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The “True” Wrestling Fans: Cause for Divide in the Pursuit of Validation

PWP Nation’s Zak Fellows bravely takes a hard look at the divide between the two types of wrestling fans: the diehard vs. the casual. 

Naturally, it is in our human nature to have differing mind sets and mentalities based on the thoughts and opinions that make us unique and a voice to be heard in any discussion.

We, as fans, are united by our common interests.

Even if we are generally split into what type of fan we are, based on our frequency of viewerships, there is still that common link that ultimately unites us. It could be a specific show, wrestler or style of wrestling storytelling and product that we share our opinions with. However, while it is in our nature to find points of harmony and coexistence naturally there will be those who seek points of contention… thus enters the “True/Real” wrestling fans.

Often times, among the IWC, we will see someone use the words “true” and “real” during an argument. For example, “only real wrestling fans will truly appreciate the talent of Damien Sandow” or something along those lines, as if a certain storyline or wrestler is only meant to be acknowledged and enjoyed by certain people. Now, those claims I am not a big supporter of because, and I fully realize that this is mostly rooted in generalization, in my opinion it serves as an unnecessary attempt to validate a point made in a discussion or an argument while at the same time presenting a form of imaginary superiority.

This “Real Wrestling Fan” is a problem among our own IWC and it needs to be addressed to ensure a more welcoming and healthy environment to fan bases.

Wrestling fans two

Of course, the distinction that often arises when people bring this argument up is the age old Casual vs. Hardcore and which is more important (BOTH!). Even with different viewing habits, fans still have that point of coherence via their common interest. That is the beauty of professional wrestling as a medium in that it has never been so self-absorbed in its own universe that it doesn’t alienate potential new viewers, if the product is good mind. You can pick up and watch wrestling and get the basic idea of it pretty quickly.

So fans are united in their fan base. But, unfortunately among the more lively and passionate of fan bases emerges an inherent investment in their own fandom. Derived from personal experience, a fan will find a point of contention within their own fan base such as band wagon jumping, those who are too sensitive and uncomprehending of any fair criticism (You can be a member of a fan base and still criticize it’s how you improve) or considering themselves a long-time fan to the point that they feel a special, insurmountable attachment. All of a sudden, that harmonious fan base becomes fractured into different camps that, while still sharing that interest, are split up into what their main belief in that fandom is.

For the benefit of example: CM Punk’s 2011 main event push. New fans were drawn to him for the reasons people had originally been drawn towards him and those fans become united by that shared interest. But then, the long-time fans would present themselves as superior because they knew Punk longer and have a certain level of attachment to him and like a domino effect: the fan base still shares an interest but is not in collusion.

THIS is where a divide emerges from fans who are so engrossed into their own fandom and the “REAL” wrestling fan argument helps intensify that fractured fan base. The WWE YouTube page, in particular, is slowly becoming notorious in its over-saturation of people who if they see someone praising John Cena, Roman Reigns or anybody else not considered to be “IWC favorites” they will hound that poor soul like there is no tomorrow calling them not a “Real” fan.

Roman-Reigns-Sad

Thus, the “real” wrestling fan not only creates a divide between fans of common interests but also serves as a form of self-indulgent nerd elitism, to speak rather bluntly.

Perhaps though, the “REAL” wrestling fan argument stems more from what we, as long-time members of the IWC, have come to associate with the most common stereotype of a hardcore wrestling fan. The “REAL” wrestling fan discourse derives from what we consider to be the stereotype as often times, the wrestlers receiving the most support from those fans are, but not limited to, those:

  • Not in a position of immediate prominence (Not in a title match, not in a frequent position).
  • Outside of the template that a promotion often steers towards (WWE looks towards bigger guys for example).
  • Not tied too closely to a wrestling family (nepotism).

My inherent problem with the stereotype of the “REAL” wrestling fan and the application of its ideals is that the interests of the stereotype are just that…stereotypical. One recent example, that kind of ultimately spawned this article, is Eva Marie.

Now, I like Eva Marie. I guess the best I can say about her in the past is that I’ve been unoffended by her and find her willingness to improve admirable. Recently, with this return to coward but center of attention heel character, I have been legitimately enjoying her. However, she is not of the template that the diehard fan imagines because she didn’t grow up with the intention of joining the WWE and isn’t of the work ethic of any other heel woman in the eyes of the fans.

Eva Marie

Thus, she has been the product of those dismissing her liking of her and her recent direction as not a “real fan”. This is not to say that people have to be fans of Eva Marie, it’s that the outright dismissal of those who enjoy her serves as a point of divide that conclusively aggravates me.

While the talk of “this makes you a real fan” can, in some regards, be considered useful for discovering new content to become attached to, in some cases it tries to recommend what a fan, personally, may have a lack of interest of investment in. From personal experience, fans still recommend Impact Wrestling and go to the extent of saying you are not a “real” fan if you don’t support TNA. With that said, and while I can totally understand that to some TNA was, and still is, something to enjoy: after close to 10 years of shoddy booking, constant disappointment and an overwhelming stigma that it has managed to cultivate incredibly fast…why would you give this promotion another chance? Just so you can be called a “true” fan?

It’s OK to be a devoted fan of wrestling or whatever product of pass time you choose to invest yourself in. But the whole idea that, to be considered a part of a minority of what a group of people consider “True” fans you have to follow these people, like these shows and hate these things just serves as a lack of encouragement of accepting and finding our own personal points of contention and harmony with our wrestling opinions.

If you like a certain wrestler, it’s because you enjoy what they give to you and find yourself going back to them, it shouldn’t be because it makes you look good and correct in the eyes of other people.

We do not need validation to enjoy what we enjoy and being a casual viewer does not make you any less important so leave them alone.

[Zak Fellows hopes you enjoyed his mad ramble of self-indulgence.]

Ryback saw my article on him…still running off of that adrenaline.

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About Zak Fellows

I started watching wrestling in 2005, mesmerised by a certain slow walking phenom. 10 years later and still going strong: Not only as a fan among a very eclectic community but also as a senior writer for this very website. Combining knowledge, opinion, a disdain for the typical wrestling fan on the internet and a sarcastic wit, if you agree with me than hooray and whoopee. If you don't...then don't be a little drama queen about it because god forbid people think differently.