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What keeps you watching?


Michael_3165
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I'm sure there is a thread here with this but for some reason searching doesn't work for me so apologies in advance...

I just had a massive rant in the "wrestling is fake" thread (good thread BTW) and wanted to get people's thoughts on what keeps them interested/watching the current product (be it WWE, NJPW, AEW, ROH, IMPACT etc)? 

Over the years I have fallen out of love with the one passion I had for my entire childhood and teenage years. I continue to watch some NJPW because it is at least presented as a sporting type contest and the booking at least has a degree of logic (even though Gedo seems to have lost a step re: long-term booking) and I greatly admire the level of ability most of the roster has to put on quality matches (G1 being the key must watch for me). I occasionally dip into AEW and WWE/NXT if I am bored and there is a specific match that sounds okay but I cannot tolerate the mental booking decisions and/or lack of struggle to the point that I can only watch standalone events or matches where I don't have to pull my hair out in frustration.

I can't quite let go of my childhood obsession, possibly because of that fuzzy, warm feeling it brings me to watch Hogan, Austin, Michaels, Rock, Undertaker et al as I did all those years ago. Funnily, when they wheel out the old guys I have less interest than at any other time; leave my memories alone! 

When it's good it is fuckin brilliant! That is what keeps me mildly interested. Through all the shit there can be a match or an event that makes me remember why I love(d) wrestling and going to shows is untouchable in terms of the energy and emotion that comes from the crowd. That's why I stay in this coercive relationship with wrestling! 

So what keeps you watching or being interested? 

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I've often equated wrestling to Doctor Who, though you can probably replace that with any number of long-running series. They're both things that I can, and have, watched week after week thinking, "this is awful, why the fuck do I keep wasting my time with this?", but then right when I'm on the brink of sacking it all off forever, they pull off an episode, or a scene, or even just one line that makes me think, "fucking hell, this is the best show on TV, this is why I love it". If they ever fuck up that timing and go too long without a good bit, I'm convinced I'll give up on it forever, but it hasn't happened yet.

In terms of watching the current product - I barely do. I don't watch RAW, Smackdown, NXT or Dynamite, but I usually make sure to watch PPVs. In the meantime, I might watch some older stuff, or some indie wrestling, but increasingly I'm not even doing that - though I put a lot of that down to Covid-era shows really not working for me nine times out of ten. I have a friend who does fairly regular live streams of Japanese shows, so I catch some of those as much to chat with mates as to watch the show. 

The last year has been a struggle to remember what keeps me interest, because the lack of audiences means it's rare that we get those "moments" that make it special - for me, it's when whatever's going on in the ring gets over to such an extent that the audience follow it along perfectly; at live shows I've always said that a "This Is Awesome" or "Let's Go X/Let's Go Y" chant might be fun, but you can tell you've really got them when they're not chanting at all, but just occasionally shouting encouragement - if you're getting fans shouting "come on, you've got this!" or words to that effect, then you've got them hooked into the story, not into the "show", if that makes sense. It's those moments I love, just when everything falls into place and just works.

Conversely to that, one of the best things about wrestling is that can adapt on the fly in ways that pretty much no other form of entertainment can. Again, we're suffering from the lack of audiences, as it's so often the audience reaction (at least, outside of WWE), that forces those changes.

 

So, yeah, in normal circumstances I'd say I keep watching in the hope of one of those great moments. But mostly I prefer to watch wrestling live, and a big part of that is the social element; I've met some of my best friends through wrestling, I've met my partner through wrestling, and it's shaped my life in a lot of ways over the past few years. Spending the last year without that side of wrestling, and just being stuck with the stuff on TV, has sucked, and has made me wonder whether I'd still bother watching this shit if I didn't have any of that.

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What keeps me watching? At this point, honestly I’d say it’s convenience more than anything.

Until I got rid of it last year, the fact I had the Network and could watch NXT on a Thursday and PPVs on a Monday was enough. Didn’t have to have Sky Sports, didn’t have to set the recorder for 1am, didn’t have to battle through forty pop ups for a DailyMotion video of the show.

Then along came Dynamite, even more conveniently available* on a Saturday morning on the ITV Hub. No subscription fee, just click and watch as part of the weekend routine.

Dynamite’s the only thing I watch regularly now. And if it wasn’t so bloody easy I probably wouldn’t!

 

*usually

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It is purely habit for me these days and being up at the crack of dawn with a toddler, usually I will load up whatever was on the night before, on my phone and just have it playing away to itself. I would say I am probably at my lowest ebb in terms of wrestling and although I enjoy NXT and Dynamite, it doesn't bother me too much if I miss an episode and catch spoilers.

 

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Nostalgia and an element of supporting the underdog I suppose.

