Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
garynysmon

Wrestling's fanbase at its lowest ever level?

Recommended Posts

Its something that's been bothering me for some time, but surely general wrestling viewership hasn't been as low as this since the advent of television?

I know that the advent of superfast internet and streaming services has muddied the waters in terms of general TV viewership. But I can't recall a time when wrestling and specifically what are meant to be its top stars, have had less awareness among the general public. 

Yes, the Meltzer's and purists will happily decree that wrestling has "never been better." But surely that's because basically every company out there is catering to the hardcore fanbase that's left and presenting a workbase oriented product that's unlikely to draw in the casual fan as things stand?

It strikes me that the whole industry is surviving, and in some cases thriving, due to an over reliance on the "superfans" (some of which are a little "too" wrestling obsessed for my liking) and their willingness to part with a much bigger % of their disposable income than in generations gone by.

My point is, is there anything in the current offering that's likely to draw in your casual fans like in days gone by?

If you look at the past WWF boom periods, neither of which were exactly known for "workrate" of match quality (a facet that's vastly overrated in my view), and rather are remembered for the characters, development, promos and storyline.

The reliance on "good matches" only seems to crop up when business is on its arse tbh and it just feels to me that the whole industry had disappeared down this rabbit hole in 2019.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As you say, it's hard to measure. The TV audience is down and going further down seemingly by the week but measures like social media interaction, clicks and views of videos online are huge. They take into account the worldwide fanbase which is also hard to measure against anything from 20 years ago when they cared little about anything outside the US and Canada.

I think all the traditional measures are probably about as low as they've been since 1996 for the WWE but given they've signed massive TV deals on the back of those numbers and have lots and lots of people paying them $10 a month for the network 12 months a year, I don't know when that actually starts to matter.

Can't argue with the comments on match quality vs. characters, etc. It's mentioned on here every Tuesday morning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We live in a country where the only way to currently watch Raw and Smackdown is by paying through the nose for Sky Sports. I am not sure what the price difference will be when it moves to BT Sport. Or you wait a month to watch on the network. So viewership is not huge. And yet they still tour twice a year, at big venues and do well.

TNA was pretty big for a while due to being on FTA TV. They don't have the same marketing on infrastructure so couldn't capatalise on it, in my opinon.

AEW is the wild card here. Doing really well on ITV Box Office and will be interesting where the TNT show fits in slot and channel wise (I know ITV4 is being banded around, but what if it got a Saturday afternoon slot on ITV?). Either way, I think were about to see another tide turn in the UK around Wrestling. Or I could be completely wrong about it all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, garynysmon said:

My point is, is there anything in the current offering that's likely to draw in your casual fans like in days gone by?

If you look at the past WWF boom periods, neither of which were exactly known for "workrate" of match quality (a facet that's vastly overrated in my view), and rather are remembered for the characters, development, promos and storyline.

I have a pet theory, which I've probably banged on about on here before, that boom periods are dictated by changing technology and access at least as much, if not moreso, than by any one or two major stars. And it's driven by wrestling being closer to the zeitgeist - the two usually go hand-in-hand.

If you point to the '50s as the first US wrestling boom, that was driven by television.

The 1980s wrestling boom was driven by PPV and cable.

The "Monday Night Wars" or Attitude Era is the only period where I'd say there probably wasn't a major technological reason affecting the industry as a whole, but that the WWF switching to a change of presentation and production style, and a product in tune with the overall mood of the times, is what drove their success. 

Early 2000s saw a boom in independent wrestling, because production and distribution became cheaper and more accessible - promotions could afford to record, and to create DVDs, and fans could afford to buy them.

More recently, there's been a subsequent boom in independent and international wrestling (US fans following UK products and vice-versa, "Western" fans following Japanese promotions, Lucha promotions gaining a foothold outside of Mexico), which again has been technologically driven, as social media and streaming services have increased access.

 

So if there's something to attract casual fans again, it's a pivot toward embracing a new technology, or a significant change in production and presentation. Something that makes wrestling today look as drastically different from wrestling yesterday as Steve Austin looked from Hulk Hogan. I don't know what that is. If I did, I'd be a millionaire. 

