Jump to content
Pro Wrestling Only
Sign in to follow this  
goc

What does "casual fan" even mean in 2017 wrestling?

Recommended Posts

I've seen the word kayfabe creeping into non-wrestling usage recently, especially among young left-wing people on social media actually. I think to a degree some of those terms have just crossed over into popular culture, or certainly online culture at least. It's harder than ever to tell what a casual fan is. Because of the proliferation of insider language on social media etc. there are people that we definitely wouldn't consider to be 'knowledgeable fans' who are appropriating this language. For example, I've seen tweets from people who love Dean Ambrose and think he's the best ever talking about 'four star matches' etc. without any sense of this meaning anything beyond being a term of praise for wrestling matches. As wrestling becomes dragged further and further into the realms of internet culture and nerd fandom, it becomes less and less possible (and potentially relevant) to tell what a casual fan is.

 

I think the term casual fan in the way it's employed is in a sense virtue signalling. It's used by the sort who think John Cena and Roman Reigns are the worst wrestlers in history and such nonsense and thus 'casual fan' is used as a distinguishing term (along with 'women and kids' because they are homogeneous blocks) for those who love Rollins, Owens, Balor etc. to express their sense of superiority.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In that sense, I suppose anyone who uses "IWC" cannot possibly be a diehard wrestling fan. Yuck. :)

Honestly, I had to make a concerted effort not to throw it into that post I just made... *goes to shower*

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think WWE would define it as fans who maybe don't watch the TV every week, don't know the lower tier workers on the roster that go to the shows and go along with the kayfabe storylines. IE cheer who wwe thinks are babyfaces in the storyline and boos the heels. That's always the sense I got from the company

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Can they name more than two cruiserweights? Can they differentiate between Fandango, Breeze and Hawkins?

 

It's tough in 2017.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think WWE would define it as fans who maybe don't watch the TV every week, don't know the lower tier workers on the roster that go to the shows and go along with the kayfabe storylines. IE cheer who wwe thinks are babyfaces in the storyline and boos the heels. That's always the sense I got from the company

 

Always thought it was interesting how they pushed this, but John Cena headlined in markets like New York and Chicago while Punk and Bryan headlined smaller markets in medium-sized towns. It seems like if the "Real America" stuff they were always implying with who bought what was fed to them and who didn't was actually valid, that they'd put John Cena in the smaller markets. Of course, Cena was a major success in big markets, so the truth is a little more complicated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem is that there are really two definitions of "casual fans".

 

The first one tends to mean "people who have a casual or passing interest in WWE". People who see WWE occasionally and watch WM over at someone's house, who know the big stars and remember the good old days of Stone Cold and The Rock (or of Hogan and Savage depending on age). It's definition WWE themselves tend to use, these people are the ones they're thinking about when they book celebrities or Attitude Era stars, things designed to grab the attention of a wider audience. People who could, potentially, spend money/more money on wrestling but don't.

 

My friend Pat I'd put into this class, for example. She likes wrestling when she sees it, if she's visiting her family or something, and she tries to watch Wrestlemania. She loves Undertaker and Triple H, but she wouldn't know Sami Zayn from a bar of soap. She'll go with her cousins to the house show if they're going and love it. But it would never occur to her to watch TV every week, let alone go online and talk about wrestling on social media.

 

Then there's the other definition of "casual fan", where it's used as a binary pair with "hardcore fan", and you're either one or the other. We as smarks tend to use this a lot of the time, when we're trying to distinguish between people like us who talk about wrestling online in a deeper, insider way, and those who don't, when we're discussing indy workers in WWE or a certain type of match that we enjoy that they might not necessarily or why a certain Raw crowd is a "hardcore" crowd. In this sense the definition broadens because it basically includes all the people who do watch Raw and SD and PPVs regularly, who go to shows, but who aren't smarks.

 

I use my mother as my "casual fan" barometer using this definition, where I like to see which workers or gimmicks or whatever are getting over with someone who isn't an insider fan. She watches Raw and SD religiously every week, watches all the PPVs, but that is the limit of her investment. She never feels the need to watch any more wrestling than that, even more things from WWE like NXT. And she'd never have any interest in going online and reading backstage goings on or talking to other fans about da biz. She's happy just watching the shows every week, like any other TV show she follows.

