Compulsive viewing habits, video services being available on multiple easy access formats, privacy ruining algorithms grasping at what you recently viewed, and easy access to content geared towards very specific interests has had a distinct impact on everyone active in the digital age.
The pro-wrestling fandom is one of the best examples of this significant impact.
The WWE produces five hours of supposed must see televised programming weekly. This does not include WWE Network exclusive content which currently adds an additional two weekly hours of NXT & Cruiserweight Classic action, one or two hours of pre-shows per event, and three to six hours of Pay Per Views monthly.
Time is fleeting. Time is valuable. Time is an abstract concept that dogs the idea of long term commitments. Yet somehow many viewers are willing to put in seven to seventeen hours a week to stay up date with the main plot points & matches within the WWE.
That is not including the time those who watch other company’s video streaming services must add to the equation. New Japan Pro Wrestling, Scotland’s Insane Championship Wrestling, Ring of Honor, WhatCulture Pro Wrestling, and dozens of other companies offer some form of on demand service. Nor does the viewing time include the discussion of pro-wrestling among peers which thousands of passionate fans take part in.
The escalation of commitment required to be a so-called smart fan with brand loyalty in an age of open information and woeful TMZish rumour milling is frankly astonishing.
This amount of viewing time can lead to people showing incredible commitment bias to justify themselves staying on the pulse of thousands of relatively mundane occurrences, because it all seems so important. ‘Remember when Finn Balor kept waiting for The Bullet Club to arrive at NXT on Twitter? They’ll be coming out at Wrestlemania to help Shane McMahon beat The Undertaker!’
Individuals who have watched the shows for years -if not decades- who may not even enjoy the product on a consistent basis watch through the veil of cynicism while knowing each and every trope of the product. ‘I know Kane’s making a surprise return because his specific ringpost pyros are set up, he should retire already and make room for the younger guys!’
Long term fans who adore certain wrestlers and companies may defend everything their favourites are involved in endlessly regardless of fair criticism. ‘Jerry Lawler deserves to be seen as a shining light of purity, he’s been wrestling forever and that matters more than anything! Even in his old age he was five times the wrestler WWE Champion Miz was at Elimination Chamber 2011!’
Much like when children start surprisingly heated arguments about their favourite video games and TV shows, it seems cute until you realize the level of brand loyalty required to constantly engage in those discussions. It is especially intense to people who are not willing to dedicate these hours to wrestling weekly yet remain fans.
As wrestling fans we should think on what we really enjoy about the programming and possibly consider spreading the wrestling content a little bit thinner to break the brand loyalties that can turn us into obsessives.
Imagine wrestling is like toast. Toast is nice. When you have a few slices for breakfast, how much butter do you enjoy? Surely it’s not fifteen hours worth of butter! Even fifteen hours worth of butter spread over five slices of bread from three different company’s loaves results in a drown-level butter:bread ratio. That’s a terrifying mind warping amount of butter! How did you even buy that much-
…where was I? Oh yeah…
If sitting down to watch three hour episodes of Monday Night Raw seems dull, take a break, maybe watch the PPV this month and nothing else. If you really dislike a particular wrestler but feel you must angrily rant about them online, skip the segment involving their character as you already know you will hate it, and check out a different feud currently happening in any number of promotions instead of ranting. Finally, if you find online wrestling rumours are spoiling on screen moments for you, or if they leave you feeling strangely like a cliché smark who rolls their eyes at everything, avoid reading them.
Skipping a few hours of wrestling will not make anybody less of a fan yet it will free up time in anyone’s lives while making the interesting parts of wrestling much more fun! Plus, once a person slips outside of the core fandom bubble and sees the forest for the trees there is a guarantee they will witness how strange and alienating wrestling fan culture truly is. Afterwards they may be able to help in changing fan communities for the better so they are inherently more inclusive and welcoming.
The superior social standing unseemly levels of commitment give you in established fan communities makes it particularly uncomfortable for outsiders who may not fit into standard wrestling fan demographics. How many times have women, people of colour, and members of the LGBT community been forced out of discussion groups by the behaviour of the immature, the offensive, and the condescending for daring to have an opinion while being of a different sex, gender, skin colour, sexuality, or nationality than the core usergroup? The answer is currently somewhere around the forty seven trillion mark, give or take.
If your life is focused so strongly on a beloved hobby for an extended period of time it will change you, for better or worse. We are influenced by what we watch and how we perceive. In an age where on demand services exist to feed the love of our hobbies while profiting from subscription costs and viewing time, it is too easy to forget what a constant barrage of information can do to us. What we enjoy and what we dislike changes how we discuss things privately, how we act in the world, and who we are at a fundamental level.