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funkdoc

Showing Older Wrestling to Newer Fans (or Vice Versa?)

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Hello everyone, this is a topic that's been on my mind lately and i don't really see it covered much on here.  Figured the rollout of GWE 2026 might be a good time for it!

Over the past few months i've been involved in a series of old wrestling watch parties in a particular Discord server, and it's interesting to see the reactions.  The core group there has a lot of lapsed Attitude Era or newer fans, the sort who've only vaguely heard of Bruno Sammartino & Chief Jay Strongbow and never knew there was another Funk besides Terry.  Also noteworthy is that it's a very social-justice-minded bunch, with a good portion of them being transgender/nonbinary.

This results in some interesting dynamics that i figured may be useful to note in case any of you might be interested in similar things...

- Said this one on Twitter already, but it's so hard for these kinds of fans to believe that Scott was the boring one of the Steiner Brothers.  Big Poppa Pump is an absolutely legendary figure among the Youtube generation - would easily belong on a Mt. Rushmore of Botchamania.  Seeing him as a dry suplex-bot is jarring for those who didn't grow up with the team.

- Some of these people come in with assumptions about 80s US wrestlers that would rankle a lot of the regulars here.  You can, again, thank Youtube for this; a popular channel like OSW Review, for instance, has spent years dunking on Tito Santana/Greg Valentine/Ronnie Garvin as laughably bad because they couldn't cut Hulkamania cartoon promos & stuck to the ground in their matches.

- This sort of fan tends not to be as invested in stiffness or credibility, because wrestling is fake and we all know almost any of these folks would get waxed by the lowliest UFC scrub anyway.  Knowledge of MMA also makes it harder to buy into traditional NWA-style mat work, though good limb selling can still get over here.

- This may be obvious given the above, but there's a lot more interest in the complexity and execution of moves compared to this board.  In my experience this does extend to basic strikes as well, with people being able to appreciate those alongside the flips if done really well.  Bad punches aren't a deal-breaker at all though.

- There's always going to be an air of silliness in the atmosphere.  Wrestling relies heavily on all sorts of spots that wouldn't make sense if you think about them for more than 2 seconds - I've referenced the Irish whip in a post here before.  Between that and the characters and the costumes...well, y'know.  You have to be peak Jake Roberts-level evil to temporarily break through that.

- All of the above being said, if you can give historical context to the matches i've found people are much better able to appreciate old wrestling for what it is.  You can throw in juicy IRL stories about the wrestlers, while also explaining what was considered important for being a great worker back then.  For instance, a lot of non-boomer fans don't realize how heavily improvised wrestling used to be, and will be much more impressed upon realizing they weren't planning every big spot in advance.  It still helps if there's some athleticism for them to grab onto...for instance, our group really liked Bossman vs. Barbarian from Royal Rumble '91 and popped big-time for the Bossman enzuigiri in that match!

- Wrestlers' IRL behavior actively cuts into their enjoyment of their work in the more notable or extreme cases.  Hogan, Warrior, Snuka & Lawler have go-away heat with a bunch of our Discord.  Even just "oh this guy turned out to be pro-Trump" may be brought up, though that fits so many people that you can't get too worked up over all of those just from sheer fatigue.

- Women's matches are given much more of a chance than they were at the time, though it helps that our older WWF watch parties included the Jumping Bomb Angels and such.  i helped get Judy Martin over a bit there too!

- A lot of these people, as we discussed in another thread a while back, have a huge background in Japanese pop culture so they'll pop for the characters & outfits that give off those kind of vibes.  Maki Itoh being Exhibit A...our group actually started doing watch parties of current Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling because of her!

- This might be a whole other thread unto itself, but i've noticed that joshi can powerfully connect with some transfeminine people.  One way i've heard it described to me is: when you've only recently come out as trans or if you're still early in your transition, it can be hard to really feel "feminine" particularly if you're not skinny and you still maintain a lot of stereotypically "masculine" interests.  Joshi has always tended to feature a wider variety of body types and overall looks compared to American women's wrestling, and it blends a culturally "masculine" activity with all these different versions of femininity.  Think of it this way: has WWE ever main-evented any women nearly as "butch" as Aja Kong or Shinobu Kandori or even Chigusa Nagayo?  That can be a source of inspiration for people trying to piece together their own femininity!

 

Got a bunch of stuff to do today so that's all for now, but i figured this could be an interesting thread on others' experiences trying to bridge wrestling generations gaps!  Feel free to share any thoughts or your own findings.

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At least through the end of the Austin era, I think most wrestling had really strong populist themes, and the moral norms and such were based on working class themes. Flair would do vignettes where it was specifically pointed out that even as Americans were tightening their budgets during a recession, he insisted on always flying first class. Dusty spoke of his humble beginnings in almost every promo. Your heels tended to come from wealth and be seen more as spoiled or out of touch with working people, where your babyfaces tended to come more from strong middle class "of the people" roots. I don't think society organizes itself around populism as much anymore, even though economic issues still matter a lot of course. It seems to be more about people who grew up feeling like outcasts or feeling "different" being accepted, loved and represented, and wrestling is moving more in that direction as well.

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5 hours ago, funkdoc said:

- This might be a whole other thread unto itself, but i've noticed that joshi can powerfully connect with some transfeminine people.

Seconding this. I've frequently observed it myself amongst my online circle.

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