Fan culture and Pro Wrestling

The moment I heard about Daniel Bryan losing the title in 18 seconds at Wrestlemania 28, I thought about the reaction of the fans.  Twitter caught fire making fun of this match.  People were upset from Wrestlemania 27 because his match got cut off the card.  There are reports of people at Wrestlemania 28 were unhappy with this result

Let's think about where we have fans in American culture.  You can be a fan of a sports team or an athlete.  Since sports are only about the result on the field fans only react to the results.  If your team loses maybe the other team was better.  If the fans want to blame someone, there is any number of people to blame.  You can blame a player, a coach, the front office, the officials and even the members of the other team.  If you are rooting for a team, there is always next year.  Being a fan of sports make sense because of the objective outcome.

In is also a lot of Fan Culture that grows up around genre fiction.  Many times people identify with their favorite character in fiction and end up becoming as big of fan of that character as the main work.  This often happens with secondary characters.  A good example of this is people picking their favorite Harry Potter character.  When those characters die in later books they get upset at the author and the work of art.  This is on of the complaints against Joss Whedon

Drawing this kind of Fandom connection to characters can be dangerous.  Authors are either limited in the stories they can tell or they risk alienating their fans.  One can say that the audience should just go with what the story.  The problem is when you do something that jars the audience in this way it can have some bad side effects.  The fans can disengage from the story and it does not matter why you did that jarring thing if the audience no longer is willing to engage in the story.

I bring this up in the context of wrestling, because fans are encouraged to embrace wrestlers.  To sell us t-shirts and merchandise it behooves promotions to sell specific wrestlers.  Promotions do not want us to just enjoy wrestling, but to identify with wrestlers. 

The reason Fandom is important is it can chance the way the audience react to the story telling.  No matter how great of a story you can tell, it does not matter if the audience shuts off.  I think this is a sign that the writers have to be careful.  They have to make sure they understand the way the matches and stories impact the characters and the fans. 

This is even trickier with Pro Wrestling.  If you do this on an average TV show, it is only one character on a 22 hour a year piece of fiction.  The writer and actor can move onto their next show without any impact.  Because of the nature of wrestling, you can wreck a character and performer by mishandling story lines.  If you do it enough times people can give up on a show.  I think this is the reason some people gave up on TNA. 

I am not saying that pro wrestling promotions should not encourage the audience to become fans of wrestlers.  I think a fan is a great asset.  They can become the greatest marketing tool you have.  I just think that the creative staffs have to be careful about the way they tell stories.  There are some stories you might want to tell, but you cannot tell without bad side effect with the fans of those wrestlers. 

Further Reading:
Comments about Joss Whedon killing characters


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