I don’t know what percentage of pro wrestling fans make up the Internet wrestling community. Five percent? Maybe less?
Internet wrestling fans – you know, those of us who go onto websites to read spoilers, argue about booking directions, and debate about why so-and-so is getting a push – know what they enjoy and are vocal about it. They like good matches. They want to see talented wrestlers rewarded. They plead for veterans to pass the torch in meaningful ways to up-and-coming stars.
So it was no surprise that the WWE’s hardcore fans rallied around C.M. Punk over the summer after he gave “the worked shoot promo,” during which he used wrestlers’ real names, made references to the McMahon family’s business practices, and said hello to friend Colt Cabana on live TV.
[adinserter block=”2″]Hardcore fans have been behind Punk for years, since he plied his trade in ROH. I saw Punk wrestle live years and years ago at an ROH card in some dingy rec center in Revere, MA, and I was impressed. We Internet fans like to see a guy who doesn’t fit the WWE cookie-cutter mold scratch and claw his way to the top. His WWE and World Title wins were real victories for those of us who long for great pro wrestling matches and angles, and his worked shoot interview represented what we hoped was a turning point in the WWE’s bland creative direction.
But now, almost four months later, the engine has sputtered. Two things happened:
– Somehow in the midst of all of this, C.M. Punk – who seemed in complete control of his angle in the summer – lost the steering wheel, and in the process Triple H has again pushed himself to the top at Punk’s expense
– Punk’s great interviews and attitude didn’t really make money or increase TV ratings (and demonstrated why worked shoots don’t always pan out)
Those are bitter pills to swallow for the Internet wrestling community because they expose a truth few of us want to admit: Our opinions don’t matter to the overall health of the WWE.
Instead, it’s what the general audience – the 95% of fans who can’t fathom going online to read wrestling news – likes that counts. And the ratings have proved it: The HHH saga of getting a no-confidence vote has resonated with many, many fans.
Don’t get me wrong. I realize Vince McMahon et al. have manipulated the system and altered plot lines to benefit Triple H, but that’s what family-owned wrestling promotions do. Just ask Verne Gagne or the late Fritz Von Erich.
What hurts the most is it seemed that Punk had gotten hold of the golden key that could open the doors to an edgier, more mature product. Too bad for us hardcores that the rest of the fans didn’t agree with us.
I’ve got no problem with Triple H. He’s a super-talented worker who is going to inherit the biggest wrestling company in the world. Why wouldn’t you make yourself the top star? He’s played the wrestling game very well over the years, and sure, he stepped on many people to do it. I remember when Ultimate Warrior stepped on Triple H, too, during that squash match they had at WrestleMania XII.
[adinserter block=”1″]The change in the C.M. Punk angle, the constant mocking of Jim Ross, the shoving of Kelly Kelly down our throats – all of them in some way are designed to keep the Internet wrestling fans in check. We can bitch, we can moan, but when you watch Raw each week, you have to conclude that our voice is soft indeed in 2011.
Scott Wallask has followed wrestling for 30 years and writes about growing up watching the WWF in the 1980s on his blog the Boston Garden Balcony.