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Loss

The aging of wrestling fans

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Yes, Nielsen households report who is watching with them. Ratings are broken down for kids just like they are for adults.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_People_Meter

It's crazy shit, man!

"The Portable People Meter (PPM), also known as Nielsen Meter, is a system developed by Arbitron (now Nielsen Audio) to measure how many people are exposed or listening to individual radio stations and television stations, including cable television. The PPM is worn like a pager, and detects hidden audio tones within a station or network's audio stream, logging each time it finds such a signal."

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Ultimately though, if the discussion is about whether or not wrestling is attracting newer/younger fans, then storytelling still matters. Structure matters. Hierarchy matters. Plot development, satisfying arcs, progression, and advancement matters.

No young person is going to stick around for very long (as a viewer and committed fan) without these things.

Serialized storytelling is what's in. Colorful characters like Cena and New Day might draw in children. But young adults and teens aren't going to be swayed to stick around as fans for very long. The climate and pop culture are just different. Everything is trending toward serialized storytelling.

And I'm not calling for wrestling to be the Attitude Era again, but simple & streamlined storytelling is crucial and absolutely called for if they want to engage a broader audience at ANY point.

Without commitment to character, the turn of Hogan and subsequent birth of the nWo doesn't work. Without long-form planning, we never get the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object in Hogan/Andre. Without satisfying arcs we never get the Mega Powers exploding. Without hierarchy, we never get to experience the young lions maturing into the pillars. Without escalation, we never get the glory days of All Japan at all. Without structure, the rise of Stone Cold doesn't mean as much. Without anticipation, those cliffhangers on Raw don't lead to record-breakig ratings and thus the sheer excitement and the buzz surrounding the Monday Night Wars. I could go on & on.

All these elements are severely lacking in today's pro wrestling. Everything exists as evergreen and utterly inconsequential. Every match happens for the sake of having a match happen. Everyone on the roster is on a treadmill. Outcomes result in nothing. Championships aren't used to elevate. They're used as an excuse to have (you guessed it) more matches. Nothing more, nothing less.

Today's wrestling feels like an exercise of running in place. Nobody is elevated. Nobody gets anywhere. Everyone is interchangeable and totally replaceable. There's no reason to follow along week to week. It's all fireworks. You can watch it once or twice a year, get the jist of the experience, and never need to see it again until the holiday season or Mania season or whatever. You won't miss anything significant in between.

Furthermore, I think today's wrestling has become more about giving the wrestlers what they want - rather than giving the audience what they want. It's like the wrong lessons were learned from history. Whereas hour broadways were used to create interest in repeat business before, now they're utilized as some sort of badge of honor with the boys. Hardcore matches, too.

The emphasis is removed from competition and placed on how "entertaining" the fight might be. Let's watch the champ wrestle his challenger for an hour and never suggest he's being taken to his physical limit. Instead, let's use it to humblebrag about cardio and crossfit and other assorted horse shit. Literally NOBODY cares, except the wrestlers themselves. To the outside world, it just looks like a bunch of clowns gathering around and patting each other on the back.

Matches now feel like they're booked so the wrestlers can show off or have long matches. The vast majority doesn't give a shit about a cold wrestling match that is six or seven stars. They're not going to sit around and waste an hour plus watching that shit.

Like it or not (and I realize I'm the odd man out by saying this on a forum literally titled Pro Wrestling Only), but "great matches" aren't something that will appeal to a larger audience. The matches themselves are the endgame. They're not the hook.

If promoters are wondering what the base line is for that stuff, then they've found it. You can assign a match ten stars if you want, but it's not going to be enough to entice younger/newer viewers and convince them to follow the product - especially when you consider that all ten matches on a card look, feel, and function like a clone of the one that came before it. Everything is long and drawn out. Everything is dives and thigh slaps. Everything is multiple kickouts and nearfalls.

Today's wrestling is exhausting and a chore, to be honest. And, other than those of us who were hooked by the stuff when it was actually GOOD, nobody wants to stick around and keep coming back for that.

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22 hours ago, NintendoLogic said:

The comics industry is still on its ass in terms of actual comic book sales. If anything, it's worse off now in that regard than it was in the 90s. Marvel and DC have managed to thrive by becoming IP farms for movie studios. That's basically what WWE is doing now. They're more profitable than ever because they're in the business of selling content to networks rather than tickets and PPVs to wrestling fans.

I am pretty sure comic book sales have improved from where they were at the end of the 90s. 

