Keith Cohen has been a wrestling fan since that fateful day in 1983 when he saw Bob Backlund viciously assaulted by the Iron Sheik. 30 years later, he still loves it just as much. He welcomes you to send all feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @strutter71 (where you are also welcome to follow him).
I realize that most of you probably saw the title of this article and immediately saw the inherent irony.
Yes, I am opening a debate about whether the internet has helped or hurt wrestling…and publishing the article on the internet. But that’s the beautiful thing about it, and one of the positive points I wanted to raise.
First and foremost, the internet has made the wrestling community more close-knit than ever would have been possible back in the ‘80s when I first started watching. In those days, the only source of wrestling info was in magazines like “Pro Wrestling Illustrated.” I would wait with bated breath for the latest issue to come out so I could read up on all my favorites. There were always a couple of problems with the magazine format, however. They only had so many pages available, so they couldn’t cover absolutely everything. Plus, publication times meant that it couldn’t always be the timeliest information.
Enter the internet age. Now wrestling fans all across the globe have access to more wrestling news than they can handle, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and they can even talk to each other about it in real time!
But is this always a good thing?
The biggest drawback I see with the internet is that it is chock full of spoilers. Some of my favorite wrestling memories of all time are based on the element of surprise. Remember when Lex Luger showed up on the debut episode of WCW Nitro? Nobody saw that coming, and it was gripping television. Or what about the debut of Chris Jericho on Monday Night Raw? Back then, the internet was still fairly young. Jericho’s debut may have been spoiled back then, but at the time I wasn’t very internet savvy, so if it was out there, I didn’t see it. I can’t imagine seeing that moment knowing ahead of time that it was Jericho coming out. The shock value is what made that moment so great to me.
A lot of that magic seems to be lost these days. Friday Night Smackdown is taped on Tuesdays, three nights before it airs on television. Immediately after it is taped, spoilers pop up on all the wrestling sites. I avoid them like the plague. Why on earth would I want to know all the details of what happens before I watch the show? And it’s not just all the “unofficial” wrestling sites that are guilty of this. WWE has spoiled title changes that occur on taped shows before they air, right on the front page of their own web site.
There are two arguments that could be made for that. The first is that by announcing the title change, more fans will tune in to see the moment happen. I prefer the second argument, which is that if you announce too much ahead of time, fans are LESS likely to tune in. Don’t tell me how the movie ends, please. I don’t want to see it now.
I would speculate that NOT advertising things like title changes ahead of time would lead to higher ratings over time. It all goes back to the element of surprise. WWE is fond of spouting out catchphrases like “anything can happen!” Sure, anything can happen. But if you tell us ahead of time that a particular thing is going to happen, it just doesn’t feel so special anymore.
Back to an earlier point. Remember how I mentioned that fans from around the world can now talk to each other about wrestling? Whether it is on message boards, Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media platform, fans have a variety of ways to comment on what they like or don’t like about what they are watching. Unfortunately, it seems like most people take advantage of the anonymity of the internet and use their time to mindlessly bash something they profess to love.
Obviously, I’m not saying people don’t have a right to an opinion. If you disagree with me on something, great. Let’s have an intelligent conversation and debate the salient points. But don’t type in all caps “YOUR A IDIOT CM PUNK IS THE GRETEST WRESSLER OF ALLTIME U DONT KNOW WHUT UR TALKIN ABOUT.”
Please, people, don’t be trolls. Use proper grammar and spelling and the world will be a better place for it.
So, what’s the answer? Has the internet done more harm than good to the wrestling industry? Honestly, I think it’s hard to say for sure. 30 years later, I’m still here and still watching, so it can’t be all bad. I think, ultimately, each fan needs to decide for themselves how much they want to expose themselves to. I avoid trolls and spoilers on-line, and that seems to work for me. Anyone else out there have an opinion on the matter? Contact me at email@example.com or on Twitter @strutter71. Let’s discuss.