With WWE I don't give a shit but can guarantee that my interest will be piqued when I hear they're doing an "Old school Raw" or bringing a few of the legends back. I'm so far down that rabbit hole that I was actually annoyed that Hulk Hogan was booed at Wrestlemania. 

The problem with that is there's pretty much nothing the WWE could do on such shows to showcase the current lot and get me watching again, I'm just not interested in them and don't get me started on the presentation.

I suppose there's a part of me still longing for what I loved as a child and young teen, but there are so many reasons why that's not coming back. Christ, I'm 36 now, there's hardly any wrestlers from my youth that could get into a ring and perform a passable match any more.

I watch Impact mainly out of habit and the fact that it has a small enough roster to keep up with. I also love the fact its still going, much to the annoyance of some who have been dying for it go out of business for a decade.

AEW Dynamite, again, nostalgia really. I'm not even sure I'd be bothering at all if it didn't have a raft of old timer managers, looked like a WCW Nitro arena and had the voices of my teenage years, JR and Schiavone in the broadcast booth though.

 

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Honestly? I still bloody love it really. Might not be the cool answer but I genuinely do enjoy it a lot. I still have that emotional attachment to a lot of WWE while AEW has been a real joy that I wasn't expecting to hit the heights that it has sometimes. Throw in the different companies like NJPW that I'll watch more just for my fix of wanky workrate stuff and yeah there's still plenty of good quality content out there. And I'll watch the older shows for a nostalgia kick too from time to time.

I think it'll always be one of my favourite things simply because it's always evolving yet stays the same at the heart of it all. I'd be very surprised if every company out there managed to put me off completely.

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I’ve been trying to thing of a better way of wording this, but ultimately, when you boil it down, wrestling allows you to connect with a performer in a way that other forms of entertainment do not. 

If you’re watching a TV show or film, there’s no guarantee of what the end game is, there’s not always an obvious goal to hope for even when the narrative you’re following is strong.

In wrestling it’s about wanting your favourites to do well, to get the push they deserve. And the fact that doesn’t always happen means the emotional highs of when it does are very high indeed. 

Take Eddie Guerrero’s title win at No Way Out 2004. Take Daniel Bryan’s at Wrestlemania 30. Look at Hangman Page now, and the anticipation you (may) feel at the prospect of him eventually beating the shit out of Kenny Omega to win the AEW title. 

That’s why I watch - it’s about that perfect moment in an imperfect form of entertainment. 

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The Network really, Austin podcasts, old NWA stuff, MSG mid 80’s shows, Raw pre 2000, Nitro 95-2000, any other stuff where wrestlers who retired pre 2010 talk about the old days. 

You tube Memphis stuff, UWF, SOW wrestling/challenge 86-92. 

I still spend 6-8 hrs a week easy watching old stuff having a few cans. Never watch sober, would probably bore me shitless.

So overall, what keeps me watching is probably drink.   

 

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There have definitely been times when I’ve not watched any programming at all. Specifically, there was a good few years there when UFC was really on fire and I had no need to watch anything else. I followed the news and read the TV reports, sure. But as far as watching the shows, the UFC provided all the pro-wrestling I needed. The big promos, the wild characters, the storylines, it was all there. But then Lorenzo and Joe Silva got bought out and the fun was quickly sucked out of it.

Simply put though, I fucking love it. Everything about it. From what happens on the TV, to reports on the backstage nonsense, to laughing at whatever crazy kick Vince is currently on. I could go on forever. The history, the current trends, the business, the nuts and bolts of the performances, the psychology of trying to build storylines and create characters that connect, the theatre, the spectacle, the mad way people half stay in character online and interviews. There’s absolutely nothing else like it.

Just the maddest industry, filled with the world’s most fascinating humans, where there’s always something crazy or exciting going on. Of course, it’s at its best when those big moments hit or something catches fire, but honestly, even when it’s ice cold and dead it’s still my favourite thing to put on in the background whilst making the kid’s some food or completing some work.

Sitting down and actually paying full attention to it is another thing though. I only really do that for Dynamite and the Pay Per Views currently, which both feel important enough and actually reward me for aiming my face at the screen.

I often wonder if that’s by design with WWE. We read all the time about people watching Netflix or whatever whilst screwing around on Twitter. You wonder if they’re very aware of this and so that’s why they make shows you can so easily not pay full attention to. Obviously there’s a balance there, but still. They don’t honestly think normal human beings are sitting down on their couch and paying full attention for seven to eleven hours a week, do they?

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Other than the odd YouTube clip I don't watch any new content these days. 

My viewing is nostalgia driven and consists of podcasts, shoot interviews and documentaries. 

I love learning about the territories and listening to old school guys talking about road stories and ring psychology. 

