Greetings to All!
To begin this entry, let me take you back two years to the beginning of my career as a teacher. The week before school started, there was an orientation for all teachers that were new to the school. That school year, my school had a lot of turnover so there were approximately twenty teachers new to the school. At the beginning of school years, teachers like to do ice breaker activities with classes as a way to get to know students and get them to know each other. Well, they make us teachers participate in ice breaker activities all the time. In this orientation, they did one ice breaker where we were all seated in a circle with a person in the middle, and one less chair than people. The person in the middle makes the statement “My name is… and I like…” and then whoever else likes what you like has to stand up and then everyone has to rush to a seat and whoever is left standing is the new person in the middle. So it was my turn in the middle and I say “My name is Bryan and I like professional wrestling.” Out of around twenty people in this circle, not a single soul stood. I was alone.
After I was thoroughly embarrassed and the ice breaker activity was over, one of the other new teachers came over to me. He says to me “Sorry, man. I watch wrestling too.” He didn’t want to admit to it in front of a bunch of new people though. When no one stood up, he felt too embarrassed to be the only one who would stand up. I gave him some grief for leaving me hanging there, but really, I understood. I think anyone who has been a professional wrestling fan for a while has some sort of similar feelings.
I’ll get back to that. In our last entry, James W Law III reflected on the toxic fandom that we can see sometimes among wrestling fans. In response to that article, some people brought up that the toxic behavior among fans was not quite new. It was mentioned that it changed from fans stabbing each other at shows back in the territory days to fans calling each other names on social media. I’m not going to get into whether or not fans are worse today or not, but the discussion did get me thinking. It got me thinking about the role social media plays in professional wrestling and professional wrestling fans.
When we think of the effect social media on professional wrestling, like with many other aspects of our lives, we think of the negative effects it has. As you’re reading this, you might be thinking of a particular incident where you’ve shared your opinion of Facebook or Twitter only to have a bunch of people tell you how stupid you are or call you names. This toxic fandom is certainly a problem but I would challenge the notion that social media has been more negative than positive for professional wrestling.
The first and foremost reason I believe social media has been a positive force is that, as I was telling my student Joshua earlier (sorry, made a promise to name drop him in my blog), social media has given fans a voice like never before. Before social media, wrestling fans really only had one way to affect change in the industry, either voicing disapproval at live events or not tuning in to the show on TV. Sure, this had an effect every now and then; the example that comes to my mind is the fans not getting behind the white meat babyface Rocky Maivia which led to us getting one of the most entertaining characters to ever step into a ring, The Rock.
However, outside of those few things, fans mostly just had to take what was given to them. Especially since, as a portion of the population we’re fairly small and spread out so there was no way to assemble for change. Social media changed all of that. Suddenly fans were able to connect with each other, share their feelings and ideas. Fans realized they were not alone with their complaints. They formed communities online. They made their displeasure known and it didn’t take long before the decision makers started to listen.
While WWE eventually incorporated the YES Movement into storyline, it began on the internet with hardcore fans wanting equal opportunities for everyone based on their talent, not just their connections. The fans spoke and WWE listened. This led to WWE paying more attention to the wrestlers that fans liked outside of WWE. We went from an era of mostly homegrown WWE talent to getting fan favorites from lesser known promotions being showcased on the international stage. It was a monumental shift. It wasn’t the last that social media would bring about.
With one simple hashtag in 2015, fans were able to take women’s wrestling from an afterthought to the main event. It cannot be understated how big of a deal the #GiveDivasAChance hashtag was for the wrestling world. Great women’s wrestling had of course been showcased elsewhere for years, but it was mostly unknown. That all changed as more people began to see that women could perform just as well as the men. Gone were the days of women’s wrestling being associated with models who were more apt to compete in a swimsuit competition than a professional wrestling match. We, as fans, did that with our voice.
The state of wrestling in 2019 is a direct result of social media. AEW exists because there were enough people who voiced their desire for an alternative on the mainstream level. I believe NWA Powerrr would probably not exist if it weren’t for Billy Corgan taking notice of the market for a show catered to old school fans expressing their distaste for the modern style. Without social media, Puro fans… well you all don’t have much too complain about, this post isn’t for you. The point is there are more options to watch now than ever before because we as fans got online and asked for them. That is the power of social media.
For my other reason for believing in the positive effect of social media, let’s go back to the story we started off with. I really did understand why the other teacher didn’t want to admit to being a wrestling fan. Any adult professional wrestling fan I’m sure can relate to the “you know it’s fake” response when admitting to being a fan. Wrestling fans are few and far between. The only places we really congregate in person at are live events and conventions. It can be lonely being a wrestling fan. Social media, however, brings wrestling fans together.
Without social media, I would not have been able to create the Wrestling 4 All Facebook group and connect with some really great fans from around the world. That also means I wouldn’t have started this blog as a place for those same fans to write about their reflections on this art form that we all love so much. Through what is sometimes disdainfully referred to as the Internet Wrestling Community, I have met some truly wonderful people and developed some good friendships.
I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve interacted with people who have created lifelong bonds with fans they met over the internet who they then went on to meet in real life. People have connected and found love through their interactions discussing wrestling on social media. That is a real powerful force. Yes, it can be negative at times, but how can we let that diminish what social media has brought to wrestling fans? The ability to come together, no matter where we are in the world, and share our love for this whacky thing we call professional wrestling is to me the most amazing thing that could have happened for wrestlings fans.
Let’s try to appreciate it, okay?
Until we meet again,