 

Both of these fans still exist, and in large numbers. I see people trying to argue that there's no such thing as a casual fan anymore because the internet, which is silly. Just because the internet and social media exists doesn't mean everyone who watches Raw is going to use it to learn the inner workings of the wrestling business. Lots of Raw viewers don't use the internet to talk about wrestling at all, and even for those who do, one look at wrestling Twitter or Facebook shows you that a LOT of it is kayfabe/casual type "I love you Cena I hope you kick Miz's ass!" stuff. Not everyone posting about wrestling on the internet is necessarily a smark anymore.

 

And on the point about how 5 hours a week is not a casual investment, I'm not so sure. The biggest show in Australia right now is My Kitchen Rules. It's on four nights a week, and the show is 90 minutes long. But you'd call most of those people casual fans because they just watch the shows and never think about them again once it's over. Watching 2-3 football games every weekend is at least a 6 hour commitment, and there are shitloads of casual footy fans.

 

I know it's hard to grasp sometimes because we're so far in the bubble, and the spread of the internet means that internet fans are more visible than they were in the days where you'd have to sign up for a message board to chat to other smarks, but there really are tonnes of people who just watch Raw and/or SD and just stop there, and wouldn't even think to invest any deeper than that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's an interesting litmus test - a friend of mine who watches Raw and Smackdown weekly and loves WWE enough that he attended Wrestlemania this year. And yet he watches basically nothing outside WWE - when we were talking about Nakamura debuting this week, he said he'd never seen one of his matches. He's never seen an ROH show. Is he a casual fan?

 

I think what I'd say is that he's a hardcore WWE fan, but not a hard core "wrestling" fan. To be a hardcore wrestling fan involves appreciating, to at least some extent, the breadth of the genre - to be interested in at least some of indies, Japan, lucha, older territory wrestling, etc. And I do think someone who loves WWE but nothing else has a different perspective on wrestling than someone who watches a broader range of stuff.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And yet he watches basically nothing outside WWE - when we were talking about Nakamura debuting this week, he said he'd never seen one of his matches. He's never seen an ROH show. Is he a casual fan?

No, he's a normal fan. We're the odd ones.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To me a casual fan is the sort of guys I watched Wrestlemania with. They watch Raw or Smackdown most weeks. They may or may not have the Network. They don't nessicarily follow ROH, Lucha Underground, or NXT, but they've heard of each of them. They too complain about Wrestlemania being 7 hours long. They don't post on message boards. They never traded tapes back when that was a thing. They watch the shows but they don't follow how the sausage is made the way we do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Despite all the talk of devaluing titles, I swear that the most common question I'm asked by casual fans is, "Who's the champ these days?" Literally every time. In that context I'm using "casual" to describe someone who'll watch a few minutes of RAW/SD or even TNA/ROH while flipping channels, but aren't following any shows or storylines week to week. They'll go to a live arena show or watch a big PPV with friends, but they treat it as a lark, where it's akin to going to a comedy show, sporting event, or concert of an act that they don't follow intently.

 

For a lot of people, wrestling is still the circus coming to town. They'll go to see the elephants and acrobats, and they have a good time, but they don't miss it when it's gone, and they sure aren't reading about the circus in their spare time, or YouTubing great ringmasters, or using trade lingo in conversation. One sad irony of WWE's attempts to validate and normalize wrestling into sports entertainment for a discerning public is that most of the "casual fans" seem to find watered-down wrestling to be not boring and not wrestlingish enough. Casual fans watch when they want a taste of the absurd, not the absurd masquerading as a bad sketch that gets cut from the ESPYs.

 

And for all that, and for all that the McMahons resist, and for all the investor calls and brand extensions and Universes, it's still: "Who's the champ these days?"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I watch wrestling wearing slacks or khakis, dress shirt, open-collar or polo shirt, optional tie or seasonal sport coat.

 

I am a business casual fan.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the people that are WWE only fans are looked down upon and called 'casual fans' is because it is perceived that they are being willfully ignorant of pro wrestling's rich history and variety.

 

It also doesnt help that WWE doesn't consider itself to be wrestling and instead calls itself sports entertainment and creates that dichotomy. Like saying, "that stuff over there in the stinky bingo hall, or 500 person rec center is wrestling but, we with our pyrotechnics and big screen are sports entertainment!" That turns a lot of people off who are proud 'wrestling' fans. It makes them defensive and wear the label like a badge of honor and maybe razz the WWE-only people as a poser or whatever...

 

Really a casual fan is what everyone has already said to one degree or another. Its something they're into maybe even as a hobby but not a passion or perhaps obsession. I'm a casual current NJ fan. I know all the stars by name and sight, I know the matchups that I'd be into, and maybe a couple times a month I'll watch a couple bouts online that have gotten pimped. I have no relationship with the characters, storylines, etc. though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think a casual fan doesn't want to read the boards and the observer per say. They watch WWE on a regular basis but nothing else.

