Welcome to Seven Things, a list that will run weekly and consist of very eclectic topics. These are of my opinions and doesn’t express the views of others on WrestlingOnEarth.
Wrestling fans are a fickle bunch, especially in this day and age where the internet has made it easier be so. Today, I’ll be discussing the 7 stages a wrestler can go through in regards to fan outlook on him or her. Most wrestlers will only experience a few but there are a select who have or is on the path to endure all. *cough* CM Punk *cough*
I’m not saying I’m above or different from the sect of fans who portray these reactions at the reactionary times because I definitely am a part of a few of these in current day examples. This is not really a criticism piece, it’s definitely not an approval piece, it’s more just a thing that happens and it’s been on my mind so here goes.
Reminder: If you have any suggestions for future Seven Things columns, feel free to share them in the comments or send them to me on Twitter: @typicalROHfan.
Stage I: Curiosity
When a wrestler is a new face to many, it’s fresh and enjoyable. Sami Zayn is currently the best example of that. Most fans didn’t see his work prior to WWE and even fans who have seen him in the past are seeing a new side of him so for all intents and purposes, he’s a new wrestler and a phenomenal one.
As he’s seen more, fans become more attached and proclaim him as somewhat of “their guy” because they are building his fan base before he even shows his face on television. Somewhat heart warming, somewhat hipster logic, fans take a pride in him and rally behind him as he makes the next steps in his career.
Stage II: Infatuation
The next career and fandom stage is a progression from the prior. A wrestler starts to get more popular and showcased frequently but has yet to reach his plateau. Cesaro is established on RAW and Smackdown at the moment and seems to be on the way up. The love affair has grown and much like the prior mindset, it’s multiplied by 10.
The bandwagon rightfully gets a little bigger, hopes become “Championship or bust” going forward. Matches with John Cena, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton becomes the expectation rather than the wish. This stage is sometimes bailed on early (see Wade Barrett) or exists for a long time (see Dolph Ziggler).
Stage III: Idolization
If WWE gives the wrestler the position to go through the prior two stages and even more of an opportunity that he succeeds, it plateaus. CM Punk during the Summer of Punk and current day Daniel Bryan are the best examples. Right now, Daniel Bryan could use a wrist lock as finisher and people would love it. He’s on fire and quite frankly bulletproof in regards to this type of fan.
Does it have a shelf life? Yes, but when it’s hit, it’s like a wave that gets bigger and bigger before splashing. (That’s how waves work, right?) One sign of this stage in today’s wrestling climate is if fans are bizarrely obsessed with you having a higher position on the card than John Cena. That’s how you know you’ve hit the idolization stage. I’m a proud member of the Daniel Bryan idolization party FYI!
Stage IV: Complacency
Some call it complacency. Some call it same ol’ shit. You see it in the reaction to Randy Orton today. This type of fan is tired of him and its made its way to the live shows with fans heckling him at many points in the last year. I don’t really need to go into detail here as you likely get it. Whether it’s this vocal sect or most fans is more of a question to ponder as it seems to happen to Orton in every city now.
Stage V: You owe us (Entitlement A)
The most time relevant and interesting stage. There are currently two spectrums of fans giving off this stage when it comes to CM Punk. Fans who love him that think WWE owes them breaking down to whatever would make CM Punk return despite no one knowing why he left. The other fans are of the mindset CM Punk owes it to them to keep wrestling while in his prime.
It’s a mind boggling concept to me. Wrestling promoters are known to use a wrestler as hard as they can before getting rid of them when no longer capable of performing but it seems lots of fans practice that as well as seen in Stages 5 and 6. My stance on the whole CM Punk thing is good for him. If you’re unhappy at your job to a point where you want to leave it for any reason and you have enough power to, why wouldn’t you?
Many feel Punk owes it to them to perform at Wrestlemania 30 and forward due to his ability to still get it done in the ring which is funny since Stage 6 is……
Stage VI: We are done with you (Entitlement B)
Quite the opposite of CM Punk, Rey Mysterio has stuck around wrestling for years without taking much, if any, breaks on his own accord. His reputation is known for being the utmost of a professional, helping out young wrestlers and never mailing it in. Basically these are the things many fans in Stage 5 want CM Punk to pull off. Yet Rey is portrayed in the most hateful of ways.
The narrative is that he’s old and needs to stop wrestling. Whether I agree or disagree with that, that’s not our decision to make. The reactions in fans livid that CM Punk left before they dictated it and wanting to dictate when Rey Mysterio ends his career is the ultimate sign of entitlement in wanting to control a wrestler’s life in regards to their personal opinions.
Stage VII: Adulation
MANY wrestlers leave with bad reputations or fans disliking them with it always ending the same. The Ultimate Warrior’s reputation among wrestlers is being one of the biggest jerks in the industry. Jake Roberts reputation was being one of the most disrespectful wrestlers when meeting his fans at shows. However, both of these men are slated to enter the WWE Hall of Fame next month and fans are stoked about it ready to shower them with appreciation.
Hell, fans financed surgeries for Scott Hall and the aforementioned Roberts. This basically shows you the end of the road. Through the love and the hate and even more hate, at the end of a career, most wrestlers will be loved regardless. Wrestling fans are the most petty and fickle at times but also the most appreciative at the end of the day when looking back at the time a wrestler put in. The logic is insane but then again, so is everything in pro wrestling so isn’t it rather fitting?