Casual Fans Are Who WWE Cares About; Hardcore Fans Are Puppets

Justin LaBarFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2013

GREEN BAY, WI - JUNE 22:  Fans attend a press conference about the WWE at the Austin Straubel International Airport on June 22, 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Mark A. Wallenfang/Getty Images)
Mark A. Wallenfang/Getty Images

There is no doubt that WWE panders to the most casual fan―because that's where the money is at.

This often times upsets the hardcore fan, who is the most vocal when they're not happy.

For instance, it has been rumored throughout the year that we'll see The Rock versus John Cena again at WrestleMania. Many hardcore or internet fans are actually pulling for CM Punk and dislike The Rock for his coming and going schedule and his verbal schtick. Not all hardcore fans feel this way, but a lot of them do.

WWE aims for the casual fan, just as every big franchise does because it makes the most business sense.

When a professional sports franchise has higher attendance during a season because they're playing well, it's because of the casual fans. The bandwagon fans are what makes you money. The hardcore fans are going to come, regardless if the team or the product is doing well.

Hardcore fans will always talk negatively about the bandwagon fans because they feel insulted by their lack of loyalty. The reality is that the bandwagon fans are what elevate the franchise and company financially.

Hardcore wrestling fans have already made up their mind regarding whether they're going to watch or attend WrestleMania far before the match was ever officially announced. That's why WrestleMania crowds are so good because so much of the crowd consists of intelligent and loyal wrestling fans.

Many of these fans go to several events a year. They know the etiquette of not holding up your sign in the middle of the match, which blocks the view for those behind you. They applaud and appreciate the more intricate aspects of the show, and they are seasoned veterans in watching and attending live wrestling.

This is why WWE sells so many tickets in the summer when the WrestleMania packages go on sale, and then again in November when individual tickets go on sale. Even when the WrestleMania matches and storylines haven't even taken shape yet, the hardcore fans have already decided if they have the money and the means to get to where WrestleMania is.

The Rock and John Cena are the two biggest names that WWE has on their payroll for this year's WrestleMania, and they will be in the top media market of New York City.

From a hardcore fan's perspective, they don't want to see the match again. They don't want to see it because they feel that the match is too predictable. The Rock won last year, so Cena will likely win this year, especially if the title is on the line.

Many hardcore fans also don't want to see it because it features John Cena, and anything featuring him—especially one where he has a good chance of being successful—isn't viewed very highly.

This matchup is intended to draw in the casual fans and to grab the billboard attention in New York City. WWE is using familiar names and faces to sell the last remaining tickets and to get every other person considering to pay for this big fight on pay-per-view.

WWE already has the hardcore fans' money, and they know that these fans aren't going to leave WrestleMania during the final match just because they do not like who is featured in it.

This is a product of the time and state of WWE. When WWE was a private wrestling company aiming toward a niche audience, they booked to the hardcore fan because the hardcore fan was all they had. That's who they filled their venues with.

Hardcore fans lived through times in the past when WWE booked exactly what they wanted to see with twists and turns. WWE was booking to the hardcore fans and WWE had the best crop of talent to work with. So, because the hardcore fans know what they once got and how they once got treated, they get easily upset today because they want it to go back to the way it used to be.

The company has changed, and the public perception of pro-wrestling has changed a lot in the last two decades as well. The fans also have other options for similar entertainment, most notably the “real” fighting in MMA. The company has changed because they are no longer the private niche company, and they are attempting to be a public, mainstream entertainment brand.

For example, WWE wants to move the needle for a segment or an event by having a mainstream cast member of Jersey Shore in a feud. To WWE, Snookie is more valuable than a bulk of their roster.

I do think there is a better balance to handling everything than what WWE has been doing. I might not like all the booking to casual fans, but I understand it. However, I also understand that the booking to casual fans is what drives the use of part-time stars.

The stars who are part-time were the full-time stars when the now casual fans were the hardcore fans.

Many of the casual fans now know The Rock either because of the glory days they remember in 1999 when they were hardcore fans or they know him from the big screen of Hollywood. This is why WWE uses him.

The die hard fans keep their season tickets to a losing baseball team's games to watch the progression, and see the stars of tomorrow come up from the minors and grow in front of their eyes. They are so invested in the franchise that they will sit and evaluate the draft picks and young prospects for the future. The same happens in WWE.

The hardcore fans now have their underdog favorites who are good workers and those who they think need to be given a chance. Dolph Ziggler, Zack Ryder, Daniel Bryan, Antonio Cesaro, and Tyson Kidd are just a few examples.

WWE knows this and some, especially guys like Ziggler and Bryan, have had or will have their eventual rise to world champion level. But it's a drawn out process.

WWE keeps those guys slowly rising through the ranks because it keeps the hardcore fans turning the program on to see what progress they make. It keeps the hardcore fan busy, and it keeps that constant money coming.
While that constant money comes in and the hardcore fans are kept busy watching their stars rise, the casual fans get brought in and bring in the money for the night that wasn't accounted for. That is the money The Rock draws.

So in being a hardcore fan, remember WWE knows who you are and is going to treat you accordingly. Perhaps you should play a little hard to get. You should, but WWE knows you won't.