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The 7 - Guest Columns - The Obtuse Angle: Creating the "Half-Fan"
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Wolfram J. Paulovich
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#1 Posted on 28.1.03 0224.01
Reposted on: 28.1.10 0225.47

Creating the "Half-Fan"
January 28, 2003

by Jeb Tennyson Lund

Perhaps the finest illustration of the fact that America leads the world in producing obese citizens could be seen at a tractor pull or flea market. But, in a pinch, a WWE show will do. As much as we like to badmouth the birth of hands and corpse violation in WWE programming, perhaps it is the quality of WWE fans and fandom — not the quality of the WWE product — that alienates the average non-fan. Maybe the non-fan is afraid of appearing to be a part of it all.

O, Merciful God — The Sights, The Smells!
I come not to mock those afflicted with glandular disorders, but rather those afflicted with chronic apathy, poor diet — and that righteous over-inflation of a sense of their own attractivess that always seems to directly correspond with over-inflation of their waistbands. Many in the audience around me, at the December 17 Smackdown! taping, did not seem to be drowning in their own fat: indeed, they seemed to be revelling in it.

The woman sitting next to my fiancée, Elaine, looked like the genetic by-product of a pairing of Charles Durning and Gargamel. The giant black mole near her nose — from which sprouted the almost clichéd two hairs growing in opposite directions — momentarily drew my attention away from her girth. It didn't fool Elaine, though: every time Elaine scooted the slightest bit toward me, the woman would exhale loudly, and more of her abundant folds would ooze over the chair-arm into Elaine's seat... like pudding sliding off a plate, onto a table. The woman's great lolloping breasts spread wide and shapelessly across her chest, fully supported by her belly and folded arms. If the arena had been cold, she could have slipped her hands into her giant belly-breast "warmer pouch" — like Bret Favre does at winter games at Lambeau... except without the breasts.

The boy in front of me was worse off by far. The poor child was barely twelve years old, barely five feet tall, and yet he easily weighed 200 pounds. I have always been very self-conscious about being tall and thin; and that awareness of having an uncommon weight made me pity and worry for him so much that I occasionally found myself ignoring the in-ring action. Good God, I thought, how could any mother allow this to happen to her child? Clearly, his parents must have awarded even his enfeebled toddlerish attempts to walk with whole roasted chickens. Worse, the poor kid had dandruff, and any vigorous clapping that he attempted produced a little boy-blizzard of flakes, fluttering from his bowl-cut, onto my loafers. I shook them off, doing a miniature and seated version of Riverdance. What were these people doing to their child?

The final insult — against his parents, certainly not him — came when he turned around to cheer, for Angle, against some booing guys behind me. His chest was larger than the chest of the first girl who ever allowed me to feel her up. (My mind flashed back to awkward Angela B., and her apparent fear that someone toying with her nipple released fatal toxins into her bloodstream.)

The crowning ignominy of my Smackdown! taping experience was the smell. The entire section I was in smelled like feet. Not a normal "feet" smell. I mean the "I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more — while wearing cheap leather deck shoes and wool socks. In fact, I just did that. Then I took the shoes off" type of feet smell.

I've been to basketball, hockey, baseball, minor-league baseball and football games; I've been to Cirque D'Expensive, Ringling Brothers's Circus and Ice-Capades exhibitions. I've showed up around Vomiting Time at promotional beer-tasting festivals. Never, before, had I experienced such a potent and limitless awful smell. And keep in mind that I went to a hippie, liberal-arts college that only gave students pass/fail evaluations. Some students, so far as I can tell, actually majored in filth.

Having seen Survivor Series 2000 in person (in the same arena), I did not expect the undulating sea of bloat and miasma that greeted me at the Smackdown! taping. Maybe the pay-per-view was so captivating for me that I didn't notice the sloth and odiferousness of everyone around me. Maybe most of the fans showered for the "big do." Or maybe the higher pay-per-view prices drew a different crowd.

It was this last possible line of thinking that alerted me to some interesting economic and public-relations issues.
• First, I was sitting in a section where each ticket cost $45. Most of the people sitting in this section were with large groups of friends or family, wearing moth-eaten or messy t-shirts, and almost all of their faces were covered with a thin layer of grease. Why, I wondered, would these people spend upward of $250 to take five members of their "kin" to a TV taping when none of them would spend five minutes under hot water?
• Second, most of the people who fit the low-income, low-hygeine, high-fat profile were wearing one (sometimes two or three) WWE t-shirts. In additon to spending a good chunk of their monthly wages to attend the show, they were also willing to fork over $25 per shirt afterward.
• Third, those who generally gave off a middle- to upper-middle-class air were wearing nice clothes without any outward affiliation, except maybe Polo. If one didn't know that there was a wrestling show going on in front of those ticket-holders, one would have been hard pressed to guess what they were watching.

