Why I Keep Watching
I’ve watched wrestling since the age of sixteen, so for about half my life, I’ve had wrestling stuck in there somewhere. No matter the form or the company (chiefly WWE), wrestling has become part of my life and my identity.
So what keeps me interested in the artform, even as I experience a growing dissatisfaction with the major players of the industry and the product they churn out every week?
What keeps me watching wrestling?
Well, the lack of choice doesn’t help. The WWE product hasn’t piqued my interest since WrestleMania 29, and even before then, I’d started to grow bored with what WWE had to offer. TNA hasn’t done much better, considering I don’t watch the taped episodes of Impact and I often find myself bored to the point of changing the channel during the live episodes. I don’t even watch ROH because it doesn’t have much appeal to me. I don’t have the budget to watch tons of independent wrestling (especially the companies I want to keep up with the most), I don’t typically pirate full shows from the indies, and a number of indies people have pointed me to in the past just didn’t catch my eye long enough to make a real impression on me as a fan.
My age probably plays a role, too. Assuming that eighteen marks the age one becomes an ‘adult’, I’ve spent all fourteen years of my adult life following pro wrestling as either a fan or a critic. An old myth about the body says we change all our cells every seven years or so, which leads to the philosophical idea of ‘changing into a new person’ along the same time frame; along those lines, I’ve lived two ‘lifetimes’ as a wrestling fan. Through all the changes in my life, wrestling has remained the one constant — but up until the past few months, I never really thought about why.
I don’t do a whole lot of writing (not nearly as much as I’d like), but I do read a lot. While the subject matter varies from day to day, I tend to keep an eye on material that helps me become more introspective and examine myself from multiple perspectives. From the writing of James Altucher to advice from Zen Habits, re-examining every aspect of my life has become a daily task — even if I don’t put my whole heart and soul into it every day — but I rarely took the time to examine my wrestling fandom until earlier this year.
You could say it started with Royal Rumble. All of the issues I had with the WWE product came to a head at that one event, and they continued on right through to WrestleMania 29: Cena getting the spotlight again, Rock getting a spotlight despite his part-timer status, and a number of talented performers (including CM Punk) getting next-to-nothing in terms of a chance to boost their careers or work with meaningful material. The past four months of WWE have encapsulated every problem with the company’s product today, and I’ve just about had my fill of it.
'But what of TNA?', you might ask. Between the edgy-for-edgy's-sake content, the nWo ripoff angle in Aces & Eights' 'war' with TNA, the lack of focus for the Knockouts and the X-Division, and the excessive spotlight given to Hulk Hogan and his daughter, I don't have any positivity left in me for TNA. I gave the company a chance last year when it announced the move to live episodes of Impact on a regular basis, and I don’t regret that, because TNA has tried to improve its product since then — but all the same, the product it puts on right now doesn’t appeal to me in the same way the TNA product appealed to me before Aces & Eights became the centerpiece of the company.
That leaves the indies, but as I’ve pointed out, my access to them remains limited at best. I’d love to follow CHIKARA and PWG and SHIMMER more, but I don’t have the means to do so (in a legal manner). Other companies have failed to keep my interest, even after I’ve given them the same chance I gave TNA all those months ago to make an impression on me.
A couple of other factors also play into my wrestling fandom diminishing. I’ve started to consider any time not spent doing something productive as wasteful, and watching wrestling for upwards of eight hours per week doesn’t seem all that productive. As more negativity worms its way into the Internet Wrestling Community, it sours me on interacting with other fans and turns my mindset from positive to negative. Take those two factors and put them with the issues I outlined above, and you can probably see why I don’t have much of a taste for pro wrestling these days.
So with all those factors in mind, I ask the question again: why do I continue to watch pro wrestling, even when I feel fed up with it?
Maybe I’ve enjoyed it too much in the past to let it go altogether. From celebrating Sting’s victory over Hollywood Hogan at Starrcade 1997 to watching CM Punk put John Cena down with a GTS at Money in the Bank 2011, wrestling has managed to tweak at my emotions and keep me captivated for almost two decades.
Maybe I can’t break the habit as easily as I think. I can swear off watching episodes of Raw, SmackDown, and Impact, but I’ll still look for highlights if I hear about anything good happening on a given episode. I’ll even take the time to hunt down a much-talked-about match if I hear enough good things about it.
Maybe it keeps me in touch with my youth. I watched wrestling as a young kid, but not to the extent that I do these days, so I count my ‘return’ to wrestling in the fall of 1997 as the real start to my wrestling fandom. I got into wrestling in my sophomore year of high school, and because I had some…awful experiences in that time, I don’t think about my high school years all that much — with an exception made for the time spent watching Nitro and Raw with my best friend.
Maybe I just don’t have anything else. I don’t have much of anything going on in my life right now other than my writing and my wrestling fandom, and combined with other personal issues, wrestling remains one of the last viable ‘escapes from reality’ I have left.
Maybe I don’t know why. It could be any of the reasons above, or it could be a whole other reason that I don’t have the ability to comprehend.
Or maybe I just love wrestling too damn much to stop watching altogether.
Maybe I want to see where the industry goes from here, to see if it can produce a product that delivers what I want in a wrestling product (even if I don’t know exactly what I want).
Maybe I want to see performers such as Antonio Cesaro, Austin Aries, Bully Ray, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Kassius Ohno, and Kevin Steen raise the bar for in-ring performances.
Maybe I want to see that next great ‘moment’ that everyone will talk about for the rest of the year. I’d kick myself if I missed out on another ‘NXT Riot’ or ‘Pipebomb’, after all.
Maybe I realize that the problems with the industry won’t stay that way forever. WWE and TNA might have bad products now, but things change all the time, and their products could improve over time to a point where I won’t feel the need to rag on them.
Maybe it comes down to the idea that, much like the hardcore fans of any corner of pop culture, I want to find a way to give back to the industry for everything it’s given me over the past twenty years. Whether that means buying DVDs or writing a glowing PPV review or whatever else I can do, I want to do it as a way to say ‘thank you’ to the men and women who risk their bodies for my entertainment.
Maybe…just maybe…I keep watching pro wrestling because I think the best is yet to come.