Last year was a tough year for many pro wrestling fans. Whether it was due to part timers, booking frustration or general anger at the up and down creative veteran WWE fans in particular seemed to be dropping like flies. Here at Lords of Pain we lost three of our best and longest serving writers Doc, Tito and Super Chris, all of whom cited frustration with the product as the primary reason for dropping out. A lot of the time it seemed like no matter where you looked there were writers and fans alike either tuning out or spouting their extreme dislike for what the WWE was doing.
But not this guy (well some of the time).
For the second year in a row I have come into the new year enjoying wrestling more than ever and looking forward to seeing what the WWE dish up next. It wasn’t that the year was a perfect year of wrestling, far from it. However I have a few tricks that I’ve consistently gone back to when I’ve started feeling negatively towards what is ultimately a leisure time activity for me and I thought I’d share them today. So here you go, Sir Sam’s Three Step Guide To Not Hating Wrestling in 2019.
FIND WHAT YOU LIKE
Let’s start with the positive suggestions, find what in wrestling you enjoy and make that what you center your fandom around. Wrestling these days is like a giant all you can eat buffet, there has never been more accessible content out there for you to watch and get invested in. On the WWE Network alone you have the super-indy that is NXT, the old school simplicity of 205 Live and the British take on things with NXT UK.
Looking outside the ‘E, if you are sick of the pared back nature of some WWE matches and want something a bit more hard hitting and athletic then New Japan is just waiting and has an online streaming service almost identical to the WWE Network. I started watching it regularly at the start of last year and have been loving it. On LOP have guides to certain characters and stories by myself and Imp and I’d be happy to send you some matches to get you started.
If you are more of a story and character guy who wants to be immersed in a fictional wrestling universe then Lucha Underground is on Netflix and CHIKARA has its own streaming site too. If those guys don’t do it for you but you want to see what is on offer then check out this current series in the Columns Forum by former main pager and indy wrestling savant Mizfan who is ranking his 30 favourite promotions from 2018. He also loves putting match lists together for new fans if you are interested too.
Alternatively if it is a specific wrestler you like then why not just skip what you don’t like and watch their segments from weekly TV. Even better log onto the WWE Network and binge watch a stack of their matches. Relive their past stories that made you fall in love with them and look for new details you missed the first time through. I did this with both Daniel Bryan’s Yes Movement and the story of Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose this year and was blown away by how fun it was to just focus in on their stories.
The point is work out what it is you enjoy in the world of wrestling and make your viewing serve that.
DON’T FOCUS ON THE PARTS THAT YOU DON’T LIKE
This really should be common sense but I am continually surprised at how many people don’t follow this simple philosophy. In any part of your leisure time if there is an activity that continually brings you disappointment and frustration then it normally a pretty easy decision to cut it out. Yet week after week I see people ‘hate watching’ the WWE and bemoaning what a waste of time it is.
As much as he probably wishes he could, Vince McMahon is not forcing anyone not on his payroll to watch his show and if anything the best signal you could give about your disappointment is to tune out.
Crucially this doesn’t mean switching off all together particularly if you want to keep up with thing. Within an hour of every show the WWE will have conveniently put all the segments up on YouTube where you can cherry pick which ones you want to watch and skip the ones that you don’t want to see. If you don’t like the edited down ones well a quick YouTube search will generally reveal full segments.
Personally I find that five hours of wrestling each week is just too much for me so this is primarily how I have watched Raw and SmackDown since I started watching again in 2014.
If you don’t believe that this works, go and talk to ‘The Doc’ Chad Matthews on Twitter. He has pulled out of even keeping up with what’s going on week to week but is binge watching the feuds he is interested in and his fandom is all the better for it.
IGNORE THE BACKSTAGE POLITICS AND FOCUS ON THE CHARACTERS AND THEIR STORIES
I’d like urge you to think back to when you first became a fan. What was it that hooked you? What got you excited? Was it people worrying if something was 4.5 or 4.75 stars out of 5? Was it arguing about who ‘deserves’ to be pushed or not? Was it worrying about the current hot wrestler of the month not immediately getting pushed? Was it waiting on the latest scoop or spoiler to come across the wire?
