Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights, wrestling fans are offered a happy respite from their daily lives. Whether it’s WWE, AEW, or even Impact, Stardom, and New Japan — a plethora of wrestling options exist for any fan.
In fact, by measure and variety, we are the most spoiled fan base in wrestling history.
Yet for some reason, many “fans” choose to use their time to hate-watch promotions they don’t even like. Maybe I’m just getting older, but I feel like I would have something more useful to do with my time than to go out of my way to watch something I know I won’t like; then furthermore, turn into an internet troll to roast what I watched online in some weird collective hate-filled circle-jerk with others.
But this happens all of the time — and not just with pro wrestling. Many fandoms, from music and sports to TV and cinema, experience a gaggle of Negative Nancys who actively participate in hating a thing. So before we dive into this insanity, we must first ask: Why do they do it?
Why People Hate-Watch
From The Big Bang Theory and Family Guy to Entourage, and The Simpsons, hate-watching has been around for sometime. The formula is simple: An “anti-fan” goes out of their way to watch something for the sole purpose of disparaging the show on a public forum.
However, it’s not as simple as picking a random show and deciding that it’s worthy of your focused ire.
Clinical Psychologist JR Ilagan stated in a 2022 Vice article on the matter that people can create bonds through mutual hatred. In this case, whether it’s WWE or AEW, there are a sect of the vocal minority that will watch the promotion they don’t like simply to create friendships with others who feel the same way about it as they do.
Friendship is good, right? Just think, an entire community brought together by a collective disdain of a…wrestling show? Does that seem normal to anyone? But hey, it can’t hurt anyone, right?
In a 2021 Stylist article on the psychology of hate-watching, Life Coach Grace McMahon stated:
“Hating things, while fun, does bring pessimism into our lives, which can cause us to experience more low moods and elevated anxiety levels,”
This can also often lead to negative health impacts, both physically and mentally. The practice could result in poor self-criticism and isolation — since said hate-watchers are getting enjoyment out of the online bullying and bad faith insults of others. In short; taking joy in negativity, and nothing more.
In other words, hate-watchers are a net negative for just about any industry.
Why Hate-Watching Can Be Harmful
For many, this picture will trigger an immediate stink-face. There are a handful of online influencers that will use Jim Cornette’s cute nicknames for The Elite and refer to them as “Kenny Oliver” and “The Hardly Boyz” (among many others).
Note: It’s amusing to me how some who complain about tribalism from AEW fans regularly listen to Cornette’s podcast, who himself contributes to this mess — but I digress.
MJF was right in that only roughly 7% of active social media users make up AEW’s fan base. Yes, the internet wrestling community is still largely a minority in the overall landscape. However, when trolling starts to negatively impact branding, it comes a real issue.
For hate-watchers, or those who feel the need for relevance, becoming easily influenced can become a detriment. When there is so much online discourse geared against one company, it leaves a dark mark on impressionable users.
This is especially true for bad faith opinions and criticisms, which I will get to in the next section.
As TV Critic Ryan McGee put it in 2014 Vox article on hate-watching:
“Hate-watching is really about how a certain episode or show or genre isn’t living up to the high standards a viewer fairly or unfairly places upon that piece of pop culture.” – TV Critic Ryan McGee
Most wrestling fans who know they don’t really like AEW or WWE, but watch anyway, serves little to no purpose for the industry. Furthermore, their opinions on the subject matter essentially become meaningless — because they automatically come from a bad-faith standpoint.
It’s no different from me going out of my way to listen to a Five Finger Death Punch album (a band I absolutely do not like), and then bashing it online. What’s the point? There wouldn’t be; and any opinion I would have on the album would be devoid of honest investment.
So how can one give a good faith opinion?
How to Form a Competent Wrestling Opinion
It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out…
A. If you don’t watch the product you are commenting on, your opinion holds no weight.
B. If you know you already don’t like the product you are commenting on, your opinion holds no weight.
If one or both are true, then you are watching with an inherit bias. There are ways to overcome this bias, but this is where what you say actually matters in this case.
If you aren’t really a WWE or AEW fan, but watch anyways, and only comment on the negative parts of the show — that’s a bad faith opinion.
However, if you are honest and can take away parts of the show you enjoyed and wrap that up in a statement of healthy constructive criticism, that would be considered a good faith opinion.
