Recently, Tara approached me with something that I have considered before: What’s with the WWE (pro wrestling) fandom mingling among all the geek culture fandoms, especially at conventions? Admittedly, to the unknowing, yes, it does seem to be a bit strange. However, there some legitimate reasons for this happening (and no, it’s not just because WWE Superstar Batista, plays Drax, in Guardians of the Galaxy).
I stopped watching wrestling from something like 1999, all the way up to the end of 2012. One of my friends (and former podcast co-hosts) convinced me to attend a live stream, where the attendees watched WWE Monday Night RAW, at some point, in 2012. Everyone seemed pretty nice, so I returned, fairly regularly, despite having no real interest in wrestling.
Eventually, I also started attending the live stream of one of their friends and colleagues, Matty Jay. On his show, they used to have a segment called “What the Wrestling F*ck?” Here, they discussed noteworthy wrestling news… or, really, the wrestling news that made us ask, “WTF?” This, among them talking, in general, about wrestling things, piqued my curiosity. Matty also co-hosts a weekly wrestling-themed podcast, called The Wrestle-Cast. These guys are part of a website called RVT Entertainment (formerly Reviewtopia). It, like many other sites of its kind, boasts reviews and live streams about movies, TV shows, music, video games, etc. They are a bunch of geeks, and so are their fans. Many of those fans, a lot of whom I talk to, still, are also wrestling fans, like the guys I mentioned above. I had never really witnessed geeks who were also sports fans (some people argue that wrestling is not a sport, but I disagree), before. So, I began to observe.
During these observations, I got sucked back into the world of pro wrestling. In December 2012, my boyfriend and I attended the taping for the New Year’s Eve episode of RAW. (A few months later, we went to the live April Fool’s Day RAW, the week of Wrestlemania XXIX). I started watching RAW, every Monday, and then SmackDown every Friday. The first pay-per-view that I ever bought, was the WWE 2013 Royal Rumble. Now, I’m even tuning in on Thursday nights, on the WWE Network, for WWE NXT (their developmental program, before wrestlers can get to the main roster, which is better managed, in my opinion).
I also ended up with a sports podcast, called SNARCSports, in which 70% of the show’s talking points are about WWE. I follow wrestlers, commentators, fans, etc. on Twitter. Some of the wrestlers have talked to me (it makes my day, every time), and I am followed by my favorite WWE Diva (female wrestler) Natalya. Therefore, I’ve gotten fully immersed in the fandom. I would say that WWE is probably my biggest fandom (even more so than the Kevin Smith one).
My observations, due to immersion, have taught me a few reasons as to why the fandom is being accepted into geek culture, and why it has a presence at conventions.
1. First off, I think it has a lot to do with nostalgia. At most conventions, you’ll encounter some nostalgic things, anyway. Hell, I cosplay as Daria and Quail-Man when I go to conventions. (I’m also the 90s nostalgia fan girl). I feel like most people over the age of twenty, have even a tiny bit of wrestling nostalgia that they carry with them throughout their lives. Even if you weren’t a huge wrestling fan, back in the day, names like Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man, Mick Foley (Mankind, Cactus Jack, and Dude Love), Undertaker, Andre the Giant, and Roddy Piper were names that people knew, and still know. Therefore, it’s becoming more accepted as nostalgic, and gets slipped in, here and there, in geek culture, and at conventions. It’s especially relevant, right now, since at Wrestlemania XXX, Undertaker’s undefeated streak got conquered by Brock Lesnar. Additionally, the day after the post-Wrestlemania RAW, Ultimate Warrior passed away (he had just been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, a few days earlier).
2.There is a presence of WWE names in other media. As I stated earlier in the article, Dave Bautista, who goes by the name “Batista,” in WWE, just played Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy. Jesse “The Body” Ventura was in movies, such as Predator. Goldberg, The Great Khali, and Kevin Nash were in the remake of The Longest Yard. Kevin Nash additionally appeared in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, and he was originally cast in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, as Brutus (but he was replaced). Let’s not forget that he was also in Magic Mike. And who could forget Roddy Piper, in They Live? Also, even though it’s a laughing point within the WWE fandom, Hornswoggle is going to be in the upcoming Leprechaun: Origins movie. And saving the best movie appearance by a WWE Superstar for last, no one will ever forget Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride. As for television, we have appearances like Edge, on Haven. WWE also has a reality show on E!, called Total Divas, which follows the lives of a handful of the WWE Divas.
On the other side of this coin, there are WWE Studios films, that mainstream actors and actresses have been in. The worst Catwoman ever, Halle Berry, was recently in The Call. Sean William Scott was in The Rundown, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Colin Farrell was in Dead Man Down. Most recently, Karen Gillan was in the WWE Studios film, Oculus. (She was also a co-star of Dave Bautista’s, in Guardians of the Galaxy, as Nebula). These are just a few examples. And going hand-in-hand with the nostalgic factor, WWE Studios teamed up with Warner Bros. Entertainment, and created the animated Scooby Doo: Wrestlemania Mystery, which was released as direct-to-video. Sometime next year, they are releasing a direct-to-video animated Flinstones movie. Some WWE performers are even in the music business. Legendary WWE Superstar Chris Jericho is in a long-reigning rock band called Fozzy (that still tours, when he’s not busy with wrestling). He is the biggest example, with other wrestlers doing lesser things in the music world.
