It doesn’t matter how many millions of fans professional wrestling has, how much money the industry makes, or what kind of people are running the show…the mainstream media has a pretty clear definition of what a “wrestling fan” is, and that definition can be pretty inaccurate. Professional wrestling is no longer at the height it hit in the late 1990’s, but it is all over the place and growing stronger, with a wide variety of fans that grows more and more different each day.
For whatever reason, that variety is rarely highlighted, even by the wrestling companies. Sure, different gimmicks will appeal to different sections of the audience, but WWE in particular have attempted to brand their fans into the “WWE Universe,” arguably doing just as much harm as the media that attempted to pigeonhole them. By making an absurd term for their fans, the biggest wrestling company on the planet has made it easier for people to form misconceptions about them.
With a simple two word phrase blanketing millions of people, it’s easy to blame any one individual for all of the faults, foibles and idiosyncrasies of the others. Astute minds realize no two wrestling fans, like no two people of any kind, are alike. If you have trouble with that concept, though, maybe you should read on and learn the truth about these 15 stupid misconceptions people have about wrestling fans.
15. They Think It’s Real
We’re starting the list with this one, but honestly, it could be near the top. When people of any age say they like wrestling, one of the most common responses they hear is, “You know that stuff is fake, right?” Every wrestling fan over the age of 10 has heard it, and every wrestling fan over the age of 10 has had the same answer: of course it’s fake. There have been wrestling clowns, adult film stars, and multiple literal zombies with magical powers. True, parts of a wrestling show will attempt to present itself as real, but every good show attempts to make you believe it while you’re watching it. Bryan Cranston isn’t really a drug dealer, but it’s fun to watch him play one in the exact same way it’s fun to watch Mark Calaway play one of those magic zombies.
14. They’re All Repressed
You probably won’t hear this one outside of a junior high school, but it deserves mentioning. The argument is that wrestling is usually two sweaty, muscly dudes rubbing up on each other in a display of masculine dominance. While that could double as a description of a homoerotic adult film, if someone calls wrestling gay, they are the one putting it in that context. We admit this one probably has to due more with cultural and social issues than anything wrestling specific, but it is kind of relevant in relation to this next misconception about wrestling fans…
13. They’re All Homophobic
While the majority of professional wrestling fans aren’t gay, some are, so it makes sense a few gay wrestling characters would be created to represent them. Unfortunately, mainstream professional wrestling companies haven’t done the best job at presenting positive gay characters. “Exotic” Adrian Street was a flamboyant bad ass, but even in his trailblazing example, almost any even slightly effeminate wrestling character is typically met with overwhelming hatred from the audience and the announce team. Street was the first major example, but the gimmick has persisted with Lenny Lane in WCW, Billy and Chuck in WWE, and most recently Pimpinela Escarlata in Lucha Underground (although Pimpinela is seen as a baby face, his gimmick is entirely based on offensive stereotypes).
The reality is, of course, most wrestling fans are not gay, but a few are, and most of the rest are cool with that at this point. Every now and again WWE has ran a gimmick that tried to convince you otherwise, but hopefully since Darren Young has come out of the closet while an employee, they won’t be doing any cheap disgusting gimmicks in the future. But then again, homophobia isn’t the only societal ill WWE has thrust upon its fans…
12. They’re All Racist
Professional wrestling has always been popular in the American South, and we’re not going to sit here and tell you the southern part of the United States is free of racism, even today. Because of this, professional wrestling has an unfortunate trend of gimmicks based purely on cold, hard racism. Virtually every major wrestling company in history has at one point had a gimmick based on a foreigner being hated for thinking their country is better than the one they compete in. More direct racism can be found in the form of the Gangstas, two stereotypical black criminals from ECW, or the original ideas for Harlem Heat, which allegedly saw Booker T and Stevie Ray led to the ring draped in shackles. Luckily white nationalism has never quite been a babyface gimmick, but irrationally hating other countries has, so it unfortunately makes sense why this idea may persist. Shockingly, it’s not even the worst social crime wrestling fans are accused of…
11. They’re All Misogynists
Completing this trifecta of discrimination, there also seems to be a belief that all wrestling fans are sexist against women. It’s true the vast majority of the women who involve themselves in wrestling are extremely beautiful, and we’ve covered before how the male id cannot always be contained, but that hardly makes all wrestling fans slobbering idiots when it comes to women. As with racism and homophobia, there have been moments on WWE, WCW, and especially ECW television that were outright offensive to all of womankind. Wrestling is about telling stories, and hopefully all of the wronged women eventually got their revenge. The crowd at the time might have been a bunch of cheering jerks, but we promise, most fans, men and women, still cringe at every piledriver. Speaking of female fans…
10. They’re All Men
With a growing spotlight on a Diva’s Revolution, and Stephanie McMahon being the second most powerful person in the company, this one is starting to die down a bit, but it still persists enough to mention it. Not all professional wrestling fans are men. Stephanie isn’t even the only female owner of a major company—the President of Total Nonstop Action is Dixie Carter. With two extremely high powered females running the biggest shows in town, it should be pretty obvious women love professional wrestling, too. Hopefully the Diva’s Revolution will help dispel this myth, now that the more irrational and downright evil women of the past are out of the company.
9. They’re All Violent Maniacs
Professional wrestling is obviously a violent sport. Since we’ve just convinced you women love it as much as men, we need to admit they love getting just as violent as men, too. It can’t be denied that there are plenty of disgusting and frightening “backyard wrestling” promotions around the country, although they do seem to being lessening in numbers. However, none of this reflects on the actual nature of wrestling fans, or even the wrestlers for the most part. There have been a few jerks in wrestling and some fans can be jerks, too, by and large everybody understands that the whole point is to keep it in the ring. Or, well, around the ring, but only if the rules allow it.
