Ever since I chose to mark “professional deathmatch wrestler” as my occupation on my income tax returns, people have been telling me that I’m too smart to be mutilating my body for a living. I usually brush it off as people just not understanding what it is or why I do it (it is, after all, a form of entertainment with a pretty minority appeal). But there are times when I see the wisdom in what they’re saying, and never is that more apparent than when the fans JUST DON’T CARE. This isn’t going to be remotely amusing, so if you’ve decided to read through it for a chuckle, go elsewhere. I just decided that maybe putting it into words might be cathartic for me, and maybe when I meet my untimely demise (which is taking its sweet time, by the way), there will be a written referendum for the few people who remember me and wonder what the hell my state of mind was during all of this nonsense I participated in.
I was drinking with my friend Tom the other day and we were watching some CZW 09, as he hadn’t seen anything recent, and we came to the conclusion that the fans just don’t seem to give a shit anymore. In point of fact, it’s probably a stretch to even term many of them as fans. There are a small subsection of the fans that I’ve met who come to wrestling shows every month and really get into it, but over the last few years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve noticed their number dwindle further and further, to the point where getting a pop out of the crowd is more or less an improbability. I’m not writing this out in any way to criticize, shit upon, point fingers at, or call out the people who come to our shows, nor even the people who don’t but make internet criticisms. Everyone is more than entitled to their opinion, and nobody owes us anything. The point that I’m trying to make is that I, as a fan of pro wrestling and more specifically of hardcore wrestling, am very sad to see that it seems to be a slowly-dying form of entertainment.
Fans are quick to blame mediocre booking and wrestling as the basis for their lethargy and disinterest, and it’s certainly not to be disregarded. CZW, and indy wrestling in general, has been extremely hit-or-miss in the last few years, and oftentimes it’s more miss than hit. I can tell you with sincerity that we’re doing everything in our power to change that trend. But it can’t all be blamed on poor wrestling or misguided booking...I watched the January 2010 CZW show from the back and—while I will certainly acknowledge that it was an underwhelming show (and I’m as much to blame for that as anyone)—I also noticed that the live crowd was so reticent to pull their hands out from under their asses that they abjectly refused to applaud most of the stuff that was good. It was as if the attendees had all jointly made a decision while they were standing in line for their tickets that they were absolutely not going to enjoy this show…which begs the question, why go? I’m not asking you not to attend, believe me…in point of fact, I’d love it if MANY MANY MORE of you would come to the shows…but I just don’t understand the prevailing mentality (especially of the Philly crowd) of going to a show with a predetermined mindset that you’re not going to like it. Aren’t you fans of wrestling? If not, why are you spending your money on it as a source of entertainment? I just don’t get it.
Case in point: Scotty Vortekz v. Egotistico Fantastico. I watched the whole match on the monitor in the back (believe it or not, we have those…), and I thought it was pretty damn good. Maybe not match of the year, but a hard-worked athletic contest between two extremely talented and generally well-liked pro wrestlers. Why did NO ONE clap through this whole damn match??? It was painful to watch two of my friends going out there and working hard, and getting absolutely no reaction—NOT because they weren’t having a good match, but because the crowd just couldn’t be bothered. The whole affair just boggles my mind. And this seems to happen almost every month. When we suck, by all means, call us out…but when we do well and manage to have good matches, for fucks’ sakes, RESPOND! It seems that nobody wants to do anything but criticize, to the point where people will actively overlook the good to focus on the bad.
In part, I think the blame lies with the oversaturation of the market, and the excesses of violence which have been undertaken over the last several years in this sport. I don’t fault the John Zandigs, Nick Mondos, and Wifebeaters for the craziness they perpetrated; they were just doing what they felt needed to be done to take it to the next level and get national and international attention. The problem that it poses for the current crop of hardcore wrestlers is that things were taken to such an extreme that they can never be outdone, short of death. If anyone ever tops Zandig and Mondo going off the roof at TOD 2, that person will not survive. I assure you of that. So my peers and I are forced to try to be more creative, rather than more violent, to entertain. That’s fine by me; I’d much rather do something new than something over-the-top.
The problem is that the majority of the fans haven’t come around to this way of thinking, and they’re still looking for something crazier and crazier. And in our inability to produce something even crazier, we seem to be losing the fans. There seems to be a lot of hypocrisy on their part; if the message board banter is any indicator, it would seem that they want us to tone down the stupid violence and focus on other aspects of the product. Yet when we attempt to do just that, people complain of a bland show. It’s a no-win situation, and it’s very depressing.
So the problem this poses for a semi-intelligent guy like me is; why continue pursuing a career path where the cons far outweigh the pros? I’m sacrificing my health, I’m underpaid, underappreciated (arguably), and the fans seem to be more and more disinterested. Where’s the upside? I don’t know, honestly. It occurs to me that the only reason I keep doing this is because I love hardcore wrestling as a medium of entertainment, and I’m afraid that if people like myself, Drake, Scotty, JC, and others don’t keep it alive, it will cease to exist [in this country, at least]. We’re just stupid enough to be martyrs for something that will probably never pay out nearly as much as we put in. I guess we just love what we do, no matter how much we should probably walk away. So in summation, if you feel anything at all like I do…like we do…if you want hardcore wrestling to continue being something that you can go see or watch on DVD, PLEASE: Come out. Show your support. Make a little noise once in a while. I assure you, if you show some appreciation, we’ll reciprocate to the best of our abilities. We want this to be good as much as you do.