“Why do you watch that crap?”
Chances are that, as a pro wrestling fan, you’ve been ask ed that question, or some variant, a few times during your viewership tenure. Of course, we all have our reasons as to why we watch said “crap”. Some of us love the hybrid of sport, comic book, and movie, where battle is waged over pride, glory, prestige, and infamy. Others appreciate the intricacy that some wrestlers demonstrate in their craft, with such crisp execution making wrestling seem as real as possible. And then there’s a sizeable group that enjoys the camp element that wrestling provides.
[adinserter block=”1″]I mean, UFC fans can extol the virtues of Frank Mir and Georges St. Pierre if they wish, but unless one of them enters the Octagon dressed as a plumber, it’s going to be hard to convert a number of wrestling fans into fight freaks. I mean, if Mir were to smash a coconut over the head of St. Pierre, it’s possible that we may truly be ushering in a new crossover audience between the two mediums.
It goes without saying that wrestling has, and will always have, a large number of die-hard supporters who enjoy the show for a number of reasons. To the opposite effect, the business will always have its doppelgangers, a collection of detractors who thumb their noses at it. I guess Jeff Jarrett put it best when he said on a 1998 A&E special on wrestling; “To a critic, no explanation will do. To a fan, no explanation is needed”. Either you love wrestling, or you don’t. And to those who love wrestling, such as me and possibly you, the reader, we are a large congregation. Millions of people watch every week, and a good number of us are not ashamed to admit it. Do you own a wrestling t-shirt? Ever purchased a pay-per-view? Use a catchphrase or wrestling lingo in conversation with a non fan? Have you ever locked an ex-girlfriend in a full nelson just to see if she could break free from it?
The point is, we watch wrestling because we see something in it. And the recidivism rate is very high. If we sat through this week’s show where John Cena “overcame the odds” yet again, Hornswoggle embarrassed Chavo Guerrero again, and Michael Cole uttered many moronic statements again, then chances are you’re going to watch next week as well. Because as wrestling fans, we accept the stupidity, willing to squint our eyes in search of instances of lucidity. We generally succeed, finding moments where we can justify our fandom. Maybe it’s a great match. Maybe somebody like Chris Jericho or Shawn Michaels captivated you on the microphone. Whatever the reason is, if you’re invested enough in the product from what you see in the arena, you’re not going to need much to convince you to watch future shows, right?
WWE is not going to leave that to chance.
Beginning in 2008, WWE began a tradition that would take place for ten seconds on each televised show. Raw, Smackdown, and ECW would each feature the dreaded “Did You Know?” factoid. The factoid would pop up after a commercial break, and inform us viewers about something we may not have been aware of. Not a historic moment in the annals of WWE history, mind you, but of something that they’re proud of in regards to the product they present.
Well hey, they SHOULD be proud of themselves, right? I mean, for half a century, they’ve been the model of consistency in the world of wrestling, providing great entertainment to the fans willing to invest their time and energy to it. In fact, let s take a look at some recent examples of their pride, shall we?
Raw, September 14, 2009: Raw was seen by more people the previous week than every show on ABC, The CW, and Fox.
Whew! I am SO glad to see that the show that I watched did better in the ratings than first-run episodes of Castle, Gossip Girl, Lie to Me, and One Tree Hill. You know, my mavenism of WWE was really contingent on those Nielsen ratings. Lord knows I only watch wrestling when it beats out reruns of network television shows. Had Raw lost to Gossip Girl that week, I’d have to just get rid of every WWE DVD I own and whole-heartedly support Blake Lively. Because I’m a trendy front-runner! WWE won the ratings “war”, so it’s them that I will support!
Superstars, September 10, 2009: WWE Superstars was WGN America’s #1 show for all of last week.
Yes! Not only is WWE defeating reruns of CURRENT network television shows, they’re also soundly defeating shows like In the Heat of the Night, Nash Bridges, 7th Heaven, Barney Miller, and Bewitched! How does Vince McMahon do it? How does he create a product that is capable of drawin g more viewers than television shows that haven’t been relevant since, at latest, George W Bush’s first term in office? I feel like a player on a winning team! Go WWE!
Raw, August 24, 2009: more than one million more viewers watched Raw the previous week than Monday Night Football on ESPN
Well, as if my devotion to WWE couldn’t be any HIGHER, the Raw brand talent proved that they are the place to be on Mondays! They beat the NFL! Yes, the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE! Was it an important game? Well, no, it was a pre-season game between the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants. And since it is pre-season, the starting players were all deactivated after the second quarter so that the understudies could compete for roster spots. But still, victory! Let not honesty get in the way of a technicality.
These are just samples from the buffet of facts that World Wrestling Entertainment provides for me, you, and its millions of other viewers on a weekly basis so that we understand just how great they are. Sure, they could just, I don’t know, provide a compelling product with quality writing and performance, but this cinches it. Every week, if you have even the tiniest doubt that the wrestling show you’re watching is leaving you sterile and unfulfilled, then just wait for the “Did You Know?” factoid. It’s all of the reassurance you’re going to need.
I myself have been a fan since 1989. Yes, for twenty years, I’ve been an avid follower of World Wrestling Entertainment, being a privy to many classic moments. I could rattle off my wonderful memories such as Randy Savage being bitten by a snake, Roddy Piper painting half of his body black to intimidate Bad News Brown, The Undertaker dying and then levitating toward heaven after a soliloquy, Brian Pillman using a firearm to ward off Steve Austin, Mark Henry fondling a transvestite, a militant Black Panthers-esque army like The Nation of Domination spreading fear, Dawn Marie killing her elderly husband with pulse-pounding sex, Kane allegedly consummating love with a dead body, a terror cell attacking The Undertaker with piano wire, and Vince McMahon dying in a limousine explosion. And as you and I clamor for more priceless treasures to be broadcast over our HD TV sets, the WWE feels insecure. They don’t want to lose our loyalty, hence the “Did You Know?” spots.
[adinserter block=”2”]I think I speak for all of us when I say this: as long as WWE continues to win in the Nielsen ratings over TV shows that most of us have never considered watching, then Vince McMahon will still get our top dollar.
But should Gossip Girl surge ahead on ratings points, I may have to alter my viewing habits.
Until then, never fear, Vince. I’ll still watch that “crap”.
(Credit to thehistoryofwwe.com for their transcription of WWE’s Did You Know facts.)
When he isn’t watching WWE, TNA, or his beloved Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies, Justin Henry can be found writing. It is his passion as well as his goal in life to become a well-regarded (as well as well-paid) columnist or author. He tweets at twitter.com/notoriousjrh and facebooks himself at http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh.
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