The question to which this all led me was this: does the essential quality of the WWE programming alienate the mainstream middle-class American, or is it the outward "quality" of WWE fans and wrestling fandom?

An Endless (Non-)Defense of A Favorite
By rights, I should never have become a fan of wrestling. I was introduced to it at the age of 22. I started liking it when I was already used to saying "pulchritudinous" when I meant "pretty." I wore loafers all the time and looked like Ichabod Crane in a tweed jacket. In hot weather, I looked like Ichabod Crane vacationing in Key West. I still do. Everything about me fairly screamed (and screams): "wrestling-mocking intellectual snob who has arthritis." Which, of course, I do.

In the next few years, however, my appearance proved to be an indispensable ally in intellectual warfare about the value of wrestling. Not betraying any immediate affiliation with WWF/WCW fandom allowed me to sneakily argue the worth of wrestling as a phenomenon. I could even bust out Baudrillard's comment that it was the only remaining real form of entertainment. Trust me: saying "Baudrillard said so" to a postmodernist jargon-spewer in a black shirt and hemp pants is like saying "Stone Cold said so" to someone in a "What?" shirt.

The important thing I did, though, was go through arguments about wrestling without divulging how much I liked it. If questioned, I would dodge the issue or jumble my answer with unnecessary meaningless qualifications. The funny result of all this was that most people would eventually lean toward me and whisper conspiratorially that they actually kind of liked wrestling. They'd qualify their like for it with all manner of intellectual claptrap, but they would still betray the fact that they were curious.

Eventually, many would agree to come by and watch Smackdown! with me. During my last semester of living in a dorm room, I could count on about four former snobs — or a few genuinely cool open-minded people — coming by to drink some beer and scream at Stephanie McMahon. They loved it, and many of them started using their dorm-room T-3 connections to read CRZ's recaps of Raw — a show we couldn't see, as the dorms could not be wired for cable.

Observation Without Participation
Living in the Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Tampa area offered many opportunities to see WWF house and TV shows. Getting any of my "converts" to go see them with me, however, was impossible. Like the problem with Christianity and hardcore christians, all of the new converts liked the basic essence of wrestling: they just couldn't stand the fans.

Therein lies the rub. If you ask the average middle-class non-fan if he would feel more at ease standing next to Jeb Lund (remember: tweed, Ichabod Crane) or next to a pipe-fitter wearing an "Austin 3:16" shirt, invariably the answer will be, "Jeb." This is no comment on the quality of me as a person or the "3:16" shirt as a garment; it's simply a comment on most people's comfort within a crowd. Nicely dressed people are less likely to hit strangers or spill beer on them.

The people I "converted" to liking wrestling had no essential problem with sitting on a couch with me and like-hygienic people and watching a free show. There, they were just watching at a distance, somewhat anonymously, in a very small microcosm. Paying $20-$50 to see a show in person, however, would have given those people an implied association with others in the arena. Instead of observing, they would be participating. An informal bond would be created. They would become one of the many... one of the others.

Most middle-class Americans, unfortunately, are snobs, and are far more class-conscious than they assume Britons to be. Unable to be wealthy, they mimic the trappings of wealth by having exclusive tastes and by adopting exclusionary behavior. Rich people don't have to do this, because they are automatically in an exclusive club of their own: only the middle class bend and scrape to be Rotarians or Kiwanis members. In short, a well-off person wouldn't give two shits about sitting next to drunk maniacs screaming at Angle, "You suck!... You Suck!... You Suck!... You Suck!" whereas the charming members of the bourgeoisie would sit, paralyzed with the fear that a neighbor might walk down the aisle and see them.

(In their paranoid minds, of course, the neighbor would not have paid to enter the arena and watch the show. Rather, he would have been let in, by security, to find his problem-child and bring him home to read Paul's Epistle to Philemon and get spanked with rolled-up copies of The Saturday Evening Post. Or maybe suffer "time out.")

The average American does not want to participate in wrestling fandom, because as yet no one has told him that it is okay. (This is the other problem with the average American: disposable income, little self-confidence.) It is still far easier to get a laugh than a look of interest by mentioning pro wrestling. No one wants to be laughed at. Finally, many wrestling fans, by being honestly, grubbily and unapologetically themselves, scare off potential new members. Nicely dressed outsiders have a creeping irrational fear that watching wrestling will result in them forever having vacation-stubble and an urge to wear shirts from Kip's Truck and Tow.

