The Heavy Opinion - Wrestling’s Toxic Fanbase

In the newest edition of The Heavy Opinion, Hev takes a look at Toxic Fandom in Professional Wrestling and the negative impact it has on the fans and industry.

The Heavy Opinion - Wrestling’s Toxic Fanbase

Earlier this week I wrote a news article for Real Rasslin regarding Jon Moxley and the announcement that he was entering a treatment program for alcohol addiction. The announcement was made by AEW President and Owner Tony Khan via Twitter, an announcement he made with Moxley’s permission and blessing. Tony Khan handled this issue and announcement in a way that we as fans have not seen before. Tony Khan approached a very common illness in a humane, honest, and respectful manner. Tony Khan didn’t pretend to cover up the issue, he approached it head on and spoke truthfully about a very serious illness and condition that affects so many people the world over.

This was a heartfelt moment; this was not a PR opportunity, nor was it a move made in vanity. Tony Khan as owner and president of a wrestling promotion stood up in front of the world and pulled back the curtain a little to show us fans that yes, these men and women who put their bodies on the line for us each week, are in fact human, with human problems. This was leaps and bounds the best way to approach this situation. Khan could have lied or fabricated an unrealistic reason as to why Jon Moxley would not be on television for a considerable amount of time, but instead of insulting his fans intelligence he was honest and gave it to us straight. In my opinion a main reason for taking this approach would be that, in this modern world where information and connectivity can be held in the palm of our hands, where nothing is kept secret anymore, Tony Khan decided that instead of looking like a fool down the line, that he would front up and ensure that he got in front of this issue not for his own sake, but for the sake of an employee and friend that he has a lot of admiration for.

Right now, at this very point in time for the first time in 20 years, mainstream Professional Wrestling is in a phase where we the fans have so many options to choose from. Some fans are likening this boom period to that of the Monday Night Wars between WWF and WCW in the mid to late 90’s. I can understand why some would think that but for me I just see this as an amazing time to be a part of Pro-Wrestling Fandom. We have so many choices and styles to choose from it really is like a renaissance in a lot of ways. Professional Wrestlers have more options for employment, which creates buzz, it also creates a sense of creativity and freedom that hasn’t been seen in such a long time considering one company has had a strangle hold on the industry since the death of WCW. Just like back in the 90’s, the fandom of Pro-Wrestling is split in which promotions they watch, what wrestlers they like and as with everything, what they also hate. That’s the key word I am going to use here because when I break it down, some of the things I have seen online from the toxic side of our fandom lately can only be comprehended if you look at it as coming from a place of hatred.

Now hatred may seem like a strong word, but it starts off from a very small idea or opinion that a fan will have about what their likes and dislikes are regarding professional wrestling. It isn’t something that is there immediately, no, it is something that builds over time and goes hand in hand with the passion we develop for this section of pop culture that we have come to love. It comes from developing a taste for a particular style, a particular company or a particular wrestler or wrestlers. We become so devoted that we lose sight of everything else around us, we lose our grounding and forget why we are here in the first place. We forget that we are here because we love something, not because we hate something. We forget that these men and women who are larger than life are in fact human at the end of the day and that they have their own issues and problems just like the rest of us.

So, this week most of the professional wrestling fandom and those men and women associated with the industry have been very open and supportive of Jon Moxley’s decision and the announcement made by Tony Khan in relation to the former AEW World Champion and this war he fights against his demons. An outpouring of support has come from the fandom, from fellow AEW Wrestlers as well as established legends within the greater world of professional wrestling, hell even his wife has come out in support of her husband. Yet amongst all that positivity there is still a segregated group within our fandom who not only dismiss or belittle such a life altering situation but also try to use it to justify their own loyalty to the opposition or to obnoxiously belittle the very personal experiences of a man who is in pain and for what? To make themselves feel better? To make themselves look like self-involved smarks? Frankly, I do not care what pitiful reason there is behind spitting some truly despicable and venomous opinions because if you feel like you need to sink to that level then you are in fact a part of what is wrong with our fandom, you are in fact a part of the problem that is Toxic Fandom.

