Main Event at Castle Danger
#5 – I Like When Wrestling is Fun
I feel like I got an insight to the mythical “casual” fan that I always hear people complaining about when some kind of meta reference is made or a star debuts who doesn’t come from Stamford’s Penthouse of Watching Television Screens Awkwardly. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, I feel like there are always those who are determined to hate everything to make themselves feel smarter than everyone else, as if liking something makes you lesser, or even worse, some kind of sheep that enjoys what’s being given to you.
I say that as someone who used to hate everything that was popular. Not necessarily a hipster so much as someone who didn’t enjoy when something was everywhere and constant. I still feel that way in some aspects, because I think so much has been turned into overkill and oversaturation that it drives away any curiosity I may have had, but that’s not really the point here.
I said it when I wrote my first column, but I don’t like watching something that feels like it punishes me for liking things. I also don’t like when having fun, laughing, or otherwise enjoying something is regarded as a bad thing. When comedy is always bad or a means to not be taken seriously, or when someone is punished because they did a thing that got over when they weren’t scheduled to by some coifed rich guy in Connecticut, it turns me off. I feel like AEW’s show last night embraced so much of that, even though I didn’t know who a lot of those people were.
When approaching this mythical casual fan so many are defending, I really feel like they infantilize them. Like if they don’t know who everyone is at all times, nevermind that context can be provided, it’s going to instantly turn them off and they’re never going to come back.
Last night at Forbidden Door, it didn’t turn me off at all to not know who a good portion of those wrestlers were. One sentence, usually, is all it took to give me enough context. And even when there wasn’t one, the reaction from the crowd or what the wrestler did in terms of standing off with another kept me in the loop enough to have a good time. For example, Katsuyori Shibata made a save for Orange Cassidy. I didn’t know who that was, but the big reaction when the music hit told me it was a big deal. Or another, Shota Umino, the commentators filled me in with one sentence. I’m paraphrasing, but “Shota Umino is Jon Moxley’s Japanese protege.” Cool, that is a who, a what, and a why right there.
We don’t need to look down on people we don’t even know by assuming they don’t listen to the commentary or have the magic google machine in their hands. If they want to know, it’s easy to find out. It’s not 1999 where I’m asking other people who that guy with white hair attacking people in Cleveland was.
I recognize that I’m not the traditional definition of a casual fan, because I do watch AEW every week and I’ve been watching wrestling since the late 90s (with a break between 2017-21). But last night I got to experience seeing something new, and without a repetitive shill in my ear telling me everything the person just said. “King, that’s Jon Moxley’s protege. Did you know that’s his protege? What do you think Jon Moxley thinks about his protege being in this match? Can you believe they did that to Jon Moxley’s protege?”
Most of all though, I watch wrestling because I like wrestling, I like to be entertained, I like when things make me laugh, and I like to be invested in a show. Was last night the most unpredictable show ever in terms of outcomes? Of course not, and it very likely couldn’t have been. Logistics alone would dictate that. But I tuned in at the very beginning of the preshow, and between then and the end of the main event, I wasn’t bored a single time, even though by the logic of some I should’ve been confused and frustrated, reaching for the remote to turn it off because I saw someone I didn’t know instead of getting a 3432nd rematch of the same people. I didn’t feel there were any diminished returns.
I realize I’m also the person that earns the ire of other hardcore wrestling fans because I like Orange Cassidy and Danhausen and other characters who aren’t strictly super serious all the time about THIS BUSINESS because they’re funny or they break the fourth wall or because they do silly things. In this perpetual garbage fire of a world we live in, I’m okay if someone does something pretty silly if it makes me laugh. I don’t need everything to be two sweaty guys with muscles breathing hard in each other’s faces 100 percent of the time. Sometimes it’s okay if the guy with aviators does some silly light kicks to mess with the other, because it’s something different and it makes me laugh.
And unlike when I used to watch, I don’t feel like the guy in charge is going to punish me for enjoying it when he gets back off the helicopter from getting his $2000 haircut.