Thus, the "half-fan" is born — living in some quasi-shame, sheepishly laughing at jokes that say all wrestling is fake.

Other Forms of Non-Participation
Any good company markets its products toward its fan-base. The WWE designs its products accordingly. Unfortunately, purchasing a WWE product is another act of participation, as wearing the garment or displaying the poster immediately declares that you are a fan.

If I had hung a Stone Cold poster in my dorm room, it would have clashed violently with the whole tweedy, Ichabod-Crane look that I can't seem to avoid. The contrast would have led to a lot of mockery and unnecessary use of big words. Acknowledging that I was a wrestling fan would have made my life needlessly more difficult. This condition would have been brutally demonstrated had I worn a "You Bring the Ass, We Bring the Whuppin' " shirt to any bar. Being rail-thin and wearing loafers with it would probably have resulted in my ass getting whupped north from Sarasota to Manatee, Pinellas and then Hillsborough counties. In short, it is best for me to not advertise my love of WWE programming.

Similar worries greet the average American half-fan drawn to WWE programming. What will the neighbors think of a t-shirt with a 150-pt. white-on-black printing of the word "ass"? Can a WWE shirt be worn in any place other than the backyard? If I bump into Phil from marketing, while wearing my "Bye Bye Jackass" shirt, will he slip that line in at the next meeting? If I wear my "What?" shirt to the mexican restaurant, will the waiter approach me and say

Would you like something to start?... A snack?... A bite?... Some tapas?... A nibble? I said, "A nibble"?... A pequeño taste-o?... Maybe an appetizer?... A first course?... Maybe some nachos?... A quesadilla?... A south-west eggroll?... A jalapeño popper?... A fire-bite?... How 'bout some beer? Then another beer? Then some more beer?... Then a margarita? Then another?... Then more beer?... Then a bite?... What?... My name is Ted.... I'm your server. I said, "Your server"... I'm a waiter.... I get your food.... I bring it to you.... You eat it.... What'll ya eat?... What?

and then say "What?" after every comment I make? Oh, God, is everyone secretly laughing at me?

If the WWE marketing team made shirts that didn't feature huge pictures of wrestlers or 200-pt. sayings, perhaps more middle-America fans would buy them. The brash, crass, vulgar and often offensive quality of WWE shirts makes them a personal liability for those concerned with their appearance. And, for those who don't care so much about what others think, the shirts often fail on the grounds of taste or cleverness.

Solutions to Public Misperception
The WWE shoots itself in the foot in three critical ways, but those problems can be easily corrected.

Problem #1: Little Vinnie Often Uses An Attention-Getting Device
The WWE frequently seeks attention from mainstream media outlets, often with no regard for the type of attention it ends up getting. In Titan Towers, all press is good press, and the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Sadly, this reinforces negative stereotypes for the non-fan. Ask a regular Joe, who doesn't watch wrestling, what he thinks wrestling is. These are the three probable responses:
• Hulk Hogan;
• fakery;
• some gay wedding/corpse-raping/bad-acting-type show with that guy who was in The Scorpion King.

There are three easy ways to change this perception: they are named Kurt Angle, Chris Nowinski and Brock Lesnar. Given that the public perception of wrestling is limited to the hot-dog attitude of The Rock and the antiquated grunting of Hogan, what better way to combat that perception than to celebrate those who embody the opposite? Angle, and Angle's Olympic victory, can be hyped far more than they currently are. Give him the publicity machine the WWE still maintains for The Rock: after all, Rock doesn't need it. The public can warm to a physically gifted, generally good-natured all-American boy who did his country proud. The WWE can celebrate both patriotism and dogged accomplishment.

Lesnar and Nowinski are lesser commodities, although I think Nowinski has a unique hook that is more significant than Brock's NCAA championship. It's this: most people in America respect a Harvard grad, because the only Harvard grads most people recognize are on TV or in a newspaper. They are in the media because they've "made it" in some way, not because they went to Harvard. But most people connect the two details, taking an effect (fame) and then creating a cause (Harvard). Harvard shamelessly shills the fame of the talking heads that it produces, hoping that mainstream America buys "it." And most people accept what Harvard tells them because they never get to meet a few Harvard grads... thus never realizing that many are total bozos.

In response, any time any halfway decent talk show wants to book a wrestler, the WWE should send Nowinski. All he has to do is make one incomprehensibly detailed and over-educated comment per show, and a good number of people will start to say: "Hey, wrestlers can make me feel insignificant with their intelligence — just like that Stephen Jay Elliot Gould guy who died while fighting dinosaur viruses."

