Wrestling is a form of entertainment. Just like football, art and throwing eggs at Tories, it is supposed to be fun. Why then, certain areas of the wrestling community ask, do so many fans spend so much time being critical of something they are paying to enjoy? Shouldn’t we all just focus on the positives? And if you don’t like it, why do you watch it?
These are all fair questions, and there are certainly some elements of the more negative side of wrestling fandom that feel as helpful and as useful as a lilo made of lead.
Bad faith ‘takes’ are top of this list of feedback that literally nobody should want to hear. And yes Jim Cornette this is squarely aimed at your prehistoric self. When someone is spewing negativity and bile about a promotion, wrestler or rival broadcaster simply just to get hits, views or comments, then it really is a waste of everyone’s time. In the last few days, Cornette has advocated sacking attempted kidnap victims because they were apparently breaking Kayfabe. Cornette either believes this, in which case he is a dangerously unsympathetic luddite, or more likely he doesn’t and is just saying it to court controversy. Either way, it really is best to avoid Corny and those who ape his relentlessly negative patter.
Similarly, criticism of a promotion or a match is not in good faith if the context isn’t taken into account. For example, having a pop at WWE for not having 60 minute Omega v Okada equivalents is daft because quite simply it’s not what WWE are trying to do. Equally, criticising Pro Wrestling NOAH for not having enough fart jokes would be ridiculous.
Tribalism is also an unpleasant trait, particularly in the internet wrestling community, and one that is becoming increasingly prevalent with the recent rise of AEW. Some WWE fans had launched attacks on AEW before they’d even had a show, such is their apparent devotion to Vince McMahon, and some AEW fans would defend Cody Rhodes if he walked into Battersea Dogs Home and murdered 60 puppies with a spoon. It is fine to defend or criticise a promotion that you like, but it is worth taking a step back every now and again to consider if you have become so indoctrinated that your defence or criticism has become reflex rather than thought out.
And Stans can just leave me alone I’m afraid. As with the WWE and AEW devotees, if you are so focused on one particular wrestler then that is great for you, but unlikely to lead to grown-up conversation with someone who dares to suggest your particular wrestling darling may have made a teeny tiny mistake.
It is also hugely important to remember that wrestling is largely subjective, and if you find yourself telling people that their opinions are wrong too often, it may be time to adjust your output. I know this for a fact because it is something I have been guilty of in the past and am always trying to avoid.
And finally of course, never resort to personal insults. I mean that’s just a basic life lesson, but one that people seem to particularly forget when they have the apparently unbreachable barrier of the internet protecting them. Just don’t be a dick basically.
But with all of the above caveats, my answer to those who say, “why are you always so negative?” is simple. It can be very enjoyable.
If I go to a gig and I don’t think it’s very good, I won’t just shrug my shoulders and wander off whistling a cheery ditty. If I go to the National Gallery to see a collection of masterpieces and am instead presented with photos of someone head-butting a brick then I won’t just toddle off on my merry way smiling about it. And if I watch a wrestling show which I think is as creative or interesting as a bag of spam then I want to talk about it, and when I do quite a lot of that chat is going to be negative.
And you know what? That’s okay! As I said earlier in this blog, wrestling is subjective and for me one of the most interesting parts of wrestling fandom generally is being able to discuss different promotions and wrestlers with people who have different views. If everyone simply agreed about wrestling and all we said was how great everything was, it would honestly be a very boring industry.
It’s also the case for many that the criticism and negativity comes out of a desire for a promotion or wrestler to be better. Using WWE as the example here, as they are generally subject to the most criticism, the company has so much in terms of talent and resources that by rights it should be the greatest promotion in the world. So when I see a talented tag-team scooching around on their arses like dogs with worms, or when I see an exceptional talent like Ricochet jobbed out to Riddick Moss, I think a bit of negativity is more than justified. Not because I want to bash WWE for the sake of it, but because I simply feel that they could and should do so much better.
So as to avoid accusations of bias, there is also a glaring example of this in AEW right now. The women’s division there has been booked fairly terribly, in my humble opinion, almost as far back as All In before AEW even existed. Yes there are mitigating factors but it doesn’t diminish the fact that not nearly enough is being done in AEW to promote and further the women’s division. Should we all therefore have kept quiet and said nothing about it? Just let AEW continue down a road to a 95% male dominated product? Or should we criticise in the hope of encouraging the Jacksonville Jacksons and their team to vastly improve the situation?
There is also a more sinister side to the calls for blind and blanket positivity in wrestling.
Recent months have seen the incredible bravery of a number of women and men in the ‘Speaking Out’ movement which highlighted what a deplorable state wrestling was in, particularly in the UK. It was a hugely important moment for the individuals involved and for the wrestling industry in general, and yet throughout the conversations on the topic I have seen countless people on Twitter defending the accused and attacking the accusers based simply on their support for the relevant wrestler or promotion.
Similarly WWE’s dealings with Saudi Arabia during a flawed investigation into the murder of a Saudi journalist were ignored by some who simply said, “it’s nothing to do with the wrestling so why focus on the negative?” Black Wednesday also saw some WWE fans leap with positivity to the defence of their beloved promotion despite landslides of evidence to show that their actions in sacking hundreds of people whilst sitting on a goldmine were questionable at best.
In these sorts of situations, positivity and effusiveness are simply not the answer, and to restrict yourself and others from negativity can bleed into an almost cult-like scenario in which you simply believe what a promotion tells you rather than thinking about it for yourself.
I am not, of course, advocating for everyone to go out into the wider wrestling world and start slagging off everything and everyone in the industry like deranged and angry Iron Sheikh. And I am also certainly not saying that you should not be positive and enjoy your wrestling. Positivity is great and something I aspire to more in my daily life, and if it is your standard state of being then a huge positive thumbs up to you.
But don’t tell us negative nellies that we cannot have our criticism. Because that criticism in itself can be fun, constructive, and at times absolutely necessary.
Long live wrestling criticism (apart from any negativity regarding this article which will be dealt with swiftly and brutally).