In early September I submitted a writing sample to John Canton. That writing sample became my debut column for TJR Wrestling. Since my first column I’ve made it a point to respond to every comment that’s been posted to something I’ve written. I admit that I had a sincere sense of intimidation of facing the infamous “Internet Wrestling Community” when I started out. Those fears turned out to be completely unfounded as I’ve gotten fewer than a handful of negative comments over the course of four months. Even when I’ve gotten the rare negative comment, I’ve been able to turn it into a positive interaction, except for one.
I got a Facebook comment on my review from Raw in Philadelphia three weeks ago that just really rubbed me the wrong way. It was short and simple, but it agitated me nonetheless. It stated, “In Philly only marks go to Raw.” Short and sweet, nothing mean, no personal attack, so what’s the big deal? I couldn’t really put my finger on it. I replied that I like to have fun and I don’t mind being a mark every once in a while. That reply was met with a simple “LOL.” I wanted to know if that was a sarcastic response or if it was genuine laughter at an honest exchange. I never followed up because I was still slightly irked.
While the word mark is a four-letter word, it is not on the short list of words that can’t be said on TV. It isn’t the type of four-letter word that would lead to a fist fight in a bar. But there is a negative connotation to it stemming from the old days of the business. By it’s definition it means: A target. A person who is easily deceived or taken advantage of. My first thought was that this person didn’t respect me, but I quickly realized that didn’t really matter. No one can define what type of fan, or person for that matter, you are if you don’t allow them to. What truly bothered me was the inherent cynicism the statement represented.
The last time I checked, despite the disdain some of us have for the “E” in WWE, pro wrestling is entertainment. While I consider it an art form, wrestling isn’t an art house film or a Renaissance painting. Does WWE and pro wrestling as a whole really need to ever be viewed in such a pretentious manner? Three of the five most fun times I had in 2015 were at the Royal Rumble, at the NXT live shows in Philadelphia and the day at the Performance Center. When word came that Raw would be here before the close of the year, it was a no brainer that my friends and I would go. Why not so something we enjoy when given the opportunity?
My own personal experiences aside, isn’t the experience of being a wrestling fan at it’s absolute peak during the rare moments when we “mark out” over what’s transpired? When Seth Rollins cashed in at WrestleMania, a room full of people that have been watching wrestling for 30 years turned into a room of marks. So did every smark in Levi’s Stadium. The same thing happened the year before when The Undertaker’s streak was broken and when Daniel Bryan finally reached the top of the mountain. I don’t think any less of the people immortalized with stunned faces as Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman reveled in being the one in 21-1. I honestly think those reactions, those feelings are what wrestling is all about.
While many fans view “mark” as a derogatory word, we are all marks when it comes down to it. We are marks for tuning into whatever wrestling show we prefer. We are marks for buying the t-shirt of whatever wrestler is our favorite. We are marks for buying WWE2K and yes, we are marks for spending $9.99 a month on the WWE Network. And you know what? That is just fine. I honestly don’t even know if there is such a thing as a smart mark anymore. Anyone over the age of 10 is aware that the whole business is a work. Anyone with internet access and five minutes of free time can find out what’s going on behind the scenes of any promotion. There really isn’t any type of fan that has a leg up as far as having an awareness of what’s going on.
On another note, voicing a negative opinion of the WWE product at a live show doesn’t make you a better, smarter, more informed fan. It makes you an obstruction. The most recent example of this comes to mind from last week’s Raw. After months of fans chanting “We Want Sasha!” a chant of “Boring!” broke out during her match. There is nothing smart about that. All it does is send a mixed message to the people producing the show. The same thing applies when everyone complains about Roman Reigns getting too much time on the mic, but then chanting “Tater Tot” for the last 10 minutes of the show. You are sending the wrong message. Anyone who has read my columns with any regularity knows I am no shill for WWE. I have had numerous complaints and problems with the product and voiced them all.
With that being said, I still enjoy the rare opportunities to sit in the stands, cheer and boo, join in on chants that are fun and watch some of the world’s greatest athletes put on the most entertaining live show that there is. It doesn’t even have to be WWE, it just happens that for the most part they do it bigger and better than anyone else. So maybe I am a mark for going to Raw and I’m at peace with that. Because at the end of the day, all of us that support this business are marks. Wrestling fans seem to be a dying breed with only the most hardcore among us still standing. It’s time to stop acting like we are above the show that’s being put on or above each other. It’s time to realize we are a community that’s hanging on to something we love dearly. And if going to a wrestling show isn’t fun for you, you may not be a mark, but you don’t seem like a great fan either. Take a message from your world famous two-time champs and feel the power of positivity. Who knows, you may find that you actually enjoy it.