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The thing about the comic book industry is that it does huge numbers with kids, but it's not Marvel and DC they're reading. It's Raina Tellgemeier and Dav Pilkey, then when they get older they read manga. Marvel and DC are a decent enough comparison for WWE, especially in terms of their insular culture and aging audience. If Marvel and DC stop publishing comics, stores will shut down but you'll probably still be able to buy Amulet at Barnes and Noble. If WWE closes down I don't think anything in the US will ever really take it's place.

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20 minutes ago, Graham Crackers said:

The thing about the comic book industry is that it does huge numbers with kids, but it's not Marvel and DC they're reading. It's Raina Tellgemeier and Dav Pilkey, then when they get older they read manga. Marvel and DC are a decent enough comparison for WWE, especially in terms of their insular culture and aging audience. If Marvel and DC stop publishing comics, stores will shut down but you'll probably still be able to buy Amulet at Barnes and Noble. If WWE closes down I don't think anything in the US will ever really take it's place.

I kind of loathe the whole MMA is Pro Wrestling vibe you get from the WON Awards or what not, including the idea (be it true or not) that MMA took the late 00s Pro Wrestling Boom, BUT...

I would sort of argue that what you're mentioning here as successful is still sort of the difference between Pro Wrestling and MMA. I can see everything else you mentioned as "indy wrestling" but I feel like it's even more different than that. I'd sort of say that Invincible or maybe even something not-superhero oriented but still with a similar audience like Saga would be "Indy wrestling" but the stuff you're mentioning is entirely different in everything from what was successful in past years and what's still being churned out.

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We've seen audience splinter in all forms of entertainment all over the world as DVR then social media and then streaming conquered the world. Wrestling numbers are way down from 25 years ago but so is everything else. That's a quarter of a century. So many things have changed. Obviously WWE has generally been horribly booked for much of the monopoly period and is generally an off-putting television product but there are wider social economic factors at play here and I don't really understand how and why people think pro wrestling can be the one form of entertainment to subvert those trends.

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If WWE was still as good as it was 20 years ago in terms of creating new stars and delivering satisfying payoffs, I think most people would accept that premise without much disagreement. We may have reached a point now where no matter what WWE does, they are just going to be where they are and that's that, but I wouldn't say that's been true for the entirety of the last 20 years.

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6 hours ago, ohtani's jacket said:

I am pretty sure comic book sales have improved from where they were at the end of the 90s. 

Yes, but they are still quite poor. Digital sales (it's only because of the pandemic that I count myself a digital subscriber because I much prefer holding a physical book) and movie deals really are keeping Marvel and DC afloat. 

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Talk to anyone that owns a comic shop, what keeps them open and making money is MtG and currently those ugly ass Funko Pops. The comic shop in town has very few people coming in to buy comics. The ones that do come to buy comics are 30 or older.

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10 hours ago, Loss said:

If WWE was still as good as it was 20 years ago in terms of creating new stars and delivering satisfying payoffs, I think most people would accept that premise without much disagreement. We may have reached a point now where no matter what WWE does, they are just going to be where they are and that's that, but I wouldn't say that's been true for the entirety of the last 20 years.

Oh I agree that WWE stinks and has for most of that time. I just think there are bigger forces at play too.

Ultimately, they could and should still be more popular than they are but they've eroded the concept of anyone being an actual star, the TV production is horrendous, everyone in the company speaks in this stilted corporate jargon language and people care way more about having WRESTLEMANIA MOMENTS and FULFILLING THEIR DREAMS and STEALING THE SHOW more than winning championships and fighting their rivals. I can't imagine them ever making new fans because the whole thing just seems like a really alienating viewing experience for anyone watching it for the first time.

I think in recent years Daniel Bryan and Becky Lynch were probably their best chances of having new breakthrough stars in recent years but in both cases they ruined it either with deliberate sabotage or just not being able to get out of their own way. The Bryan story has been well told but not enough is made of how awful the build to Becky's Mania main event was. She did a promo segment with Ronda right after she won the Rumble that was electric. Fans were dying to see them fight. And then they did a fake injury angle, had HHH, Stephanie and Vince all over the programme, had Becky apologise to them, had the title shot up for grabs, Charlotte entering the match, Ronda doing worked shoot promos about how wrestling is fake and then had an underwhelming match at the end of a 7 hour show. Like, they absolutely killed her dead when she looked like she could be a superstar if they just put her over Ronda clean in a singles match.