Sad to say, but many Americans are under the impression that, if popular or "expert" people say something that can't be understood, those popular or "expert" people are of a greater value. Nowinski — and, by extension, all wrestlers — could seem that much more worth listening to or watching due to his Harvard diploma. And of course people may say to themselves: "There might be something to that wrestling, if such a smart young man is willing to spend his life doing it.... Or maybe he's crazy."

Problem #2: Soap Opera Über Advertising
Many non-wrestling fans only see wrestling for the one second it takes to skip past TNN or UPN. When they are exposed to it for longer periods, it is usually during a WWE commercial. But those commercials are generally heavy on sound-bites and excerpts from recent storylines. Essentially, they are aimed at someone who missed last week's show or needs a reminder to see this week's. Anyone who is a stranger to wrestling wonders why someone ran over some lesbian's heart-attack prone dog and immediately gets up to make a sandwich.

A simple solution might be to cut the number of "story" commercials in half, using the other half of ad time for "acrobatics" commercials. The WWE video crew could go through the last twenty years of WWF and WCW/NWA moments, compile maybe one hour of great clips, then break them down into 120 30-second ads. Each ad would feature the "Oh, my God!" or "I think Angle's gonna try the moonsault!" commentary running over the clips. Each could end with a simple black screen, with the words, "WWE Desire" over it.

This sort of approach serves a two-fold purpose. Semi-regular watchers are drawn in by the current storyline in the "story" ads. But semi-regular watchers and non-watchers are reminded/informed of the WWE's dramatic physicality with the "acrobatics" ads. Plus, hardcore fans will have ads they can show to friends and say, "There. That's why I watch this," instead of having to bury their heads when Hot Corpse Action ads run.

Problem #3: Fans Buy Gaudy T-Shirts. Therefore, Everyone Will Buy One.
As stated above, some people don't want to wear a shirt bearing a picture of a wrestler's head that is bigger than their own head. Some people don't like to have the word ASS on their back in 200-pt. type. Those people are not giving the WWE 25 of their own dollars.

I assume — perhaps wrongly — that I am not the only one out there willing to wear a fairly understated WWE t-shirt. I know that "understated" doesn't fit in with the whole "Attitude" concept. But, then again, the WWE is marketing its "Desire" concept, now, and I think tastefulness fits anywhere in that scheme.

WWE shirt designers could take a tip from Mick Foley's autobiography book-jacket. Picture a black shirt, with the small words, "Mick Foley," over the left or right breast. On the back, a simple centered list: "__ broken bones; __ C4 explosions; __ dislocations; 1 lost ear; __ burnings; __ fractures; __ concussions; __ herniated discs; 1 back-flop from 12 feet; __ ruptured discs; __ torn ligaments; __ operations." The blanks would be filled in with the appropriate numbers.

People would approach the wearer of this shirt and say, "Mick Foley? That your name?" The wearer could say no, then turn his back and show them the shirt. "Wow. Who the hell was that guy?" might be a logical question. The answer, "Pro wrestler," would make some people think twice about it being fake.

I know that these proposed solutions are somewhat idealistic. However, they would cost the WWE relatively nothing. They send wrestlers on press junkets all the time. They already throw millions into advertising. They already make a shirt for any wrestler who can fog a mirror. For the most part, the only thing the WWE might lose in their attempts to alter advertising might be pride.

Is There A Lesson?
Throughout this column, I've been unnecessarily harsh in order to make a few points: I've relied and expanded on a few stereotypes. What we tend to forget is that, all rhetoric aside, stereotypes can be very useful in making decisions. For instance, when in an Italian restaurant, surrounded by large Italian men with no visible means of support, making up a daffy song with the word "Mafia" as the only noun is probably a bad call. When you see a lot of Chinese people eating in a Chinese restaurant, the food is probably pretty good. Someone in a white lab coat is probably a doctor or a scientist. The man holding a knife and chanting is not your friend.

Wrestling, though it draws a large number of fans, is still somewhat a niche product. Unlike football, where a fan can look like a derelict or like the President (Nixon was a huge football fan, and he and Gerald Ford both played football in college), wrestling carries a stereotyped "fan look" to it. Assuming that someone with a mullet and grease-stained jeans is a wrestling fan is a far safer assumption than that someone in a wool suit tries to watch Raw every week. This stereotype — wrongly, in my opinion — informs the non-fan about the quality and content of WWE products. (It doesn't help that the WWE seeks attention at any cost and is thus rarely presented positively in mainstream media; nor does it help that the WWE markets its product to the stereotype of a "fan.")

