Champions of the IWC: Who Are the Favorite WWE Stars of the Hardcore Fanbase?
The beauty of wrestling is that anyone can change their destiny if they connect with the live crowd.
Kofi Kingston is living proof of this after the fans' support paved the way for his first world title win at WrestleMania 35, and stars such as Becky Lynch rose to prominence because of their deep connection with the WWE Universe.
Some Superstars are perpetual underdogs but are held in high regard online by the Internet Wrestling Community.
The IWC doesn't get everything right, and the consensus among online fans isn't always accurate. But many of WWE's viewers who take to the internet are extremely loyal and know what they like. This sometimes works in a Superstar's favor, but other times, it just feels like a weekly campaign for a push for their favorite underutilized member of the roster.
Chad Gable is a perfect example of this phenomenon. There is a vocal section of WWE fans online who feel he is a tremendous talent who hasn't been used to his full potential since American Alpha split up.
It's hard to gauge how popular he is right now without live crowds, and even when an audience was in attendance, he didn't get a loud reaction. But there is always a visible buzz around him on Twitter, in particular. It's a shame the company hasn't capitalized on it yet.
With that in mind, let's take a look at other WWE Superstars who are often championed by hardcore online fans.
Cesaro is one of the most respected in-ring competitors online, and many fans have been hoping to see him win a world title or at least get a significant singles run for a long time.
The Swiss Cyborg has been with WWE since 2011 and is revered for his time as an indie wrestler when he teamed with Chris Hero to form The Kings of Wrestling.
The variable jack of all trades is athletic, strong and an incredible all-around worker. Although he has had success as a tag team wrestler as one half of The Bar and various other pairings, his popularity has oddly never granted him a sustained push.
If The New Day: Feel the Power podcast is anything to go by, the 40-year-old is clearly deeply admired by his peers, as well. On the Apr. 13, 2020 episode, they introduced Cesaro Appreciation Day as they praised their colleague for his contributions to their careers and his skill set.
Some fans hoped the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view in February would finally allow Cesaro to challenge for the Universal Championship, but unfortunately, it didn't happen. Hopefully, we will see him in the main event scene before he retires.
Outside of the Four Horsewomen, Asuka is one of the most celebrated female wrestlers on the WWE roster. One could also make the case that she is one of the few stars who are booked as well as the four NXT stalwarts.
The Empress of Tomorrow's run with the black-and-gold brand was incredible. Her 914-day undefeated streak made her one of the most dominant wrestlers in the world. As such, she came to the main roster with a legitimate mystique that fans really haven't seen since she lost to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 34.
Nevertheless, the Japanese star has accumulated a jaw-dropping list of accomplishments as the second women's grand slam champion. Her heel run with Kairi Sane as The Kabuki Warriors was wildly entertaining, and she was one of the company's greatest assets last summer during the pandemic era when shows were filmed at the WWE Performance Center.
However, fans online have taken umbrage with her use as Raw women's champion, especially after she didn't appear on the card for Elimination Chamber PPV last month.
Sadly, someone as amazing and well-liked as Asuka has been an afterthought, but hopefully WWE has plans for her heading into April.
Sami Zayn is currently excelling as a paranoid heel but he could be one of the most beloved babyfaces in the company.
The Canadian benefited from a memorable run with NXT that made him one of the most believable underdog characters in recent memory.
If you doubt this, just look at the reception he got in his hometown, Montreal, on the Apr. 15, 2019 episode of Raw. What's more, it was incredible to watch The Great Liberator turn the crowd within minutes. It was direct proof of how good he is on a microphone and how much fans want to cheer for him.
On Twitter, Zayn stands up for several social and political causes, and his humor also makes him well worth a follow.
It's hard to understand why WWE won't invest in someone who seems like a legitimately great guy who clearly has the fans behind him. It's one of many headscratchers in the world of professional wrestling.
If there's a common theme throughout this list, it's that WWE often misreads its audience or fails to capitalize on a Superstar when they are white-hot. Naomi has to be the most glaring example of this in the past year.
The two-time SmackDown women's champion went viral following her return in the 2020 women's Royal Rumble match. This seemed like the right time to position her as a major star on the blue brand, but it never happened. Instead, she lost on several occasions and took part in that horrendous "Karaoke Showdown" segment on the July 10 episode.
The outrage online was swift and sparked the hashtag #NaomiDeservesBetter. Many of her vocal supporters just want to see her take part in a meaningful storyline. In February, she pinned Asuka, so logically she should be in the running for a title shot soon.
The Raw women's division could use a new protagonist. Naomi fits the bill, and there has been a consistent demand for her to challenge for a championship again.
Daniel Bryan's journey from indie darling to the leader of The Yes Movement changed everything.
For better or worse, his acceptance among the smark internet wrestling crowd created a new dynamic between the fans and WWE that will affect the company for years to come.
One could also argue that Bryan's in-ring style and sensibilities paved the way for NXT to become a massive success. After all, several smaller guys like him became the face of the brand, and he would have been right at home as a part of its unfiltered and high-impact format.
As one of the greatest technical wrestlers of all time, it's not hard to see what makes some viewers gravitate toward The Planet's Champion. But his indomitable fighting spirit and amicable on-screen personality make him one of the very best characters on the roster.
His return from retirement in 2018 remains one of the most inspiring and heartwarming comeback stories in professional wrestling history.
At this point, most wrestling fans on Twitter know it's not a good idea to cross Sasha Banks fans. The Legit Boss has one of the most passionate, loyal and sometimes spiteful fanbases on the internet.
The Krew, a callback to Banks' time with NXT, is similar to Beyonce's Beyhive, so tread lightly when you mention her name. Not all of her fans online defend her as relentlessly as some of the most vocal ones, but the SmackDown women's champion has an unwavering amount of love and support on the internet.
Banks deserves recognition as one of the greatest women wrestlers of this generation. She has already achieved so much at just 29 years old. She is already a grand slam champion but more importantly, she and Bayley helped to change the perception of what women's wrestling could be during their classic NXT feud. They also helped to reintroduce the women's tag titles.
Banks has made history on several occasions. and she still has time to accomplish so much more.
CM Punk is not a WWE Superstar anymore, but we couldn't put together this list without mentioning the most divisive name among internet wrestling fans.
The Voice of the Voiceless hasn't appeared in a wrestling ring in seven years, but he's still one the most talked-about wrestlers in the world.
To this day, fans still clamor to see him return to the squared circle no matter how improbable it may seem.
Over the weekend, his name inevitably came up as one of the guesses for All Elite Wrestling's newest signing at Revolution. Punk once again denied he has plans to work with the new company and it turned out to be Christian Cage, but some fans still hold out hope.
Hardcore WWE viewers' attachment to The Second City Saint is a bit of a conundrum. The infamous pipebomb promo and his inconceivable win at Money in the Bank 2011 are legendary, and the Summer of Punk was a fun ride. At some point, though, people have to accept he is at peace with his decision to quit.
His lasting presence online is a testament to just how well he connected with many lapsed fans and reached heights that many of us never expected. There was also something endearing about his refusal to conform even when he reached superstardom. That could be a part of the reason why fans are still so enamored with him.
It's safe to assume there are various other answers as to why so many fans want him to make a comeback and just as many people hate Punk for a litany of reasons. Nevertheless, no one can deny he remains one of the most highly publicized wrestlers on the internet.