Simon Lamb

The Casual Wrestling Fans

Alloha, Simon here again with another helping of wrestling discussion cake for you all. This time round I’m coming off the back of what can only be described as a very silly couple of weeks of wrestling TV, and another test on how far the wrestling fans stupidity can be stretched… which made me think… is it time for wrestling to mature again?

Alloha, Simon here again with another helping of wrestling discussion cake for you all. This time round I’m coming off the back of what can only be described as a very silly couple of weeks of wrestling TV, and another test on how far the wrestling fans stupidity can be stretched… which made me think… is it time for wrestling to mature again?

Before I begin, I just want to say that recently Smackdown has shown glimpses of being a really entertaining show. Now whether that’s a co-incidence or not that its been looking more tasty without having to build up to a monthly PPV blow-off I don’t know. Currently it feels more like SD is like one of the weekly TNA shows… if slightly less worth paying for than a TNA PPV.

I mean the Cena/Guerrero thing, it makes sense for them to have a singles match on SD as part of the feud. It doesn’t kill the heat of the feud since there is no stupid once a month blow off, (which always ends up being a singles match you saw for free a month ago on TV) and you always end up wanting to see what’s going to happen next in the feud since its so entertaining.

Then you had the triple threat no.1 contender match, between Big Show, Taker and Lesnar. Personally, I found it entertaining, although a lot of people on TWO were probably groaning… and it made sense again to have it as a big main event. You were left wanting to watch next week, because there was a big title match coming up between Angle and Taker. You didn’t know where this was all going because it didn’t have to follow some template of half arsed booking for a PPV match. Perhaps one more week of buildup would have made the Angle-Taker title match that bit more interesting, but for me it was fine, and since it wasn’t a PPV (even though the match was PPV standard) the finish was fine too. And it wasn’t a non-wrestler who did a run-in either… a surprise these days eh.

What Smackdown could do from these more entertaining weekly shows I don’t exactly know, I’m not paid to sit and come up with ideas for them after all (It’s not much fun coming up with ideas that never get read by them anyway). All I know is that Smackdown seems to become twice as entertaining when there’s no PPV to rush the booking for, and just hope that the WWE perhaps pick up on this.

Oh yeah and then there’s RAW… agh… yeh. TNA anyone?

Anyhow, now to my point. I don’t know if any of you would have been unlucky enough to witness the Kane/Shane McMahon electrocution of the balls segment on RAW (If I hadn’t seen the online video of it I wouldn’t either). If you were, then no doubt you were both 1) embarrassed to be a wrestling fan and 2) not entertained in the slightest.

I ask you… please stop and think about this. You are Joe Normal living in the USA, flicking channels. You come across a wrestling show, not of particular interest to you in any way. You then see one of the guys attach a car battery to another guy, who doesn’t look like a wrestler, on his private parts. You then watch a man pretending (badly) to have his balls electrocuted. Now unless the people of the United States of America are far dumber than I ever thought, the consensus I believe would be to change the channel faster than you can say “My balls hurt”.

Now Glen Gilberti put it best in an interview, stating that the competition in the wrestling industry is no longer other wrestling shows… but that its now the entertainment industry where mainstream promotions have to compete. It’s no longer a choice between two promotions he pointed out, explaining that it’s now chat shows and sit-coms (can’t remember the names of the shows they actually compete with) that they need to be worrying about beating.

Therefore… if Vince doesn’t think he has any competition, he should think again. The dedicated wrestling fans that keep watching aren’t going to keep his shows on air forever. And this whole nonsense about the business being in a down-turn… well, in my opinion, it won’t come back up unless the ‘business’ changes again. Wrestling went mainstream because it was marketable, and now in its current state (I mean the WWE in particular) it isn’t. There will always be wrestling fans, that’s not what I’m talking about, but I mean the level of public interest in wrestling isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s easy to compare the current state to the evil, evil period from 1995-early 1997 but it feels that this time something’s different. Things aren’t that bad… but in a sense they are.