The people I saw at the Smackdown! taping I attended made me sad. But that emotion was caused by seeing the health, fitness and hygiene choices they had obviously made: it had nothing to do with what they called entertainment. But I already like wrestling, and maybe that's why I am predisposed to not immediately reject wrestling because of wrestling fans who wear three t-shirts and smell terrible. For many close-minded people out there, though, big waistbands and ring ropes go hand in hand. Polo shirts mean "class," and WWE shirts might as well all be blue-collared. These are the half-fans or the non-fans, and many of them will remain in those categories.

The next time we wrestling fans rush to blame low ratings on Katie Vick or Hot Lesbian Action, we might want to pause and look at the crowd we're in. That crowd has every right to dress, wash and talk the way it wants. But its appearance — not a wrestler with no acting talent — might be the reason the non-fan doesn't buy a ticket or shirt. The WWE's current shortfall in revenue might indeed be based on too much planned success: those who love wrestling love it well, publicly, loudly, undeniably. Those who want to like it are afraid... of being identified, of joining in, of carrying any "self-diminishing" stigma. And a great deal of the time, the shirts and ads they see tell them that they've made the right call.

Another Thing
I would like to thank everyone here on the Wienerboard who took the time to respond to my last column. I enjoyed reading the posts, and I would have responded, had I not been stuck, out of town, with a badly rear-ended car, insurance adjusters to deal with, and virtually no access to the internet.
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#2 Posted on 28.1.03 0437.43
Reposted on: 28.1.10 0440.42
For your reading pleasure, the developement of a should be-half fan.

I grew up in a household where wrestling wasn't really verboten, but it was frowned upon from a certain point of view. My mom was an AWA fan so she thought that wrestling was ok, though she really didn't care for the WWF. Though my dad and my tastes are very similar, in fact nearly identically so, he's always hated wrestling. To this day when I visit them, having been a fan for over a decade now, he'll come in the room see RAW or Smackdown, groan and stomp right out. My family is decidedly middle class. We've never been want for the simple things in life, and we can afford an excess now and again, but we've never had large sums of money either.

Growing up, it was cool in my circle of friends to be a wrestling fan. It was the eighties and all too often there'd be a playground discussion about Hulk Hogan or Rowdy Roddy Piper (my personal favorite at the time). It was cool to have and wear the shirt, play with the toys. Everybody did it.

Later on in life things like Ninja Turtles and Hammer Pants started dominating conversations, though it wouldn't be completely frowned upon to talk wrestling. It was in these days that I saw my first PPV. I'd often instigate arguements with my friends on who the better wrestler was, be it Hulk Hogan or Ultimate Warrior, and every single one of them had an "informed" opinion on the matter. Wrestling is what you DID on Saturday Mornings.

Around '94, when I was 14, things shifted radically. Suddenly, I had friends to talk wrestling with, and friends who would have no clue what I was talking about if I said "Razor Ramon". Noting that all of these were the same people as before. But now, wrestling was too "fakey" to be cool. As time went on, I found it harder and harder to keep things up because most of my closest friends were on the "No Wrestling" side, and hanging out with friends took over "watching wrestling" on my things to do list. I still kept up with the stories, watched every other week or so, but I was by no means a regular watcher.

However, around '96, I found out more and more that most of the people I knew were still closet wrestling fans. We never talked about it, but Monday nights became sacred. Whether or not my friends or I was busy Monday nights was obvious. Of course we were. And not because football was on.

Today, most people I know don't watch. Their love of the sport died around the time we graduated highschool. Most of us have better things to do Monday Nights. Sadly, the few that were still fans were rabid WCW know. The only thing that really kept my love of wrestling going oddly enough was when I first got on the 'net and pulled up Wrestlemaniacs. Because, then I'd found comminalities. It's hard to stay a fan when nobody else seems to be. On the 'net, I found a home, and as often as I lament the loss of the "mark" in me, I don't know if "Mark-Me" would still be watching. It's not as fun if you can't talk about it with somebody afterwards.

Now to bring things full circle. I'm another example of a guy who shouldn't be a fan. I got caught up in a fad when I was a kid, and it should have died out just like it did for everyone else. I'm realitively well educated, I don't get riled up easily (I'm not likely to do so at sporting events, for example) and though I own a number of them, I'd almost never wear a WWE T-Shirt. The only time I WOULD is if I were going to a live event or a PPV Party, where I know nobody'd turn their heads if I wore a shirt that proudly displayed the phrase "Poontang Pie" (a shirt which I don't own, thankfully).