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9 hours ago, Supremo said:

Simply put though, I fucking love it. Everything about it. From what happens on the TV, to reports on the backstage nonsense, to laughing at whatever crazy kick Vince is currently on. I could go on forever. The history, the current trends, the business, the nuts and bolts of the performances, the psychology of trying to build storylines and create characters that connect, the theatre, the spectacle, the mad way people half stay in character online and interviews. There’s absolutely nothing else like it.

 

This is a tremendous paragraph that pretty much sums it up for me too.

I definitely think that if I weren't so interested in the behind the scenes workings of it all I wouldn't have kept watching for as long as I have. I think I watch primarily because I want to know what happens next, but by that I mean more what booking decision they are going to make next rather than having a genuine investment in any particular characters, if you get what I mean. And there's little I enjoy more about it than trying to guess where they are going next etc.

On top of that there is a healthy dollop of plain old habit.

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Although my interest in following the modern product has dwindled massively in the last five years, I don't think I will ever stop being a fan. One of the projects I set out on during lockdown was to watch all the Wrestlemanias in order. It was mostly a blast, but I gave up after watching 32 as it because way too much of a chore for me by then. I'll always skim through the new PPVs. Watching a full episode of Raw feels like a massive chore and it's something I've not done since the start of the pandemic, but I'll always make time for a wrestling podcast, an old show, or a random Youtube video. It's something that I find comforting. 

When the main roster WWE let me down, I could always turn to NXT and NJPW.  There was a time in my life when I would never miss a Takeover and Wrestle Kingdom was just as important to me as Wrestlemania. That too has passed for me. NJPW hasn't been the same for me since the pandemic started, and NXT soured on me around the time they started to let people like Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano fill a 40 minute match with superkicks, endless near-falls and hammy overacting. 

What keeps me watching the current stuff? Because it still has that ability to grab me every now and then. A few highlights from the past year that justified me sticking around are the recent Wrestlemania, the heart-wrenching Brodie Lee tribute show, and that awesome ROH Pure tournament last summer. Even the first few WWE PPVs from the Performance Center gave me the comfort I needed at the time, although I doubt they will hold up on a rewatch. The wrestling style isn't for me most of the time, but AEW can crank out a show every now and then that feels like a refreshing alternative to the WWE. 

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I know you posted this in the Wrestling's Fake thread, but it feels really key to me.

20 hours ago, Michael_3165 said:

Apologies for my usual cynical rant. I have come to the conclusion that wrestling simply isn't for me anymore and whilst I take interest in what is happening (hence lurking/posting here) I cannot even bring myself to describe wrestling in the US as wrestling any longer. It's a performance, a show, a spectacle but there is no pretence that it is real and for me that is such a kicker cos it is not the product I grew up adoring. I will have to stick to NJPW (which at least has a sense of sportsmanship and legitimacy, even though they gave the IWGP title to the current holder) and watching old tapes/shows for my nostalgia kick. 

It's partly that, for me, it's never changed. I first started watching wrestling when the mainstays on Superstars were Repo Man and the Bushwackers. I don't think I ever had a definite sense of 'this is all real'. I was fascinated by it, but it's always been on the level of 'was it done well?'. I saw it on a similar level of storytelling as, say, Coronation Street.

As I've got older, I've grown to appreciate it as a performance art. And I know that sounds like I'm taking a silly thing incredibly seriously, but I've got a background in (and a passion for) performance. In terms of being purely about audience reactions, both building them and responding to them, there's not another type of performance like it. Maybe stand-up comedy, but it's that kind of thing.

I've found 'I cannot even bring myself to describe wrestling in the US as wrestling any longer' one of the strangest things I've ever seen on this forum. It's always been wrestling. It's always been about as serious and non-serious as it is now. We're just not, like, 13 any more. I can't imagine anyone looking at that time Ultimate Warrior pretended to make friends with Goldust while making faces behind his back as 'wrestling' and what it is now as 'not wrestling'. 

What has made a big difference is being told things don't matter. Which is part of why I grew disillusioned with WWE and, particularly, John Cena. The amount of times he, and others, lost a title and came out afterwards, all smiles.

There was a similar thing in Marvel comics years back - they reset years-worth of stories, in a 'this never happened' way, and it pissed off a lot of readers. Because silly or not, they'd invested in the story and the characters and the internal narrative. And the reaction from readers was 'you can't say all this didn't matter, because you've spent years telling us it was massively important'. It's the same thing with championships. They're either a hugely important part of the narrative or they aren't.

This is why NJPW and AEW have been, for me, the lifeline that has kept me watching. The performance is really good, I like the storytelling (even if it is patchy) and they make clear that the titles matter. I'm not expecting every show to be blow-away good, but sometimes I suspend my disbelief and just enjoy the hell out of it. Even when things go wrong (like with the exploding barbed wire match), I'm fascinated with how they respond and incorporate it. Hangman Page's long battle with anxiety, Kenny Omega becoming a dickhead, and Jon Moxley being a relatable badass have me more into wrestling than I have been in a long time.

