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ABTV Loves Pro Wrestling “If it’s fake, then why do you watch?”
“It’s fake.” critics will often say. “Don’t they know it’s fake?”
It’s something wrestling fans hear far too often. A comment typically followed by the wrestling fan’s eye roll and the response “Of course I know it’s fake.” This invariably leads to the predictable question that is really the heart of the conversation:
“Then why do you watch it?”
Getting past the condescending start to the whole conversion, it’s a fair question. Admittedly, from an outside perspective, the whole spectacle can range from looking quite silly, stupid, and at times, simply corny. It’s why comments, such as those recently by comedian, Tom Segura, don’t really seem so surprising.
“It is the f***ing stupidest s**t and I think you’re a f***ing tool if you’re like, ‘hey man, it’s not fake it’s f***ing fake and you’re a f***ing idiot.” – Tom Segura
CREDIT: MICHAEL SCHWARTZ / WIREIMAGE
It’s more understandable, when you see the responses he received. Responses have come from all angles, including “It’s more real than you think,” and “They are more athletic than you are,” and “We all know it’s fake, it’s just entertainment,” and many more. Fans, celebs, and wrestlers even weighed in with varying perspectives on why wrestling should be taken seriously and its fans given some credit.
There doesn’t seem to be any one reason why that everyone can agree on, at least, as their primary reason for loving the art form.
Why is that? It’s simple: There are different types of ‘fans’ of pro wrestling. Some watch it for one reason, while others watch it for completely different reasons and those two reasons are not anything like what other fans may enjoy. So to help clear the air, I’m going to categorize the different types of wrestling fans for you here!
Now, before getting into this, I should clarify that these are the main categories of viewers. There are fans who watch for other reasons (“I’m a fan of The Rock’s movies and everything else he’s done!” or “I like action figures of all types, super heroes, pro wrestlers, G.I. Joes, all of them!”). I’m not covering those. This article is for the main categories of fans, and knowing them may shed some light on why ‘grown people’ can like a ‘completely fake sport.’
While it’s hard to believe that even in this day in age, when the wrestlers themselves break character on social media, there are still those that believe pro wrestling is real. He’s the thing though: These people are typically children. When looking at the popularity of wrestling, a large portion of those that watch are just kids that either believe it’s real, or put no thought into whether or not what they’re watching is fake. The largest wrestling company on the planet, WWE, has put an emphasis on engaging and marketing to kids, so it’s not surprising that this would be one of the largest fan groups out there. Though, naturally, kids grow up, so, as with the widespread preschool belief in Santa Claus, this type of fan doesn’t remain this type of fan for long.
THE COUCH POTATOES
I know this sounds like I’m poking fun at this group by the name, but all I’m saying is this group watches wrestling like anyone else watches any other show on television. They like the characters, the stories, and they just want to see what happens next. To them, seeing Hulk Hogan face The Undertaker isn’t some act of sport or realism, it’s the same as watching Captain America face Thanos. When they see Becky Lynch cut a promo it’s the same to them as watching the star of a reality show doing a confessional. For wrestling fans, shows like Wrestlemania aren’t big because a real contest is about to be displayed, it’s big because it feels like a season finale. Will we get closure? Will there be a cliffhanger? Will my favorite character be back next season? It’s entertainment. Not sport, not real, just fun. A blend of comic book action and reality TV shows blended together and presented live. What’s not to like?
This is a group of people who ‘used to’ watch wrestling. Oftentimes as a kid, when they may have thought it was real or as a ‘couch potato’ styled fan who enjoyed it for a while before growing tired of it and choosing to spend their time watching something else. Not unlike The Walking Dead, wrestling was an unexpected cultural phenomenon before (in some opinions) overstaying its welcome and losing viewers. These fans are usually easy to spot, as they will say things like “Pro wrestling? I used to watch that!” and “Back in my time I loved guys like…” before listing off characters from a bygone era. Like a favorite cast of Saturday Night Live or a favorite James Bond, you can usually guess who the characters will be based off of the person’s age. Whether it be Bruno Samartino, Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold, or ,sure enough in the coming years, John Cena. These fans don’t watch much wrestling anymore, but still find themselves lightly up to date on what’s going on and tend to tune in a little around big events, like WWE’s famed ‘Road to Wrestlemania.’ But then quickly disappear once the events are over, not to return to the viewing audience again until another big event or reason to tune in provokes them.
These are the people that ‘hate watch’ wrestling. Was the show good? Doesn’t matter, they hate it. Whether it’s because they think a certain wrestler is stupid, or a storyline doesn’t make sense, or if they think the moves don’t look ‘realistic enough’ this group watches wrestling just to find reasons to say it’s not good. Look, I don’t get it either, and most fans that are a part of this group would likely deny that they’re actually in this group. They’ll say things like “I just want the shows to be better!” or “It’s just that this wrestler is on TV too much!” or “It used to be good but now it’s terrible!” Whatever the response is, the result is always the same. They hate watching pro wrestling. Yet every week, they either tune in to watch, or search the internet for results, only to go directly to social media, or whatever avenue they use, to let the world know why it was bad and how they think it should have been done to make it better. They may not like the shows, but they still watch them, and for that reason, I still label them as fans.