So where am I going with this? Hmm, good question. It’s all about getting people watching again. But how… how do you get Danny the Dumb mark watching again?

Now this is my theory, and it might not make much sense to you if you got into wrestling after the Hogan era (I suppose that’s anything from 1994 onwards). I’ve got a feeling that the evolution (not the HHH stable) of the WWE fan has followed this pattern.

Young kids watching Hulk Hogan wrestle. He’s their hero. Yay!

Young kids get a bit older, think Hulk Hogan is an old phoney… wrestlings fake… no longer cool! Lets play pogs instead… or with yo-yo’s. Yeh…what happened there?

1995 happens. It just… did. Sorry. Nobody cares about wrestling… it’s all fake after all.

WWF attitude comes along, makes wrestling ‘cool’ again. Whoa, tables… violence… cool stuff really hits home with the 14-18 demographic in particular. ‘Sports entertainment’ attempts to not treat the fans like young kids anymore.

Post 2000 the WWE becomes ‘Sports Un-entertainment’, with little reason for the casual fan to watch… they’ve seen it all before, plus there’s loads more entertaining programmes to watch. Wrestling isn’t cool anymore, or they just feel they’re too old for it.

WWE continues to follow WCW style management… leading to…

Who knows what! Now hopefully you can see where I’m coming from here. The fans who watched the ‘Attitude’ era were probably the same ones who watched Hogan and then went off wrestling for a bit. Now what’s going to get them back into it? Surely you can never ‘grow out’ of wrestling?

You really have to look at the current product from a casual fan and think… why would any casual wrestling fan find this entertaining… or interesting in the slightest. By casual wrestling fan I of course mean someone who doesn’t really know anything about wrestling, but probably knows a couple of big names and won’t mind watching it for a bit if something entertaining is going on.

This is where I get confused. Surely the WWE knows this. Why should they be surprised if the ratings don’t change after bringing guys like Bischoff, Steiner and Goldberg… after all surely they are only known to actual wrestling fans, not the casual ones. Bischoff for me is a great example… at the end of the day, I bet a third of the group watching Raw when Bischoff arrived had never even heard of/seen Bischoff on TV before.

I don’t want to get into the whole ‘why is the WWE in a down-turn’ question. Everyone has their own opinions as to why, and what’s in store for the future. I really just want to pick up on my point about the ‘evolution’ of the casual wrestling fan.

Now while I might be what a wrestler would consider an evil smart mark who knows nothing about the business, (which I’d find quite insulting if one actually said it to me come to think of it.) I’d like to think I know what makes a good show and what makes a bad show. At the end of the day, every smart mark is still a mark (well… most are) and still wants to be entertained. I still want to watch shows without knowing what’s going to happen (one reason I loved the Coach heel turn), and I try to look at the shows/PPVs from a casual fans point of view as well as my own.

And man, can I see why they aren’t watching anymore. While Smackdown to us might be a good show where you can always see entertaining wrestling, to the casual fan its probably as bland as bland on toast. Same goes for Raw too really… there’s nothing to stir any emotions in them at all, to make them laugh, to make them go ‘woah, I can’t believe he just did that’, or ‘I wonder what’s going to happen next week’. It’s like the only reason you’d continue watching either show is if you were a dedicated wrestling fan who needed their weekly fix of wrestling.

When it comes down to it though… who are these evil ‘casual’ wrestling fans, and why must they cause us so much pain by wanting to actually be entertained?

The casual fan could really be anyone of any age. It’s just up to the WWE whom they aim the product at. If you were to put a gun to my head right now and ask me to guess which age group the WWE shows are aimed at, I’d probably say (after asking you to take the gun away from my head) they are still aiming wrestling at the same age group that they aimed at during the attitude era. Raw is probably (unintentionally) aimed at the younger teenagers, whilst SD seems to be aimed at a slightly older teenage fanbase. Now in my eyes this is where they could be going wrong. However, the WWE when it comes down to it don’t even seem to be targeting a particular age group in their desperation for ratings… which is stupid.

