This is the third and final piece in my “Pro Wrestling Demystified” series. In my first article I focused on people calling wrestling fake, while in the second one I discussed the suspension of disbelief. If you haven’t already done so, read both. Today, I’m going to focus on the most important aspect of professional wrestling: fans.
Pro wrestling wouldn’t exist without fans. If fans don’t tune in, buy tickets, or pay for access to wrestling content, then the business as we know it ceases to exist. In the era of COVID-19, most promotions can’t rely on ticket sales anymore, so they have to be clever with the way they engage their fans. WWE has done a wonderful job with this by introducing WWE ThunderDome, which I tried out for the first time back in August. Unfortunately, a segment of the population — specifically those who don’t watch of understand professional wrestling — thinks that wrestling fans are uneducated and gullible. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Like any form of art, sports, or entertainment, the audience for pro wrestling is a diverse one. I have both an M.S. and B.A. from a top university, and I graduated with honors both times. Other fans are doctors, lawyers, engineers, and PhDs. Sure, a segment of the fanbase is comprised of those who don’t have an advanced education or hold a white collar job, but who are we to judge them for that? There is nothing wrong with people who don’t have a college degree or work in a trade position. As far as I’m concerned, they have skills I can’t even imagine mastering. These are smart, good people who deserve to be respected, regardless of what they choose to watch or enjoy.
What I find baffling is that some people look down on wrestling, yet they’ll watch a guy make left turns all day in a NASCAR race or a millionaire swing a crooked club and chase a ball for four hours. One minute they’re talking about how uncouth pro wrestling is, the next they’re watching guys get concussions in football, cheering as toothless hockey players beat each other to a bloody pulp in a legitimate fight, or gazing in resplendent bliss as an MMA fighter beats the piss out of another human being. To me, it seems bizarre that we would laud barbaric sports where human beings are purposely harming one another. How could we possibly say they are better than pro wrestling? For these reasons, and more, I don’t watch these sports. However, I don’t judge those that do. This world is filled with segmented interests to satisfy everyone. If you want to watch a dog show, go for it. Football? Have at it! Soccer? Game on! Why can’t the same hold true for pro wrestling? Live and let live.
In the book Nitro by Guy Evans, the author talks about how Dr. Andy Gillentine, a professor at Mississippi State University, conducted a series of research studies focused on analyzing wrestling fans and their consumption habits. According to these studies, and contrary to popular belief, 62% of fans either attended college or possesed a degree, while over half reported an income of at least $40,000 per year — with one out of every nine making $75,000 a year. He concluded that the “results indicate that the consumer of professional wrestling is middle class, family oriented, economically stable, and able to make informed consumer decisions. The results of this study indicate that the wrestling fan looks a whole lot like your neighbor or the person you see in the mirror each day.” How about that? Wrestling fans are just like you and me . . . because they are you and me.
Everyone is entitled to escape the harsh realities of this world within their own mind. How they choose to do that is up to them. For some, music is the answer. For others, it’s cooking, sports, reading, video games, or countless other hobbies and interests that bring them joy. For me, a well-balanced life that brings me happiness and satisfaction is the result of an amalgamation of passions. I revel in the artistry of music, find myself immersed in video games, love reading and writing, and bask in the reflected glory of professional wrestling. Maybe you should too.