A disclaimer may be needed before launching headlong into this.
The points laid out in this article do not apply to all wrestling fans. Many simply love the sport and want to participate in the community in a positive way. However, there are just as many so-called fans who are a blight on the group and the reasons for this need to be explored.
It would be easy to just call out those who choose to troll performers on social media as being the worst of the bunch. Of course, they are awful but so too are they on the outside of the fanbase. Trolls are not looking to engage with wrestling but rather they are seeking validation through reactions to their immature nitwittery. It is those on the inside that are the real problem. Their overwhelming negativity towards everything that the major companies put out is a dampener for all fans and makes it nearly impossible for promotions to judge what people want as they decry things that they themselves have asked for.
Take, for instance, the main event of AEW Full Gear. The Lights Out Match contested by Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega was a vicious affair that saw barbed wire, broken glass, and plenty of blood make a return to wrestling action in the mainstream. A huge number of fans have been begging for a more edgy, violent product that harkens back to the Attitude Era and ECW, yet when they were catered to, they took to Twitter to dismiss the match as being too brutal. They suddenly didn’t want violence on a big stage anymore and seemed to be asking for the sanitary product that they have spent a decade hating.
You didn’t have to like the match; in fact, it wasn’t even a good match thanks to the hokey nature of the offence making it more horror slapstick than a Terry Funk throwback. But to be negative towards it based not on its quality, but rather its bloodshed is asinine, and it is no wonder that the WWE are reluctant to cave to fan demands for this kind of content if this is going to be the reaction.
It is not just in this respect that reactions to AEW and the Wednesday Night War have revealed a troublesome side to wrestling fans.
Looking at Twitter and other such sites you will quickly notice the tribalism of these people. They refuse to embrace the bounty they’ve been gifted and instead have decided to almost arbitrarily pick a side and doggedly defend it for no good reason. It is not criminal to enjoy everything that is available to you. You do not have to choose a team and act aggressively towards anything that isn’t said team. Yet that’s exactly what these people do, and it makes for a toxic environment for anyone that just wants to enjoy talking about wrestling with like-minded people.
Unfortunately, this focus on the two main companies and picking a side has led to the NWA’s new show, Powerrr, receiving far less viewers than it deserves. It still does well but it seems that these people are so busy extolling the virtues of their chosen company that they haven’t noticed that there is a new game in town who are offering something wholly unique in the modern era. What makes this both amusing and frustrating is these same people will often cry over the perceived lack of storytelling amongst the highflying members of more indy-centric rosters, and yet they’re ignoring a product that features largely old school styled wrestlers who rarely dive or take to the skies.
Limiting oneself in this way is incomprehensibly stupid and it does a disservice to the wrestling business too. Stepping outside of their bubble may well allow these individuals to discover a whole new world of sports entertainment to delight in, but they won’t do it because of misguided ‘loyalty’.
Returning to the point of not being pleased even when being given exactly what they’ve asked for; CM Punk returned to TV recently.
For the last six years arenas have been filled with chants of “CM Punk” as both a form of protest and a siren call to lure the wayward Straightedge Superstar back home. Now, he is finally back albeit in the guise of a talk show panel member of WWE Backstage. Still though, it is a step in the right direction and allows Punk fans to hear him talk about the WWE once more. The reaction to his return after years of wanting him back? To accuse him of selling out.
Punk was, as it turns out, an excuse for these people to moan incessantly. He was never going to come back so it was something they could channel their negativity towards indefinitely. Now he is back they can’t do that anymore and so, to them, he has outlived his usefulness.
These people may not make up a majority of fans, but they are by far the most vocal. It can feel as though they are the only voices out there and that is a real shame. Perhaps the onus is on us to ignore them. To bring more positivity into the community and expel those who seek only to spread their bile. Sadly, it is not so easily done, as we all know.
Wrestling is in a boom period right now in terms of quality and variety. There is something for everyone and many of us are revelling in that. It’s a shame that these people can’t get out of their own way and just enjoy it too.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @Impers0nalJesus. Thanks for reading!