(Note: I had originally intended this to be made in video form, and I may very well do that later on and add the video to this article.)
Well, it’s been about a year now since I really started going on tangents regarding the Internet Wrestling Community, starting with of course, the “heel turn” of my online character, The Wrestling Mark. As I expected, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback regarding all my constant complaining, though mostly from friends as it turns out. In fact, a number of these friends have been quite critical of my attitudes, particularly the group of fans I frequently refer to as the “smarks” or the IWC.
And that’s fair enough – I’m a grown man that can take criticism, but there is a method and a reason to everything I have ranted on both on social media as myself and on video as the Wrestling Mark character.
In preparation for the developing wrestling podcast that I hope to debut soon, I feel I should make this type of preface video in order to fully explain where my attitudes about wrestling and certain sects of the wrestling fandom come from. Let this serve not just as one more venue to vent my frustrations on the fringe fandom but to also make my stances perfectly clear so there will be no confusion.
I did not start watching pro wrestling until I was 23 years old. I had been watching regular sports for a number of years prior to that, and I freely admit that I was one of those sports fans that looked down upon wrestling. I thought it was a joke compared to actual competitive sports, and I’ll get more into where that mindset comes from in a bit.
Then in 2002, my curiosity got the better of me. The very first wrestling show I watched was, as I would later discover, the first ever episode of SmackDown after the World Wrestling Federation officially became World Wrestling Entertainment. I saw the performers in their over the top antics, and I realized, oh, OK, so this IS like a stage performance. Yeah, this can be kinda cool.
So I continued to watch – mostly SmackDown because I didn’t have cable back then but eventually including Raw. The first PPV I saw was SummerSlam 2002 because a Hooters in Dallas would show them, but when they stopped doing that, fortunately a local theater chain started showing them on the big screen – which was where I watched my first WrestleMania – 19.
I saw the crossover into the Ruthless Aggression Era, where the likes of John Cena and Batista became huge stars. However, soon after John Cena became the face of WWE, I naturally began to notice there were a certain sect of fans that did not like him.
Now, these types of fans always existed in some form – fans of the old NWA never liked the antics of Hulk Hogan and Company in the 80s, especially as Hogan and Vince McMahon helped drive the NWA into obscurity. But this was when the Internet really started to really take charge.
Also, they seemed to start showing up at WWE events just to voice their displeasure rather than turn toward a different product like they did with WCW. I mean, it’s not like there wasn’t another wrestling company they could watch instead… yeah, I’m not gonna go there.
At any rate, while I was not one of those that disliked Cena, I didn’t cry foul at those who did for the longest time.
Especially since Cena as a character just ran with it, saying he stood by those who supported him and those that didn’t could kiss his ass. It was a good way to live in my view.
Another big reason I didn’t mind was – I felt there was an understanding where maybe fans didn’t like the same wrestlers, but there was still a respect between one another in recognizing that they were still all wrestling fans and just enjoying the product.
However, as the years went on, I did start to see and hear more people griping that Cena and WWE were “ruining” wrestling, but it really didn’t hit my fan until around 2011 – I think that was the year. I know it wasn’t very long after I had started making videos, and I think it had spawned from me dressing up my replica WWE title belts for the championships that the Rangers and Mavericks had recently won.
Whatever the case, I was surfing YouTube and other sites for information on championship belts, and I came across one guy’s video listing his favorite belts. And of course, he ridiculed the infamous John Cena Spinner Belt.
Now, this by itself was not a big deal for me. But then I saw another of his videos where this same guy not only ranted against Cena, but went out of his way to disparage John Cena FANS, basically saying they have no real good reason to cheer for him.
That led me to ANOTHER one of this guy’s videos, where he proceeded to list what makes a REAL wrestling fan and what makes a “Sports Entertainment” fan.
I should point out that I HAVE searched for those videos again in more recent times, but I haven’t found them. Since I don’t remember the name of the guy who made them, I can’t even verify if they are still up or not.
But the main point is, this was when I first really began to see that there were people out there that dared say, you’re not a REAL wrestling fan if you don’t do exactly what fans like us do, and YOU’RE ruining wrestling for US by not being like us.
