I had a poker night a few weeks ago, something I try to do approximately every four months. The cards are basically the excuse we use to get out of the house for a few hours. Bring a 6-pack, throw in a $20, and you’re good to go. We always play “dealer’s choice” which is fun because there are a million different poker games out there – Night Baseball, Chicago, Follow the Queen, Omaha, whatever – so that keeps the table running.
Every now and again we’ll play a game someone hasn’t heard of and we’ll have to stop and explain the rules. No big deal. We explain the game, clear up any confusion, and then deal out the cards. At this last poker night, a buddy of mine pulled me aside and apologized because he didn’t know many of the games. He just didn’t play cards all that often. I assured him it wasn’t a problem. He is a great guy, so what if poker isn’t his thing? He wanted to join in and I guaranteed him he was more than welcome.
Nobody gave him a hard time that night. However if someone would have picked on him I would have asked that person to leave immediately. See, I’ve been there. I’ve been the odd man out at the poker table. The guy who didn’t understand the rules and got roundly, repeatedly, and viciously harassed for it. That was five years ago and I haven’t forgotten the feeling. It’s not good. I wasn’t “smartened” up to all the games so I took a beating for it. Nobody was going to make someone feel that way in my own house. You want to play at my table? There is always a seat open and a cold beer waiting.
What does this have to do with wrestling? Well, in my personal opinion, no community is as fractured, judgmental, and condescending as professional wrestling fans. Of course, that’s just my opinion. We’re allowed to have those, right? Right??
Did you ever hear the expression, “For those who like pro wrestling, no explanation is necessary, and for those who don’t, no explanation will do?” I believe that. It’s my experience that people either love it or hate it, not a whole lot of in between. So you would think the wrestling community would embrace each and every member, regardless of who they root for, regardless of how “smart” they think they are, regardless of what their opinions might be. You would think we would appreciate each fan because we see a bit of ourselves in that person. We “get” it.
Sadly this is not the case. I thought a lot about this after I published my last column about Kelly Kelly. I got called out by several Kelly fans that were critical of my analysis. Normally I wouldn’t think twice about this…I am not above criticism… but this time it was kind of ironic considering it happened after writing an article…umm…SUPPORTING Kelly Kelly. Apparently, judging by their comments, I am a “confused mark” because I didn’t see things exactly their way. So basically the positive message of the column was ignored and my credibility was attacked.
That’s fine…it’s not the first time it’s happened and it certainly won’t be the last. Now that I have the privilege of writing for Diva Dirt I have increased visibility within the wrestling community. This carries with it a lot of positives as well as some negatives. Diva Dirt has a large following and has gained some traction as a respected news source for women’s wrestling. It only makes sense that some people would be jealous of this success and aim to devalue the site’s content and individual team members.
I listen to the criticism and try to learn, grow, and get better from it (as we all should). Several months ago, bloggers on WWE Universe said I was a terrible host of Diva Dirt Live and pointed out specific things about me that bothered them. I will admit I felt they made some valid points. I have tried to improve, and I think each week the show gets better and better. I thank them for motivating me.
However in this case I stand by my analysis of Kelly Kelly. I wrote a column in May discussing her switch to SmackDown and why I thought it would be a good move for her career. I thought Kelly was stale on Raw and the change of scenery would be good for her…IF she (or the WWE) made some changes to her character. Then I wrote a follow-up column in November revisiting these suggestions and sharing how I thought Kelly was doing on SmackDown. Just my opinion. We’re allowed to have those, right? Right??
I took a beating from some Kelly fans, telling me how over she is, how she became a big enough star without my support, that my opinion doesn’t matter, and that I can’t stand she is so popular. Cue The Miz – “Really? Really?” I just finished a column praising Kelly and how I’m becoming a bigger fan (which is true, by the way) and this somehow gets turned into a bad thing.
(I like when people forcibly tell you how “over” or “not over” someone is. Is this tracked somewhere? Is there a place to go and see these official statistics? Please, I’ve been to WrestleMania, Raw, SmackDown, Survivor Series, Extreme Rules, Bragging Rights, and several house shows this past year alone. I think I can judge for myself who gets a crowd reaction. But thanks for the help.)
Herein lies the problem – there really is no “right” or “wrong” answer to anything in professional wrestling because it is scripted entertainment. At the end of any debate how do you prove anything? Championships are not won and lost in the traditional sense, they are handed down from management (based on “real” factors obviously, such as work rate, attitude, marketability, etc…but still…) Plus we all choose who to like and who to dislike. Unlike “traditional” professional sports, these alliances are usually not regional or generational. They are based on subjective things like “I think Beth Phoenix is hot,” or “I like Randy Orton’s tattoos,” or “I like Gail Kim’s move set.”
