Shakespeare defined “irony” as basically how we view something and are armed with knowledge that the characters in whatever we are viewing are not privy to. For example, in Romeo & Juliet we all know that (*418 year old spoiler alert*) the main characters are going to die at the end. The means that, as the play (which, for those of you who don’t know, is a movie that you see in real life) progresses, every reference to death that we as an audience hear we are like, “Oh, snap! These poor people don’t even realize that they’re talking about what’s going to happen to them!” We, as wrestling fans, are often armed with knowledge in a similar manner. For instance, most of us knew Seth Rollins was going to retain his title at the last two PPV’s, and will likely continue to at least as far as Summerslam. The difference is that Shakespeare told us that the main characters of Romeo & Juliet were going to die right in the prologue, which made for a lot of tragic irony as the play progressed, almost to a point where we found ourselves frustrated that we couldn’t tell the characters that they were about to make a terrible mistake. I mean, in the context of the story, how could they possibly know the future? With wrestling, we are usually aware of the outcomes to things like this, and there’s rarely any tragic irony or heightened sense of drama that comes with said knowledge.
Before I dive into this proverbial pool of…whatever metaphor is fitting for what I’m talking about, I’m just going to give this tiny disclaimer that I’m not trying to say that we know the outcome to everything in wrestling, or that there’s no drama any more. I mean, going into Wrestlemania we were armed with oodles of backstage gossip about Roman Reigns’ push being a flop and Brock Lesnar resigning with the company just before the event. Suddenly the foregone conclusion that we had been certain of for a year with the new stud being the one to topple the untoppable monster was in question. We debated over which of them was walking away with the gold, and then in a moment of absolute brilliance, WWE proved they could still give us genuine drama, excitement, and, most of all, legitimate (and welcome) shock.
Yet, in that little disclaimer, I mentioned exactly the subject I’m looking to tackle. Wrestlemania was a rare gem and we don’t often get rewarded for our devotion to a product that we so openly mock in public forums, despite being “fans” of it. We went into that show armed with oodles of juicy backstage “inside” information. Nine out of ten times, when we go into a show we are armed with that kind of knowledge because this is the age of the internet. We don’t get enough of this ridiculous form of entertainment just from watching the show. Hell, we don’t even judge the shows purely on their quality. We go onto forums and we read dirt sheets and some of us even have people close enough to the interior of the business that we can get some pretty good dirt. We know when someone’s contract is up. We know when someone is injured. We usually know when someone is returning from injury. We know when someone is in trouble with management and about to go on a huge losing streak. We know when someone is beloved by management and about to be pushed as a somehow unbeatable and undefeated “underdog.” That concept alone is something for a whole article all by itself.
The question I am asking here, and attempting to answer, is: Is this era of “smart” fans a good thing for us as fans, or a bad thing?
It’s not really a black and white answer. In many ways, it’s hard to deny that the product gets stale. Matches get boring. Whole divisions get buried to a point where we don’t care about entire segments of the show. Even the runtime has become something tedious to most of us. Yet we keep coming back. We keep watching. We keep adding our two cents. We keep making fun of their logic loopholes. We keep discussing that same backstage gossip that I mentioned earlier. Honestly, sometimes those backstage politics are far more entertaining than the show itself. Most of us know there’s a dry season where WWE gets a little bit lazy. We are about to enter that season, usually being about a month after Wrestlemania and lasting through Summerslam, with Money in the Bank being a little bright spot in the center. In that span of time, sometimes being aware of what’s happening behind the curtain is the only thing that keeps us interested enough to turn on the television. “Hey, I just read that Rusev got hurt. I wonder if he will be cleared for Elimination Chamber. If not then who will they replace him with? I just read that MVP needs a job. OMG! What if MVP comes and wins the title!?” We do that. We fill our heads with these amazing ideas of what they could do and that’s enough to get us interested. Odds are, if that were the case, then Big Show would make his TRIUMPHANT RETURN and win in a two minute squash match and then we would get online and claim we’re never watching again…for 24 hours.
As I said previously, most of us know Seth Rollins is walking into Summerslam with the WWE Title. In fact, we are pretty sure we know he’s walking in to face Brock Lesnar. Technically, it falls within the Shakespearean definition of irony because we know, and technically the characters do not. Seth Rollins does not know he’s walking into a match with a baddie from a cheesy anime who can’t be stopped by any means known to this world. Colby Lopez most likely knows, but the moment he steps through that curtain he is Seth Rollins, and he isn’t supposed to be aware.
