Why WWE Should Stop Deferring To Terrible People

EDITORIAL BY TIM KAIL photos VIA WWE.COM

EDITORIAL BY TIM KAIL photos VIA WWE.COM

- INTRODUCTION - 

On the August 7th, 2017 edition of Monday Night Raw, pro-wrestler Bayley announced that she had suffered a shoulder injury, and that she would not be competing at SummerSlam for the Women's Championship as scheduled. This segment was conducted as an interview set in the middle of the ring before the live-crowd, with Bayley answering questions about the severity of her injury and her psychological state in the wake of this unfortunate event.

As Bayley proceeded to answer questions, genuinely frustrated & saddened by her situation, the crowd grew increasingly restless. Eventually, they started booing. Not all in attendance booed, of course, but enough to dominate the segment. And those who weren't booing were utterly ambivalent - smiling and waving their hands in the background, trying to get noticed on television. It's not as though there was a healthy sprinkling of cheers.

It was a decidedly negative atmosphere.

Bayley, in what appeared to be the manifestation of her own legitimate, mounting frustrations with the audience, dared to address the fact that they were booing her (which is usually unheard of for a babyface), "I don't know who's booing...I'm thanking the ones who are not booing right now..."

The crowd, sensing a challenge, doubled-down on their boo and got even louder. This prompted Bayley to toss her hand, and laugh in utter exasperation. She appeared genuinely wounded. It was sad and uncomfortable to watch. 

This moment may be quickly forgotten by fans and pundits, glossed over in the weeks ahead as Summer Slam dominates our community's conversations. The WWE would probably love for you to forget this ever happened; the company's official YouTube video of this segment has edited out the moment when Bayley addresses the boos. 

Efforts to remove this moment from existence are understandable. It was an especially awkward moment (to put it lightly) that directly conflicts with Bayley's gimmick and her narrative.

Many members of the community will dismiss this exchange as "wrestling fans just being wrestling fans" while others endlessly defend the fan's right to "do whatever they want" if they've paid for a ticket.

This moment should not be forgotten, however. It epitomizes what has been a several-years-long nadir in WWE-fandom.

But before delving deeper into that nadir, it's important to concede a few points to anyone who responded negatively to this interview.

This was an obviously flawed segment, regardless of the booing that made it worse. Even if the crowd had responded favorably to it, the segment itself was built upon glaring conceptual and structural flaws. By examining these flaws, hopefully we can provide the WWE with some useful information that will prevent such awkward moments in the future.

I know the WWE can take it.

After having thoroughly deconstructed this segment, I will explore the reaction the segment elicited, and unpack what being "smart" has come to mean in professional wrestling.

- GOOD INTENTIONS, BAD EXECUTION -

It's important to ask, "What was the WWE's goal with this scene?"

If we read Bayley's words, and consider the way this segment was structured, it's clear that the intent was to build sympathy for Bayley and simultaneously "get her over" as a strong, capable athlete. The literal words of her promo tell a story that is all too common in modern WWE; the valiant superstar athlete who, despite a severe injury, manages to fight through the pain.

"I knew that something was wrong with my shoulder. I felt it tense up. It started getting all warm and I haven't felt that before so I knew something was wrong, but I told myself that if I don't finish this match, if I don't defeat Nia Jax nobody is gonna take me as a threat headed into Summer Slam. Especially Alexa Bliss, and after everything she's put me through this year I had to prove her wrong."

If we simply read these words, and imagine hearing them in the way the WWE obviously wanted us to hear them, it's clear that the intentions behind the scene were good. The basic idea this combination of words attempts to convey is that Bayley is tougher than people realize, and that her toughness is indicative of goodness. This is the same story that was told about Finn Balor last year after his injury at Summer Slam. Bayley's shoulder injury was written into her story after it happened in an effort to "get her over" as a more sympathetic, respectable babyface.

This is a clever way of turning a negative into a positive. 

The execution of that intent is why this segment is inherently unsuccessful, though (long before the crowd starts booing). There are two contradictory creative philosophies at work in the scene that dismantle it before it even gets going. 

One idea is that Bayley is a WWE Superstar, an entertainer, and that wrestling is a form of live-entertainment held before a live, raucous crowd. The other idea is that Bayley is an athlete, a wrestler, and that wrestling is a dangerous combat sport. 

