Unmasking the Unsettling Zealotry within AEW’s Fan Base

In my extensive tenure with NoDQ, I’ve witnessed seismic shifts in the wrestling landscape. We’ve traveled from WWE’s golden age to the sparkly, glitzy explosion of AEW. But amidst these tectonic movements, an unchanging, unnerving constant thrives—the “smart fans.” With their hyperactive obsession for anything non-WWE, they’ve erected an altar to AEW, and their fanaticism is reaching unprecedented levels.

Let’s travel back to when the earth was still cooling, and these fans developed their refined tastes. They would cringe at the very thought of WWE’s top bookings. Kane vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania? A spectacle, they’d retort, aimed at simpletons. Instead, they’d shove down your throat tales of obscure NJPW sagas, or tedious 30-minute matches full of acrobatics, no-sells, and false finishes – a chaotic circus devoid of narrative and logic.

Accompanied by an exhibition of replica titles and a museum of antiquated VHS tapes from Japan, their aim was less about appreciating wrestling and more about outsmarting the common fan. Today, they have found solace in the arms of AEW, bringing their maddening fanaticism along.

A recent NoDQ piece touched upon this very issue, suggesting that these fans engage in “hate watching,” consuming content they despise merely to keep their complaining engines running. While the validity of this claim might be debatable, it illustrates the troubling undercurrent of victimhood that fuels these fanatics. They don’t just argue; they retaliate, drowning out constructive criticism with relentless “whataboutism.”

AEW has become a totem pole for them, an entity they worship with blind devotion, irrespective of the quality of the product. Their fervor morphs into a cult-like defense, bordering on obsession rather than simple fandom.

The influence of these impassioned zealots is undeniable, yet its impact on the wrestling world raises a dire question: does their unbridled fanaticism enrich the discourse or simply pollute it with their bias? The proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating. But from where I stand, these “smart fans” seem less interested in the taste of the pudding and more in arguing about the recipe, the kitchenware, and the chef’s intent, completely missing the essence of what makes wrestling a beloved spectacle.

In the final reckoning, it’s both astonishing and pitiful to see how AEW has not just become a passion for some, but an all-consuming identity, a facade to mask their lack of genuine engagement with the world. Their fervor for AEW isn’t just overzealous fandom—it’s a tragic substitution for an identity, devoid of critical thought and balanced perspective.

Robbie Vice