As far as I’m concerned, and this is just my theory again, the age group they are aiming the WWE shows at today is indeed the 14-18 age group, possibly now even incorporating kids from 10-upwards (it somehow, with Bra and panties matches still intact, seems a more family friendly product, RAW in particular). This is a mistake in my eyes. After all, wrestling isn’t ‘cool’ anymore and it’s probably gone back to the days where the kids who watch it will get made fun of at school for it. So why aim it at them. Why not aim it at the guys you had watching during the attitude era, but who have got older yet again?

You hear me, for starters, a riskier product. F*** the PTC, don’t aim it at kids. Or even if you have to, make one of the WWE shows family friendly, and the other family unfriendly, infact so family unfriendly that it’ll make families split up as a result of watching it. The demographic needs to swing towards the 16-24 age, forget the rest of the kids. Allow them to swear more like they used to on TNA, add that ‘extreme’ element back into the show without having to make it like ECW (you know, it is possible). After all, isn’t Raw now on Spike TV, the first ‘mans network’?

For me TNA has (or had) it perfect. Swearing was allowed for starters, producing hilarious promos. I mean, can you imagine Austin being allowed to call Bischoff a little faggot? Sure the whole TV deal question comes into play, but like I said it need only change a little, doesn’t have to be to ECW proportions or anything. Just anything to stop the type of crap that was witnessed on Raw ever happening again (although it would also require the arrest of Vince Russo). The real casual wrestling fans have got older in my opinion, and probably don’t want to be associated with something as ridiculous as a show where one man in tights electrocutes another mans testicles.

I loved the touch on Smackdown where they interviewed Taker and Angle about their matches in what’s probably as close to a fake shoot as the WWE have done in recent times… it was almost like those cool little interviews they did ages ago on TNA with Jarrett, Gilberti etc, where they would semi-shoot (that’s what I’d call it anyway) on several wrestling issues. If the Taker and Angle ones were more like them then you’d get a more entertaining result in my eyes, as the fans think they are getting more info about the business. Little things like being able to mention things about wrestling in the past, like someone slagging Flair for walking out of NWA with the belt years ago, or more cheap shots at the WCW management structure before it died could easily be entertaining, or more entertaining than Lance Storm having a midget hump his leg. Have Goldust mock Storm’s underachievement in the WWE instead, his crap IC title run etc. Just stop treating the fans like morons, or hoping morons will tune in.

Of course I don’t mean smartening up to the moronic level of WCW I’ve heard about. The whole worked shoot shenanigans that went on over there and to an extent in ECW were probably just as insulting. I’m talking about the little things that all add up, like for instance in TNA instead of just happening to have a camera in a room where there is a very private conversation going on, they always had a reason for the camera being there, or actually acknowledged it. I mean almost all of the places the WWE do their backstage sketches always leave you thinking ‘Why have they got a camera in THERE?’ It all adds up I tell ya!

So what I’m saying is perhaps the fans have got smarter again, and although what I’m suggesting as a solution might not be totally sound you’ll hopefully agree with me that it’s a possible solution. I personally feel that the WWE are actually dumbing down its product even more, and that during the attitude period they didn’t treat you half as stupid as they used to. And before you start saying ‘of course you’d say that you’re a smark’, I’m just as much a mark as Cuthbert Casual.

Hopefully that all made sense, and if you watch TNA you’ll hopefully have a clearer picture of what I mean. If you agree with me good, if you don’t… I hate you. If I’m completely missing the point somewhere, feel free to email me (link at bottom of the page) and perhaps point out any things I’ve said which you feel are wrong, I’m interested to see if my theory is a bit farfetched.

Before I go, I’m heading back up to Aberdeen as of next week so I’ll be starved of WWE shows bar the PPVs. Luckily though, I’ll have SiMania and his trusty TNA tape service to keep me sane. Yay.

Anyway, that’s all from me for now, ciao.

Simon Lamb