Last year, in about August, my boyfriend, Jim, was introduced to pro-wrestling by a great guy we know who writes and runs a comic store. Now, it’s not that my boyfriend had never heard of the sport or that he’d never seen a match, but he was just never into watching anything wrestling beforehand. For some reason the way it was pitched to him was perfect and we were subscribed to the WWE Network for a free month (only $9.99 a month after!!).
I was not interested in this new hobby Jim took on- at first. I knew some of the big names we all know: Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, and John Cena (from the memes), but I didn’t take quickly to whole deal. Jim was ingesting wrestling at an alarming rate and because we live together, I was forced to be party to most of the matches.
As I learned more about wrestling, I learned what I liked about it and what I loathed. I learned how to tell who was worth caring about, and who would be a flash in a pan. All this from “half-watching” old pay-per-views (unless Triple H or a McMahon was present, then I watched with all my heart) and new RAW’s and events. It’s very easy to keep up with and understand storylines in most promotions, and since I only followed WWE, I was golden.
Now, I don’t claim to know much, but I have been exposed to enough of WWE (I refuse to watch other promotions) to see it where I didn’t see it before. Like how you notice more cop cars after you get pulled over- I saw so much wrestling on my social media and heard it on podcasts. I never would have thought that any of these mediums would have the references to WWE, or past promotions like WCW, in them. Podcasts like Hello from the Magic Tavern talk about Bret Hart, and a few of my mutual followers on Twitter actually watch events. Even a couple big comic writers I follow tweet about the major pay-per-views, and now Crunchyroll has partnered in some way with WWE and WWE shares anime content from CR every so often.
So what is it? Why do I see pro-wrestling stuff mixed with anime, comics, and general fantasy nerds? It’s a damn good question that I’m not sure has any real solid answers, so I brainstormed five reasons why.
But first! Before I go into these reasons, please understand that I am highlighting WWE because, while people I know do watch TNA, Lucha Underground, etc., I rarely seen them posting about anything other than WWE on social media outlets. Furthermore, I only watch WWE, so my references are going to be associated with only that promotion.
So, if I’m so into wrestling, why don’t I want to watch other shows? Simply put: I don’t like wrestling. I like sports entertainment. It’s a term coined by Vince McMahon to describe his company as a way to garner benefits from both the entertainment and sports industries, but it’s also a great classification for how I view this whole thing.
I don’t care about the fight. I care about the showmanship. I care about how the wrestler is acting and reacting and talking and doing, not their in-ring technique and what his common move-set is.
I care when Triple H slips of the ring to “re-assess” the situation.
I care when John Cena yells in the camera about how good of a day it is and how great of a night it’s going to be.
I care when Vince McMahon beats his daughter up for petty reasons, but I couldn’t care less about the Michinoku Driver that Michael Cole miscalled. I’m here for the party.
- We are all exposed to Pro-Wrestling/Sports Entertainment at some point.
As a citizen of the U.S.A., you were likely exposed to some sort of pro-wrestling at some point in your life. If you every lived in the U.S.A. for a prolonged period of time, you were likely exposed to some sort of pro-wrestling at some point in your life. If you are not and have never visited the U.S.A., then this brainwave doesn’t apply to you because I’ve never seen how wrestling is advertised in anywhere but the US and Japan.
Anyway, here in the US, there is a lot of advertising money spent on the pro-wrestling industry. Toys, video games, TV ads, and now internet blurbs are everywhere and it’s something you notice even if you aren’t a fan. Superstars, WWE wrestlers, are just that: superstars. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a shining example of a man who turned to a career of Hollywood stardom after years as a wrestler and is, arguably, the best piece of advertising WWE has right now.
Since we have wrestlers in movies, popular games, and have our toy aisles covered in merchandise I believe it’s actually difficult to find someone who doesn’t know what the WWE is.
In that respect, it would make sense why I see people posting about wrestling so much. Even if the person posting doesn’t keep up with wrestling as a whole, maybe they see a meme or reference they understand as it pertains to John Cena or they learn that Donald Trump was once a character on WWE.
Anime and comic nerds are people who typically like to learn, or at least have a knack for looking up information when they find something new, and it’s likely that some of the people we see posting about wrestling have a passing or past interest in the subject. So, of course I would see wrestling intermixed with my fandoms- it is almost impossible to not find some sort of cross-over knowledge because of our internet-savvy world.
2. The storylines are like comics/anime.
The most obvious idea that links pro-wrestling and my colleagues together are the larger-than-life stories intermixed. People that like comics and anime are attracted to a certain type of storytelling that is vivid, large, exciting, and captivating. I won’t say that all plot threads between the three mediums are always the same, especially considering how simplistic wrestling is, but all the basics are prevent which makes wrestling easy to explore. Furthermore, comics, anime, and wrestling all can appeal to a certain segment of viewers.
Let’s give some examples of what I’m talking about using myself as a guinea pig.
First, the comics I’m attracted to are either highly stylized because I love art or have thick stories that lend themselves to large splash pages because I like art. I get frustrated when Tony Stark talks too much because he blocks the art with his speech, and upset when art is haphazardly changed 1/3 of the way through the book. I prefer Marvel to DC, and will try almost any indie book about people with powers but won’t touch anything if the book is about someone without an ability.
