Professional wrestling has been a spectacle ever since the early carnival days. People would come from all over to see the extravagant personas and athletic bouts. Fast forward to now, people are still willing to travel worldwide to be in the crowds of massive wrestling events. The turnout for wrestling events proves the passion of the fans and their love for the business. But why are so many fans critical of wrestling promotions? Why do we, as fans, constantly fantasy-book and get upset when wrestling promotions do not do what we want?
Most people get introduced to the fantasy of wrestling at a young age. They grow up watching these “larger-than-life” personalities. The discovery of “kayfabe” being fake causes some fans to stop watching. But the people that stick around and appreciate wrestling for what it is and show their passion in different ways. Wrestling has a way to tap into the nostalgic endorphins better than other mediums. Some phrases can make a fan mentally teleport to another time. “If ya smell!”, “Austin 3:16 says…”, and “To be The Man” are famous catchphrases that people of a certain age know. I am willing to bet you finished all of those catchphrases while reading this. Nostalgia aside, there are other reasons for fans’ passion for wrestling.
There is a sense of emotional connection to wrestling and wrestlers. Fans can see a wrestler on screen and instantly feel, “Hey, they are like me.” Whether it is the wrestler’s race, size, gender, or where they are from, fans can find a deeper connection than “this person wrestles well.” As someone who grew up in North Carolina, it was always fun seeing The Hardys or Ric Flair on screen. Knowing they were from North Carolina made me feel special that these big names were from my area. I have previously written about representation in wrestling making a difference in creating new fans. Representation of any aspect can make someone fall in love with wrestling.
Not only does representation matter, but wrestling can also bring together a community. When you go to a show, there may be people there you have never met. They may have a Judgment Day shirt or a sign that reads “Justice for Chelsea Green”, and you know that person is someone you can connect with through wrestling. There are numerous Discord servers and Facebook groups dedicated to discussing wrestling. Even the group I am in, shout out to my WJ family, we have grown to learn that wrestling is just the beginning of our shared interests. Wrestling can bring people closer and open doors for introductions we may not have had without it.
One major community highlighted online is The Wrestling Club (TWC) out of New York. Dean Victor Perry has worked hard to spread the love of professional wrestling to younger generations is unmatched. Dean Perry established a community for middle schoolers to not feel left out for their love of wrestling, but to embrace it. TWC is what wrestling should be about for the fans, a community of peers enjoying wrestling. I want to say thank you to Dean Perry for easing the stigma of being a young wrestling fan.
Why we criticize
Even though there are plenty of communities for wrestling fans and wrestling touches that nostalgic part of our brains, there will always be criticism. Criticism is human nature, it is something we do with everything. The reason we criticize is that we want others to feel the way we do. We want that stigma of being a wrestling fan to go away. Fans want to share the joys of wrestling with the world because we should not be the only ones who get that adrenaline rush when someone kicks out at 2.99.
Everyone wants wrestling to be at its best, not just for us, but for the wrestlers. Fans have an attachment to wrestlers and want to see good things happen for them. Even heels earn respect from fans for what they can accomplish. Wrestlers are people like everyone else, and the audience wants to see those people flourish. Whether it is making more money, being in good storylines, or appearing on television, fans want good things for the talent. Not all criticism has to be negative.
Constructive criticism is a fantastic tool for any profession. When fans go online and simply bash a wrestling product, it is not helpful. Fantasy booking matches and storylines is a fun outlet, but there is no reason to be upset when your idea does not happen. Merely shouting about how a division is booked is pointless without a corresponding idea. Wrestling promoters are trying to balance making everyone happy, but the old saying goes, “You can never make 100 percent of the people 100 percent happy 100 percent of the time.”
There will always be compromises in wrestling. Those compromises will come with faults. One fan may not want to see LA Knight on their screen, but another may see LA Knight as their favorite wrestler. A fan may enjoy two giant wrestlers fighting each other and another may only enjoy cruiserweight wrestlers. It is fun to criticize the wrestling product, but you need to keep in mind that for every idea you may like, someone else may not like that idea.