My Challenge of Ignorance by Howie Mandella

Lately, I’ve found my optimism for the current product finally paying off. I’ll admit for most of 2016, it’s been a struggle to maintain ‘brightside’ thoughts about the state of wrestling, particularly in WWE. With Injurgeddon still terrorizing the locker room, it’s hard to really know what the rest of year will bring as far as the television product is concerned. I expected more out of Wrestlemania 32, but realized the company thought they were making the best use of what they had. Furthermore, the RAW after made up for most of my gripes with the Grandaddy of them all. We saw the debut of new talent as well as a refresh in the WWE World Heavyweight title scene. Not only that, we’ve gotten a chance to see what RAW would be like under the control of Shane McMahon. There’s been less talk and more action. Talents’ strengths are being accentuated, and it’s helping get them over. The best part about it all is, most of us didn’t expect it after the big event.

Sure some will say they “saw it coming,” in hindsight, for some of these things. However, it’s as if WWE’s trying to wash any bitterness out of the mouths of disappointed fans. The booking has essentially erased a lot of Wrestlemania from history, soon all that mattered about 32 will be the attendance.The fact of the matter is no dirtsheets, wrestling journalists or anonymous reddit whistleblowers ruined anything. I remember a time when virtually every second of WWE programming was must see. A time when the ending of RAW immediately got me pumped for Smackdown, and even though it was pre-taped I didn’t have access to Tuesday night spoilers. It was a time when pre-PPV Sunday Night Heats were must see (if not just for the sets), because anything could happen at any given moment. At least that’s how I felt as a kid. It was real to me dammit.

My only experience with wrestling online was sneaking into my mom’s room and going on “wwf.com.” At the time, I was only 6 and the world of wrestling was all new to me. Fast forward a few years later, and I was completely endowed into the WWE as well as TNA. I had a tub full of action figures that was constantly growing, a video game collection of nothing but wrestling and other fighting games, with the standard Madden thrown in there for when friends came over. In my spare time, I wanted to create the magic I saw on television every week. A lot of that lead to my love for creative writing, but it all came from the innocence of being a wrestling fan that knew nothing.

My mother took her computer and put it in the living room, officially granting me unlimited access to the internet. Then I was corrupted. I came across my first dirtsheet, prowrestlingscoops, and it was no turning back. Now, mind you, friends and family have long ingrained in me the fact that wrestling was “fake”. I was willing to accept that matches were pre-determined, but I wasn’t naive enough to believe guys were squirting themselves with ketchup out there. Slowly but surely, I lost myself behind the computer screen among what’s considered the IWC. I thought I was being “smartened up” by the various opinions on the state of wrestling.

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I felt as though I had been enlightened, discovering there was more to the sport than just what I was watching from week to week. There were intricacies and nuances that fans would point out on forums that I had never even thought to watch for. Now I can’t help but watch wrestling as if I’m a rookie studying tape. For the most part, the element of surprise left once as I started to expect things and get disappointed when they didn’t happen. These days, I enjoy the few moments where I’m truly caught off guard. That is why I’m going to challenge myself.

From now until Summerslam, I’m taking a break from the spoilers, and I’m going deaf to the rumors and speculations. Being as active as I am on social media, I understand some things will be unavoidable. First of all, I’m a part of this website that posts such spoilers and rumors. It’ll be tough, but not impossible. I’ll read the reviews and other articles alike, but I won’t be putting any stock into any of the rumors I stumble upon. I’ve already started to lose faith in some of these main sources. A lot of times they’re strictly speculations, or common sense conclusions drawn from what most of the fan community already knows. This is just a personal experiment to see how much more fun wrestling can be, even though I’m older and watch with a different set of lenses. How much more enjoyment could I get out of the product, as opposed to apathetic habit-watching, if I tap back into that youthful innocence?

I don’t expect anyone else to follow suit, but I do think it’d be an interesting challenge. I’ll also try to refrain from too much fantasy booking. It’s fun to scope out the roster and predict where they could go. However, I think it’s easy for some of us to come up with what we think are great ideas then get frustrated when things don’t play out the way we want. Fantasy booking is one of every wrestling fan’s favorite pastimes. It can be a gift and a curse when you read about potential signings and planned matches. Our creative minds take us in a million different directions, and more times than not, we’re way off from reality. Maybe I’m just speaking for myself, but a break from the speculations could be just what I need to check my apathy and cynicism at the door. I’ll keep you guys posted.