This is what I began to take serious umbrige with.
And that’s what led me to creating the character of The Wrestling Mark.
He was meant to be the mirror image opposite of what I felt a smark fan was: Someone who at least acted like he thought pro wrestling was a real sport but just had fun with it thinking it was more entertaining than other sports, rather than someone who claims they know wrestling is staged but try to appreciate it for its supposed artistry.
I am going to admit that many of my Wrestling Mark videos are not good. There were a number of issues I’ve had producing the videos over the years in conjunction with my other work, but bottom line, I don’t think I did a good job portraying him in the way I intended.
Meanwhile, the attitudes of the smark fans out there were only getting worse. I thought their dislike for Cena was bad, but then came Roman Reigns.
I don’t think I’ve seen anyone be buried by the fringe fanbase more quickly than Roman due to ONE single match. One poor performance against Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2014. And all of a sudden all these people turned on him and have refused to give him any more chances.
I had the privelege of going to WrestleMania 32 here in Dallas Fort Worth. And I enjoyed every moment of being in the spectacle. I loved seeing my local newspapers talk about wrestling and WWE. I loved WrestleMania Axxess, I enjoyed everything. But all I heard from other people was that the show was terrible and that Reigns’ main event match against Triple H was THE reason.
The vitriol to me had reached a point where I felt my original method of fighting back against it was not working.
I decided that the Wrestling Mark, and me by extension, would have to more directly lash out at the IWC much like they were lashing out against WWE.
One thing people have retaliated with is saying that I am technically part of the IWC and a smark by default. And in the absolute strictest sense of the word, they’re not wrong.
But when I talk about “smarks,” I am specifically referring to a very distinct type of wrestling fan, one that has become very vocal in this internet age and has been using that voice to demand he get his way despite him not understanding that he is in the minority of wrestling’s entire potential fan base.
What is it specifically about this type of wrestling fan that grinds my gears?
First, there’s this mindset of them all taking pro wrestling so damn SERIOUSLY. They take it as seriously as I and many others took sports like baseball, living and dying by wins and losses. And let me tell you – how seriously I took baseball and other sports has gradually sucked the fun out of the game for me.
And this is something that should not BE taken as seriously as other sports, because…
This is NOT A SPORT.
Wrestling is a show. It’s not and never was a real sport.
These wrestling fans seem to want to believe that wrestling was real competition before Vincent K McMahon came along, but that is not the case.
The NWA was every bit as faked as WWE is now. And it was REALLY faked because when the promoters back then claimed their product to be real to their paying customer, they were LYING. And their customers bought the lie, and everyone else laughed at wrestling fans for being so gullible and stupid.
Sorry, Jim Cornette – Bret Hart didn’t “expose the business” when he went public about getting screwed over in Montreal – everyone with common sense knew about what went on in wrestling before that and was not buying the snake oil you were trying to sell them. And that fact that you and your fellow promoters were selling snake oil put a stigma on wrestling that it still deals with to this day.
Vince McMahon not caring much about whether or not people believed his product was real, first by making it cartoony in the 80s and then tearing down that fourth wall in the Attitude Era did help bring SOME acceptance to wrestling from the mainstream.
But now it’s regressing, largely because of how these fringe IWC smark fans are pushing their agenda of how wrestling should be.
They feel that the wrestlers to get pushed and made champion shouldn’t be the ones that exude the most over the top personality but simply the best pure wrestling athletes.
Because that worked so well back when Verne Gagne thought Nick Bockwinkel was a better champion than Hulk Hogan, right?
Oh, but times have changed, these fans say – nowadays all the REAL wrestling fans want authenticity over ridiculous dramatics, and so will everyone else if you just give it the chance.
NO. That’s not the case.
They seem to think that as long as pro wrestling just makes itself LOOK as realistic as possible, then everyone will eventually come around and learn to appreciate the supposed artistry of fully choreographing a sporting event.
