If there’s one constant to internet wrestling fandom at-large, it’s that there’s always someone complaining about something. No matter the quality of the product, someone will be dissatisfied and that’s completely fine. It’s human nature and certainly not something exclusive to wrestling fans, but it’s something that a lot of the time seems to be borne almost entirely from anticipation. Instead of waiting for the story to be told and reacting in the moment, wrestling fans have often already determined what the story should be and are left disappointed, annoyed and upset that things didn’t progress in the way they had envisioned.
Again, this isn’t exclusive to wrestling. It’s fairly common to see people making similar complaints about their favourite TV show, irritated that the writers took such idiotic turns instead of preferred ones that seemed so obvious. However, there’s one major difference at play here – TV shows, films, books: they all come and go. But wrestling goes on and on and it’s a pastime (an obsession) that even the most disgruntled of fans seem loathe to leave behind. While a TV show may haemorrhage watchers when the quality takes a nosedive, wrestling’s supporters resolutely cling on, hopeful that Things Will Get Better at some indeterminate point in the future once that idiot in charge of creative is let go, or management finally realises so-and-so’s greatness, or decides things are getting stale and regresses the product back to a nostalgic version of itself in order to wallow in past glories.
It’s very much like supporting a sports team. You follow your chosen team with high hopes every season but also knowing that, come what may, you’ll still be there next season cheering along, for better or for worse. Of course you covet success, of course you’ll be disappointed when your dreams are crushed, but you’ll still be there hoping and dreaming for years to come. Being a wrestling fan’s a lot like that. You keep watching, even when things are bad, because you’re a wrestling fan and you’ve invested not just a few months, not just a year or two, but (in a lot of cases) a sizeable chunk of your life in following wrestling and it means something to you more than other fleeting forms of entertainment.
But the similarities end there, because while in sport there are an indefinable number of factors that can affect your team’s chances of success from season-to-season (most of them far beyond the direct control of the players, managers, coaches and owners), wrestling is fiction and if something doesn’t go the way you like it’s not just happenstance, it’s a glaring fault that can be easily attributed to everyone and anyone involved. With the curtain being pulled ever further back, wrestling fans certainly aren’t short of sources to blame when things don’t go the way they would like, just as they aren’t short of insider reasons to diminish someone else’s viewpoint, or to bolster their own.
It’s this ‘inside baseball’ aspect of wrestling fandom that, in my opinion, can lead to people losing objectivity. While some suggest that more fans should adopt an obstinately positive mindset and focus on what they enjoyed rather than what they didn’t, I feel that this also tends to suggest that fans should eschew critical thinking in favour of blind devotion and it generally isn’t conducive to discussion, especially once you start accusing people of complaining for the sake of complaining. There’s nothing wrong with having criticisms, just as there’s nothing wrong with fans delving deeper into the inside workings of the business if they so choose. But, like the film student who bemoans no longer being able to enjoy a generic Hollywood blockbuster with the wool pulled back from their eyes, perhaps some wrestling fans could benefit from trying to enjoy things in the moment and to not over-analyse every detail.