No. In fact I would bet a large portion of my savings that no one ever became a fan of wrestling because of those things.
We all became fans because we were engaged by these exciting characters who had inspiring and emotive stories that were ultimately settled with a fight in the ring. Even if you’ve been a fan for a long time what are your favourite modern wrestling moments? Daniel Bryan and The Yes Movement finally triumphing over The Authority? Seth Rollins pulling off The Heist of the Century? Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada putting on four of the best matches ever? Johnny Gargano finally getting to beat the stuffing out of Tommaso Ciampa at TakeOver New Orleans?
All of these are deeply, deeply rooted in story and character and letting ourselves get wrapped up in the fictional universe that is on TV is what has always been most exciting. Yet somewhere along the line too many of us have lost our way and got distracted with worrying about what happens when the cameras turn off.
Sure it is intoxicating getting to peak behind the curtains. I remember when I first found the dirt sheets, it was like finding out some sort of forbidden knowledge. I almost felt a bit naughty seeing something I knew I wasn’t meant to see. But inside intoxicating is the word ‘toxic’ and it is my firm belief that focusing on the backstage politics is completely toxic to any true fandom of wrestling. It leaves us warped in perpetual cycle of negativity and unfulfilled expectations, hardly the foundations that enjoyment can be built on top of.
Instead make the choice to ignore the ‘News’ section and get lost in the story presented in the ring. Delve deeply into your favourite wrestler’s character arc, look for the subtle character traits they inject into their wrestling, find out how their separate feuds and matches link together to create a long term story for them. One of the reasons I think I’ve ended the last two years on a high is because I’ve spent most of December writing The 5 Stories That Defined 2017 & 2018 and delving into those exact things. I would also suggest the excellent podcast Sports Entertainment is Dead by ‘Plan for helping explore character and narrative.
And if something doesn’t go the way you hoped, don’t dwell on it, focus on what has been done right. I could write an entire series on why Dean Ambrose should have won the 2016 Royal Rumble but I choose not to because even though it sucks he didn’t, his character has had some wild stories since then.
I realise this could all come off as a sermon but I truly am writing this because I want everyone to enjoy themselves when it comes to wrestling. I’m not trying to excuse some of the creative silliness that went on in 2018 or before that and I will still call it out when I see it. However I think as a community we can all have a better time if we make the effort to focus on what makes wrestling great.
There was an old song that put it most simply ‘accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.’ Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Which leads me to my bonus fourth step:
WRITE ABOUT IT
Writing about wrestling on Lords of Pain has given me a new level of appreciation of the craft of pro wrestling. Not only has it forced me to look at all aspects of wrestling more deeply revealing hidden riches in the process, I have also got to chat about it with other writers, podcasters and fans who care deeply about it and want to talk in depth about this art we love. I see awesome comments on LOP all the time and I would love to see more of them turned into a fully explored piece of writing.
Oh and it so happens we have a place you can do just that, the LOP Columns Forum, which is the NXT to the Main Page’s Raw or SmackDown. It’s filled with a mixture of up and comers learning their craft and vets helping them along the way and in true NXT fashion some people think the best writing on the site is down there anyway. If you are interested then register today. Just let me know in the comments you’ve registered and I’ll make sure it goes through smoothly (we are currently under attack from spam bots that want to sell us pills that will do crazy things to our bodies).
But that is enough preaching from me for now. I wish you all the best with your wrestling watching in 2019. I hope you get as much enjoyment out of it as I do.
Latest from Sir Sam’s Court – The 5 Stories That Defined 2018
Part 1: Becky Lynch, The Man Comes Around
Part 2: Kenny Omega, If
Part 3: Johnny Gargano Learns To #DIY
Part 4 – AJ Styles, Push The Sky Away
Part 4.5 – Honourable Mentions
Part 5 – Seth Rollins Burns It All Down