The WWE would most likely rather your only idea of pro-wrestling be that it is "entertainment". But, alas, pro-wrestling is dangerous and it does result in legitimate injuries from time to time. But pro-wrestling is also not a legitimate combat sport. Professional wrestling is a theatrical combat sport simulation. This truth cannot be expressly stated if a promotion wants to maintain the slightest semblance of kayfabe (the idea that a wrestling match is legitimate), which it should if it wants to remain pro-wrestling.

To reconcile a wrestler's fictional status as "entertainer" with their reality as "injured athlete", the company retrofits reality so that a legitimate injury is used for narrative purposes. When the WWE does this, it embraces a more realistic "sports-narrative" approach to presenting the injured wrestler's story because it must. But, when the company adopts this realistic sports-perspective on RAW, it does not necessarily allow that perspective to inform the way it literally structures, scripts, and presents segments. And that's why it all falls apart.

WWE 24 can make good on the concept of presenting wrestling in a more realistic way, and chronicling a Superstar's emotional & physical journey through recovery.

A RAW in-ring-interivew segment on live television cannot.

It does not make sense for Bayley to walk down to the ring and tearfully talk about her injured shoulder and explain her psychological state in the same setting as where wrestling matches and Miz TV segments took place. Yet this is what the WWE does, consistently, in lieu of sit-down interviews in a controlled environment or vignettes or something else entirely. It's as if there are no realms of existence beyond the wrestling ring, a nondescript General Manager's office, a hallway, and the occasional parking lot. 

None of those places are the proper setting for carrying out the intent of this scene.

It wasn't long ago that Seth Rollins had to cut a similar promo in a similar in-ring interview leading to WrestleMania. He opined about his injury and his emotional turmoil, and tried as hard as he could to "give a good performance" all while sitting awkwardly in an interview chair in the center of a wrestling ring. He was surrounded by a sea of bored onlookers.

It was awkward and difficult to watch because it felt hollow and out of place. And it felt that way because it was, literally, out of place. It was only when a seemingly unscripted Triple H showed up that the scene became watchable because Triple H was improvising. 

By every standard of television, acting, and cinematography these scenes are terrible.

Relax.

I understand that "terrible" is a strong word.

I use it pointedly here.

By the end of this piece, you will know exactly why I'm using that word (and if you're in the WWE and you're reading this, hopefully the sting of that word will wear off by the end, having been placed in the larger context of this article).

The ineffectiveness of these scenes is glaring, their amateurish lack of quality off-putting to anyone who hasn't already been indoctrinated into the cult of wrestling's lowered standards.

This must be accepted if it's ever going to get better, and if mainstream wrestling is ever going to ascend to a place of consistent, proud quality.

Backstage segments, contrived in-ring interviews like Bayley's, and everything of the sort are indefensibly bad television. And yet, in the WWE, such scenes are viewed as "normal". The perspective of both the creator and the viewer seems to be "it's just pro-wrestling", and so that makes it okay to produce sup-par content that is thematically, conceptually, and visually broken before it even goes to air.

Sometimes it manages to be entertaining.

Sometimes, if it's relying entirely on the improvisational abilities of good improvisational performers, it manages to overcome itself and be good.

But modern WWE is not improvisational, and so success is even farther out of reach.

- A TYPE IS NOT A CHARACTER -

The setting is not the only aspect of the scene that negated the creative intent.

Keep in mind, the scene is straining to set a tone of sports-realism. It must do that because it's dealing with an injury. To help set that more realistic tone, a secondary character is added into the mix as "the interviewer". Rather than have Bayley come out by herself to cut a direct-address promo and then introduce Sasha Banks, the WWE anchor-woman, Charly Caruso, serves as an intermediary, and asks Bayley scripted sports-journalist-like questions.

Caruso is never named in the scene. I had to Google-search her to know who she was. She appears suddenly from the right side of the frame as if from thin air. Commentary doesn't explain who she is, what she's doing, or why this scene is taking place in this way. Everything about the exchange clings to a few loosely defined, assumed points of cultural reference.

