Long time wrestling fans reading this know that all manner of people are encountered at pro wrestling events. New fans are probably expecting the type of people who haunt county fairs at midnight. The truth is somewhere in between. Join me as I look at the fans of wrestling and the experience of waiting for the doors to open as we go to the biggest event of the summer, SummerSlam.
In the world there are a few forms of entertainment with split fandoms: Those on one side who are in on the joke, and enjoy the event and the highly skilled performers for the show that it is. On the other side are those who think its all real and in their efforts to at best talk about it and at worst imitate it end up ruining the perception of the entire form thus making outsiders view all fans as degenerates: heavy metal, pornography, and pro wrestling.
I’ve been to quite a few wrestling shows with friends, and my group of friends all understand what’s going on. One of the best examples I’ve come up with is comparing pro wrestling to figure skating. Everyone knows the entire routine is planned out, what they’re all here to witness is how well you execute the routine and why your performance is better than anyone else. The smart wrestling fans know that the competitors sat down in the back and planned out the match. What we are waiting for in eager anticipation is the story. Movie goers know that the couple will end up together or Spider-Man will win by the end of the movie. The fun is in seeing how the story gets there.
Then there are the fans who don’t get it, and these are the ones who give all wrestling fans the bad rap. That we’re all stupid, we all believe it, we don’t know its fake. And on and on and so on.
Here’s a true story:
Last year Raw had a story where Kurt Angle found out he had an illegitimate son and, what a coincidence, he’s a wrestler for WWE. Kurt found out his son was this rookie and suddenly he’s in main event matches and winning the tag titles. It was partly an interesting story about nepotism but also a way to boost the level of attention on this kid with tons of promise. It was so clearly a story.
Yet, I was waiting in the car while parked at a gas station and my wife ran inside for something. It was a nice day and the car windows were down. I heard two men in the truck next to me discussing the story. Asking if Kurt Angle’s wife will divorce him because of this child. Saying its not fair a guy has a job just because of his dad. Saying how much the two of them look alike! These two men were serious. They had bought into and believed the entire thing.
I wonder where the line is at. Do they know that the Undertaker is not a dead man brought back to life? Do they think the Bludgeon Brothers time traveled back from some apocalyptic future? Do they believe all Xavier Woods does is throw pancakes and play the trombone and not realize once he’s off camera he’s earning his PhD?
No they don’t. Because they missed the memo and believe everything they see on TV is real. They don’t read blogs like this, they don’t watch deep interviews, they don’t research anything. If information is placed in front of them on the glass teat then its accepted as gospel. No matter how real or fake it might be.
WWE is smart and will market to both sides. Trying to fool the smart fans and trick us into thinking we know what’s coming, then swerving at the last moment. Or toying with the emotions of the believers with a foreign adversary, a blonde hero, and if they really want to push buttons – an effeminate heel.
While waiting for the venue to open, you can hear both sides of the fans all around you. Some fans will be talking about 5 star matches, how this builds to WrestleMania, contract details and more. The other side will ask why ICE hasn’t come for Rusev and Lana, or complimenting who has the most inappropriate shirt for Sunday mass, or comparing the size of truck nuts.
Now I kid because it brings out a true cross section of America and while we may disagree on many things we will both be there side by side screaming and cheering for everyone with the same degree of passion. We might watch different 24 hour news, I might read Time and you might read nothing, but damn if we’re not all going to stand up in unison for a pinfall.