Let me present you with a hypothetical situation: What if we didn’t know? What if we didn’t know anything about Brock Lesnar’s contract situation? What if we didn’t know when he was going to be back? In a month or so when we hear that reversed-echoing guitar trill and see epileptic shots of an angry Brock Lesnar on the Titantron, (or is it Jumbotron now? Megatron? Poketron? Tronny Appleseed? Tron: Legacy?) we aren’t going to be shocked. We’re going to be amped up and excited, but if we truly did not know what to expect then that return would hold so much more gravity than it will because we just couldn’t stay away from those precious dirt sheets. I’m guilty of it in my weekly Smackdown reviews. I often mention that there’s an angle, then squeeze in a little tidbit about how it fits into the real-world situation backstage.
The best way to describe it is like it’s ecstasy. It’s a drug. We take it, we get all sorts of excited. We are happy. In times when we normally might be a little down it picks us up. Yet, it kills some of the other joys we might feel. I mean, if you have dopamine levels that are through the roof because a drug made them shoot to the moon, then everything makes you happy. You put the USB in the USB port right on the first try? Throw a party. You had exactly enough spray cheese for exactly how many crackers you had? Stop the God damn presses now and announce that to the world. But then it wears off…and you find yourself in genuinely exciting situations like having a kid and you’re like, “This is cool and all, but whatever.” It’s like you’re jaded to it now. If there’s a 1-10 happy scale and drugs can make you hit level 8 over spray cheese, then when you hit 9 because you just had your first child you’re like, “This birth is slightly better than spray cheese was last night.” Granted, this is an extreme set of examples, but no one likes stuff unless it’s ~EXTREME~.
That’s what it’s like to be a “smart” fan (or “smark,” if you prefer). We get so excited because we have our little guilty pleasure that it hurts our enjoyment of the moments that are supposed to be genuinely exciting. We knew Samoa Joe was coming to NXT soon, we just didn’t know when. There was a lot of great shock value to that, but we did expect it soon. However, we had no idea Kevin Owens was going to come out and crush John Cena last week. That was a genuine moment. We take those away from ourselves by trying to be too informed. How amazing would it have been to see Sting show up last year in WWE if we had never known he had signed? It would have been the most spine-tingling moment most of us could remember. Instead it was relegated to being described as, “Really cool that Sting finally made his debut.” In all honesty, that moment should have been more like, “OMFG IT’S STING WTF I CAN’T EVEN RIGHT NOW I’M TRYING TO AND ALL I CAN DO IS ODD OMG I CAN’T THINK OF WORDS I JUST WANNA DIE I’M DYING I JUST DIED I’M DEAD NOW RIP ME.” That’s how I wish I would have described it, but I didn’t because I wasn’t terribly shocked.
I suppose, as with all things, substances and otherwise, moderation is key. We get so hooked on all of the politics and the gossip that a bit of the fantasy that is professional wrestling gets lost on us. Undoubtedly it’s neat to know some of the things we learn on dirt sheets. The story of Mick Foley talking about his legendary Hell in a Cell match with The Undertaker is interesting beyond measure. The backstage politics surrounding the Montreal Screwjob are more interesting than anything that the fictional storyline would have come up with. Yet, I still read all of the stuff on there. I know they want The Undertaker to have one last match next year in Dallas, and maybe I really don’t want to know. It would make it all the more special when he showed up. I know Seth Rollins is going to keep the title for a while, but maybe I don’t want to know. I love Dean Ambrose and would be overjoyed to see him leave Elimination Chamber as WWE Champion, but I know he won’t and it dampers the tension that I should feel going in.
On the flip side, I do want to know about the situation regarding TNA and Destination America…well, and ROH now as well. That’s intriguing stuff. I want to know how Kevin Owens’ son reacted to seeing his father standing in the ring with the top professional wrestler in the world right now. I want to know how many more pounds Hulk Hogan is going to claim Andre weighed when he bodyslammed him. I want to know the real story behind Steve Austin’s neck problems, opting not to be content with believing an obese man hit him with his car because he predicted the absence of Steve Austin would lead to the meteoric rise of The Rock.
Sometimes we should educate ourselves. And sometimes we should listen to this direct quote from Shakespeare himself: “Sit the f*** down and watch the show and enjoy it for what it is, thy friend.” He said that. The use of the olde English “thy” proves it. Don’t look it up.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I talked myself into trying ecstasy and cheese. According to my hypothesis, it’s going to be a really exciting situation. While I’m doing that, feel free to follow me on Twitter @JakobDraper. I just Tweeted a screencap of a conversation with one of my friends who said he was watching Fargo. My response was, “I felt happy after I watched that movie. One might even say I felt…chipper.” That’s just one example of the fine quality stuff you’ll get with me. Come back and read my Smackdown review so you can actually witness me completely neglect my own opinions that you just read and include all kinds of insider info in there.