Charly has no agency whatsoever, despite the fact that interviewers, in real life, are meant to propel events forward. As the crowd starts to boo, Charly cannot react to them. Charly has to just keep smiling and nodding along, as if she & Bayley exist in an alternate reality. The motivation of the performer is obvious: just get to the next question. Bayley doesn't seem to register Charley's presence either. There is a massive creative gulf between them. Our inability to know who Charly is and whether or not she's human negatively affects the tone of the scene and transfers over to Bayley.

We are watching a script talk to itself, not human beings interacting.

Charly isn't even allowed to react to Bayley when Bayley acknowledges the booing; she remains a prop facilitating a painfully contrived process. Her little robotic nods and lifeless smile is akin to bad CGI. All of her questions sound like they have been written by someone who has never actually seen a legitimate sports interview. This is a parody of a sports interview that lacks the irony and self-awareness of a parody. This makes the scene a strange, mutant form of theater I can only describe as "accidental parody".

Ironically, by adding Charly to this scene in an effort to make it feel more like a serious sports interview, it feels even less like a serious sports interview. She is just another barrier between the intent of the scene and the truth. 

The attempt at authenticity has been undone by the choices in setting, the blocking, and the characterizations of the players. And the script was created without the actual people in the scene in mind.

The scene was created with "types" in mind, drawing from a rigid gimmick-blueprint that assumes every performer is magically capable of hitting a specific target in a specific way. 

Where Charly is supposed to be "the interviewer", Bayley is supposed to be "the wounded yet grateful & determined athlete".

Does that type gel with Bayley's reality? 

Is Bayley, having legitimately lost her chance at a SummerSlam performance, really in the right state of mind to recite a promo about her appreciation for the fans and how Tweets, of all things, are "getting her through it"? Why are all babyfaces so consistently fixated on the approval of the fans?

More importantly, has Bayley, the performer, in real life, ever demonstrated that such a scene is actually within her creative wheelhouse? 

No. 

And that's fine, especially when we consider exactly what she's being asked to do in this scene.

Yes - talent should work on their flaws. 

Yes - talent are too often absolved of all wrongdoing when it comes to assessing the flaws of WWE-programming. 

But are we really supposed to critique people for not being good at something that is inherently bad? If the creator keeps permitting situations where mistakes are inevitable, who is to blame? 

The WWE remains unwilling to adjust its format to suit the strengths and weaknesses of its individual performers. Instead of crafting a scene that portrays its talent (and, by extension, itself) in the best light, the WWE lords a flawed, fixed format over everyone, and demands that they sink or swim. The problem with that creative model is that it results in blatantly bad television. Every week. The ill-will created by this blatantly bad television transfers over to the talent (especially the babyfaces); they're the ones on-screen, after all, pretending that what's happening is not happening. They are the ambassadors of all things WWE as they're participating in this prescribed badness.

The intent of portraying Bayley as a strong competitor did not inform, in the slightest, the way she was literally portrayed on television by the WWE. Nor was that portrayal informed by the creative strengths of the performer. When any creative entity (be it an individual or a corporation) makes a decision in the interest of reaching a particular goal, that entity must create conditions where that goal can actually be achieved.

Success was never possible in this scene, hence why the intent wasn't realized.

Bayley wound up looking tired, sad, bitter, and angry. She was the opposite of likable despite the fact that her entire gimmick is based upon her likability. She clearly didn't want to be there, she clearly dislikes promos, and so the script filtered through that negative state of mind. Her words did not sound like her own. She was straining to do an interpretation of a writer's interpretation of her gimmick's interpretation of an injured, respectful athlete. It is not believable that Tweets and well wishes improved her mood because, obviously, they didn't. And that's fine! Bayley's actual reality, even if that reality is that she hates promos and is frustrated with the fans, is far more interesting than the cliché fiction of her character's "perseverance".

It's easy to argue that she should have "done better with her material" or that she "squandered her opportunity" but such a critique assumes that wrestlers are supposed to be good actors.

They're not.

Such a critique also assumes that the WWE wrote, directed, and filmed the scene well.

They didn't.

Some of the fault for the scene certainly lies with Bayley for addressing the boos and not getting anything worthwhile out of it. She did not exhibit control of her character, the crowd, or the scene. But the fundamental fault of the scene's very existence remains with the WWE. The WWE created the conditions whereby success was not possible, and it never needed to be that way. Everything about this failed, and it was destined to fail the moment Bayley's words were scripted, and the moment someone decided to set the scene in the middle of a wrestling ring. 