But this is all about WWE. The discussion is about wrestling more generally and in this thread I've seen AEW and indy promotions catch some unfair heat. It's unfair to really have expected them to have expanded the wrestling audience greatly. Indies just due to the sheer size of them and AEW because they're a two year old company who're having to work in the wake of WWE's 20 year monopoly of mainstream wrestling. People expecting them to create this swathe of new fans given the circumstances are either being naive or setting an impossible standard imo. But they do the right things with pushing young and attractive guys, getting some old faces involved and doing celebrity angles. Anything that can capture some attention is good. But that attention lasts for less time than ever nowadays.

The big success in wrestling in the last decade has of course been New Japan. And I know we're dealing with a different set of circumstances there but they did create and expand a new fanbase from the doldrums. And really it's been a simple recipe performed to a high standard. Obviously there's the fact that their championships and accomplishments are treated with reverence and the matches are taken seriously. And you need to have performers who can deliver at a world class standard. But the other recipe is having long-term character arcs that fans can follow along with. Okada was the cocky young upstart who grew into a legendary ace, Tanahashi was the iconic savior of the company who had to come to terms with being eclipsed, Naito the rebellious and irreverent guy who pushed and pushed to unseat the golden boy champion, the bridesmaid who finally became the bride. You can also throw Ibushi, Nakamura, Omega, Hiromu etc into the mix. Charismatic performers with long-term career narratives that rewarded the fans for being invested in them. And it doesn't have to be convoluted angles or stereotypical faces and heels because each guy brought their own fanbase who wanted them to win. If you look at their crowds, there's a lot of women there who absolutely love those guys because of their looks, charisma etc. I know there are so many differences between how US television wrestling and a Japanese promotion are run but I see no reason why WWE couldn't learn from this approach and make their shows more interesting to follow. But they have no need to because they're just a content factory. I can see signs of AEW setting up long term arcs but it's obviously too early to tell how successfully they play out. And New Japan itself is now in something of a transition and trying to get new stars over in tricky circumstances.  

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12 hours ago, Matt D said:

I would sort of argue that what you're mentioning here as successful is still sort of the difference between Pro Wrestling and MMA. I can see everything else you mentioned as "indy wrestling" but I feel like it's even more different than that. I'd sort of say that Invincible or maybe even something not-superhero oriented but still with a similar audience like Saga would be "Indy wrestling" but the stuff you're mentioning is entirely different in everything from what was successful in past years and what's still being churned out.

This is interesting. Can you expound on what you mean here please, I am not sure I get it tbh 

12 hours ago, FMKK said:

We've seen audience splinter in all forms of entertainment all over the world as DVR then social media and then streaming conquered the world. Wrestling numbers are way down from 25 years ago but so is everything else. That's a quarter of a century. So many things have changed. Obviously WWE has generally been horribly booked for much of the monopoly period and is generally an off-putting television product but there are wider social economic factors at play here and I don't really understand how and why people think pro wrestling can be the one form of entertainment to subvert those trends.

This is true, but I think statistically, WWE decline has outpaced non-news, non-sports declines, particularly in the last 5 years or so 

1 hour ago, FMKK said:

Not enough is made of how awful the build to Becky's Mania main event was. She did a promo segment with Ronda right after she won the Rumble that was electric. Fans were dying to see them fight. And then they did a fake injury angle, had HHH, Stephanie and Vince all over the programme, had Becky apologise to them, had the title shot up for grabs, Charlotte entering the match, Ronda doing worked shoot promos about how wrestling is fake and then had an underwhelming match at the end of a 7 hour show. Like, they absolutely killed her dead when she looked like she could be a superstar if they just put her over Ronda clean in a singles match.

1000%. And it was so frustrating to watch in real time. Not to mention the dogshit post-match pairing with Seth against Lacey Evans, which was just awful stuff. They also botched the finish of the WM main event itself. Literally everything they could fuck up, they did. It's a testament to Becky's natural connection with the fans that she is still as over and popular and ratings draw as she is

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Don't know if it's anything but I saw something on twitter recently  that Heyman told Ronda to lift her shoulder on the 3 count in the main of WM 35. I guess so that they could build to a rematch later on? The fact that it was never mentioned again maybe means Heyman and Ronda tried to go into business for themselves?

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Not sure if that's true. I do know the idea was proposed of Rousey tapping out, which Heyman shot down hard, because he thought it would be a bridge too far since she never tapped out in UFC. That was likely the right call. I had no problem with the WM finish. I think they wanted to keep the door open to a rematch. However, I'd be surprised if we get it at this point. WWE's incentives have totally changed. They gain nothing by paying top dollar to bring in big names. To me, the bigger Becky Lynch issue was that after Mania, they tried to put her with Lacey Evans, who wasn't ready for the spot. They hadn't thought ahead to groom any challengers.