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1 minute ago, Chris B said:

I've found 'I cannot even bring myself to describe wrestling in the US as wrestling any longer' one of the strangest things I've ever seen on this forum. It's always been wrestling. It's always been about as serious and non-serious as it is now. We're just not, like, 13 any more. I can't imagine anyone looking at that time Ultimate Warrior pretended to make friends with Goldust while making faces behind his back as 'wrestling' and what it is now as 'not wrestling'. 

This is it for me, really. My wrestling fandom began in earnest in 2000, even though I had watched it before that. I started seriously following wrestling in mid-2000, and that was never coloured by any misconceptions about it being real. So while there's a lot of stuff in the modern style I dislike, I've never been of the "this isn't wrestling" mindset, so much as just "this doesn't work for me in the way I think wrestling should".

On the real/fake thing, and this isn't singling out any posters on here specifically as it's near enough universal, but pretty much every time someone harkens back to a time when they insist that it felt more "real", or that more people believed it was real, there's no consistent time period that everyone agrees on, they all just coincidentally think that everyone thought it was real around the time that they were kids, and that they probably believed it. It's like when you grow up in a small town, with maybe one decent nightclub, and everyone insists that it's not as good as it used to be - some of them say it was better five years ago, some say ten years...now, is it more likely that the club has been getting progressively worse for ten years, or is it more likely that everyone thought it was great when they were 18 and then grew out of it?

It's nostalgia, and there's nothing wrong with that if you recognise it as that. But I think a lot of wrestling fans have this need to externalise their own tastes or opinions, to act like they're speaking on behalf of some broader group or trend - when people would insist that Daniel Bryan and CM Punk were "held down" even while they were main eventing PPVs and featured parts of every TV show, I just wanted to say to some of them, "it's okay to just say 'I like Daniel Bryan and I want to see him win more often'". It's okay to say that you want to see your favourite wrestlers do better, or that you enjoyed wrestling more when you were 14, without externalising that with talk of insider politics or about how "no one knows how to work any more, brother". If you're watching the TV show, you're a fan, and there's no shame in interacting with it as a fan, rather than someone who has to be knowingly two steps removed from that experience.

On similar grounds, the point when I decided that Jim Cornette wasn't arguing in earnest any more was when he changed the entire point of one of his arguments - for years he insisted that Kenny Omega wasn't, and could never be, a draw, because he was a "comedy guy", and that no one would ever pay to see him. He's since been proven wrong, of course. But when Omega headlined the Tokyo Dome, Cornette's point pivoted from "he'll never draw money" to this abstract "it's not real wrestling, I don't care how much money it makes or how many people like it" bollocks that he's doing now. He went from presenting the illusion of being an objective expert, to just doubling down on his criticisms even though he'd been proven wrong by the metric he spent years insisting was the most important. 

 

Cornette's one of the worst for the whole "it was better in my day" stuff too - for a purported "historian", he's completely oblivious to his own bias. Wrestling has, for more than a hundred years, negotiated the balance between how much is sport and how much is entertainment - like you, that's what I find so fascinating about it, and what makes it unique. That balance is in constant flux - as people figure out how certain things are done, you start changing it up, as people start to enjoy one style more than another, you adapt, as something like MMA comes along and starts teaching people a bit more of a baseline understanding of what combat sports look like, you have to adapt to that as well. Even something as silly as WWE trying to ban thigh slaps is all part of that process. To pretend that there was any point in history where wrestling got that balance exactly right isn't just to be ignorant to history, it's to be ignorant to the entire idea of how wrestling works. And isn't it a coincidence, again, that the time and place that Cornette et al think that the balance was right just happens to coincide with their early years in the business, and their time as a fan? What are the odds?!

It's not just historically illiterate, but geographically as well. Around the time Cornette was getting started in wrestling, a time period that he insists was utterly believable and that the audience believed in, you had the early years of shoot style forming in Japan. If you were to take someone who had never watched wrestling, and played them a match from Memphis or Mid-South in 1984, and a match from the Japanese UWF from the same year, which do you think they are going to say is the most "real"? At the opposite end of the spectrum, Martin Karadagian was wrestling mummies, aliens and invisible men in Argentina decades before Cornette ever got in the ring, and drawing huge crowds doing it, so the idea that wrestling needs a foothold in "reality" to succeed, or that straying too far from that path will turn fans away, also doesn't hold up to any scrutiny.

 

I went way off-piste there, but actually all of this is part of the reason why I keep watching. That whole middle ground between real and fake, and how far you can push things in either direction, how it develops over time, is all a huge part of why wrestling continues to fascinate me, because it changes constantly, different promotions, time periods and countries all have their own takes, and that's utterly unique to wrestling. 

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