I think there's also a large portion of people now who read the boards/Observer/rumors and don't actually watch the show unless it's Mania.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Despite all the talk of devaluing titles, I swear that the most common question I'm asked by casual fans is, "Who's the champ these days?" Literally every time. In that context I'm using "casual" to describe someone who'll watch a few minutes of RAW/SD or even TNA/ROH while flipping channels, but aren't following any shows or storylines week to week. They'll go to a live arena show or watch a big PPV with friends, but they treat it as a lark, where it's akin to going to a comedy show, sporting event, or concert of an act that they don't follow intently.

 

For a lot of people, wrestling is still the circus coming to town. They'll go to see the elephants and acrobats, and they have a good time, but they don't miss it when it's gone, and they sure aren't reading about the circus in their spare time, or YouTubing great ringmasters, or using trade lingo in conversation. One sad irony of WWE's attempts to validate and normalize wrestling into sports entertainment for a discerning public is that most of the "casual fans" seem to find watered-down wrestling to be not boring and not wrestlingish enough. Casual fans watch when they want a taste of the absurd, not the absurd masquerading as a bad sketch that gets cut from the ESPYs.

 

And for all that, and for all that the McMahons resist, and for all the investor calls and brand extensions and Universes, it's still: "Who's the champ these days?"

This is spot on. When I was at Easter dinner a few weeks ago and was talking about the Mania trip I just got back from my uncle asked "who's the champ now"? And he probably hasn't watched wrestling in 25 years.

 

On a slightly related note... both my mother and uncle knew about Cena and Nikki's engagement and neither ever know or ask anything about wrestling. My uncle was like "oh you were there for that??" and my mom had texted me the next day asking what the reaction was for the engagement segment. It was odd.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Despite all the talk of devaluing titles, I swear that the most common question I'm asked by casual fans is, "Who's the champ these days?" Literally every time. In that context I'm using "casual" to describe someone who'll watch a few minutes of RAW/SD or even TNA/ROH while flipping channels, but aren't following any shows or storylines week to week. They'll go to a live arena show or watch a big PPV with friends, but they treat it as a lark, where it's akin to going to a comedy show, sporting event, or concert of an act that they don't follow intently.

 

For a lot of people, wrestling is still the circus coming to town. They'll go to see the elephants and acrobats, and they have a good time, but they don't miss it when it's gone, and they sure aren't reading about the circus in their spare time, or YouTubing great ringmasters, or using trade lingo in conversation. One sad irony of WWE's attempts to validate and normalize wrestling into sports entertainment for a discerning public is that most of the "casual fans" seem to find watered-down wrestling to be not boring and not wrestlingish enough. Casual fans watch when they want a taste of the absurd, not the absurd masquerading as a bad sketch that gets cut from the ESPYs.

 

And for all that, and for all that the McMahons resist, and for all the investor calls and brand extensions and Universes, it's still: "Who's the champ these days?"

This is spot on. When I was at Easter dinner a few weeks ago and was talking about the Mania trip I just got back from my uncle asked "who's the champ now"? And he probably hasn't watched wrestling in 25 years.

 

On a slightly related note... both my mother and uncle knew about Cena and Nikki's engagement and neither ever know or ask anything about wrestling. My uncle was like "oh you were there for that??" and my mom had texted me the next day asking what the reaction was for the engagement segment. It was odd.

 

Things like TMZ, msn.com, E! and gossip magazines are big.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

Despite all the talk of devaluing titles, I swear that the most common question I'm asked by casual fans is, "Who's the champ these days?" Literally every time. In that context I'm using "casual" to describe someone who'll watch a few minutes of RAW/SD or even TNA/ROH while flipping channels, but aren't following any shows or storylines week to week. They'll go to a live arena show or watch a big PPV with friends, but they treat it as a lark, where it's akin to going to a comedy show, sporting event, or concert of an act that they don't follow intently.

 

For a lot of people, wrestling is still the circus coming to town. They'll go to see the elephants and acrobats, and they have a good time, but they don't miss it when it's gone, and they sure aren't reading about the circus in their spare time, or YouTubing great ringmasters, or using trade lingo in conversation. One sad irony of WWE's attempts to validate and normalize wrestling into sports entertainment for a discerning public is that most of the "casual fans" seem to find watered-down wrestling to be not boring and not wrestlingish enough. Casual fans watch when they want a taste of the absurd, not the absurd masquerading as a bad sketch that gets cut from the ESPYs.