This week I have seen Tweets from people who obviously love the WWE product and good on them, but at the same time are using a man’s despair as a means to prop up their own loyalty and toxic beliefs and opinions about why WWE is better than AEW when this situation has nothing to do with that whatsoever. To take such a serious issue and use it to pad out some superficial “War” between the two big promotions is just deplorable.

Those tweets as pictured above are so tone deaf that it is unfathomable to me how a person can come to such conclusions. Those tweets are at their core insensitive and forgetful as it seems like these keyboard warriors have forgotten how AEW’s competition got to where they are today. To think they are pure, and the symbol of righteousness is completely ignorant and is a pure example of toxic fans doing everything they can to justify their allegiance and poisonous beliefs.

Now I know what some must be thinking; Hev surely, you’ve been involved in some heated and negative discussions, sharing some spiteful opinions? Yes, I have, and it isn’t something I am proud of and from time to time yeah, it’s easy to get caught up in that useless back and forth. In fact, earlier today I got involved in something just like that over Tony Khan’s Tweets. Did it make me feel good to have a war of words with some one I do not know? No, it didn’t, in fact it takes up so much energy to engage in something like that, that it is utterly and completely mentally draining. We are human after all, we have moments where we give into our emotions and things get heated. But what takes it further is when the person you’re debating must resort to cheap insults to again justify their toxic thinking. Then delete those toxic comments later, why? I have no idea, maybe they got a chance to cool down and realise what they said was completely ignorant and counterproductive or realised they sounded toxic and delusional. Your guess is as good as mine, but I will take a guess as to why though. I think deep down it is because after we give into emotion and become heated and/or toxic about our passions, we calm down, take a step back, look at what we have said or how we have acted and think; "Ok, that was not my finest moment."

After all we are all here for the same reason, because we love professional wrestling. Professional wrestling has evolved over the years, no longer are we stuck in a territory system, or a system dominated by just two powerhouses where you have to brandish your loyalty in a boisterous and borderline offensive manner. The professional wrestling world has evolved so why can’t wrestling fandom evolve with it? AEW, ECW, WWE, WCW, TNA, Impact, ROH etc.; I don’t just like any one promotion anymore. No longer am I a one-eyed WCW fan who hates on anything WWF/E or ECW does. I like professional wrestling as a whole. I don’t think you can be a legitimate fan of modern professional wrestling without liking more than one promotion as there is truly something for everyone in every promotion the world over. Every promotion has their positives, and every promotion has their negatives. For every brilliant match we see in AEW, they can have some match outcomes, interviews and angles that come off as cringey or embarrassing. While WWE’s product is not what it once was, they also have some brilliant wrestlers who can put on some brilliant matches when given the opportunity to do so. While Impact may have slid down the ranks in popularity, they are showing they are not to be forgotten and that they still have one of the most impressive women’s divisions in the whole professional wrestling world.

In a world that can be unforgiving and brutal why is it that we must bring that into the passion we have about our fandoms? Instead of being toxic and unforgiving ourselves we need to be more compassionate and understanding. We need more people to understand that we don’t always have to agree, nor do we have to use such underhanded tactics to justify our alignments and prove our loyalty to the brands which we support. WWE, AEW etc. will survive and do what they do whether we spew toxicity at each other or not. Accept each other and our likes for what they are, debate but don’t ridicule, don’t use people’s misfortune to push an agenda, and most of all, be respectful. If your ever in a situation where toxicity feels like it could simmer up and boil over within yourself, just think WWDDPD - (What Would Diamond Dallas Page Do), because quite frankly if there were more people like him who embraced his massive positive attitude within our fandom… then our fandom would be a much better place and would be a lot more enjoyable to be a part of.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please as usual feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions below. Remember we don’t all have to agree, we just need to remember to be respectful.

Once again, this is Hev signing off on The Heavy Opinion, Cheers!