3. WWE has a great presence within the gaming world. No matter how many complaints WWE gets about their covers for their video games, they still collaborate with gaming companies, for quality games, and they are big sellers. I’m not much of a gamer, but I did play WWE ’13 (when they were still licensed with THQ), and it was pretty well done. Then, 2K got their licensing (because THQ went bankrupt), and produced WWE 2K14, which, admittedly, I did not play. I have it on good authority, though (my boyfriend is a video game reviewer), that it was well-done. And recently, I just saw a still from the upcoming WWE 2K15 game, too, that looked incredible. I can’t stand John Cena, but they nailed his likeness. I have a feeling that a lot more people are going to be buying 2K15, because there was a commercial, during RAW, a few weeks ago, that announced that Sting (the wrestler) will be in this game. People went crazy over it. So, WWE’s feet are firmly planted in the gaming fandom, as you can see.
4. Some of the WWE Superstars and Divas either are geeks, or have geeky elements incorporated into their gimmicks. Apparently, AJ Lee used to have a geek girl gimmick. In fact, they used to refer to her as “The Geek Goddess.” This was a little before my current wrestling fandom time, so I’m not sure what all it entailed (I think I saw her, in character with glasses in a few photos). I’m not completely sure about the specifics, however, it happened. She’s also a real-life geek girl, which is pretty cool. I’ve been told that she is a rather big comic book fan. Then, one of my favorite WWE Superstars, Zack Ryder, is a huge geek over Ghostbusters, and is even a collector of its merchandise. Another one of my favorite WWE Superstars, Dolph Ziggler, is an avid participant in the @Midnight #HashtagWars, on Twitter. I love it, because he comes up with the most hilarious and “inappropriate” responses.
WWE Superstar Kofi Kingston changes ring attire colors quite often, and the rumor is that each color scheme is influenced by a comic book character. WWE just hired an indie wrestler, named Prince Devitt, who has, in the past, used elaborate paint jobs, to become comic book characters. Vemom was my favorite. The legendary Mick Foley has not only written books, but is now in the comic book business, with RPMand WWE Superstars. Now-retired WWE Superstar, CM Punk, among others, are friends with Jason David Frank, who played the original Green and White Rangers, on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. And one more geek-influenced Superstar that I’d like to point out, is the cream of the crop. His name is Xavier Woods. He has a Power Rangers gimmick (which was more apparent, in the past). He is billed from Angel Grove, California. He has been known to yell, “It’s Morphin Time!” before some of his moves. Oh, and the best part? He was trained by Walter Jones (the original Black Ranger). It doesn’t get much geekier than that.
5. It may be a bit of a dangerous comparison to my serious LARPing friends, but I feel like WWE pro wrestling is a lot like LARP. There are good characters and some evil characters (faces and heels), and even some neutral characters (tweeners). Most of them have storylines, to act out, within their characters. They serve different purposes within the company. There are costumes… amazing costumes (ring attire), and sometimes, even props (with which they beat the hell out of each other). There are rules, regulations, stipulations, and consequences. There are winners and losers. It’s just as theatrical, strategic, and fun as LARP, I’d imagine. Unfortunately, it just gets a bit twisted sometimes because of stupid company politics.
6. Lastly, I’d like to point out that what is accepted as geeky, is expanding. Before there was Cards Against Humanity, which contains cards with geeky references, most of the geeks I know were playing Apples to Apples. There were even tournaments for it at MAGFest. Certain crafting projects have become “geek norm.” I’m talking about projects like knitting, crocheting, sprite art, and even some accessory-making (like jewelry and pinback buttons). My personal favorite, though, is that somehow, bacon is becoming a geeky thing. I’m not even sure how the hell it happened, but it did. Perhaps it was because of people who are geeky in other aspects, such as the Epic Meal Time guys (who also have an actual TV show on the FYI channel called Epic Meal Empire), branched out and did cooking videos that incorporated lots of bacon. I honestly don’t know any other reasons why bacon has become kind of a geek thing. Epic Meal Time is reason enough, for me. They and the Wreckless Eating guys, are what inspired me and my boyfriend to create our own bacon show, Bacon Strippers.
So, geek culture is branching out and encompassing more than just movies, TV shows, comic books, video games, super heroes, LARP, etc. It’s really not that far-fetched, then, that WWE pro wrestling would join the ranks. It sure makes more sense than bacon. (Not that bacon needs a reason).
In conclusion, it kind of does makes sense that WWE is becoming “one of us,” so to speak. Perhaps it’ll even bridge a few gaps. I have to say that it was comforting, to me, when I went to MAGFest XI, still feeling kind of like a “con noob,” and see a guy named Matthew “Maffew” Gregg, doing a panel for his wrestling clip show, Botchamania. Things like that could draw “unlikely” geeks in, and when they’re not at wrestling-specific goings-on, they may pass other panels, booths, etc. that draw them in, and make them want to know more.
This could create more “well-rounded,” multi-interest geeks, who frequent conventions and other geeky events, and expand our presence in the world. And I think it’s really great that pro wrestling talent is showing up at conventions. Our WWE fandom, especially, is larger than one would think, and our athletes/entertainers are celebrities. Having them somewhat represent us, is a great gift. And as I’ve said, the bridge between geek culture and the WWE fandom, is becoming more and more narrow. Give it a few more years, and it may be practically nonexistent. I’m proud to be a geek and a WWE fan, and love my friends and acquaintances from both “sides.” They’re all awesome. Everything is awesome!