 

And for all that, and for all that the McMahons resist, and for all the investor calls and brand extensions and Universes, it's still: "Who's the champ these days?"

This is spot on. When I was at Easter dinner a few weeks ago and was talking about the Mania trip I just got back from my uncle asked "who's the champ now"? And he probably hasn't watched wrestling in 25 years.

 

On a slightly related note... both my mother and uncle knew about Cena and Nikki's engagement and neither ever know or ask anything about wrestling. My uncle was like "oh you were there for that??" and my mom had texted me the next day asking what the reaction was for the engagement segment. It was odd.

 

Things like TMZ, msn.com, E! and gossip magazines are big.

 

 

For sure... guessing they saw it on Today Show perhaps. I know my sister watches Total Divas regularly and she has paid zero attention to wrestling since probably 1994.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Redman was hitting on the term and its uses pretty well a page back. Defining what a "casual fan" IS is just sort of a fools errand. Talking about how the term is functional and what it has been used to demarcate in the past is all we can really do. With the internet dispersing wrestling fandom's presence on line you can't really use forum, social media, or any kind of internet engagement with wrestling as a way of discerning casual fans from any other kinds of fans. This is why I said somewhere months back that I kind of think IWC is more or less a worthless term now. It is a community that probably still exists in practice, but it is no longer defined by the internet, just as casual fandom is no longer really defined by the internet. What's more, I think the internet has made EVERYTHING so accessible that I am not sure even engagement with the WWE really defines a casual fan. Sure, it is the primary way to go about understanding casual, but that is only because the WWE is - for better or worse - the center of the wrestling universe. I got a buddy who knows a hand full of WWE wrestler names and has maybe watched one WWE show in the last 3 years, but he also has a passing interest in indy wrestling (in NYC) and sort of watches some older wrestling from time to time with friends. He probably knows more about Kaiju Big Battle than he does WWE and will probably watch more indy wrestling that I send him or he goes to on a whim than he will SD or RAW. He has very little investment in any of it. He is - to me - the operational definition of casual, but because of the internet his casual fandom is manifest far more through indy wrestling than WWE.

 

I guess in my eyes "casual fan" is always relative. I mostly see it used to refer to an abstract population that the WWE appeals to and in context that is usually just defined as someone who watches less wrestling and is supposedly invested less in wrestling as an art form or something otherwise valuable than the person using the term. I have a friend who loves the WWE and knows a good bit about WCW, WWE, and ECW history. He follows regularly (work schedule permitting), but he doesn't know much about indy wrestling or lucha or japanese wrestling or british or territories. To me, sometimes he seems like a casual fan and even though he knows a ton about wrestling his opinions seem guided by the WWE narrative. That says as much or more about me (or any person using the terms) than it does about him (or the person being labeled). To me he seems like a casual fan, but to the people in the bar he owns he is the biggest wrestling fan in the world. It is like any art form. If you are really invested in it as an art form even someone who is also fairly invested may seem casual to you if they aren't invested as much or even in the same way.

 

I suppose I think the terms i still relevant to a degree, but it is largely a comparative statement that tells us as much about the one(s) using it as it does the one(s) being labeled "casual". If it isn't being used as an abstract pejorative to dismiss people it is to me more or less functional as a way of referencing degrees of investment with wrestling (emotion, time, energy, money, etc). I guess once you get to a certain point it would be hard to rationalize anyone (even those more invested) to call you casual, but there isn't some hard cutoff point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't want to reread the whole thread but after a discussion on twitter I think the best way to define a hardcore fan in 2017 is that it's someone who is subscribed to more than one wrestling streaming service.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't want to reread the whole thread but after a discussion on twitter I think the best way to define a hardcore fan in 2017 is that it's someone who is subscribed to more than one wrestling streaming service.

 

I'd go as far to say any wrestling service outside of WWE Network. Even with NJPW World you'd have to be some sort of hardcore fan to follow it and know who the guys were.

 

Also I'd throw in people who actually watch non WWE product either via online streams or TV since even with ROH and Impact it's not easy for everyone to access them on their cable provider so if you seek them out and actually watch every week and don't just catch results online or gifs on Twitter then I'd lump you into hardcore fan as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure on New Japan World. My cousin is a casual fan and he asked me how much New Japan World was and how hard it was to navigate because he wants to watch Okada/Naito and Jericho/Omega.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×