8. They All Watch WWE
WWE airs two major TV shows per week, with several others online, and at least one huge show per month. This does make them the leaders in sports entertainment, but they aren’t the only company out there with national coverage. Lucha Underground, Total Nonstop Action, Ring of Honor, and New Japan Pro Wrestling all have weekly cable TV shows as well, proving wrestling is all over the world these days. Countless incredibly talented male and female wrestlers are dominating those promotions, and tons of fans around the world have favorite wrestlers who Vince McMahon has never heard of. You would think this makes it obvious you don’t need to like or even watch WWE to be a fan, but for some reason, most people still assume WWE is the be-all-end-all of professional wrestling.
7. They All Love/Hate WWE
In addition to the fact not all fans necessarily watch WWE, those that do have wide and varied opinions on the company. For whatever reason, many people assume if you’re a wrestling fan at all, that means you’re a WWE fan. At the same time, within the “Internet Wrestling Community” almost the opposite is true. If you really like wrestling, you must hate WWE, cause they’re just the worst! Well, actually, neither case is totally true. Some love it, some hate it, some think it’s one of several quality promotions around the world today. The same goes for the wrestlers—quite a few have spoken out against Vince McMahon and his company, much preferring to work elsewhere.
6. They All Love Reigns/Cena/Austin/Hogan
Just like people assume a big wrestling fan likes the biggest company in town, many people assume wrestling fans must like the biggest wrestlers in town. Right now the big names are John Cena and Roman Reigns, and the crowds are doing a good job of dispelling this one by booing the hell out of them whenever they get on TV. In the past it’s been harder to prove, with names like Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin receiving seemingly universal crowd support. This doesn’t mean every wrestling fan on the planet loved them; plenty of people complained about Hogan being a poor worker even when he was on top, and Austin gave enough middle fingers it’s obvious people would have some problems with him. It isn’t just the top stars: in general, not all wrestling fans are represented on screen every week. So, obviously, it’s incorrect to think…
5. They’re Exactly What You See on TV
This one goes double: not only are all wrestling fans portrayed on TV, even those that do appear on TV aren’t necessarily actually like that. We aren’t just talking about the adrenaline boost a live performance offers, either—it’s well known WWE and other companies edit the hell out of the crowd noise to fit their interests. This is why John Cena and Roman Reigns are the biggest stars in company history on SmackDown, and everyone seems to hate them on Raw. It’s hardly new in wrestling; ECW did it practically every single episode, inventing screaming crowd chants where the real crowd is entirely silent and seated. WWE has even made fun of the practice, mocking WCW for doing it with Gillberg, then doing it themselves. Fans have always despised it for inaccurately representing them, and given the other items on this list, it shouldn’t be surprising they don’t always love how WWE represents them.
4. They’re All Poor
Coca-Cola spends more money on advertising than any other company in the world. Coke finally started a relationship with WWE in 2015, ending decades of skittishness by major sponsors from daring to approach wrestling. Advertisers need to understand how much money is generated when they see a person like Vince McMahon, but for whatever reason, they seem to believe the millions of fans are all dirt poor. WWE makes a good portion of its money through advertising, but could realistically make millions more if more major sponsors like Coca-Cola realized just how much money fans actually have. Granted, it isn’t just that advertisers think wrestling fans are poor, they think they’re more than poor…
3. They’re All Low-Class Morons
It’s pretty amazing to think about it, but Vince McMahon himself has a whole lot to do with this one. For years, Vince has presented his own fans as low-class, lowbrow buffoons who want to watch slam bang western style rasslin’ while he’s trying to present sports entertainment. It makes him a good heel to go on TV and tell the audience how much better and smarter he is than them, but for him to actually believe it shows an absurd disgust for the people who made him his billions. By screaming it so loudly on television (not to mention presenting characters allowing all of the misconceptions on this list), it’s become the actual public perception, and now WWE is losing money and fans because of it. They could combat it by explaining many wrestling fans are intelligent, educated individuals who happen to enjoy wrestling, but they’ve gone in a different direction, and started marketing to a less defined and more impressionable crowd: children.
2. They’re All Kids
With very few exceptions, the performers in WWE are all adults. The same is true of all major professional wrestling companies around the world. Children do enjoy the show, and buy a lot of the merchandise, but they don’t really make up that significant a portion of the crowd. It’s understandable why WWE would market to them directly—children are the only fan base they are guaranteed to lose by drastically changing their content. They don’t want to lose millions of fans or dollars, and they’ve dug this well, so they’re stuck in it. Adults still watch, though, and will continue to watch. Even those children will grow up, and plenty of them will keep watching. And while they watch, they’ll all grow into wildly different people, who probably aren’t bigoted, who won’t hurt anybody, who may be educated, who may be rich, who may simply not be the same as any wrestling fan who came before them.
1. They’re All The Same
Ultimately, each one of these misconceptions suffers the same simple folly: they assume only one type of person can be a wrestling fan. Just like any media out there, anybody can enjoy wrestling. It has the capability to appeal to all ages, all economic classes, all social types, men, women, minority groups, lifestyles, it doesn’t matter—people of every category watch and enjoy wrestling. Within those categories, they have their disagreements, just like any fan of any other sport, television show or form of entertainment. Professional wrestling is a weird, specific world, and it isn’t exactly for everybody. But it could be for anybody, and that’s part of the joy of it, which makes it so strange people think all fans are exactly the same.