I’m not always proud of my past behavior as a wrestling fan.
I started watching WWE during the Attitude Era, and like most fans, I thought it was so over the top and hilarious that most of what I now find insulting and degrading went right over my head. 20 year old Shannon lived in a world where the word ‘puppies’ was gross but acceptable to the mainstream populous and hard way color was commonplace. Wrestling wasn’t PG in those days, and every Monday was a reminder of that fact in gruesome, sexist, and usually racist detail. They did things in that era that curdle my stomach when I watch them now (or I just eye-roll because seriously, some of those Royal Rumbles are PAINFUL to watch). It makes me grateful that 37 year old Shannon is older, wiser, and far more tolerant about diversity and feminism than her younger and more naïve self.
Now before you go stomping off thinking this is another ‘feminist rant’, hold your horses and do me a favor.
Stop and actually read. Because this is me imploring you to make a difference.
If you are one of those wrestling fans that refuses to listen to any under-represented part of fandom because of our ‘agenda’, I want you to spend the next few minutes shifting your paradigm and seeing things in someone else’s shoes and light. Come at this with an open mind and really try to think about why I am saying what I am saying here. I am not trying to crap on any one fan, or shoot down the way in which you enjoy wrestling. But I do hope to raise a few good points about wrestling fan culture and how it affects the product as a whole.
We’ve talked about this to a degree on our podcast, and we’ll discuss the female fan perspectives more in a future episode. But today I’d like to talk about trends and behavior in the fandom that I think should take a back seat, or get out of the car entirely.
Here’s my top 5 list of things YOU can change as a fan that will change fandom in wrestling for the better.
5. PLEASE stop marginalizing other fans.
I see this ALL the time on social media and at live events, and let me tell you there are few things as degrading and upsetting to someone as feeling that they are insignificant in the community that celebrates something that they love. Even if some of us exist on the peripherals, we are a valid part of the fandom. Women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, the differently-abled, and more. We are all here. We want inclusivity from promotions as well as fans, and I think that’s common sense in our charged political and social climate. Venues that are handicapped accessible or at least promotions willing to help out traveling fans with special needs are always an awesome thing. LGBTQ story lines that aren’t talking down to the community, like Joey Ryan’s old storyline outlined in the linked video, are important because visibility and normalcy are integral to equality. I’m bi, and I think Kenny Omega’s open mentions of his preferences are a tremendous thing, but I get tired of people going ‘it shouldn’t matter’. It should matter. Fans who make comments like this, or who call female wrestlers degrading things on social media and talk about their looks but never their talent…are polarizing at best. This kind of behavior taints the experience for all and brings our fandom down as a whole. Think before you speak in a demeaning way, and try to remember that we are all here to celebrate WRESTLING. Mocking women, or the disabled, or ANY fan is unacceptable.
4. Please stop being upset about what wrestlers other people like.
I root heel most of the time. Anyone who knows me well enough understands that even when he’s playing an uber-heel, I’ll be the idiot in the audience chanting “red hair, don’t care!” when Darin Corbin is in the ring swearing at everyone. I scream for Kevin Owens at live WWE events and tend to favor the heelish characters as a whole. Do I like Roman Reigns? I’m ok with him but he isn’t my favorite. That said, I do NOT mock people who do like him, or Cena, or any of the babies that the usually younger demographic enjoy. I’ve had fun chant-wars with 10 year olds at live shows and high fived them when their favorite won, because they want to celebrate. I may not have kids, but my god I TOTALLY see the value in children loving this stuff. I watched a bit in the 80s and knew who Hulk Hogan was! We all did. He was a household name. I have many friends who love wrestlers that I cannot stand personally, but I don’t make fun of them on social media or mock them beyond an occasional harmless rib. In all seriousness though, that’s the joy of wrestling just as that’s the joy of ANY story! Some people just love Draco Malfoy and can’t stand Harry. Let folks enjoy who they love. …and then report them for being a dirty death eater.
3. No more sexist/rude chants at shows.
You know what I am talking about. “This is boring” chants during women’s or cruiserweight matches, or hell, ANY match for that matter. “WHAT?!” chants need to go the way of the Do-Do. I once saw a twelve year old boy at a Smack Down show stand up and start chanting “we want boobies!” when Becky Lynch came out, and his father stood there laughing. That is disgusting, especially when there was a similarly aged girl standing not ten people away who looked terribly uncomfortable. And yeah, we called it out and shut that kid up quick! But that’s the thing, we need to cut that crap from our dialogue and call it out when it happens! Don’t let rude chants happen. Speak up and (kindly) remind people that those kinds of chants shouldn’t be a part of today’s fan vocabulary.
2. STOP BEING DICKS TO ONE ANOTHER!
My god people, we are all FANS. We are all here to CELEBRATE something that we love! Some of us are lucky enough to travel to many shows. Some of us aren’t. Some of us are privileged to know wrestlers personally and others may always feel like they are enjoying from the audience. But either way, who cares if you are enjoying yourselves?? I am so tired and angry watching fans tear one another down. The rudeness, the entitlement, the cattiness needs to stop. We are all fans and we are all here to love wrestling. Ok so you may not agree with everything that someone says, that’s fine. But that does not give you permission to go online or up to them at a show and attack their character, criticize them, or call them names.
1. Empathy is the best course of action.
I don’t mean that you have to empathize with everyone, but that when someone has a different opinion, it might help to consider empathy as a first course. Assume positive intent and if you talk about something that offends you with them, try to remain educative and calm. You never know what is going on in someone’s life, and they may have had a terrible day or just gotten some bad news. Maybe they have medical conditions or an invisible illness and are in pain. Maybe they just had a family member pass away, or they lost their job that day. We spend so much time being caught up in our own worlds that we forget to be kind and courteous. A few weeks ago when I was leaving Chicago, someone paid the toll for my car. It may have only been $2.50, but it made me remember that everyone out there is a human being. That person may have had a completely different political view as me, or maybe they would have hated me if we had a talk, but they still had the ability to execute a random act of kindness.
We need that in wrestling fandom.
So I urge you to go into the world and try to be kind. Try to be courteous and celebrate this stuff. At the end of the day, we’re all fans, and there’s a whole generation of ten year olds that love this stuff and they want to see it be around for a long, long time. And so do I.