Honestly, I think the future of wrestling is in the East. I think the most exciting thing about AEW is their relationship with OWE, and that a couple of their wrestlers represent the biggest leap forward in mainstream perception of what's possible in wrestling since Rey Mysterio first showed up in WCW, but only if they're presented properly. And I've been disappointed so far that AEW don't seem remotely concerned with changing up what wrestling looks like.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
31 minutes ago, BomberPat said:

The "Monday Night Wars" or Attitude Era is the only period where I'd say there probably wasn't a major technological reason affecting the industry as a whole, but that the WWF switching to a change of presentation and production style, and a product in tune with the overall mood of the times, is what drove their success. 

I think that the videogames were a massively underrated aspect to the late-90s boom. WCW/nWo Revenge, etc, were all big, mainstream hits, and a bunch of people started checking out the show because the games got them into the wrestlers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
51 minutes ago, BomberPat said:

And I've been disappointed so far that AEW don't seem remotely concerned with changing up what wrestling looks like.

That's actually the main thing that I'm disappointed with when it comes to AEW. It still feels all too familiar when they've actually had a chance to come in and change the game a little.

It'll be interesting to see what their weekly show looks like.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, Chris B said:

I think that the videogames were a massively underrated aspect to the late-90s boom. WCW/nWo Revenge, etc, were all big, mainstream hits, and a bunch of people started checking out the show because the games got them into the wrestlers.

That's an interesting point, and could well be some truth to it. Anecdotally, I missed out on most of the Attitude Era, only getting back into wrestling in mid-2000, and the catalyst for that was a demo of SmackDown on the PS1; most of my friends, as it turned out, had already played Attitude or No Mercy, or the WCW games. The success of the Playstation (and, to a lesser extent, N64) could have played an underappreciated role in all of that.

To a small extent, the advent of the internet, allowing people to follow wrestling online, rather than through newsletters and monthly magazines, might have been a factor - though not enough to account for the success of the WWF or WCW at the time, it certainly started to have an influence on the creative direction of both companies, and was a huge boost for ECW.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 minutes ago, Chris B said:

I think that the videogames were a massively underrated aspect to the late-90s boom. WCW/nWo Revenge, etc, were all big, mainstream hits, and a bunch of people started checking out the show because the games got them into the wrestlers.

That's very true. I remember there being a big release for WWF Warzone in a local Game. It was the first time I had seen Austin as I had stopped watching not long before. There were people queing up to play it on the Playstation in there. A while later a friend rented WCW vs NWO World Tour on the N64 and I couldn't understand what had happened to Hulk Hogan. So I started by wrestling mags again and eventually led me back to watching again. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Hannibal Scorch said:

We live in a country where the only way to currently watch Raw and Smackdown is by paying through the nose for Sky Sports

Or for just 9.99 a month you can watch the longest running episodic TV show in the history of our sport.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Tommy! said:

Or for just 9.99 a month you can watch the longest running episodic TV show in the history of our sport.

 

3 hours ago, Hannibal Scorch said:

 Or you wait a month to watch on the network. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just can't reconcile myself with the fact that wrestling is smaller now that it was in, say, 1993-1995. That's the lowest ebb since the Hulkamania era, surely. I know that WWE are so vociferous on social media and produce so much media content that the saturation of the brand can be misleading, but ultimately I think it leads to a weird mix of hyper monetised hardcore fans, your 2.5 rating casuals who watch Raw the traditional way and a whole slew of unaccounted for people, lapsed fans and the curious who through this saturation still manage to follow it in some form in all its available mediums. Even if that only comes down to .gifs, WrestleMania and Raw clips when Lesnar or Goldberg turn up to smash shit up. 

And WWE, really, are happy with that aren't they? The TV ratings need to buff up and hit rosy spots for network renewal deals but the bottom line for these guys is the annual net profits and the YouTube and Twitter hits they can brag about as engaged eyeballs. And those metrics have been top titty for the WWE for years now, if I'm not mistaken. It makes it look bigger and brighter than it really is, but it's still surely bigger and brighter than it was in the 90s doldrums. 

I also think wrestling is more accepted than ever. Something that doesn't always get enough credit what with all the edgelording from wrestling fans about how it's really shit and wrestling fans are the worst. Whilst we're tripping each other up, here, virtually every friend or co-worker interaction I've had about this for years now has been bemused curiosity at worst. Years ago admitting you were into this stuff was a whole different ballgame. It's just another nerd universe now, with all the baggage that goes along with that. 

I'd go so far as to say a huge amount of people who got into it as kids in the Attitude Era never got out of it fully. Maybe my mates are losers, but they all know what a Roman Reigns is and would watch the odd Botchamania and know when something big happens. 

