.
An example of a meme wrestler that took more time to get over with the crowd for his character and his ability is Von Wagner. When he first appeared on NXT, Von Wagner was this massive guy that reminded people of Sid Vicious. During the build-up to NXT Wargames in 2021, Wagner would cut a promo where he used the words “Come Tuesday” and instantly became an online meme. Without a solid character or a steady storyline, Von Wagner’s popularity started to decline. It was not until recently that Von Wagner began to increase his popularity with the crowd again after revealing he had surgery as an infant thus making his storyline more compelling. Now it would appear that the NXT audience is firmly behind him like they are behind another meme wrestler Tony D’Angelo.
Tony D’Angelo is another example, like Hook, of a meme wrestler that organically became loved by the audience. Tony D began his career in NXT as a stereotypical “Italian Mobster” that the audience loved to mock. Almost as quickly as people realized Hook was a good wrestler, Tony D shocked the fans by showing off his wrestling skills. The only time that fans started to dislike Tony D’Angelo was during his feud with Legado Del Fantasma but that was likely due to LDF being extremely popular with the NXT audience. Tony was even able to bring in Channing ‘Stacks’ Lorenzo to be his “underboss” and get Stacks over with the crowd as well. Though Tony has not won a title in NXT yet, he is still a fan favorite with the audience.
Not all meme wrestlers are as lucky as Hook, Von Wagner, and Tony D’Angelo though. There are many wrestlers on the independent scene who are only there to be memes. Even though most of the independent-scene wrestlers are very talented in the ring, fans still see them as nothing more than a meme. Without adding any names in this article, people will know which meme wrestlers that are being referred to.
With all of this said, there is nothing wrong with meme wrestlers. There is a time and place for them and a majority of the time they will get support from the crowd organically. Though some people may not agree with that take, people need to remember “This is wrestling”. Wrestling has always been a good source of entertainment and will continue to be entertaining whether there are meme wrestlers or not. Characters develop over time and people gaff here and there but that is what makes wrestling so fun to watch. So the next time there is a wrestler getting support from the fans for being a meme, just keep watching because they may end up being the next big star.