I Was having a discussion in the comments section of a previous article and it prompted the idea for this article; but in truth I’d been mulling it over for a while. As always; discussion is encouraged.
So; does the distinction between the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) and the general wrestling fan base still exist? Because, to this writer, it doesn’t seem like there is the clear divide between the two that there was ten years ago; in fact it almost feels to me that both groups are now one and the same.
The IWC, once viewed contemptuously by WWE, has had more power over the product in the last year or so than ever; yet if you gauge the reactions of the live crowds at WWE televised events you would be hard pressed to spot a difference in opinion with what we discuss, debate and wish would happen on websites like this.
This weeks Raw was a good gauging point for this; the typically more informed post Wrestlemania crowd was catered to admirably. Paige was elevated strongly, Cena was in an early match and on the losing end (even if he didn’t do the job himself) to a new darling of the fans, Cesaro was paired with Paul Heyman in a sure sign that another crowd favorite is about to be pushed seriously and The Shield elevated themselves to possibly the second hottest act in the company (behind Daniel Bryan). This has lead me to ponder more on this subject than I already have been; is there any distinction that separates the once two distinct camps anymore and if not how has this come to be?
This writer believes that WWE has orchestrated this; though I do not believe it was intentional. One of the things I often have to explain to non-wrestling fan friends is the fact that, as antiquated as pro wrestling seems to those who aren’t fans, the industry has done it’s best to stay ahead of the curve with advancements in interactivity through the internet and social media platforms. Televised entertainment has become much more interactive in the last decade; and most of the things we take for granted in television as a whole (Facebook pages with exclusive content, live Twitter participation in the show, apps etc.) were adapted by pro-wrestling shows much earlier than their other television counterparts. WWE, in an attempt to keep up with a changing world where so many more of us have constant internet access through smart phones, tablets and other means, has lead the way; but by doing so, in my opinion, they have closed the gap between the casual fan and the internet based hardcore fan.
Because of the way search engines such a Google work; a casual fan is exposed to so much more on the industry than they ever imagined was out there. Simply using a search engine to find out something as simple as when a show starts or where they can get tickets for a local live event will throw up other related websites such as this one; and more and more the fan base is becoming united. It’s gotten to the point where WWE feel they have to include it in angles (such as the “Occupy Raw” segment); but one wonders if they realize their own part in making this a reality? All those plugs for the WWE app, as torturous as we might find them, have actually had an effect on how the business is consumed and that has done a lot to break down the barriers.
The most interesting aspect for me of watching WWE in recent months has been the crowd reactions; from “The Yes Movement” to the planned hijack of the Chicago Raw to the rejection of Batista as the headliner of Wrestlemania 30, this has been a very interesting time to be a wrestling fan. We in the IWC and hardcore fan base have bemoaned the obvious contempt of WWE for giving us what we want rather than what they think we should want for a decade now; yet these things highlight that the tide is turning. WWE has adapted to the world it exists in now by offering and encouraging use of more ways to be interactive with the product than ever before; and as a result has unintentionally turned their fan base into one united movement. The booking of the Daniel Bryan storyline and the this weeks Raw are prime examples of this; they used to be able to ignore the IWC because, in their view, we were a load of moaning idiots hiding behind our keyboards that would find fault in everything. But now, through their own encouragement and the way the world has changed around them, they cannot have this opinion anymore; if they’d persevered with Batista vs Orton in a one on one match as the headliner for Wrestlemania despite the fans opinions, as they would have in previous years, it would have been an unmitigated disaster for them on their biggest show ever. But due to the new united fan base they finally realized that they couldn’t operate like that anymore and this writer believes credit should be payed to WWE for finally seeing this; and we should give ourselves a collective pat on the back for influencing this change.
I see a lot of comments in the articles on this website about how we should just enjoy what is put in front of us without complaint and that if we really don’t like it we should stop watching; this for me is a simplistic and misguided opinion. We are wrestling fans; we want to watch the show. It doesn’t mean we have to blindly sit there without an opinion; sites like this wouldn’t exist if that were the case. My football team is Manchester United; we’re having a terrible season at the moment but that doesn’t mean I suddenly stop supporting them. I like to watch The Walking Dead; was I impressed by everything in the latest series? No; but I carry on watching because I know how good it can be when firing on all cylinders and there’s still the hope they can achieve that high standard again despite some duff episodes. Combine those two viewpoints and that is how we should approach our viewership of pro-wrestling and WWE; we should watch out of our love for the art form but still be critical if we don’t like what we see.
If we don’t voice our opinions how can we ever hope to get the changes we desire? This new found unity within the fan base is proving this with the development of the product that we’ve seen over the last few months; and this writer, for one, welcomes that. Whereas in the past WWE could split us in two and ignore the IWC and hardcore fans on one hand and listen to the casual fans and WWE diehards on the other; the more the line between the two blurs the harder it is for them to do so and that is a good thing. Are we always going to agree on everything? No; of course not. We’re individual humans with our own tastes and entertainment is subjective. What entertains me isn’t guaranteed to entertain you; but if a mass of your fan base is crying out for something then it’s best for business to listen to them and give them what they want. I, for one, applaud this and hope it continues; and the blurring of the lines of these fan groups will only serve to ensure we have a voice for years to come. And ironically; it was WWE that helped facilitate this.