The fact that the segment failed is not the end of the world, though.

There were plenty of successes on this episode of RAW. WWE will move on. Bayley will move on. And, hopefully, in the future, the company will consider whether or not a locker-room interview, a vignette, or footage from the trainer's office may be more effective. 

For example, this WWE.com video posted on Twitter did the job perfectly. 

Bayley didn't even need to be on this episode of RAW.

Or she could have been seated in a skybox above the crowd or watching Sasha from the curtains in the back. There are any number of simpler, more interesting ways for the WWE to more effectively bring its stories to life, and they have ample time and resources to implement such changes. The company also has ample evidence that continuing in its current form, with segments like these, doesn't work. So it behooves the WWE to make an adjustment. And I have witnessed the WWE make many adjustments over the years, some large, some small, as a result of constructive criticism like this. 

So, after having thoroughly dismantled RAW's writing, production values, performances, and creative perspective, you may wonder, what more is there to say?

If the scene was so bad, doesn't it make sense that people booed? 

What's the big deal?

You called the scene terrible, remember?

Flawed as this segment was, its flaws are easily outdone by the terribleness of the people who booed it.

- LET'S CALL THIS WHAT IT IS, SHALL WE? -

Earlier, I described this moment as the epitome of a several-years-long nadir in pro-wrestling fandom. The nadir I'm describing has nothing to do with RAW's ratings, pro-wrestling's financial figures, or even the quality of WWE's television shows.

It has to do with what it means to be a professional wrestling fan.

While the community has made great strides in recent years, it continues to be dominated by the regressive, grating, and infantile perspectives of its most obnoxious members. 

The collective consciousness of the "smart" professional wrestling fan is at an all-time low, evidenced by its endlessly recycling bouts of negativity and self-congratulatory agression. By making it their business to boo when they're clearly not supposed to, these fans are re-writing the definition of WWE-fan as someone who, by default, hates the WWE.

These are the antagonistic, self-important, brazenly irritating pro-wrestling fans who have been emboldened to believe that opinion is fact, and that their opinions are indicative of "real" pro-wrestling fandom.

Many of these fans surely do not know that they are being obnoxious (at best) and insipid (at worst). 

via Kayfabe News

via Kayfabe News

Some of them might even think they're doing the right or "normal" thing. Some of them might even think they're "using their voice", that they're "empowered", or that they're "not letting the WWE get away with it".

All the while these fans remain unaware of the fact that the only reason they think this way is because the WWE lets them.

These fans are often attributed with ruining many a modern WWE-event. These fans react in purposefully divisive ways to whatever and whomever does not conform to their idea of "good wrestling", and then they are chastised for their rude behavior by other fans, by commentators, and sometimes even by wrestlers. 

Their reaction to the debut of the Universal Championship last year was one such example of their rudeness, and it was predictably followed by a collective finger-wagging.

The finger-wagging clearly isn't working. Try as we might, these people can't be shamed into submission. They booed Bayley when she was announcing her legitimate shoulder injury.

Clearly, they have no shame.

And why would they?

Their behavior has been normalized to the point where it is taken for granted, even by those who hate such behavior. Their boos have been woven into the very fabric of the WWE's narrative, altering the course of several prominent WWE wrestlers as a result. These are fans who yearn for the return of kayfabe while simultaneously breaking kayfabe with their antics. This contingent of the WWE-fan community has been consistently legitimatized and celebrated when they should have been peacefully nudged into silence. 

Because it is not normal to boo a wrestler when they are announcing their legitimate injury. That's not normal for anyone (even these people).

It is perverse. 

Please understand, however you may feel about anything I've written, that this particular crowd's reaction to Bayley was profoundly perverse. We have been so conditioned to regard crass, disgusting behavior as "business as usual" or even "good", that we sometimes forget that it represents pure badness. Even if these people are great, upstanding citizens the rest of the week, they're being terrible people at live-events and damaging professional wrestling as a result.

Booing an injured Bayley was wrong. 

It was wrong. It was wrong. It. Was. Wrong.

There is no way of escaping its wrongness.