And I can tell you as someone who knows a lot of people deeply involved in sports, including a number of sports journalists, this will never happen. Because these smark fans do not understand one very basic principle that will never change among the mainstream sports community:
The greatest sacrilege in athletics as far as die hard sports fans go is for the outcome to be rigged. They believe that the most sacred part of sports is knowing that both sides truly are competing and trying to win, and ANY case where one or more sides arranges for the other to win is disgraceful. Fixed boxing matches, point shaving in basketball, the 1919 Black Sox – these are considered the greatest scandals in all of sports. You are never going to convince these people that being booked to win a championship is just as honorable than actually competing for a championship.
The best defense against the mainstream criticism to wrestling is to insist the whole thing is just a show, but you don’t back up that defense when you act like you want it to be a “performance” that looks as much LIKE a real sport as possible.
It doesn’t help when these smarks act like pro wrestlers still need to be viewed as their characters 100 percent of the time. I mean, they CLAIM that they know wrestling is staged, and yet they still lose their gourd over things like Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman taking pictures with each other in their personal vacation lives. They claim such actions violate the honor and tradition of wrestling.
WHAT HONOR??? You’re talking about a tradition that is based entirely in lies and con men. A time where certain wrestlers being in character all the time led to them getting death threats from fans who thought the Von Erichs actually were real Nazis!
Heck, why do you even get so upset with them being out of character when you don’t even want them to HAVE characters? You’ve made it clear your dream wrestling show would be for two individuals to come out, be introduced by their real names do a bunch of flips and kicks, have one pin the other and then both hug and take a bow afterward as if to say yes everything we did was just faked you bought it thank you f*ck you bye. And you wouldn’t care because you’d leave the building saying to yourself, “Well yeah, it was fake, but… it COOOOOOULLLD have been REEEEEEAAAAALLL!”
It’s this insane contradiction of claiming they know the whole thing is staged, wanting to know every single thing that goes on backstage through their dirt sheets so they can claim to know more than other fans, and yet they STILL want to live in their make believe world where in their own mind that was a REAL sporting event – or maybe they can get the rest of the world to believe it’s real so they can lord some type of intellectual superiority over everyone else.
And they’re not even consistent in their claims for wanting their beloved “sport” to look as realistic as possible, being willing to stretch that suspension of disbelief ONLY when it’s someone they like – which is only one aspect of their hypocrisy.
Alexa Bliss isn’t realistic as a women’s champion because she’s only five feet tall, but it would be great to see all 190 pounds of Finn Balor jump onto Brock Lesnar’s stomach and pin him for the title?
They point out SmackDown’s poor ratings when Randy Orton was the champion, but Raw’s poor ratings COULDN’T have been Kevin Owens’ fault when he had THEIR championship.
They say they want new stars created, but they are outraged that they put the title on Jinder Majal rather than Kevin Owens again – to say nothing of how they have no problem with NXT’s belt being on a FORTY year old!
It’s unrealistic for a celebrity or non-wrestling athlete to get involved in an angle and win a match because they’re not “wrestlers” – but of course someone like CM Punk is such a great athlete that he could do UFC!
I don’t like having to say this, but the smarks’ claims as to what they think wrestling should be are so tied up in contradictions that, well… sometimes I can’t do anything but question their sanity!
Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with fans cheering for a wrestler that the storyline suggests they shouldn’t like. I remember watching WrestleMania 20 when Eddie Guererro faced Kurt Angle for the WWE Title and hearing the crowd split between cheering for those two, and I thought it was neat. I understand that people can find a connection with a certain type of personality and enjoy that performer. Heck, I fully admit to falling under this category with Alexa Bliss.
No, my problem is when people intentionally go after the supposed babyface for no reason other than JUST he’s the one WWE is pushing as the face.
Oh, they GIVE other reasons, but almost all of them can be debunked.
“We just don’t like the way Roman is booked!” Bray Wyatt has been booked horribly for years and still gets IWC support.
“He doesn’t give good promos!” Bayley is TERRIBLE on the mic and her character has been horribly one dimensional.
