A long time ago, I did quite a bit of traveling and I would be in airports waiting for flights alongside the wrestlers. One time, a very popular wrestler was sitting by himself far away from the gate. Baseball cap on, sunglasses, he obviously just wanted to be left alone. A lot of people still recognized him but were keeping their distance. A middle-aged man then walked up to him and asked for a picture. The wrestler politely and quietly declined. The middle-aged man came back over and openly said to several people how the wrestler was “stuck up” and “unappreciative.” I remarked to the man (who didn’t know I was involved in the business), “Maybe he just wants to be left alone,” and the guy responded with “I’ve paid a lot of money to go watch him wrestle, the least he could do is take a picture with me. He owes me that.”
I looked him in the eye and said “You paid to watch him wrestle. The only thing he owed you was to get in the ring and perform for you to the best of his ability. That’s it.” The guy didn’t like my answer and walked off in a huff.
I’ve been a wrestling fan since the 80’s. I’ve been to countless shows, spent my money on PPV events and merchandise, and even traveled to the other side of the planet to watch shows and see my favorites perform.
The wrestlers owe me nothing.
I’ve probably contributed thousands of dollars over the course of 30+ years to their bank accounts, and I would imagine they appreciate that, but they owe me nothing.
When I purchased a PPV event, I received… the PPV event.
When I bought a t-shirt, I received… a t-shirt.
When I bought a ticket to see them live, I received… the show I paid to see.
I bring this up, because more and more I see fans falling into an entitlement posture when it comes to wrestlers and wrestling promotions. Perhaps it is because some of these fans have become spoiled with the easy access to the product we now enjoy. It could be some of them are just being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. In today’s social media world, it is pretty much guaranteed that nothing will be universally loved. There will always be those finding fault, complaining and claiming they could have done it better. Heck, there’s whole YouTube channels devoted to just that!
Regardless of the reason, the point is that wrestlers and promotions owe fans only one thing…. What you pay for.
See, wrestling is a business. I can already hear the keyboards being pounded by those who will call it an art, a passion, a lifestyle, etc. However, the brutal truth is that professional wrestling is a business.
A wrestling promotion puts on events, charges admission, sells merchandise, etc. with the intention to make enough revenue to cover all their expenses and (hopefully) make a profit. If a promotion isn’t attempting to reach that goal, then it isn’t a business, it is a hobby. A very expensive hobby. You can have a passion for wrestling, but the goal for anyone running a promotion should be to create a successful business, on any level.
For the wrestlers, they train, travel and put their bodies on the line to perfect their craft and put on the best match they possibly can to entertain the fans who have paid to see them. Their reward is the money they are paid for getting in the ring. Their goal is to make enough money to cover all their expenses, so that wrestling is not just a costly hobby for them. The ultimate goal is to make enough money that wrestling is their full-time profession, so they don’t need a day job to support their “wrestling habit” at night. This may shock some, but when the landlord asks for the rent, they don’t accept a “five-star match” in lieu of cash.
As fans, the promotions and wrestlers only “owe” us what we pay for. If a promoter advertises matches, then those matches should take place, and if circumstances beyond their control make that impossible, then they should do their best to make it up to the fans. Tod Gordon of ECW was the first promoter I can recall (there may have been others) who would not only offer refunds when an advertised match could not take place, but would allow fans to watch the first half of the show for free, then still get their full refund if they wished. The point is, that is what the promoter owes the fans, the best product they can put on for the fans that are supporting it with their time and money.
The wrestlers owe it to the fans to put forth the best effort they can to entertain the fans who have paid to see the event. That’s it. If you buy a t-shirt for that wrestler, then you got a t-shirt. It doesn’t mean that the wrestler has to pose for a photo, or respond to your tweets, or have a conversation with you. Now, many wrestlers will do these things out of a sense of appreciation, but it is not an obligation. The wrestler does not owe you anything except what you pay for.
Now, let’s put the shoe on the other foot. What do the fans owe the promotions and wrestlers?
I suppose if we want to get really technical, they owe it to the promotions and wrestlers to not interfere with the show. Don’t jump the rail, don’t touch the wrestlers, don’t throw objects into the ring. Fans should also not impair the enjoyment of the show for other fans with their behavior. In other words, follow the rules and don’t be a jerk. However, that’s it.
As a fan, you are under no obligation to watch 12 hours (or more) of wrestling a week. You do not “owe it” to a wrestler to buy their merchandise or buy tickets to the shows they are on. Which brings up another point… fans who say they “have to” watch the shows because they “have to” support the business. Nope, you don’t. If you are buying tickets, buying merchandise and watching a promotion or wrestler, it should only be for one reason: Because you want to. If you are entertained by the content being delivered, then carry on. If you are not, then as a consumer you have every right not to spend your disposable income (and time) on that product.
A long time ago, I made a rule regarding music artists, television shows and it can apply to wrestling as well. Three strikes, and you’re out. Any performer or promotion can have a bad night, so I like to give them the benefit of a doubt. If one show is bad, I’ll give them a second. If that one is also bad, I might wait a bit, then give them a third chance. If I’m not getting value for my time after three attempts, then I’m moving on. As fans, as consumers, we have the power to make promotions successful with your time and money. It is not the responsibility of the fans to support a bad product because it happens to be part of the industry we love. It is our responsibility to spend our time and money on the promotions and performers that deserve it.
We owe that… to ourselves.
You can check out last week’s column, “Time To Go To School: Another Lesson Wrestlers Can Learn From The Nature Boy” and all of my past work here on WebIsJericho.com.