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Having Lacey being Becky's first big program after Mania turned out to be a huge mistake. Lacey lost every match and yet kept getting title shots well into the summer for some reason 

iirc, people criticizing Becky's Mania build were shot down with a bunch of "omg stop complaining, she's getting pushed isn't she?!?  Isn't that enough!?What else do you want!?!?" type comments. Two years later it's obvious those criticisms were valid.

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You know, Stardom might be on to something. They more than doubled their revenue last year, and their recent Budokan show outdrew New Japan's. And that was in the wake of both the pandemic (and restrictions in Japan are far more onerous than in the US) and the death of the woman who was poised to be their breakout star. They're not exactly short on workrate, but the booking is mainly faction and storyline oriented. Maybe it really is just as simple as presenting well-booked programs and having a charismatic star (Giulia) to build around. It reminds me of when WWE's PPV buyrates were in the toilet pre-Network and the typical excuse offered was that PPV was dead. The past few years, UFC and now AEW have emphatically shown that such is not the case. Just because WWE can't do it doesn't mean it can't be done.

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As a big heavy metal fan, that's having the same problem with aging fans, as most of the fanbase are now much older. Of course, most of that stuff is more easily accessible and doesnt require the "commitment" that it takes to have to sit through a 3 hour (or even 2 hour) wrestling show, not to mention that they do at least try to stay relevant at times by working with people who are relevant (a lot of people's first exposure to Ozzy Osbourne was his recent collaboration with Post Malone), though to be fair, that is what the WWE is doing with Bad Bunny, but Miz vs Bunny is going to be seen as a goofy novelty match, not something that's going to intrigue people.

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13 minutes ago, JRH said:

As a big heavy metal fan, that's having the same problem with aging fans, as most of the fanbase are now much older. Of course, most of that stuff is more easily accessible and doesnt require the "commitment" that it takes to have to sit through a 3 hour (or even 2 hour) wrestling show, not to mention that they do at least try to stay relevant at times by working with people who are relevant (a lot of people's first exposure to Ozzy Osbourne was his recent collaboration with Post Malone), though to be fair, that is what the WWE is doing with Bad Bunny, but Miz vs Bunny is going to be seen as a goofy novelty match, not something that's going to intrigue people.

As a lifelong metalhead who loves making comparisons between music and wrestling, this is fairly accurate, right down to the "insider" mentality that pervades the majority of the scenes. Trve kvlt types hate Deafheaven and other blackgaze acts for not ripping off Darkthrone like everybody else does; there's a devoted but small throwback scene for traditional heavy metal inspired by the likes of Saxon and Manowar and whatnot; the self-conscious epics even have direct comparisons with the progressive and technical death metal scenes; and then you have the 90s throwbacks, "when wrestling was good," from bands in their 20s/30s who are putting out OSDM releases. 

None of that means anything to most of you, but it should speak to a larger cultural thing in that EVERY audience, and not just pro wrestling, has splintered and become increasingly niche.

As for how pro wrestling can adjust, as a medium? I think @SomethingSavage and @Memphis Mark are hitting a few nails perfectly on the head, at least in diagnosing some ills. Not enough attention is being paid to the long-term, the lack of canonical continuity is harming the week-to-week viewership, smaller markets with more dedicated fans are being ignored in favor of larger markets with higher upside but lower guarantee (an entirely different business argument of stability vs. potential can be made), the self-awareness of the "great match" formula being overdone and thus ignoring that a truly GREAT match can only happen organically, and there not being enough progression in the product itself so that tuning in once a year gives you everything you'll need...these are all majorly contributing factors that CAN be controlled by the promotions. 

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10 hours ago, NintendoLogic said:

Maybe it really is just as simple as presenting well-booked programs and having a charismatic star to build around.

Of course it is because, pro-wrestling is still just story-telling. Regardless of the medium, storytelling is pretty much always the same, even if cliché. It doesn't matter if it is in written or video form. Good person or people against bad person or people (or things) with the good person finding success in the end. Build the good person up as virtuous or with high morals or whatever & make the bad person sinister because of evil deeds or nefarious tactics. It doesn't matter if it's The Bible, War of the Worlds, Stephen King's IT, Bruno Vs. Ivan, whatever.

In wrestling it usually just means the bad guy cheats or says bad shit & the good guy doesn't.

