The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of WrestlingINC.com or its staff.
Professional wrestling, like anything, is an arbitrary medium. Therefore, people are always going to have different opinions on what is good and what is bad. Like music, movies, food and pretty much anything else in the world, the true quality of things is in the eye of the beholder. As a vocal member of wrestling fandom, I have come across a lot of different ideas about what professional wrestling is all about, but the idea of professional wrestling being all about one thing is preposterous in its methodology.
For some fans, professional wrestling is all about storytelling. The drama executed inside and outside a wrestling ring is what the show should be all about. Sure, the wrestlers may be smaller, or the actual technical aspects of the match may not be that good, but none of that really matters. The point of wrestling is to entertain the audience, and if the psychology is right, and the audience is captivated, then the wrestlers did a good job.
For other fans, wrestling is all about the technical side of things. You can get entertainment and drama from television or film, only in professional wrestling can you see two performers with divine skills honed from years of practice and dedication putting on an artistic expression of physical prowess. Wrestling in its essence, is a sort of delicate ballet where if even the slightest mishap occurs, disaster can strike. Watching performers who walk the fine line to entertain the fans is what professional wrestling is all about.
Some wrestling fans believe that wrestling is all about the spectacle. Wrestling is about going to a big arena, seeing massive crowds showering the performers with ovations and plenty of flashy introductions, lights and pyrotechnics. Wrestlers that are larger than life, both in physical stature and in character, come out and entertain the audience in a way that is unique to professional wrestling. An event that is part sport, part entertainment and part laser rock show is what professional wrestling is all about.
There are plenty of other types of wrestling fans, many that feel that wrestling is a sort of hybrid of all of those methods of thinking. We tend to get caught up in our own interpretation of what is good and what is bad, and what professional wrestling is REALLY about, and then criticize anybody that does not necessarily agree with what our interpretation.
If professional wrestling is really only about one thing, then it is about the relationship that the wrestling promotion has with its fans. Wrestling promotions should try to satisfy their fans, and since fans have such varying tastes, a show that caters to a lot of the varying tastes is what is required. Wrestling is all about what individual fans care about, some fans are going to love the fact that Daniel Bryan is wrestling CM Punk, and that it will be a technical showcase. Other fans are going to love that John Cena is wrestling the Big Show, because that is the match between the most popular man in the company against a literal giant. Both matches are important, and while it may seem like it is untrue inside the cocoon that is the IWC, both matches have an audience that is interested in them.
There is a large part of the wrestling audience that is not part of the insider fanbase that scours the message boards and news sites. These fans do not get caught up on who is being pushed and who isn't; they don't really care if The Great Khali beat Antonio Cesaro clean and what a travesty that was. These fans live in a world where kayfabe is still alive and well and where John Cena really does have to overcome all the impossible odds.
We tend to look down upon these fans. We call them "marks" and laugh at their childish attitudes towards wrestling. Thinking wrestling is real and the matches are not pre-determined? That is the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny. However, in reality these fans are just a group that chooses to suspend their disbelief while watching wrestling. In most cases, they are aware that wrestling is "fake", but they enjoy watching wrestling as if it weren't.
It is the same way that most people watch movies. When Jenny died in Forrest Gump, we all know that she didn't really die, and after the cameras turned off, she probably rolled right out of the bed and into a chair to get her makeup done for the next take. But if you stood up in the movie theater and said that, people would think you were a jerk for trying to ruin the emotion of the scene. Wrestling fans who get caught up in kayfabe treat wrestling like that, and they probably have a lot more fun watching it then the typical, cynical IWC member.
Overall, wrestling is about whatever the individual fan makes out of it. When debating about topics, someone's personal opinion cannot be wrong anymore then it can be right. If I declared John Cena was my favorite wrestler, many would criticize my choice and state that I clearly did not understand the finer points of professional wrestling. But since it is my personal preference, I, as a human being, am entitled to my own opinion of what I like and what I dislike, and nobody has the right to change that.
Now, talking and arguing about wrestling is a huge part of why we watch and follow wrestling. One of my favorite things to do in the world is to state my opinions about wrestling. But I like to think that I would never try and chastise someone for having a different personal opinion on what is good and what is bad. Sure, we love to argue about what is good and what is bad, but fans should be respectful of other people's opinions and stop trying to label things about professional wrestling being all about one thing or another, because chances are that the person you are arguing with has a different idea of what professional wrestling is all about.