If you cannot do the latter at all, and do not like any aspect of what you are watching, then refer to points A and B above. If you cannot answer positively on why you are watching a show for any reason, then you have no logical reason to watch at all — aside from boredom. Still, even in that case, your opinion would be kind of useless in a larger conversation because you are missing important context of the show itself.
But if we’re really being honest, nobody really watches something they hate, right? If it brought you that much disdain, you wouldn’t put yourself through it…so we can separate the definition of hate and hate-watching — but is it really hate?
It’s Dished on Both Sides, Right? Right?
Right? Well, many won’t like this but — it’s not all equal. Subjectively, there are a slew of anti-AEW hate-watchers without question. This is coming from the writer, who is not going out of his way to rip on WWE. I have no anti-WWE agenda. But these are just the facts…
Find one social media account, and you find more suggestions. Strictly speaking of Twitter, here are a few notable pro-AEW fan accounts:
Do you know what these have in common? They don’t throw shade at WWE. They simply celebrate AEW/NJPW/Stardom, and keep to themselves. There is a reason for this, which I will get to.
On the other hand, you’ve got pro-WWE accounts. I won’t mention them by name for the sake of brevity. You know who they are.
But what do they have in common? They consistently rip on AEW — sometimes more so than making positive comments on their own favored promotion. It’s truly as if they hate AEW more than they like WWE; which is…weird?
And I can say the same for many on Facebook and Disqus. These accounts live in their own corner of the universe simply to spread as much hatred as they can.
But I’m going to bring up two major points here:
- People don’t watch something they actually hate.
- AEW fans are made up mostly of those wanted to get away from WWE.
While yes, some AEW fans* are guilty of making dumb tribal comments, most of us just want to enjoy our promotion and keep to ourselves. Remember, we are the ones who stopped watching WWE and left for AEW. There’s no reason for us to care what happens at Titan Towers, and most of us actually don’t.
But then we see all the negativity hurled at AEW, and for what? The mutual enjoyment of actively hating another brand? What’s the point?
This can lead to negative results on the entire wrestling industry. But is there a way to reverse course?
Can We Use the 7% for Good?
While the IWC still makes up a small portion of the overall fan base, what if we simply all remained positive about the product we like?
If we don’t like it, we don’t comment. If we are jaded and don’t really care about it, we don’t comment. What if Facebook and Twitter were just filled with hundreds of Positive Pete accounts who celebrated the promotion they love to escape to once or twice a week?
Could we then argue that perhaps pro wrestling would see growth? Other potential future fans may see the wonders of pro wrestling through positive social media accounts and posts and think “wow, I want in!”
But instead they now largely see a sh*tshow of negativity. How is that growing or helping the industry?
Yes, we still need to openly criticize when needed — but done so in a way of a smart human being with an honest agenda of wanting to see the brand they love become stronger.
I don’t believe many of the online insults we see are done so in a manner where they want to see growth for a certain company. If they did so, they would also comment positively — as positivity can spread online just as well as negativity. Positivity also creates growth, connection, and solid branding.
And perhaps that’s the answer in itself. A way to shift from negativity as a whole, and move to a positive place. An honest and supportive fan can both enjoy AEW or WWE and still find ways to give helpful critical feedback at the same time.
The real question is if it’s an uphill and nearly pointless battle to begin with. This is a world where we need more Simon Millers and less Eric Bischoffs.
Perhaps I’m just at my wit’s end.
It’s insanity, right? I just keep repeating the same thing over and over again, and nothing really changes. But just as I step back from the topic, it seems like many others start to write about fandoms and toxic tribalism.
So when I step back in — I come to find that I’m probably largely wasting my time here.
I mean, how many different ways can I say that internet discourse sucks and that we should all be grateful that we have so many great wrestling options in the modern era? How many different ways can I make the simple point that bad faith opinions and bullying hurt the industry overall?
Hate-watch accounts on social media are NOT run by legitimate wrestling fans. They’re anti-fans.
For those who enjoy and celebrate both brands, you have my deepest respect. If you enjoy WWE, AEW, or something else entirely — but celebrate that in your own way without the need to insult others — you also have my deepest respect.
As for me? I’m exhausted. Time to turn over a new leaf and begin a new era of positivity. Because while important to call out, hating the hate-watchers is no longer serving me, and it never will.