Welcome to the first of a three-part series that will take a look at the world of professional wrestling and its fans.
As long as there is professional wrestling around, whether it is being shown on television or just in your local VFW hall, there will be wrestling fans.
Wrestling fans come in all ages, races, sexes, backgrounds and nationalities, but they all have on thing in common—the love of the sport.
But what truly makes a wrestling fan? What separates the die-hard fans from those who only watch the occasional Monday Night Raw?
This list takes a look at the top 10 things that prove you are a legit wrestling fan. If you are reading this list on Bleacher Report, then you probably fall into this category, as many of us go beyond just average fan status.
Nevertheless, take a look and see if you agree with me. Let me know if there is another reason or two that you would have included and be on the lookout for Parts 2 and 3 that take a look at fair-weather fans and those who take wrestling too seriously.
As always, thanks for reading. Enjoy!
Some people remember their first professional baseball game, or the first time they saw one of their favorite athletes perform in-person. Legit wrestling fans remember the first live event they ever went to.
I was just six years old when I saw my first WWE event. In the summer of 1994, the then-WWF held a house show at the Boys and Girls club in Pittsfield, Mass.
The event was headlined by Lex Luger vs. Yokozuna and also showcased memorable superstars such as Doink the Clown, The 1-2-3 Kid and Mabel and Bob Backlund.
I remember sitting in awe as Lex Luger slammed Yokozuna (though it probably wasn't a true bodyslam) and getting excited when Doink the Clown came to the ring.
What was even more exciting for me was going to the merchandise table and receiving a pack of WWE trading cards and getting a pair of Bret Hart sunglasses.
These are the types of memories that legit fans have. They simply cannot forget the first time they saw performances that they continue to enjoy to this day.
The fact that you know that more than just WWE exists is almost enough, but stop and see how many promotions you can name off the top of your head. Now think of how many of those you follow on a somewhat regular basis. I'll bet that it's more than you realize.
This goes beyond WWE and even TNA. Though we may not watch the shows weekly, many legit fans are at least aware of the happenings in Ring of Honor or Chikara.
When Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas debuted in ROH, legit fans knew about it. When Daniel Bryan signed with WWE, legit fans already knew him as Bryan Danielson.
Legit fans get excited for the debuts of people like Daniel Bryan or the next indy star to join WWE like Seth Rollins—who was a prominent superstar in Ring of Honor, because they already know what they can bring to the table, wherever they go.
Whatever the case, legit fans know what is happening in the world of pro wrestling, whether it affects their favorite promotion or not.
Going hand in hand with the previous reason of following more than one promotion, if you watch many different styles of wrestling, you are bound to find favorite wrestlers in many different areas.
Everyone has their favorite wrestlers and the reasons for liking those wrestlers can vary. Some people like the gimmicks, while some go for the promos and mic skills. However, those fans who take a look at the in-ring abilities of wrestlers frequently notice and favor many indy superstars.
This mix has allowed me to enjoy the promos and gimmicks of WWE superstars like CM Punk and Chirs Jericho, while enjoying the technical wrestling of independent wrestlers like Mike Quackenbush from Chikara.
If you haven't taken the time to watch indy shows, whether it is Chikara and Ring of Honor or even a local promotion, I urge you to do so. You just might find your new favorite wrestler.
True fans of anything, whether it is a professional sports team, a rock band or even a movie or television show, hang on to the collectibles that pertain to whatever it is that they follow.
A die-hard Boston Red Sox fan probably still has his or her baseball cards of their favorite players from their childhood, so why wouldn't a legit wrestling fan have their old action figures or other memorabilia from when they first started following WWE?
Sitting on my shelf next to a more recent figure of Randy Orton is my old Razor Ramon action figure, complete with clothesline action.
Take a look around. I'm sure you have some wrestling collectibles from your childhood.
Real wrestling fans know that they can watch wrestling aside from just weeknights on cable television and they occasionally take the time to do so.
Hopefully you are lucky enough to live near a local promotion that puts on shows from time to time. Legit fans don't knock it just because it is a $10 ticket and it's being held in the same room that their grandmothers play bingo in on Tuesday nights.
Some of the best wrestling is performed by the people who do it not just for a living, but because they love the sport so much.
Any time a local show is advertised, whether it is my favorite promotion, Chikara, or a new promotion that I have never heard of, I try to take the time to make it out and support the local guys. I urge you all to do the same.
Legit wrestling fans are not afraid to let others know that they watch professional wrestling.
I had a friend in college who would watch Monday Night Raw religiously every week, but refused to wear any of his WWE t-shirts outside of the dorm.
He'd be up all night on message boards talking about what happened at the pay-per-views, but he wouldn't talk to me about it at the dining hall. What's the point of watching the sport if you don't want to openly talk about it?
Be proud to wear that CM Punk hat or nWo shirt out the same way someone else would wear their favorite MLB cap. If you don't, then you are not a legit fan.
Nobody looks twice when someone walks by wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey, so why should it be any different if someone is wearing a John Cena shirt in public?
If you have ever talked about wrestling in front of someone who isn't a fan, you've undoubtedly heard the words "You know wrestling is fake, right?" What else is there to do but ignore them?
Sure, you could get into a debate about the athleticism and skill that it takes to be a professional wrestler, while the other party tells you over and over that it is "fake," as if that one word will snap you into their reality where professional wrestling is as legitimate as Desperate Housewives.
I just don't see the point in even acknowledging the question and, if I do, it is nothing more than a "yeah, everyone knows it's scripted."
Everyone had that dream occupation that they wanted to be when they grew up. For most kids it was a police officer, an astronaut, a professional baseball player or whatever else seemed cool at the moment.
If you are legit wrestling fan, you wanted to be just like Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart or any of the other professional wrestlers in history.
What could be cooler than walking out to the center stage with people cheering for you, just so you could kick the crap out of the bad guy standing in the other corner?
Being a professional wrestler would be like being a police officer, a rock star and a professional athlete all rolled into one.
To legit wrestling fans, being a professional wrestler was, and probably still is, the coolest dream job you could ever have.
All sports fans have their opinions and many of them take to the Internet or other forms of media to voice their opinions. However, for every legitimate opinion, argument or debate, there exists someone who stubbornly claims to have the ultimate opinion with little to no facts to back it up.
Think about what Bleacher Report would be like if all of the articles were written by marks who stick to their idea without listening to others or considering the other side of the argument. Legit wrestling fans are who makes this website so successful.
All of us, as legit wrestling fans, contribute to each other's articles and comments by creating stimulating conversations, presenting topic ideas and helping each other with lists, polls and contests. This is more than a website, it is a community, and its success is all thanks to the respect that we show one another.
I'm being serious with this one and it ties into the previous slide.
The ability to create a stimulating conversation, debate or sometimes even an argument is what makes us all legitimate wrestling fans. If we weren't true fans then none of us would be on Bleacher Report, reading and writing about something that we all love.
Some people just watch wrestling for the entertainment, but we here take it a step further. We all make professional wrestling a part of our lives when we take the time to write an article or even just comment on another member's slideshow.
That is what makes us all true fans.