“He’s being shoved down our throats!” FINN BALOR WAS LITERALLY GIVEN THE BELT ONE MONTH AFTER MAKING HIS MAIN ROSTER DEBUT, ONLY DROPPED IT BECAUSE OF INJURY AND TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE AS OF THIS POSTING HAS ONLY BEEN ACTUALLY BEATEN ONCE.
I would at least have a sliver of respect for these people if they would just admit it’s simply “Vince likes Roman, so we hate Roman” (And BTW, pushing Roman was originally TRIPLE H’S idea)
Especially because it always seems to go farther than that by How much these smarks are intentionally trying to ruin the fun for everyone else by insisting their voices be heard.
I could stop making commentary like this, I could unfollow or block everyone on social media that complains about Roman Reigns or the current state of WWE – although I don’t want to do that because those are people I consider friends and I don’t want our friendships ruined because of something like this – but even if I did all that, I would still be unable to avoid these people. Every time I would turn on Raw or SmackDown or attend an event live, I would have to hear the ugly chants of visceral hatred these fans shout to try and wreck the production.
And the thing is, if those fans don’t like what WWE puts out… They can go elsewhere. They have Ring of Honor. They have New Japan. They have far more options to go to for professional wrestling than ever before. But with them determined to force WWE to end the practice of Sports Entertainment and make every single promotion show only the brand of wrestling THEY want… Where are fans like ME supposed to go?
Most of you who have followed me for years as the Rowdy Reviewer probably know what my preferences in entertainment are – I mostly prefer crazy, ludicrous, nonsensical stuff, often with a lot of comedy and perhaps some action. I am much more interested in the likes of Phineas & Ferb and Star Vs The Forces Of Evil than I am with Game Of Thrones or Breaking Bad.
WWE first hit the mainstream by being nonsensical – first with it’s cartoonish antics in the Roc & Wrestling Era, then with its nihilistic tones of the Attitude Era, then by managing to mix both in the Ruthless Aggression Era. But in either case, it was made clear what they were doing was fiction. And when they do that, the mainstream public can accept it as a guilty pleasure, and the backlash against it from the sanctimonious sports press has no mettle.
But that’s not what the hardcore fans want. They somehow consider that sacrilege because they need their “sport” to LOOK real in order to feel better about themselves for liking it, it seems. It can’t just be a guilty pleasure for them.
And to me, the big reason WWE’s TV ratings have been steadily declining for years is because they’ve turned it into exactly what the fringe IWC smarks want… AND IT HASN’T WORKED, but those fans would rather still blame WWE for doing something wrong with the change in tone rather than admit the tone they wanted is not entertaining!
They turned the first ever women’s Hell In A Cell match into a spot monkey match, putting more emphasis on “We’re gonna do everything the men do to show we can” rather than push an actual storyline – and then those fans wonder why the match was such a bust!
They stockpiled their roster with almost every single popular indie wrestler out there, put more emphasis on hard-hitting, acrobatic “rasslin” than story and characters just like the fringe demanded that they do… and all they’ve gotten in return is those fringe fans STILL complaining about the product, complaining that it’s boring, while everyone else went back to watching real sports because the UNSCRIPTED storylines they’ve been providing recently are more exciting!
I love professional wrestling because of its hokey over-the-top dramatics. Having been a stage performer, I can admire what these superstars do in putting on a stage performance using a type of athletics. But at no time have I forgotten what it is.
It is a SHOW. Its participants are performers above all else, not actual competitive athletes. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is important to remember that this is ENTERTAINMENT – it will never be a sport as long as the result is predetermined, and failing to acknowledge that does no good for the industry.
When you take away the storylines, when you take away the characters, when you take away the gimmicks, all you’re left with is fake athletes putting on a fake sport, and if that’s all you’re selling, you’re not gonna succeed in drawing the numbers WWE has done for years selling Sports Entertainment, and you’re going to continue to be scorned by the masses.
This is the problem I believe those fans I dub the “IWC smarks” are causing, and it’s why I openly speak out against them. And while I will encourage the discourse of those friends of mine who don’t necessarily disagree with me, it’s why I will continue to speak out against them in my upcoming podcast.