Since arriving here almost one year ago, one of the least mentioned things I've noticed among comments is how wrestling fans feel when they go to live events compared to when they watch at home. Thus, I've been meaning to put together a piece like this for a while now, but it just hasn't come together quite right.
At this very moment, I bear two tickets to the Raw/Smackdown Supershow at the Meadowlands, in East Rutherford, NJ, on Saturday, June 18. Currently, I appear to have a good jump-off point to present the following two-fold query:
When my fiancee and I attend this show, how many fans in attendance do you think will be casual wrestling fans—those that just watch the shows, go to a live event here and there and take the product for what it is? How many will be more analytical fans who claim membership in the Internet Wrestling Community, those that are so dedicated to the "sport" that they find anything about it that can be debated, analyzed or critiqued?
For those that don't realize, there is a very clear difference, which can be brought to light by a very simple cliche: knowledge is power.
From personal experience, I can speak on just how empowering it feels to find out so much about the wrestling business that I never knew before. Terminology, backstage politics, internal workings, all things that make the industry operate. Like many people here, I'm likely guilty of thinking I know more than I do simply because I read a few articles about some issue Vince or Creative or WWE producers are having with this or that performer.
However, analyzing a real sport is much more clear cut, as every aspect of it is real. A player on a baseball team, for instance, has a certain hit percentage when they step up to the plate, a percentage of outs and errors drawn, fly balls caught, bases run, etc. A football player has percentages of how many passes they complete, passes caught, yards run, touchdowns scored, etc.
These things are all fairly accurate determinants of how good a player is doing in any given season.
After all, we've seen athletes argue with refs over calls to try and "convince" people they're playing well, but how many truly good players have ever had to argue with refs to prove how good they are?
Wrestlers, on the other hand, can have their win-loss record picked apart, their "tale of the tape" reviewed, as well as have each of their matches scored on various points for punches, kicks, holds, impact moves and high-risk maneuvers they land, but with much of the action choreographed and scripted, each of a character's movements aren't necessarily what the person behind the character would really do.
For the most part, their actions are predetermined to keep their character in a certain position in a rivalry or confrontation, and aren't 100 percent relevant to that person's actual level of reflexes, senses or awareness in a real fight.
A wrestler arguing with a ref can have eons more impact and effect than if some point guard gets pissy over whether his jersey being tugged was actually a technical foul. It matters a lot more to their characters if Miz or John Cena destroys a backstage area as a result of a higher-up's decision than it does if LeBron James or Latrell Sprewell acts a fool over one basket.
Thus, many of us in the IWC have something of a leg up on the casual fans that don't use the internet as a source of knowledge. We know more than the average person. Simple as that. Well, we know more, not everything.
Perfect example, Jericho taking a punt from Orton last year. Most of us here knew Jericho was on his way out of WWE, as his contract was up and he was looking to go do other things for a while. However, what about the people in the audience who didn't know?
They saw a great star like Jericho, on a bit of a losing streak at the time, take a devastating kick from a vicious Viper, Jericho get carried out on a stretcher and not seen since, aside from being on Dancing With The Stars. Does that mean those fans are stupid for thinking Jericho was injured all that time, then mysteriously quit in the hospital? Certainly not.
Casual fans are amazing. In fact, most casual fans are found at live events, cheering, booing, cracking jokes, making observations and attempting to start chants. A pretty considerable fraction may be "marks," or spectators who respond exactly how they're meant to when watching the action, but those intended reactions are necessary.
Many of us here want John Cena to turn heel, but if he did make that turn, would all of us cheer him? No. Some of us would still boo because that's what's supposed to happen.
All in all, wrestling fans who go to the events, who have seen the kind of spectacle that WWE can put on and who can appreciate the excitement of a WWE live event, truly know what it's like to enjoy it as pure entertainment.
In this economy, you can hardly afford to be a jerk who just buys a ticket so you can spend two to four hours booing guys you hate at a random house show. You have to be a fan, or at least an intrigued potential fan. Being entertained means you enjoy what you see and hear. Entertainment is a positive experience, not negative.
True story: I once knew two girls who were absolutely fervent in their criticism of pro wrestling. On two separate occasions, I took them with me to see a Live edition of Monday Night Raw. By the end, I asked them what they thought, and even if they were a bit reluctant on the car ride home, they said they had a great time and really enjoyed themselves.
Granted, one was focused on yelling from the upper tier at an ego-driven heel that she'd actually met previous to his time in WWE, and the other was enamored by Orton and Edge's looks, but still, good times had by all. There's something for everyone to enjoy in WWE.