CREDIT: WWE Network
“But it’s not a real sport!” I hear you cry. Have no fear, this isn’t where I try to convince you that wrestling is real. It’s predetermined. It’s performance. It’s art. But it’s not competition in the classic sense. That said, there is a great deal of athleticism involved. Pro wrestlers do backflips off of tall places. They lift large men over their heads. If the rippling abs and vein popping biceps don’t make it immediately clear, the actual act of professional wrestling should at least present the fact that you need to be in peak physical condition to perform these stunts at a top level. Not to mention the beating that’s taken during these performances. Sure, they aren’t really trying to knock each other out or break each other’s bones, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t wear and tear, and as famous wrestling announcer Jim Ross once asked, “How do you learn to fall off of a 20ft ladder?” For these fans, watching wrestling is rather similar to watching professional dancers. They look for how smooth the matches are. How realistic they look. The story within the match itself. How far will they push each other? What lengths will they go to? How far can they get me to suspend my disbelief? These fans don’t watch because they think the results are real, they watch to appreciate the real things that go into making it fake.
We’ve covered it already: Wrestling is predetermined. Not only does this group of fans not hide from that fact, this group of fans revels in it! They love looking things up online and finding out the inner workings of what’s happening and knowing, before anyone else, what is going to happen next. Like fans of magicians, who also know that no real magic is being displayed, the insiders care more about how the trick is being pulled off than the actual display itself. “John Cena is going off to film a movie, so he’ll lose the title at Wrestlemania.” They predict. “He can’t defend the title, so it makes sense he loses it here.” They don’t care that Roman Reigns isn’t really punching Seth Rollins, they’re more interested in how Roman Reigns makes it look like he’s punching Seth Rollins. They want to know who is winning before everyone else and they like to share that they were somehow able to obtain this knowledge so far in advance. While only a few people actually break news in the wrestling industry, these fans want to present themselves, to their friends and online followers at least, as the Adam Schefter’s of their own pro wrestling circles.
FANS OF THE WRESTLING BUSINESS
These are the fans that, typically, have been watching for a very long time. These fans don’t care if what they see in the ring isn’t real. Sometimes, they don’t even care if they enjoy watching it. These fans care less about the actual shows and more about how the company putting on the shows is doing financially. Since the contests aren’t real, they look at how much money the company makes to decide whether a wrestler, or storyline, is actually any good. These fans, after an episode of Monday Night Raw, will head to the internet to look up what the ratings were. Sometimes even breaking down the ratings by demographic, and comparing how they fluctuate every quarter hour, using them to deduce which wrestlers caused people to change the channel and which ones brought more eyeballs to the show. They like to look at which wrestlers are selling the most merchandise and will actually complain when they get a marquee match up, for free, on a weekly show, instead of the company waiting until a Pay Per View event where it could make the company more money (even though it would cost them, the fan, more money). They expect build ups in storylines that lead to something big down the road not because they want the story themselves, but because they want the story to attract more viewers (and prove that the company and wrestlers involved are ‘successful’). They also keep an eye on the future almost constantly, looking at younger talent and projecting whether or not they could be a ‘star’ someday and often will question if a certain person winning will be the ‘right choice’ for business. They’ll use terms like “This person is ‘over’” meaning fans are invested in them, or complain if someone who is not ‘over’ gets too much TV time. These fans are not unlike many fantasy football GMs, projecting sleeper talents, maximising trades, and predicting which star will be the right star for optimal success at any given time.
Of course, like many categorized things, there are gray areas between different types of fans and there are many fans that are combinations of multiple types. Some fans love the business side but also like to just watch it as a TV show, and look, I don’t expect anyone to suddenly understand the wild and weird world of wrestling just because they understand different fan bases and I don’t expect Tom Segura to suddenly change his opinions on it or the people that watch it. What I do hope for, however, is that people have fun reading this and saying “That’s the kind of fan I am!” Or “Well I’m a little of both!” Or best of all: “What about a fan like this…” and then I get educated on a completely new perspective. That would be really great!
But most of all. If this whole article does any one thing, I hope it brings an end to the question, ‘You know it’s fake, right?’ Not because I care about it being called fake, or even the condescending tone of it. But really, because I’d rather talk about the interesting, positive side of it all. The second question, the “Why do you watch it?” After all, it’s the ‘why’ that keeps us coming back every week.
So what category do you fall under? Are you a Believer? An Anti-Fan? A hybrid of some kind? Or are you one of the categories I may have missed? As always, let me know in the comments.
If you love professional wrestling like ABTV Loves Professional Wrestling, this article with a friend. Tune in daily to AfterbuzzTV articles and aftershows for the latest news and info on pop culture and entertainment.
Jack Farmer is a live event host, DJ, and MC while also hosting various programs on AfterBuzz TV with a focus on sports, competition programming, music, entertainment and anything to do with live event hosting.
Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, artist-friendly AfterBuzz TV is the world’s largest digital broadcast network and pop culture news platform, producing post-game ‘after-shows’ for nearly all favorite TV shows, interviewing cast and showrunners and providing the widest video, audio and article coverage of shows, content and influencers than any entertainment news platforms in existence
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