Pro wrestling in 2019. It’s a crazy time to be a fan of the business. I’d like to get something off my chest. I get it, my job is to write about pro wrestling, which puts me in the same bracket as many hardcore fans. I want to address this idea of ‘casual fans’ and this idea that companies can attract them to their product. In the late 90s, maybe even early 00s, the idea of getting a casual audience to watch pro wrestling was definitely a possibility. The level of cross-promotion from a television standpoint alone gave wrestling a wider appeal. In this day and age, I just don’t think it’s possible to attract new viewers. The reason for this, I believe is because of the current hardcore fan base.
The fan who attacked Bret Hart at the WWE Hall Of Fame Ceremony 2019
I don’t attend a lot of wrestling shows. I watch it sure, but aside from shows that I work on (non-wrestling capacity), I generally tend to keep attending to a minimum. The wrestling bubble has constricted itself over the last decade, mainly thanks to the good folks at World Wrestling Entertainment. The only fans of pro wrestling nowadays are die-hard, loyalists who have been through the best and worst of times. This is a good thing. But it’s also a bad thing.
Attending a WWE live show early last year in the UK, I witnessed first-hand the differences that alienate new or budding fans who may be interested in the wrestling product. A man with his son sat behind me, his son quite young and looking forward to seeing the likes of Roman Reigns and Strowman among others. Two rows in front of me sat three men in their mid-thirties, discussing things in front and behind the curtain. From their conversation, it was clear that they knew the ‘inside’ of the business.
John Cena was at the centre of fan ire for years
The reason I use this as an example is that as soon as a member of the roster that the young lad enjoyed came through the curtain, the child’s excitement was quickly drowned out by the torrent of swear words and bad-natured barbs that the three men in front of me were lashing out at full volume. They did the whole ‘cheer the bad guys and hurl abuse at the good guys’ routine and it soured the entire show for me. I get it, you pay your money and you have the right to cheer and boo who you please. But being aware of your surroundings especially with younger, impressionable people around you is key. People like these three men suffocate any idea that new fans could begin their love of pro wrestling because if I was the father of that child, I wouldn’t bring them to another live show.
What happened to Roman Reigns the night after WrestleMania 33 was a prime example of smart fan’s voicing their disproval
Over the last month, we have seen more and more outlandish behaviour (mainly in the United States) from overzealous fans trying to get themselves over. First case in point, Taya Valkyrie at the Impact taping from a few weeks back. This drunk fan took it upon himself to get in her face, repeatedly shouting ‘f**k you’, and as Taya knocked his drink out of his hand, he spat on her as she walked away. Say what you want, Valkyrie was being a heel. She didn’t get physical, she stood there and played the antagonist. This drunk fan was and is quite frankly a complete scumbag. In football, abusive fans get handed lifetime bans. I get that this can be difficult but banning this guy from anything IMPACT related would be a start.
The above is footage from the fan incident with Taya Valkyrie. Please be aware there is explicit language
Second case in point, the Ring Of Honor fan incident with Bully Ray. The fan in question was a man by the name of Josh Ketch. Ketch took to Twitter in early June to relay his negative experience from a Ring Of Honor show in Portland, Oregon. Now according to Ketch, he booed and heckled heel faction The Allure, which led to Velvet Sky inviting him into the ring for a confrontation, which he denied. He then alleged that shortly after the segment, security came and escorted him backstage into a room where he was met by Bully Ray, who basically told him to have more respect for the wrestlers. He then sent him on his way and Ketch returned to his seat.
Obviously, this is all conjecture but my gut says that something is not quite adding up. Obviously Bully has become someone who has skin like rice paper, which is hilarious given that this is a man who in the late ’90s was virtually causing riots with the level of crass and abusive language he used. But I also understand we now live in a different time, but something just doesn’t seem right. I guess we will just have to take Ketch at his word.
OK story time… I avoided saying anything until the show was over to avoid any further issue but… this honestly soured my to ROH in a big way. Honest to god story that can be backed up by about half a dozen people… https://t.co/8ECk6ewxJ3
— Osh Kosh Big Josh (@xIAMHOLLYWOODx) June 3, 2019
Josh Ketch’s recollection of his interaction with Bully Ray
Finally, and this one is my favourite, the complete dumbass who took it upon himself to walk through the barrier at a PCW show this week after apparently being very drunk and hurling abuse, and got completely annihilated by Jacob Fatu. When I was a kid, I was always taught by people that you risked your safety as soon as you crossed that physical barrier between fans and the ring. This neck-bearded keyboard warrior decidedly took it upon himself to leave his parents basement, put down his replica world title that he bought from the WWE for $500, and think it smart to step up against a Samoan wrestling machine. If you know anything about the history of wrestling, it’s that you don’t mess with Samoan wrestlers. They will mess you up. Full stop. In truth, Fatu put PCW in a situation where they could have been sued, and the right way to deal with idiots such as this is to have security eject them from the building. They seemed completely uninterested in doing their jobs though, so I guess that’s that.
Jacob Fatu attacks a drunk fan who walks through the fan barrier
More recently, it’s come to light that at an AAA show in Cancun, Mexico on June 15th, Scarlett Bordeaux was groped by a fan on the outside of the ring after a dive through the middle rope. She was saved from further assault by her partner in the match Lady Shani, who did more than security at the venue did and pulled her away. Situations like this make me believe that people think that performers live the character they play. In no way is this kind of behaviour acceptable. I hope Bordeaux takes action against the venue for not doing more to reprimand this particularly vulgar individual, but in truth, its likely nothing will happen. Bordeaux herself took to Twitter regarding the incident, condemning the situation, and you can see her response below.
It is NEVER okay to touch a performer without their consent. I didn’t realize what happened until I watched the footage afterwards being so in the moment after a dive with my back turned otherwise I would have reacted much differently. Thnx to @LadyShaniAAA for having my back https://t.co/2YKT64sKIj
— Scarlett Bordeaux (@Lady_Scarlett13) June 16, 2019
To finish off, here’s the definition of irony. Pro wrestling was always looked upon as the ginger stepchild of the ‘sports’ world. People stereotyped and still do to this day that wrestling fans are traditionally out of shape, slightly older guys with neckbeards that live in their parent’s basement. We all know that is not true, and I’d go as far as to say that 90% of wrestling fans are good folks who want to be entertained for an evening, to distract from the crap that is life sometimes. But the people getting the publicity for doing stupid things like the examples above, play into the stereotype that people have about wrestling fans.
The irony is this. I’m sure many fans of pro wrestling (me included), perhaps didn’t quite fit in at school or work, and maybe had a bit of social awkwardness about interacting with people outside of this amazing business. And now, here we are, these same people outcast for being a fan of a ‘fake’ sport aggressively perpetrating their opinions on the business to those who just came to be entertained by a show. I also get the irony of me using terms like ‘neckbeards’ and referring to fans ‘living in their parents’ basement, but I don’t care. It’s my article. Jesus, I’m more like the idiots above than I realised.