Seeing the action happen live, hearing the performers give you a regionally customized promo, feeling the pyro and flames and effects, it's all so wildly different than just watching at home, turning up your nose and scoffing at how silly it all is.
Watching first-hand as guys fly off the top rope, slam their opponents down to the mat, fight on the outside—all of it just becomes so tangible when you see it in person. It goes from being just pictures that move around on TV to something so much more real.
Yes, as a member of the IWC, I'm expected to know the difference between fantasy and reality, and trust me, I know it all too well. I've seen the specials on FOX about the secrets behind wrestling moves and their illusion of looking painful. I know about how Wrestling With Shadows blew the lid off what goes on behind the scenes at wrestling events. I know that outcomes are scripted so as to add the most drama for our entertainment dollar.
But if a person can take in the knowledge they can gain from a website like this one, and still watch the programming and enjoy it, then they're truly a dedicated fan. There likely isn't much of a purpose to the information found on BleacherReport.com, WrestlingRevealed.com, PWTorch.com or any other such site aside from spreading information.
Thus, being pessimistic about it doesn't help anything. It's just like watching national news.
If a person based their entire outlook on life on what they saw during an average news program, all they'd see is murder, theft, death, tragedy and suffering. They'd end it all before they witnessed the end of the broadcast.
It happens to everyone. Someone can grow up Catholic, for example, pray every single day that certain things will happen, and when they discover that prayer doesn't directly grant them the things they asked for, they can feel all let down, disappointed and bitter. They can feel miserable over the fact that what they thought they knew was an out and out lie and convert to being an atheist or even a nihilist.
Then again, they can also realize that their life is in their hands, that their choices and feelings are theirs to decide and that even if something is different than how they expected it to be, they can still enjoy it.
I love writing for this site and I hope to write for it a lot more. A huge portion of the articles on wrestling that I comment on here are extremely eye-opening and opinion-changing. However, I still love WWE. I love the wrestling business for the incredible entertainment it can offer, I still hold out hope that TNA can get its act together and truly reignite a GOOD Monday Night War, and I hope to keep enjoying it all well into my old age.
On Saturday, June 18, I'll be attending Supershow. I may even take some notes and write up a review and post it here to let everyone know what happened. Granted, there likely won't be any special events, no title changes, no big storyline swerves. It's just a non-televised live event, but it's the first time in a couple years that I've been able to go.
And this time, I'll be seeing the Universe through much different eyes, much wiser eyes.
Will I be surrounded by marks who cheer at the first sign of John Cena, and who salivate over everything Orton does? Will my seat be dead center in a cluster of IWC smarks who know the "real truth?"
Honestly, I could care less. I can't wait to go, I can't wait to buy a new t-shirt or two and I can't wait to see what Raw and Smackdown matches are going to be put on for our entertainment.
To everyone in the IWC, learn as much as you can from sites like this one, but please, whatever you do, be optimistic and enjoy the product. Otherwise, stop watching. There's no sense in giving yourself ulcers and being a glutton for punishment, insisting on suffering through week after week of programming, and having no good time whatsoever just to keep being a fan!
It sounds like a really ignorant thing to say, but truly, if you don't like it, don't watch. I have episodes of Raw and Smackdown that I like better than others, but I still enjoy the action and product on the whole.
If the current state of the wrestling business isn't working for you anymore, buy the DVDs so you can relive your favorite moments and find something else you can get passionate about.
Otherwise, be positive and stay optimistic like I am. WWE is going through positive changes and while nothing appears to be happening over night, the quality of shocking twists seems to be steadily increasing.
R-Truth lit up a cigarette last week on Raw. Lit up a cigarette! May seem microscopic, but for WWE, that's coming a long way. When Layla kicked the crap out of Michelle McCool this week, I saw in her a company crying. Layla's tears were tears of trauma, change and fear of the unknown. R-Truth's attack on Morrison, same thing. Truth couldn't believe what he was doing to his former friend, just like Layla couldn't.
But they went for it, and that's what important. They trudged ahead into territory they knew they needed to travel. R-Truth had his dignity on the line. Layla had her self-respect on the line.
Both had somewhat fair reasons for being pissed off. Truth got booed for flipping out, Layla got cheered. Both took back what was theirs. Both were incredibly human. Exactly the kind of wiggle room, initiative and emotion I've been talking about for the past month in my Role Reversal series.
WWE can't believe the waters it's dipping its toe into these days. It's getting back on its feet after falling into the cushions of an immensely comfortable armchair of monopoly. Yes, there's TNA, ROH, EVOLVE, DragonGate, etc., but in the genre of high-budget sports entertainment, WWE has the market cornered.
It's said that change is good. Not always. When it's needed, though, it can be great.
June 18 can't come fast enough.