Just like the stages of development in the human race, professional wrestling has its stages of “fandom”. Certainly enough, “fandom” is a word I just created. For some it begins at a young age of adolescence, in which life means close to nothing to you.
It is as if the world looks like one big area to roam and dream. Being so young institutes bravery and courage; solely by just walking outside of your preferred sanctuary. Home is home to you, anything beyond that remains a mystery.
Wrestling to most people is that common place of somber and tranquility often desired in life as a whole. Adversity kicks in to high gear; professional wrestling puts them at ease. Whether you are a fan of the superheroes, the underdogs, the big men or the divas, wrestling is as diverse as the world’s culture.
I am here today to dive into the stages of development of a wrestling fan. From the young ages of adolescence into the elder ages of adulthood, each portion of your life constitutes something entirely different. In the capacity of professional wrestling, it is one of the most unique perspectives and fan bases in the world.
Young Child (5-11)
This is the moment your eyes first catch a hold of the four-sided ring. At such an early age, everything is bigger and larger than life. The TV turns on and John Cena is on your screen. Immediately you stare aimlessly at the picture and see this man. A man who overcomes the odds. Being that your logistics haven’t kicked in yet, the good guys and underdogs are the ultimate favorite in your heart.
Rooting for the home team if you will is a good comparison. Before the age of about 12-13, things are black or white, right or wrong. Cena is good. Del Rio is bad. Off the top, the child will gravitate towards the star that smiles and caters to the crowd, because you are the crowd.
Wrestling is real to this age. All of them want to perform an AA on top of a ladder. All of them want to hold that WWE belt. It is a dream.
During these years, wrestling becomes introduced to you and in most cases, it is never let go. Begging your parents to stay up later to finish Raw or pleading your case to tell them it isn’t too bad or the language is not foul is a customary action in most households. These days however come to an end. Things change and outlooks differentiate.
Just as Cory explained to Topanga on Boy Meets World that the days where he hated her were referenced to as the “lost years”, you become more knowledgeable and logical. A more critical side starts to overcome your thought process when watching a WWE program. Instead of viewing professional wrestling as magic, it is now viewed in a critical sense of “mark-ism” and “sneer comments”.
John Cena is no longer your favorite superstar, instead becoming your favorite enemy. “Mark” is used in the dictionary more often than the word “the”. The dream of becoming a pro wrestler dips from a high 100% to almost a laughable percentage. People find out that it is “fake” and tune out. Oddly enough, being a teenager is considered one of the hardest moments in your life for many reasons.
The thing is, wrestling mirrors that same sentiment.
By this age, you have committed yourself to professional wrestling. You are either a fan or not. Yes there are exceptions, but it is very difficult to find one. It often culminates to the point of when you are showing your children, whom at the age of adolescence; go through this exact same cycle. Point being, that I show wrestling fans are born.
From the parents that love the product they watch, the kids often do the same. Stories are shared about how Hulk Hogan defeated Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III. The child looks at the father clueless as to how a man the size of Hogan picked up a 500 lb man. The superhero persona chimes in to the young child and we start the cycle.
Yes, you realize that it is fake. The moves are not real and everything is predetermined. Although, the emotion is never the same. In fact, that is one reason I go back and watch every single week. It may be the same thing, but at least I know I will feel differently.
The moment a father passes the love of wrestling down to his son, it is a moment of unity. This age is the second most critical behind the adolescence stage in the fact that you are responsible for keeping wrestling in the family.
It all comes back to the cycle.
Wrestling is now in the past for you. From time to time the channel scrolls to the USA network as Raw enters a dimension very unfamiliar to yours. It would be just like an 80-year old man would watch Raw or Smackdown today. He would he amazed at how much has changed.
No more people like Gorilla Monsoon, Bruno Sammartino, Lou Thesz, Buddy Rogers and many more. Many eras have passed and you realize that wrestling is not what it used to be. When you become this age and wrestling still matters to you, the realization of passion sets in. Much like a baseball player competes until he physically can’t and just refuses to leave the game in any capacity, true wrestling fans never forget or fail to love.
The age doesn’t matter very much anymore. I was at a Raw show this past winter and I did see elderly couples there. Yes, couples. Some could say he found a keeper. Instead of saying to their son, “When are you going to grow out of this wrestling thing?” he asks his son if he wants to watch wrestling with him.
When my dad asked me earlier last week if I would grow out of this “wrestling thing”, I answered him with one word.