WWE and TNA Wrestling: Source of Pride or Guilty Pleasure?
In the lead-up to WrestleMania XIV, Gennifer Flowers, an alleged one-time girlfriend of then-President Bill Clinton, was "outed" as a WWE fan.
It was, of course, a charade and a tawdry attempt by Vince McMahon to capitalize upon the media furor that had engulfed Clinton's presidency in the aftermath of several revelations. However, the nature of the promo made me think of so called other "closeted" WWE fans.
Are we proud of what we watch?
It seems strange for anyone to ever want to hide what they love. It seems strange that something that brings them happiness could also bring embarrassment. Is the nature of wrestling such that people do not publicly admit to loving this cartoon pseudo-sport?
Wrestling was very different when I began watching at the start of 1996. Arguably I got to see some of the greatest superstars of all time in their prime. I saw the rise and fall of not only WCW but also the Attitude Era.
Wrestling has changed so much in these past 15 years.
However, playground attitudes as they are, to be a fan of something that was not popular was akin to social banishment. Such an idea is ridiculous, but I did not feel confident enough to admit that I loved something that was largely unknown to others. I was no pioneer.
Are you proud to watch wrestling?
When Hulk Hogan performed that legdrop and Steve Austin made his unique Bible reading, wrestling was revolutionized. Very soon, wrestling was the hot topic, not only in the playgrounds but at drinking fountains all over the world. Wrestling was mainstream.
Viewing figures three times those of today indicated just how big wrestling had become.
And with it, many "closeted" fans were now free to talk about their hidden passion.
Yet the Attitude Era has come and gone. Wrestling has changed again, and with it a slightly less positive light has been cast. Just as the steroids trial obliterated wrestling's image in the 1990s, so too the deaths of over one hundred superstars have badly damaged the world of wrestling today.
Wrestling has lost some of its mainstream appeal.
Has that affected how people see wrestling and how those fans celebrate their love of wrestling?
To declare publicly for something can mean being labeled as that thing. It's lazy stereotyping to say that because someone loves wrestling they believe it to be real, take steroids themselves and are overly aggressive. It is of course rubbish; there is an art form to wrestling that anyone, even a pacifist, can enjoy.
In an age where wrestling has returned to the periphery of television once again, though, do we as fans want to stand up and say we support the WWE, TNA, ROH and the other wrestling federations? Are we proud of the matches, angles, promos, interviews and PPVs?
I, for one, would say no.
There are times when I watch and would freely admit that trying to sell such a product to a non-wrestling friend would be near-impossible. The response then rings out—"Why do you watch it?"
Just as I was once not a pioneer, now I cannot be considered a salesman.
And yet this embarrassment, at times, makes way for immense pride in seeing matches like that of Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker, CM Punk and John Cena, Bret Hart and Steve Austin. But these are all too few events.
And so until wrestling improves its creative direction, this fan will sit contempt in his darkened closet, watching on, buying PPVs, attending events and cheering his favourites.
Though in the latter case, not so loud that my neighbors will hear.
This is just one wrestling fan's perception, though. How do you feel about the sport you watch? Do you celebrate it? Do you wear wrestling shirts in public? Will you stand up for wrestling, or is it your secret passion?
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