Professional wrestler is one of the most unique occupations out there. A cross between professional athlete and actor. They play larger-than-life characters and/or turned up versions of themselves. However, after leaving the ring and the cameras stop rolling these individuals don't have the luxury to really step away. Many fans look at them as their onscreen personas whether its subconsciously or not. They'll scream obscenities on the street, start a chant in the hotel room lobby or approach them during dinner to express admiration.
And this perception continues on social media, a double-edged sword for public figures. WWE superstars past and present are among the most followed and active users on platforms including Twitter and Instagram. Men and women from other companies have also developed solid followings, even without the benefit of regular worldwide TV exposure.
Fat of the matter is in today's landscape of branding and viral marketing, it's a borderline necessity if you truly want to get your name out there. A big online presence can lead to big business. It can sell t-shirts and other merchandise. It can sell-out venues. Look no further than Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks, who changed the game utilizing these communicative tools to the fullest. A large reason for the success of All In can be attributed to their innovative ways of getting the word out through a grassroots campaign across places such as YouTube.
By the same token, pro wrestlers have the challenge your typical actor or athlete don't really incur. No matter how good an actor is in a movie or television show, audiences don't typically see the actor as the character if they saw them at the supermarket for example.
A pro wrestler has this underlying pressure to maintain their "onscreen" character. But there is also the want for them to open up who they are in regular life. Juggling both can be a slippery slope. One who has clearly mastered the game is Becky Lynch, whose posts align with what she is doing on TV. But knowing her struggles much of what she sends out is rooted in truth. The same is true for Daniel Bryan, who is very big into environmental issues and all things vegan. However, for many the question is where does the character stop. Deciphering isn't always easy with people often taking what wrestlers say online as gospel when it could be clearly done to advance a story or their profile.
Then there are pro wrestlers who get criticism for expressing their opinion venturing into other topics. For example, Gail Kim enjoys sharing her political views, which generates responses like "stay in your lane." Firing back can lead to opening a can of worms for better or worse. Pro wrestlers have used social media to also clear up rumors or misconceptions. Whether it's that they have backstage heat or are reportedly signing with a certain company, they have a way to respond. Though the approach might not always be the best.
Corey Graves is one of the most polarizing figures on Twitter. In the past, his tweets have received backlash. Everyone can reach a breaking point, but his fuse appears shorter than some. He is surely one of the ones to bite back. Over the years Matt Hardy has certainly had a love-hate relationship with the Twitter machine. It wasn't that long ago where the popular performer would tweet erratic musings that were concerning. However, he has grown as a person and evolved as a result.
There are lessons to be learned on each side of the fence when it comes to social media. The fan, pro wrestler or anyone for that matter should see social media for what it is. A tool to express opinions, promote, have fun and entertain. Pro wrestling social media shouldn't be taken so seriously. There are ways to get a message across.
Attacking a person for a different viewpoint by name calling or taking things to the mud to get a rise out of someone isn't the way. Before you hit send, think about what your saying and how it might impact who might read it, as well as yourself.
The latest situation came not long ago when social media was abuzz when Graves' estranged wife Amy Polinksy made some strong accusations regarding the WWE commentator and superstar Carmella. Of course, everyone wanted to throw in their two cents without really hearing all sides. They sent out their gifs, memes, hateful jokes and everything in between. One thing to consider is the families or loved ones involved. How would you feel if your kids read all these things about you? How would you feel knowing someone will take what you wrote and used it to attack someone else who are innocent in any alleged controversy? A simple tweet can have broader consequences than you realize (See Roseanne Barr).
Consider what you put out there to the world will always be out there, even if you click delete later on. Don't find this out the hard way. Just some food for thought the next time you log back on.