In other professional sports you settle things by yelling “SCOREBOARD.” You don’t like the Dallas Cowboys? Well, in the 1990s I could just point to the scoreboard, discuss Super Bowl rings, and that was the end of it. Today’s Saints, Lakers, and Blackhawks fans know what I’m talking about. The scoreboard is the judge, jury, and executioner. Stats mean something. Titles mean something. Awards mean something. (Although debates like “Who is better, Magic or Bird?” or “Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame?” can get sticky.)
In pro wrestling you can discuss historical stats to a degree (like Mickie’s 5 WWE championships) but there really is no way to definitively settle these issues. “Who is the best wrestler of all time?” Impossible to say. “Who is a bigger star: Hogan or Flair?” Very tough to decide. (Although we could probably all agree listing Hulk Hogan at #23 on WWE’s Top 50 is a joke and simply the result of Vince playing games with his legacy…)
But again, it all comes back to opinions. We’re allowed to have those, right? Right??
I had to laugh when I was called a “confused mark” after the Kelly Kelly column because the term “mark” is so outdated, so irrelevant. Once upon it had some weight because pro wrestling was covered from the general public. Now? Everybody knows everything, you can find out anything you want about the business thanks to websites, Twitter, books, shoot interviews, etc. So, sorry, we’re all in on the joke now. People that still use that term are just upset others have crashed their exclusive little club. Nobody is “the intended victim of a swindler or hustler” anymore. All that separates really “smart” fans from “common” fans is time and desire…some of us just don’t have the time to study all of Mick Foley’s dropkicks from 1998. But we are no less deserving fans. We all know the secret handshake.
This form of elitism doesn’t just apply to professional wrestling. My favorite sports writer, ESPN’s Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy, echoed this same sentiment when talking about other sports. In a recent column he wrote:
It’s funny to take heat from soccer fans that I’m a bandwagon Tottenham fan. I mean… of course I am. I am something like 17 months into this thing. But what I don’t get about sports like the UFC/soccer/NHL…is why the diehards are so protective/condescending towards casual fans. What’s the goal there? To just drive away everyone who might like the sport and want to become more of a fan?
I think there’s a difference between local bandwagon fans and “I am starting to like your sport, I genuinely want to follow it and learn about it” fans and it would just seem like the diehards should embrace the latter group. Or am I crazy? You just [piss]-off hardcore UFC fans by calling it UFC – it’s MMA. And I honestly think that they don’t want it to be a mainstream sport. Part of it is that there’s some bitterness when they see it talked about on shows like “PTI” where they just call [it] disgusting and move on. The other part is that it was “underground” for so long they like being part of this little club that watches and follows it…It’s an interesting topic I think.
I admit this happened with me with comedian Tina Fey. I was the first of my friends to really love her work on “SNL,” she seemed so counter-culture, hip, and funny, and those glasses drove me crazy (Real talk – I like anything a woman can take off her head…top of the list? Tiaras.) I got to meet her at an “SNL” cast party and she was really cool, but her career was still a bit under the radar. When Tina left “SNL” and became a huge star on “30 Rock” I was really happy for her but I felt like I was sharing her with a wider audience. I kind of liked her more when she was cracking killer jokes on Weekend Update. Oh well.
So, yeah, I do think this is an interesting topic, and although the Sports Guy was talking about other sports, he might as well have been talking about pro wrestling. Not only is the community fractured, but the Internet has given everyone a voice to express their opinions. To this I am no different. My column gives me a voice and I try to write a column filled with personal opinions and fun observations. Basically I try to entertain the reader. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not…but I never pretend to be something other than a fan. And I don’t need to step on others to make my point.
More often than not people on the Internet feel they need to validate their own viewpoints by discrediting someone else. Don’t get me wrong, the Internet has obviously been a great resource for wrestling fans. I love checking websites every day to get the latest scoop, to learn as much as I can about what is going on. It is great fun having this kind of information at your fingertips. There are several web sites that I feel are very knowledgeable and seem to really care about what they do. They add layers to what I see in the ring. Thank you Lords of Pain, PWTorch, Dave Meltzer, and others.