I reckon when Mabel was winning King of the Ring you were either in or you were out. Because of the means and mediums available at the time most people were out. 

That's gotta be worse off. 

Edited by Gay as FOOK

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 minutes ago, Gay as FOOK said:

I also think wrestling is more accepted than ever. Something that doesn't always get enough credit what with all the edgelording from wrestling fans about how it's really shit and wrestling fans are the worst. Whilst we're tripping each other up, here, virtually every friend or co-worker interaction I've had about this for years now has been bemused curiosity at worst. Years ago admitting you were into this stuff was a whole different ballgame. It's just another nerd universe now, with all the baggage that goes along with that. 

We're all going from our own experiences on this of course, but that is genuinely not the impression I get. Most references I hear to wrestling from the general public is "Oh, do you remember those mad bastards, the Bushwhackers?" or "When did the Ultimate Warrior Die."

I don't think Joe Public would really know who anyone in the current scene is, and I include Chris Jericho in that despite being there or there abouts for 20 years now. The references are so dated, and I still argue that the WWF was way bigger in the UK in 1992 than at any period during the Attitude era.

But even big fans during the Attitude Era now just usually say, "Oh that WWE is shite these days isn't it?"

Social media distorts a lot of things but I wouldn't say that Talksport or the Sun posting a Facebook link the day after Wrestlemania counts for that much. Its not going to represent a single new fan in the long run.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
35 minutes ago, Hannibal Scorch said:

 

 

I'm just making a sly dig at how they push the network and, last time I watched a modern ppv, mocked anyone in their viewership paying to watch shows outside the network. Particularly those 'paying through the nose' rather then getting the network. It's only 9.99 a month don't you know.

Edited by Tommy!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, garynysmon said:

We're all going from our own experiences on this of course, but that is genuinely not the impression I get. Most references I hear to wrestling from the general public is "Oh, do you remember those mad bastards, the Bushwhackers?" or "When did the Ultimate Warrior Die."

I don't think Joe Public would really know who anyone in the current scene is, and I include Chris Jericho in that despite being there or there abouts for 20 years now. The references are so dated, and I still argue that the WWF was way bigger in the UK in 1992 than at any period during the Attitude era.

But even big fans during the Attitude Era now just usually say, "Oh that WWE is shite these days isn't it?"

Social media distorts a lot of things but I wouldn't say that Talksport or the Sun posting a Facebook link the day after Wrestlemania counts for that much. Its not going to represent a single new fan in the long run.

Do you think wrestling fandom is lower now than what it was in 1995? 

Your right, so much of this is individual perception, but in light of the topic title I'm genuinely curious as to what you make of it. I'd say my general take on it covers more ground than "The Sun doing an article doesn't translate to a new fan", but whatever! 

You are bang on the money of course that part and parcel of the lapsed fan narrative is the "WWE is shit now" mindset that's pretty  much been a near constant since 2002. Even if its been hugely incorrect for large swathes of the years since then. 

Edited by Gay as FOOK

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 minutes ago, garynysmon said:

We're all going from our own experiences on this of course, but that is genuinely not the impression I get. Most references I hear to wrestling from the general public is "Oh, do you remember those mad bastards, the Bushwhackers?" or "When did the Ultimate Warrior Die."

I don't think Joe Public would really know who anyone in the current scene is, and I include Chris Jericho in that despite being there or there abouts for 20 years now. The references are so dated, and I still argue that the WWF was way bigger in the UK in 1992 than at any period during the Attitude era.

But even big fans during the Attitude Era now just usually say, "Oh that WWE is shite these days isn't it?"

Social media distorts a lot of things but I wouldn't say that Talksport or the Sun posting a Facebook link the day after Wrestlemania counts for that much. Its not going to represent a single new fan in the long run.

If we’re counting John Cena as part of the current scene, he’s way more famous than Bret, Shawn and Diesel ever were in their WWF heydays. Brock Lesnar is as well. And probably Rey Mysterio, Roman Reigns, the Bellas and a good few others. 

I had 0 social media followers in 1993,¬†no cunt in my class saw me reading the WWF magazine. If that was me now, I‚Äôd be reposting gifs all the time. There‚Äôs a boring conversation in what constitutes being part of the ‚Äúfanbase‚ÄĚ but I bet most primary school kids today would know the superman punch.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...