When presented with the idea of writing for a website about wrestling, I was elated. “Finally,” I thought, “a place where I can finally express all the thoughts I have about wrestling. I can finally show everything what’s wrong with wrestling today, and maybe I can fix it.” I saw this opportunity as a way to add my voice to the chorus of fans looking for change. This was my chance to help. This was my chance to give back to wrestling through effecting change that could make the business great again.
I’ve spent years reading wrestling news and opinion online. From the dirt sheets, to the newsletters, to Reddit, and Twitter, I’ve seen the opinions on wrestling and echoed them.
The stories that are being told today aren’t what they once were.
The work being done in the ring isn’t telling a story, it’s just a spot fest.
Why are we constantly having the same tired characters shoved down our throats?
Why isn’t my favorite getting a push? Everyone else online likes this guy.
This is when I had my greatest epiphany as a wrestling fan. Why do I care what everyone else thinks? Why does my opinion need to match what is going on with the online community? I had completely bought-in to the group think. I was part of the hive mind of wrestling geniuses who were booking in the dark, only lit by the glow of a LED screen and fueled by Mountain Dew Kickstart. If I hate wrestling so much, why do I watch so much of it? Why have I done it for so long? Why do I feel the need to join in this rhetoric of vitriol towards wrestling?
At that moment, I decided to log off. I went a couple of weeks of watching RAW, SmackDown, NXT, and Lucha Underground without reading comments. I stayed away from live threads and Twitter. I took time to actually watch wrestling. I left all my “smarkiness” behind and allowed myself to enjoy. I loved watching the action in the ring, the backstage segments, and even the mundane commentary. I rediscovered my passion for wrestling by simply watching it. Avoiding the negativity and truly feeling what I feel was the key. That’s how I originally connected with the product as a child, and that’s how I was going to do it now.
Becoming a wrestling fan as a kid was a way of connecting with something bigger than myself. My first viewing of wrestling was spurred by the death of my grandmother, Faye. She loved wrestling. She would tune in every week and fully immersed herself in that world for the duration of the program. It was still real to her, damn it. After her death, I remember sitting around with my parents one night as we were channel surfing and we passed by Raw is War. I implored my parents to go back. That we should watch it. Granny used to watch, so we should give it a shot.
I didn’t realize at the time that this was a way for me to reach out and connect with my past and cope with my present. My reality had dramatically changed for the first time, and so using the reality of the most unrealistic world possible was my best way to escape and be present. It only took one week and I was hooked.
This was during the Attitude Era. Both WCW and WWE had been pushing the envelope. The stories were raunchy. The visuals were risqué. The themes were very adult. The action in the ring could either be masterful storytelling or complete garbage. It was perfect for shaping my pre-pubescent brain. I couldn’t get enough. I wasn’t allowed to stay up past 10 PM, so I would always record the second hour of Raw on VHS, and then as soon as I got home on Tuesday, I’d have another hour ready to go. My parents and I would usually order Pay-Per-Views every other month. When we didn’t order a show, I would wake up earlier than usual on Monday morning just to log online and read the results, so I would be ready for that night.
I got to witness the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. Triple H became my favorite superstar. For some reason, the drugging and forced marriage of Stephanie McMahon cemented this. I knew every line of The Godfather’s entrance by heart. I witnessed the Monday Night Wars end, and WCW invade WWE. It was truly a crazy time to fall in love with wrestling.
When I go back and watch old Raw episodes from that era on the WWE Network, I can see how lucky we have it today. The Attitude Era was a wonderful time because it pushed the boundaries of television and social norms to the limits unapologetically. Most of the time, it was pretty terrible television, and it does not hold up well today. I still enjoy it though because that’s what was happening at the time.
That’s what we have to remember today. The wrestling you see now, is how it is at this time. It will change again. With the brand extension occurring recently, the unprecedented production of Lucha Underground, the growth of NJPW in the United States, and the exposure of independent promotions and wrestlers through the plethora of online on-demand services available, wrestling will constantly change in the future. The delineations of eras will begin to blur, because of how everyone in now influencing everything. The entire market is now in competition.
When I stepped back from my throne of righteousness, I realized that wrestling is great right now. It’s never been better. It will only get better. It will always change.
If we as fans fail to recognize this, we will kill the thing we love. It won’t be fun to watch. Let the storytellers spin their yarns. Let the talent interpret that story however they wish. Allow the producers and directors to present all of this to us in their way. Enjoy it. Take it in. Don’t be afraid to be a mark. Remember, being a mark is not a bad thing. It’s why we love wrestling. Those moments that totally transport us fully into the world being created for us is why we watch.
I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t point out things that aren’t good or aren’t entertaining. Those things will happen, but remember they will differ from person to person. We should debate and discuss them. Everyone’s interpretation of what is “good wrestling” or a “good wrestler” is different. We are watching entertainment. We are watching performance art.
Last year, Big Van Vader criticized a Best of the Super Juniors match from New Japan Pro Wrestling between Ricochet and Will Ospreay. He called it a choreographed dance sequence, and therefore terrible. This commentary spurred Ricochet to pen the following on his Twitter.
“People don’t understand that ‘professional wrestling’ is an art. And much like ANY art, there are endless ways to express it. It can LITERALLY be anything the performers in the ring want it to be. If two guys want to go out there and use light tubes and light each other on fire, then that is their way of expressing their style of wrestling. If they want to go out there and go hold for hold and keep it mat based, then that is their way of expressing their style of wrestling. If two guys want to go out there and clothesline each other real hard and chop each other for 5 minutes straight, then that is their way of expressing their style of wrestling. If two guys want to go out there and use comedy and make the people happy and laugh, then that is their way of expressing their style of wrestling. If two guys want to go out there and use aerial maneuvers and acrobatics to ‘wow’ the crowd…then guess what?? That is THEIR way of expressing their style of wrestling. Although you many not agree or like a certain style does not mean that it isn’t wrestling. Did it used to be a certain way?? Yeah. But just like anything it changed, it evolved.” – KingRicochet, Instagram
Remember, wrestling changes constantly.
We should share our passion for what we like. Complete bashing of a product or a wrestler doesn’t get us anywhere, but saying what makes you mark out does. It advances the business and might grab more fans. With more fans, what we love will only get bigger and better.
For me, Cheaters Never Pin is my chance to make that change in wrestling. I want to be here to show that it’s okay to like things in wrestling. Being a fan doesn’t mean you need to join in the madness and cycle of hate for things that exists today. Say what you love. Analyze what you don’t. Find a wrestler or promotion you love online and track down everything you can. Watch it. Mark out for it.
So, stop complaining internet. Enjoy wrestling.