But man, some of these other wrestling sites are really fascinating. People take themselves pretty seriously. One of the writers who criticized me runs his own site (surprise) and right at the top he published his mission statement. A mission statement?!? You know who needs a mission statement? NASA. “We are going to land on Mars.” You know who needs a mission statement? The United States military. “We are going to fight for freedom and bring our soldiers home safe.” You know who doesn’t need a mission statement? Wrestling writers. If you are blogging on the Internet it is pretty clear what your mission is – you are telling people what you think about something…and you hope they read it.
This particular mission statement said he wanted to “provide fair and balanced yet brutally honest opinions on the wrestling business backed with logic and facts. And to put the success of the business as the number one goal and how that is best achieved.” Well then. This person knows what is best for the wrestling business? Who wrote this? Vince McMahon?
Here is the real irony – I read some articles on his website and he is a really, really good writer! I thought his write-up on Season 3 NXT was excellent, I loved it actually. So why the negativity towards me? For some reason I can show him respect, but he can’t show respect towards my material? It’s funny he thinks he knows what is best for the business. You know what is good for the wrestling business? More wrestling fans. That’s it. Bullying those who already love it just makes you a hypocrite.
I did have to laugh at some of the other comments directed at me. He didn’t like my Kelly Kelly column, that’s fine. But then he “suggested” other columns I should write, basically questioning my motives or agenda in selecting Kelly as the topic of my article. Here was one suggestion:
Why not write an article about how Gail Kim has been a total dud in WWE?
You know why? Because I don’t want to kill myself. I mean, who wants to read 3,000 words on that?!? Where’s the angle? Where’s the story? If I write an article about Gail’s current run in WWE all the readers will look like the passengers in “Airplane” when Ted Striker is talking about his broken heart: hanging themselves or lighting themselves on fire.
I write two columns a month and they are supposed to be fun (for me at least), so I’ll choose topics I find interesting or entertaining. You don’t like it? Don’t read it. Simple. (Now, in fairness, he also asked why I don’t write an article detailing how girls like Tiffany, Savannah, Serena, Courtney, etc. basically flopped in WWE. Hmmm…I like that suggestion. It just would have been nice if it wasn’t among a bunch of messages that told me where the sun doesn’t shine.)
Certainly I am not the only staff member who receives negative feedback. We all do, and again, some of it is justified. We listen to it and try to adjust accordingly. Of course some of the feedback is contradictory, unnecessary, or just mean-spirited so we just disregard those comments…although they can be interesting. Here are some recent tweets directed at this site:
I wouldn’t insult Diva Dirt so much if they weren’t bias while claiming to support all female wrestling. I only insult and critique [those] who deserve it.
Diva Dirt write(s) match reviews about bargain basement all-female Indy feds nobody cares about & heap(s) praise on ugly personality-less women.
They [the fans] need to realize that Diva Dirt are a bunch of lazy halfwits who are bias towards only certain divas and are 90% wrong with their opinions.
So we try to cover the entire spectrum of women’s wrestling, indy promotions as well as WWE and TNA, and somehow this shows bias and makes us too opinionated? We are a bunch of lazy halfwits? My favorite – “I only insult and critique [those] who deserve it.” Now THAT is a high horse. Read those tweets again…each one is essentially somebody’s opinion. Which actually is OK, because we’re allowed to have those, right? Right??
When I was writing this article I was thinking of what New York Yankees great Reggie Jackson used to say, “Fans don’t boo nobodies.” So I guess all of us here at Diva Dirt should somehow feel good about being criticized, like that somehow validates our site’s success. Interesting. I guess there is a small element of truth to that. But in reality we know we are no more important than anybody else. We are just fans of a great form of entertainment who are trying to have a little fun along the way. We know this, and thankfully some of you enjoy sharing this experience with us.
You know what? On second thought, maybe I do need a mission statement – “I will try my best to be a good husband and father.” There, that sounds like a good plan. And when I host my next poker night there will always be an extra seat available…everyone is welcome. Mark my words.
I hope you will grab a beer and join in.
Best wishes for a safe, happy, and healthy New Year. Let’s make 2011 a great year for everyone who loves professional wrestling!
— Mr. Glamazon
PS – I chose not to mention actual names and sources in my write-up. If you feel this is an oversight or unfair, I apologize. I didn’t really want to hand out free publicity to people who attack the site. In the end they just try to be controversial to attract more readers.
PPS – Thank you to everyone who sent me questions for the next Glam Slam mailbag. I really enjoy hearing from all of you!
PPPS – Follow me on Twitter @dlb19338 and feel free to “mark” out whenever you want…God forbid we enjoy what we do.