I think that we can all agree that there is a big difference between the heart and the brain. No doubt, they are each critical, and it is important to take care of each … but they’re different, and they’re important in their own way – but they’re separate, both in function and geography.
In the same regard, there is a significant separation between the people who have a passion for the wrestling business (heart) and those that think that they’re smarter than the business (brain). What’s the point of all this? you might wonder.
It’s time to purge the business of the so called ‘smarks’.
Pre-internet, if you wanted to find out what was going on in the wrestling business, you learned what you could from the newsstand magazines and underground newsletters (if you could get your hands on them). While few of these sources gave a great deal of insight into the inner workings of the wrestling business, many of us simply didn’t care. We bought into the aura of wrestling, the larger-than-life dynamic of the stars on the local circuits that we got to see in action and our connection with the business was built through a genuine respect and awe of the craft. For many of us, there was absolutely no doubt that this is where we needed to be and we did all that we could learn. One of the first lessons that we were all taught getting into the business is: “Keep your ears open, and your mouth shut.”
Perhaps it is with this ingrained approach to the wrestling business that the emergence of the “smart mark” is so apalling. The internet age has done a great deal to impress upon these folks that think they know the business of wrestling that their opinions should be expressed loudly and as widely as possible. Through various wrestling forums, these people will critique matches, angles, and the business being done by promotions, often in a negative connotation — dissecting every detail of an event. However, not once has any one of these people ever made a dollar in the wrestling business.
This isn’t a case where you have an established professional in the business critiquing in a constructive manner that can ensure improvement. No, quite often, these are guys who read the internet, subscribe to the industry newsletters and think that this qualifies them to offer their “informed” opinion. Don’t misunderstand, I think that as a ticket buyer, feedback to a promoter – whether positive or negative – is a good thing. It helps promoters to keep a finger on the pulse of what the ticket buyers are thinking. However, to be taken seriously – this shouldn’t be publicly displayed on a website.
You have a self-declared devout “smart” wrestling fan who buys tickets to all the matches. After the card, he goes home and jumps on his computer and publishes a full out thrashing of the entire undercard, highlights all the missed music cues, is directly critical (to the point of being derogatory) of the featured talent, and overall composes a piece that colors the wrestling company in a negative light. This review is posted on the promoter’s official website.
Now, the following day, a potential sponsor drops in to the site to check out the product before commiting dollars and the first thing that the sponsor sees is this full out bashing by a self-described die hard wrestling fan. Has that “fan” of the product now helped or hurt wrestling? What are the chances that the sponsor is going to invest in the product now? Who promotes their product by using their resources to bury it publicly? What if a new fan stumbles on to the site and is surprised to hear that there is a local outlet for wrestling? Will this review encourage him or her to buy a ticket – or will it make them sit home and say “I’m better off watching re-runs of Tough Enough’?
Every time that a ‘smart’ guy posts something on a message board, or is verbally giving the lowdown to surrounding fans in a ticket line it makes me ask: How many people has this guy made money for in the wrestling business? Has this guy with his infinite knowledge ever supported the families of ten wrestlers with his wealth of experience in the wrestling game? Has this guy ever had to think on the fly and adjust to last minute changes in the production of a show due to injuries, illness, vehicle accidents? Has this guy ever put his money where his mouth is?
The answer, invariably is “NO.”
So, one can stomach this relationship between the passion of the guys in the ring (heart) and the smart guy sitting in the front row (brain) by recognizing that this guy – good or bad – is supporting the wallet (right butt cheek pocket). The aggravating smart guy is supporting independent wrestling through his on-going purchase of tickets, and as such is vital to the ongoing success of wrestling. But once that ticket revenue dries up – what is left? Is there a purpose for the “brain” any more?
Increasingly, I am seeing (and hearing about) independent wrestling companies inviting these ‘smart marks’ into the fold. Now, these guys are in the locker rooms, getting a closer view of wrestling than they should have ever been afforded, and thinking that they are now on the level with guys that have sacrificed for this business. Guys who have paid real dues and trained for years to EARN their spot. When I see guys like this in the locker room, it makes me physically ill. What’s worse is that promoters will protect these guys. Promoters and bookers shield them from the veterans that would hold them accountable for what they have said and done – even when what they have said and done has disrespected and hurt the business.
Do you think I am being overly sensitive about this? After all, who am I to dictate who is or isn’t allowed to be inside this business? What have you done to the credibility of your product when your regular fans see that the loudmouth that sat in the seat next to them for the past five years – that has no athletic merit whatsoever, is now supposed to be seen as a superstar – someone worthy of them paying their hard earned money to see? Now, from inside the business – you promoters and bookers are slowly killing the respect and awe that wrestling had among its fans. You have eliminated professional distance, you have diminished the aura of what it means to sacrifice and pay dues in this business and for what?
I have more questions than answers on this one.
Take this for what you will. It is written by a heart that still has a strong passion for this business, while admitting that approaching twenty years and more than 1,500 matches, I’m still not smarter than wrestling – and I don’t know it all.