WWE Opinion: Are Professional Wrestling Fans Too Influential?
The collective outrage towards John Cena is the hallmark of the modern professional wrestling fan.
The outspoken majority call for this long-term character to finally turn heel . A significant minority are horrified by the idea. Their reason to tune in on Monday Nights is to see their idol rise above the adversity trust upon him. There is even a small but growing group who just want to see less of him on Raw.
The conflicting opinions of fans have become so open that the character has been forced to openly acknowledge the situation on television. The subject of Cena's popularity has become an integral part of his character. It now shapes the feuds he enters.
To some people, this is the ultimate showing of fan power.
The question that should be asked is whether this is actually a good thing?
Fans of all sports argue about who is the best or project a situation where someone will finally fulfil their potential. Hours have been dedicated to picking the right team or describing how a small change in someone's technique could make them into a star.
Professional wrestling fans do exactly the same thing. The difference is their ideas can be directly applied to the product if someone running the show agrees.
That power is intoxicating. This can be seen by the millions of dollars made by Dancing With The Stars and similar talent shows where the public votes on the winner. These shows also highlight the negative of third-party participation. The best person doesn't always win.
The best person in wrestling is not necessarily the most skilled person nor the most popular. The person who is at the top needs to be the person who will attract the most people and therefore make the most money.
In an ideal world, these two things are one and the same person. The Rock is one of the most charismatic people to step into a wrestling ring. He has attracted casual fans to tune in throughout his tenure with the WWE. It is a fortunate situation that he is also a skilled in-ring performer who can manipulate a crowd into a frenzy.
There are other top stars who are thought of as highly within the wrestling world who have not been as commercially successful.
Shawn Michaels could out wrestle anybody on the card, oozed charisma and the world was supposed to take notice. Unfortunately, WCW came up with the New World Order and the majority of Michaels time as champion was spent in that shadow.
Some younger fans will have trouble accepting that Shawn Michaels was not the draw that they expect him to have been.
This is partly down to the WWE winning the Monday Night Wars so they can tell history from their perspective. It is also a good indicator that booking a good wrestling show is more than just letting the best talent go out and perform.
Alternatively, Goldberg was a relatively poor wrestler. His performances were often no longer than the average squash match and he said very little. Few pure wrestling fans rated him highly then and dismiss him now.
However there is no doubt that Goldberg drew money. One of the biggest mistakes WCW management made was allowing Goldberg vs. Hogan to be on television and not PPV.
Goldberg was an idea deliberately set for the casual fan. A monster of a man who was more image than talent.
The chances of Goldberg rising today with so many wrestling critics is significantly lower.
Do Fans Have Too Much Say?
This indicates that such high levels of fan power jeopardises the balance between doing what is right for the product and the fans' need for immediate gratification.
Fans just want the next big thing to happen as soon as possible. This often forces promoters to do things earlier than planned.
CM Punk's return at Summerslam was a classic example of fan reaction forcing the WWE's hand into bringing a program forward.
Had fans had the patience it could have been a long running encounter which could have elevated more than one star. In the end, it fizzled out without it being much more than a side note in wrestling history.
Fans' desire for change can be seen in the call for someone to turn from a good guy to a bad one or vice versa. Many fans believe that one wrestler or another would be elevated from their current position on the roster if they made such a change.
The problem is the same fans then complain when a character changes too often. It becomes difficult to identify with a flip-flopping persona so fans tend to lose interest.
The Big Show often gets highlighted as an example of this. This will not stop someone cheering or booing him inappropriately, though.
This doesn't mean wrestling organisations should ignore their fans. It is both their right and privilege to express their views. However those opinions need to be looked upon as part of a bigger concept.
Ultimately making the right choices will benefit everybody involved. Turning down the influence of fan power could well result in a better product in the long term. Whether that will happen now or in the future is another question entirely.
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