However, I don't know that appealing to people like me is as easy is you seem to believe. Wrestling banks on two things: Getting the fan and keeping the fan. Maybe Kurt would turn a few heads the WWE’s way. I don’t know if Chris Nowinski using big words would necessarily get me to watch, but it might downgrade one’s sense of high-and-mightyness over wrestlers. But for someone who’s idea of entertainment is a play, wrestling feels like a lower standard. To get people to watch wrestling, you have to get them to believe that there’s more to it than “Wrasslin’”. The people you describe are there to see “wrestling” in it’s purest form. Faces/Heels/Fights. That’s not enough. For kids it is maybe. For the upper-middle class male 18-35 demographic, there needs to be more. Wrestling needs to be an art form. It needs to be something that you can go to your board meeting and say, “So did you see that Kurt Angle match last night?” But, in doing that, you risk getting rid of the seedy elements that have made wrestling so popular over the years. The easily identifiable working class characters and stories. That starts to alienate the “wrasslin’” fans who you talk about, who have been the backbone of the business for so long. Yeah, Joe BusinessMan might tune in, but Joe Redneck has been the more loyal fan, and you’re less likely to be a fad with him.

As for keeping them. Most people will see it as a fad. And it probably would be. Because the hoity toity intellectual types and the middle class types like me are notorious for shifting gears if we find something better. And the more people who shift gears, the more people will drop off of wrestling. A big business boom and then a drought, which is exactly what wrestling is now. For a while it’s cool, then it’s not, big drop off, wash rinse repeat. Like I said, I had a hard time staying a fan. Even now, it’s hard. The only person I know in my area who is as much a fan as I am is Stephanie, and I don’t know Stephanie. So, is appealing to these fans ultimately healthy? No. Not in the long run. The true fans are the ones that you were at the arena with and people like you and me who get it no matter what. Is marketing to them a great idea? No, because again, you alienate potential customers, but then again, these are the people that will stick with you no matter what.

What’s the best thing to do? Nothing, I’d guess. Keep doing what you’re doing and try to ride out the storm. Fans like us’ll be back, we’ll get into it, and then chase after the next great thing we see. Even the half fans will find their way back eventually, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

Sorry I got so long winded about this...

(edited by Excalibur05 on 28.1.03 0444)
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#3 Posted on 28.1.03 1246.00
Reposted on: 28.1.10 1257.11
the irony in the assertion that "upstanding" citizens are embarrassed of the "unwashed masses" is that, no offense, but the people i'm most embarrassed of finding at a wrestling event are the "smart fans."

when i went to see Smackdown! at continental airlines arena earlier this month, i brought a friend of mine who "loves wrestling" but doesn't really follow it all that much. she and i attended the show, and really enjoyed it. but, there were these three guys in my section who made me embarrassed to be at least a somewhat "hardcore" wrestling fan.

one guy sat there naming each wrestler in a video package they showed us of wwf legends. because we're all really impressed that he recognizes old wrestlers. it just means he's really old.

another guy cheered for all the indy workers in the dark matches by their old names/gimmicks, so that we would all know that he is a hardcore fan, and he knew these guys way-back-when.

finally, the third gem of a human being sat there all night and ridiculed the "casual fans" for liking certain wrestlers that were not the IWC favorites.
fans to angle: "you suck"
guy to fans: "no YOU suck"
it didn't help that his voice was really annoying.
so, basically, it's self-important "smarks" that made me embarrassed to be a wrestling fan that night, not the fat guys with steve austin shirts.
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#4 Posted on 28.1.03 1325.17
Reposted on: 28.1.10 1329.03
The only time I've been proud to act like a smark at a wrestling event was when the Brooklyn Brawler was announced for a dark match...and I was one of five people in the arena cheering and going berserk. Hey, the guy deserves it.
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#5 Posted on 28.1.03 1556.16
Reposted on: 28.1.10 1557.35
Excalibur: I agree with a lot of your post. But, like I said in an email to someone who was VERY angry with "the elitism" of my column: I think there are enough diverse components to wrestling. I think the artistry is there — even if it sometimes seems latent when compared to the presence of T&A. I don't think wrestling itself is in dire need of a change; rather, the lure to get people into wrestling could change. Certainly not all middle-class fans would remain more than fair-weather fans, but I think the concern is more one of getting these people to the product. If you can get them to tune in, and keep them for twenty minutes, many might stay.

Also, like you said, the hardcore fans — be they redneck or no — will watch and buy tickets no matter what. What, then, would be the harm in reducing the number of ads that appeal only to them? If they'll tune in no matter what, why blitz them? A restructured ad policy would not alienate them, but it may catch others.

sentonBOMB: I know EXACTLY what you mean. There was a smark guy about ten rows back who almost got the piss beaten out of him for yammering on and on.