Second, I love anime. A lot. However, I love stylized, emotional, fluid anime the most. Genre-wise I prefer school-based and slice-of-life shows and steer away from Mecha and most action features. With anime, I prefer visuals and since talking often lends itself to establishing shots and beautiful animation- I prefer talking in anime to fighting,
So- what would I find interesting in wrestling? On the surface, it would seem that I wouldn’t like anything, but let’s examine what I do like about it first then draw comparisons. I like when the wrestlers give speeches and talk and put on their show of emotions as the character. I like the entrances and costuming. I could go without the fighting part, but if there is enough character focus (like slipping out of the ring, or yelling at the crowd) I can have fun while watching them fight.
In wrestling, speeches and characterizations lend themselves to visuals either in action by the wrestler or by other people in or around the ring and costuming is obviously its own artistic interest. I like storytelling and the visuals associated with that, and wrestling provides an exact scratch for that, though different than what I’m used to.
It’s the same for the people I know. My boyfriend loves action and fighting in his interest and hobbies, so he loves the wrestling aspect of wrestling. Of course, he also likes speech and visuals which means he’s just better-rounded than myself.
Wrestling is often bombastic with fireworks at every opening ceremony (and most wrestling entrances) and just plain interesting with its storylines. The most strange and interesting, in my opinion, is when Vince McMahon’s wife was in a coma-state while his mistress pushed her wheelchair before Vince’s son got fed up with his father’s behavior and challenged him to a match. Then, while Vince’s son was on the ropes, the wife comes out of her coma-state and causes Vince to lose the match out of shock. It sounds dumb, and it totally is, but it’s fascinating to watch.
Anime, comics, and wrestling are all loud and visually pleasing in one way or another, and the enjoyment of each is up to personal preference. However, if you like one it’s highly likely that you’ll like at least one other- if not all three. Just like movies, it’s about finding what you like in each medium and wrestling is no stranger to the stories anime and comics represent.
- Easy to invest yourself in the fiction- like with anime fandoms
Do you ever get obsessed with a show or character and decide that you love it or them? Let me give a good, topical example that I believe people can relate to easily: Tony Stark. I have a true love for Tony that nobody can understand because it’s really just madness.
If you’ve ever read a comic, you know that Tony is not always making the right decisions, but he’s a good person at his core. You’ll also know that Tony didn’t always look slim and that he wasn’t always so long-winded until after the Iron Man movies. I don’t love the pre-man Iron Man Tony, and I don’t love comics Tony (though I will defend his actions until I die) – I love MCU Tony. I love MCU Tony so much that I cry during his PTSD attacks in IM3 (and now I don’t watch the movie) because I empathize with him… I plant that MCU persona of Tony on him every time I think about and see him. I’m that invested in his character.
It’s pretty freaking crazy, and I have it with a lot of characters. A lot of people do. Wrestling gives you these strong feelings of intimacy with characters, too, because you often see the “behind-the-scenes” with backstage segments and blurred line of reality and kayfabe (how you refer to the act of characterization in wrestling). I’m going to one of my favorite wrestlers, Seth Rollins, as an example. Seth is not a hero and is pretty much a giant dickhole; however (outside the character) the man is very hardworking and kind.
I have watched a lot of segments with Seth, and I have watched a lot of his WWE sponsored content and followed his Twitter. On all these platforms is a blending of who he is as the character and who he is as a real person. You develop two ways of seeing the character- the in-ring and out-ring personalities, and they become terribly human and terribly relatable. From where I sit, Seth Rollins has worked so hard for this company and to see him without the belt and the look in his eyes when Triple H betrayed him for Kevin Owens- well, it was hard to watch.
Wrestling becomes emotionally real, just as feelings from anime and comics become real. You get attached to certain characters, and you want them to succeed from the bottom of your heart- even if you know it’s all fake and false and none of it matters. It matters in that instant, and that’s the comparison. Comics aren’t real, but every time I see Steve Rogers fall in Civil War, I pray he gets back up even though I know he dies. Every time I watch 5 Centimeters Per Second, I cry because no matter how much I want them to- the characters will never see each other again. Every time I see Seth Rollins go out to the ring, I want to him to win, but I know he won’t and it makes me sad.
Pro-wrestling is an emotional investment that anyone can easily get behind.
- You don’t have to follow it constantly, can jump in and out with ease
There’s that old adage about comics where every comic is someone’s first comic. The same can be said for wrestling, and that’s why it’s so easy to follow and keep up with even if you drop out every so often.
The ability to join a fandom easily is something that is overlooked, but it’s actually very difficult to come into anything at ground zero anymore. Comics don’t explain everything at the beginning nowadays, anime can be just an convoluted as ever- if not way too long to catch up to, and even basic TV shows tend to have a large back catalogue of content. You have to be committed to these mediums if you want to be up-to-date. That’s not how it is with wrestling.
Did you miss the pay-per-view? There’s a recap before RAW. Did you miss last week’s Smackdown? There’s a recap before the show starts. Who’s this new guy/girl? You’ll know in about three seconds based on their actions.
Wrestling, at its core, is easy. The simple, loud stories with relatively static characters lend themselves to viewers who want to drop in and drop out without any real commitment. I’d actually suggest it if you want to maintain your sanity.
- It’s fun.
That’s it. At the end of the day, all my theorizing, examples, and personal stories aside- wrestling is just plain fun. You get mad at it, you laugh at it, you jeer it, and you love it because wrestling is fun. You have to watch it to get it. You have to drop your preconceived notions and enjoy its fantasticness.
That’s all most of us want, anyway. Pure, simple fun– and I really believe that’s the core of why these two fandoms merge.
+ Featured image found here.