It's why I'm still of the mindset that in-ring work should take a backseat to everything else. I know that's not exactly a popular opinion online but really, it's true. The match might be the drizzling shits but if you have a good guy that people like & a bad guy that people hate, they'll want to see the match to see what happens, especially if it can mean the bad guy getting their comeuppance. 

Works in UFC. Works in boxing. Pretty much works universally. 

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On 3/23/2021 at 2:22 PM, Shrike02 said:

Yes, but they are still quite poor. Digital sales (it's only because of the pandemic that I count myself a digital subscriber because I much prefer holding a physical book) and movie deals really are keeping Marvel and DC afloat. 

They have actually fallen back to about late 90s levels. They got better into the early part of last decade but things like the New 52 and Marvel's constant series reboots have eroded the audience over the last 7-8 years. There's a guy on YouTube called Comics By Perch and he does sales videos for characters over multiple series. They are super interesting because a lot of assumptions made by a lot of people for wrong. My take away though is that rebooting a series gets you a boost for number 1 and then you almost instantly go back to the previous series level minus a few more people.

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1 hour ago, Coffey said:

Of course it is because, pro-wrestling is still just story-telling. Regardless of the medium, storytelling is pretty much always the same, even if cliché. It doesn't matter if it is in written or video form. Good person or people against bad person or people (or things) with the good person finding success in the end. Build the good person up as virtuous or with high morals or whatever & make the bad person sinister because of evil deeds or nefarious tactics. It doesn't matter if it's The Bible, War of the Worlds, Stephen King's IT, Bruno Vs. Ivan, whatever.

In wrestling it usually just means the bad guy cheats or says bad shit & the good guy doesn't.

It's why I'm still of the mindset that in-ring work should take a backseat to everything else. I know that's not exactly a popular opinion online but really, it's true. The match might be the drizzling shits but if you have a good guy that people like & a bad guy that people hate, they'll want to see the match to see what happens, especially if it can mean the bad guy getting their comeuppance. 

Works in UFC. Works in boxing. Pretty much works universally. 

I don't disagree with this in the sense that you can't sell a show on match quality. It just doesn't work, and one reason is that if the only appeal is a great match, there's no urgency around it, and no need to see it live. It'll be just as great if you watch it later. The key is to create context around the matches that make people want to see them take place.

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I think in this era storytelling has become very important. Back when RoH was big, good wrestling was still a novelty you could sell. Now, there's good wrestling everywhere. You could probably go to a podunk promotion in a barn with 20 people watching and see a ***1/2 star match. So if everyone is giving me a good match then you need to give me storytelling or something unique. 

Chikara when it was around is a great example. There wasn't anything in the United States like Chikara. They didn't have the best matches but if you went you almost always had a lot of fun and saw something that made you want to go back. NXT was like that the first couple of years I went to shows. 

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I guess the bigger question would be what number or measurement would we need to acknowledge that wrestling would be getting as much fanfare (or attention) as it could be getting in the 2020's. 

 

I agree on the last few post about storytelling. I've always wondered why no one has tried to use Lucha Underground's formula and give it new directions. Not necessarily tape everything in advance but a seasonal presentation with laid out stories -before episode 1- and a unique presentation (for wrestling). Not sure you can actually do "prestige TV" with wrestling matches sprinkled around it but at least try reaching a happy medium between them? I'm using prestige TV as an example because I have the impression that's one of the bigger drivers of pop culture conversations nowadays.

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2 hours ago, Loss said:

I don't disagree with this in the sense that you can't sell a show on match quality. It just doesn't work, and one reason is that if the only appeal is a great match, there's no urgency around it, and no need to see it live. It'll be just as great if you watch it later. The key is to create context around the matches that make people want to see them take place.

I think it kind of goes hand-in-hand with a few others posts I've seen on PWO lately: when you try to build everything around the "great matches" stuff it kind of makes the overall show feel less important. People aren't talking about winning & losing, they're talking about match ratings & Match of the Year awards. The average person is not going to get sucked in with that, nor care. They can't relate to that. They can relate to something like you jumped me, beat up my friend & took my girl so I want revenge. If the match is good on top of that, it's just a bonus. But when the titles are meaningless, the crowd is chanting the promotion letters instead of the wrestlers' name & the champions are talking about Dave Meltzer, who are we trying to appeal to?

Also, if EVERY match is trying to be Match of the Night & standout, after awhile, no match stands out & it all starts to blend together. Or as I call it, the ROH-effect.

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We wanted vanilla midgets and jumping bomb angels but we needed Dusty all along. Curse you monkey’s paw! 

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