How Does Wrestling Keep Pulling Us Back? Is It Habit Forming?

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You know how it goes. We watch a show, pick it apart, wonder why we sat through it, and then tune in the following week to repeat the process. Rarely breaking the cycle, and if it does, we’re left wondering if we missed anything memorable. It usually doesn’t, but we’re super annoyed if it does. So how is that wrestling keeps drawing us back? And does it hold some kind of magic spell over us?

I recently asked some of our Facebook users the following question:

“What keeps you interested in wrestling and bringing you back for more every week?”

At least a few commenters say that watching wrestling has become a “habit”, with one stating it was like smoking. It’s like it becomes part of your life whether or not you’re enjoying it. Others enjoy the fantasy aspect via armchair booking and comparing what they predict to the final product. Even if the show doesn’t turn out to be all too interesting, they at least had the hope for something of value. And that’s the key word I want to take away… hope.

Why is it we continue to hope it will get any better? Can we say the same for other TV shows? Do we sit and hope the next season will be an improvement? Or do we pick up the remote and change the channel? How is that wrestling becomes habit forming? And is there a way to enjoy it more? But before I try answering some of these questions, I’d like to touch on something I know some may be thinking.


You’re Loving It

There are fans who stay far away from WWE to get their fix. Whether it be the independents, Impact Wrestling, NWA Powerrr, New Japan Pro Wrestling, or another, the current landscape is healthy. Amid a pandemic, we can still say wrestling has been thriving for a long while. And it’s not all about WWE anymore, as there are plenty of choices out there. The only issue I can see is that not everyone will have the spare time to check in on the alternatives.


For example, I do my best to watch Raw, SmackDown, NXT, NXT UK, 205 Live, AEW Dynamite, NWA Powerrr, Impact, the odd New Japan show, and all the PPV’s/specials tied to them. As a diehard fan, even I can find it difficult to remain focused on every minute of the action. On some heavy weeks, it feels like everything runs together. In the early 2000’s we were digesting what… a few hours a week max? Nowadays we’re getting that with just an episode of Raw. Wrestling has expanded exponentially, to the point we don’t have to settle for one brand.

Some fans love it because they left their bad habits behind and found something they really enjoy. For me however, I keep up with my hefty schedule so I can stay in the know; although I still enjoy it all to varying degrees. I rate shows on how well they can keep my attention, more than anything else. I probably shouldn’t though, as there are many variables that can make an entertaining show. But that’s just how it is when you’re watching wrestling night in, night out. I’ve also been a fan since the Attitude Era, when it was all about keeping the audience’s attention.

Nostalgia Goggles

As I’ve grown older overlooking comments across several platforms, I see a reoccurring pattern which isn’t restricted to pro wrestling. It’s called “Nostalgia Goggles”. We get in to something young and everything is flashy and new. As we grow older, we look back on these times with a sense of joy and unmatched wonder. Remember when Rikishi jumped off the cage at Fully Loaded? What about that time when Steve Austin sprayed everyone with beer? Or how about when Mr. McMahon was revealed to be the higher power?


Sure, some of these moments were pretty cool, but unless you lived through them, they can’t hold the same value compared to someone who did. Nowadays, we have fans who loved the Ruthless Aggression era, or even the 2010’s. I couldn’t stand the (early) 2010’s! It was stale like an old biscuit, and I got dangerously close to hanging up my metaphorical wrestling boots. But try telling that to a teenage fan… they’ll fight their corner and tell you differently.


They might say something like…  “Man, I wish wrestling used to be like it was in the early 2010’s”. So much like other media, wrestling grips people at a young age on a generational level. And as we get older, we hold on to this false hope that it can somehow go back to how it used to be. But it won’t, because times change… and so do we. The sooner we realize that living in the present is the preferred outlook, the easier it is to enjoy what we’re being fed. The Attitude Era was great, but it was far from perfect.

Further Habits

It’s not all about nostalgia goggles. Throughout my years as a fan, I’ve picked up on a few other good & bad habits you may, or may not have noticed:

– Only watching for results. And if you miss a show, you first look up the outcomes of the matches. After that, you’ll skip ahead and get the gist of the main storylines, but happily skip the rest because it doesn’t matter. No big deal.

– As soon as a match is announced, within seconds you have an idea of how it’s going down. And at least 75% of the time you’re right (range may vary). You’ll have a “predictable” outcome and a “cool” outcome already lined up. Anything else isn’t part of your internal script and is deemed “shocking”. Either way, the promotion can’t win unless they go about it exactly how you want it.

– Deciding a match is a complete shambles before finding out the facts. You wouldn’t that do that with an athletic contest or a live TV show, you’d at least give them a chance to explain what happened. Wrestling can be such a work that we’re always questioning what’s real or not. It’s automatically assumed we’re being worked unless it’s painfully obvious.


“Cancelling the network. Never watching this garbage ever again. Ok, maybe I’ll watch again next week.” We’re quick to forget having our intelligence insulted. Any other show eliciting this reaction would lose a ton of viewers, but wrestling doesn’t unless it’s a veritable disaster.

– This person should be a champion! – “X Wins Title” – I don’t want this person to be champion anymore because it’s boring! Only in wrestling can we be so quick to turn on something we previously pined for. Proving that most of the time… we don’t have a clue what we want.

– Speaking of which, judging an angle or new group of wrestlers before giving them a chance to show potential. If it were up to us, nothing could ever flourish, and it’d turn out worse than something booked by Vince Russo. Again, unlike a normal TV show where we’d be waiting with intrigue to see where it goes, our resistance ensures it’s buried and fades away in to history.


Conclusion

What is it about wrestling? Is it about the athleticism? Are we waiting patiently for the next big storyline? What about waiting to see if it will be good like it was back in the day? There are so many answers, but nothing is defined. The way we see wrestling these days is to enjoy what we can. Otherwise, have it on in the background and at least we won’t miss the results. There are plenty of replays to show the best parts anyway. And there are comments online if we don’t have anyone to watch it with.

Sometimes it’s more important to enjoy the show with others than anything else. Try watching it with children, it gives you a whole new outlook. I know some will drink, but I don’t recommend that. Vince Russo tried watching Raw high once, and I honestly don’t think there is much of a difference other than having more patience? Who knows? In closing, all I know is wrestling is considered addictive to some people. Once you’re hooked it’s hard to get away, but that’s alright for millions of people.

Wrestling will be around long after we’re gone, and it’s easy to take history for granted. Some of the things we are seeing now, may become legend in ten, twenty, fifty years time. We have the opportunity to experience wrestling first hand, that future generations won’t, and who knows how it will change. The business is evolving all the time with every new era, as the superstars adapt, safety is better considered, and equality gradually works its way forward. Let us know if you feel like wrestling has become a habit to you. And if not, how did you make it not so? With that said, I thank you very much for reading and hope to see you again soon.


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