I was also really relieved that this was the Smackdown where Benoit was finally turned face, going against Angle/Show/Heyman. That way, I didn't have to look like an asshole for chanting "Let's go Benoit! [clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!]" Mind you, it didn't do a damn bit of good, but I tried to start the chant.

I also got a good laugh from my section when Dawn Marie announced that she and Al would get married on Smackdown. My desperate wail of, "PLEASE, NO!" seemed to be what the people around me were already thinking.
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#6 Posted on 28.1.03 1630.01
Reposted on: 28.1.10 1630.26

    Originally posted by Jeb Tennyson Lund
    That way, I didn't have to look like an asshole for chanting "Let's go Benoit! [clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!]" Mind you, it didn't do a damn bit of good, but I tried to start the chant.

the problem with that chant is that "benoit" just doesn't have a catchy name. :)
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#7 Posted on 30.1.03 1302.08
Reposted on: 30.1.10 1306.19
I sincerely hope that you or a friend has a contact at WWE that can get this into the hands of someone in the company that matters. That is one of the most insightful columns I have ever read, and I think if they would take some of those ideas they'd do well with them.

Edit: And what's wrong with chanting "BEN WA BEN WA BEN WA"?

(edited by tasslex on 30.1.03 1303)
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#8 Posted on 1.2.03 1919.32
Reposted on: 1.2.10 1922.24
Wow. It really makes you think. Good article. Keep up the thought-provoking work.
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#9 Posted on 2.2.03 0210.52
Reposted on: 2.2.10 0215.23
I don't know how you do these amazing articles with such minor response, man. Anyway, the only point I want to make is that is takes all kinds of fans to make up an event. Sometimes I've been seated with kids, who know it's fake but love it all the same. I often see surprisingly old people there, who barely seem conscious but just look like they belong. I have rarely been seated with fat chicks or people who smell bad. At the actual events I've always encountered "cool" people. Autograph signings break out the freaks, if you ask me. 300 pound girls who tattooed Jeff on one labia lip and Hardy on the other are not people I wanted to start behind in line. At matches themselves, I have seen young, normal-to-good looking people who come with their girlfriends. I am one of those. I wear t-shirts and jeans, listen to rap, but realize that I speak with excessive vocabulary and write poetry and do other things people dressed as arbitrarily as me don't typically do. I usually applaud politely, but I don't cheer until someone I love comes out. I have always chanted AN-GLE...AN-GLE in place of you suck...long before he was a "net darling". I just liked the dude. Even as quiet and controlled as I usually am...I don't know, it's odd. I still have the time of my life whenever I go.

Some people watch and say it's the same moves every week, whereas when I watch Law and Order or something for "intelligent" people, I think the same thing. So they scrape semen off a different corpse every week. It's still same old, same old.

Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

Lap cheong
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#10 Posted on 4.2.03 1338.12
Reposted on: 4.2.10 1341.16
Great article, as always, and I too chant AN-GLE, AN-GLE, especially after Edge's kazoo remix of his theme, LOL. Here's a question for you, how would a half fan (like my brother) still like HHH after all the crap he's been involved in?

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#11 Posted on 5.2.03 1936.23
Reposted on: 5.2.10 1938.21
As usual, another awesome article. Not much on the internet has the ability to make me laugh out loud. And of course, laughing draws the suspicious looks of my co-workers, and _of course_ I can't tell them that I'm laughing about wrestling.. which makes the article even better.
Nice job man, keep it up!
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#12 Posted on 6.2.03 1123.48
Reposted on: 6.2.10 1129.02
I must say Jeb, last summer the first day at my new job I wore the Dudlyz We Got Wood shirt to work, and my boss actually walked by and slapped me on the back and commented on how much he loves wrestling and actually talked to me about it for 30 min, which had two benefits, I got on the bosses good side, and got paid to talk about wrestling for 30 min!
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#13 Posted on 7.2.03 1533.40
Reposted on: 7.2.10 1536.20
I agree on the shirts. I'm currently wearing one of the only two wrestling shirts I can in public - the very cool and understated Kaientai EVIL shirt. (The other is the original Kurt Angle "It's True, It's True" shirt, and that's mostly because I live in Pittsburgh, and Angle's famous for a lot more than just the WWE here.)

I've been completely soiled on the live shows, however. I've had good experiences -- I was at the Smackdown right after Invasion where Kurt Angle won the WCW title from Booker T (and, I promise you, unless you were at one of the shows where Hogan got the obscenely long standing ovations, you've never been part of a crowd reaction like when Kurt first entered his hometown as the #1 face in the promotion, and then again when he won the belt...)

(It helped that the people around me found my signs amusing. I liked this one (Click Here), felt this one got right to the point (Click Here), I was the only fan of this angle (Click Here), and doesn't this sign just scream Ol' Fuzzy Bastard? (Click Here_

Anyway. the whole thing was a most enjoyable experience, and when they announced they were returning for Unforgiven that year, I didn't have to stop and think about buying a ticket. (Especially after Summerslam when it became clear that Kurt was going to win the *real* title there.)

Of course, by the time the show rolled around, most people's hearts weren't really into it. Remember, the Unforgiven in question took place in September of 2001. No one's head was really into wrestling. In fact, that PPV was the first mass public gathering I attended after 9/11, in a time when we still thought that the United States was going to wind up like Israel with random terrorist attacks every day.

So, me and my sister get to our seats, and as I look around, I'm honestly touched. Anyone who's been in the politics forum know I'm not really a flag-waving type of guy, but to see a hell of a lot more American flags flying in the audience that signs detailing Rock catchphrases, well, it brought a smile to this ol' fuzzy bastard's heart.

And then the three cocksuckers sat down behind us.

I have never encountered three more aggrivating human beings in my entire life. They screamed obnoxious smarky bullshit the entire show, in annoying fake Chris Farley voices. Constantly. Literally constantly. (For example, the entire time Billy Gunn was around, they screamed about Bart Gunn and the Brawl For All, as though someone was going to turn around and say "Wow, you remember the Smoking Gunns? You guys are so COOL! Will you be my friend?")

Here's how bad they were - during the National Anthem, and remember this was two weeks after the terrorist attacks, as the crowd started the obligatory "USA" chant, they began chanting "Afghanistan!", which lasted until the middle of the Heat match. (Which was Billy Gunn versus Tommy Dreamer, which was when they started screaming about Bart Gunn.)

This went on ad nauseum, and around the time that they starting doing a "wacky" parody of the dueling RVD and Y2J chants during their match (JYD! HIV! Oh my god, you guys are HILARIOUS!), I was considering telling the security gaurds that I overheard the one guy say he had a bomb. (Remember the time frame, and he did scream something like that at one point.)

I wound up not watching most of the show to get away from them. (Okay, Unforgiven 2001 featuring one of Kronik's only WWF appearances contributed somewhat), but by the time they started ruining the Angle-Austin match that was the only real reason I bought a ticket, I snapped, and started screaming the loudest, angriest, most vulgar string of pure hatred I've ever spewed in my entire life. (It takes a lot - I may be the most laid-back person on the planet.)

They shut up. For about three minutes, until they decided to start screaming about local news personalities because Kurt Angle used to be a sportscaster in Pittsburgh for about fifteen minutes.

I haven't been to a live show since.

(Okay, the signs aren't working for me, but you can get to them off this page: Click Here_

(edited by OlFuzzyBastard on 7.2.03 1635)

(edited by OlFuzzyBastard on 7.2.03 1643)
Wolfram J. Paulovich
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#14 Posted on 7.2.03 1610.59
Reposted on: 7.2.10 1612.19
I like the signs, Ol Fuzzy! The "Gore, Gore, Gore!!!" one was my favorite.

I wound up putting a lot of email feedback about this article in a "response column" on OO. If you are interested in some of the responses, and the one flame (at the bottom), go to it.

Click Here
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#15 Posted on 10.2.03 0439.53
Reposted on: 10.2.10 0441.18
I've long since gotten over the fact that most wrestling fans are complete wastes. Or that most fans of *anything* are complete wastes. For example, if I allowed the fans to impede my enjoyment, I could never listen to Tori Amos again.

As for the repugnancy of wrestling fans in particular, there's one thing you can say for them: at least they're being who they are. There's an honesty to the filth. Personally, I find much more to shudder over when I'm overhearing conversations in a Starbucks.

Although, stinkiness sucks. Fortunately, I've never caught a bad aroma at a wrestling show (even the ones I went to in Alabama), but then again, I have bad sinuses and don't smell much of anything.

If you find the current wrestling fans creepy, be glad you didn't go to any shows before the late '90s mainstream explosion. In the late '80s, when I went to my very first wrestling event, a WWF house show, I was half-terrified of the crowd. And while walking to the parking lot, I got to see some guy beating the living shit out of his girlfriend. I was just a kid, and it scarred me enough that I didn't see a live event again for years.
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#16 Posted on 10.2.03 1520.36
Reposted on: 10.2.10 1523.24
For example, if I allowed the fans to impede my enjoyment, I could never listen to Tori Amos again.
HEY!!! I take umbrage at that!!!!!! :)
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