I do not want this wrongness to be a part of what it means to be a wrestling fan. But it is. It ends up defining my fandom as much as it defines theirs. The choices of an influential few, in any community, invariably represent that community.

Whether they realize it or not, when a wrestling fan behaves terribly, they are using their status as "wrestling fan" to represent "the wrestling fandom". This means that they are also representing you, me, and everyone in-between, whether we like it or not. Their actions, if loud and disruptive enough, come to define what it means to be a wrestling fan.

Take stock of that. Sit with that. Ask yourself, "Am I okay with this?".

I am not.

The RAW scene itself could have been much worse, and booing Bayley as she talked about her injury would still be wrong. 

No amount of "I bought my ticket!" or "that's just wrestling fans" or "we're booing the booking" or "this doesn't exist without us" can absolve us of the blatant wrongness of booing a wrestler who has suffered an injury. Even if we think it might be work, it's still wrong.

When we boo a wrestler who is telling us about their injury, even when it's filtered through a bad interpretation of who they really are, we demonstrate that we do not love and respect wrestling as much as we purport to. 

Where does our smartness go in moments such as these?

I get it.

It was a bad scene.

The scripting was terrible, and the delivery was ineffective.

It's annoying to hear Superstars struggle to give good performances when all you really want to see is Finn Balor do another topé.

But if we are actually "smart", shouldn't we know that Bayley has been placed in an unenviable situation? Shouldn't we know that she's going to die on her creative hill in front of millions of people, and that maybe it would be better to just get a hotdog or go to the bathroom if we really didn't care? Shouldn't we know that her awkwardly scripted dialogue which has been placed in an awkward setting at an awkward time in an awkward way isn't really her doing? 

If we're "smart", why aren't we reacting to any of this as if we know how it works? 

And, regardless of the story being told and its ineffectiveness, aren't we "smart" fans supposed to care about the health of wrestlers? Is the knowledge of Bayley's sacrifice for the business not enough to keep us respectful - just for eight minutes - before that next suicide dive? Even if you hate Bayley, how could your love of the art of professional wrestling and your "smartness" allow you to boo an injured wrestler?

The answer is simple.

Never has being "smart" been so profoundly, unrepentantly stupid. 

Never has being "smart" been so synonymous with being a flagrantly bad person.

We need to recognize that. 

We need to accept that as the simple truth; because it is true. 

Kicking someone when they're down, literally or figuratively, is, itself, a wrongimmoral act, no matter who is doing the kicking or who is being kicked. 

We need to reconcile with the fact that there's a contingent of pro-wrestling fans who purposefully behave like genuinely terrible human beings while claiming the title of "smart". Their behavior must not be defended or accepted, passively or actively, by claims that people have a right to behave however they want after they purchase a ticket (or any other tired excuse for blatant badness).

These people remain free to exist in a backwards-world where actions do not have consequences, and where being a fan means being an asshole.

These people aren't just "immature", "harmless", or "having a good time". The fact that they're "loud" isn't a good enough reason to tolerate their behavior (and they're not even that loud when compared to previous generations when people actually enjoyed watching wrestling). This is not "smiles on faces" or "the power of the fans" or "the WWE Universe". This behavior should be identified for exactly what it is: intolerable, inconsiderate, bad, stupid behavior from people who use their fandom like a weapon at the expense of other fans.

Yes - people like this are "just a part of life", as I'm often reminded by those who feel a need to excuse the awfulness of their neighbors by any means necessary.

But just as this obnoxious person may happen to exist, I also happen to exist.

We who want to be considerate of others while simultaneously having a good time, also exist.

Why are we supposed to defer to the will of the worst person in the room?

Because they're loud?

No. That's stupid. Anyone can be loud. It's much more powerful to be right. This idea of one's ability to "be loud" gets in the way of one's ability to enjoy wrestling.

This community is our purview, not the domain of a select few who have no respect for their fellow human being. These people have turned reality into an insidious subreddit where being the biggest troll in a world of trolls is the only natural recourse.

They hide behind the anonymity of a massive arena in the same way they hide behind the anonymity of internet avatars. In that way, they are emblematic of our time. Pro-wrestling can, and must do better. Pro-wrestling can serve as a beacon for what communities should be in the future.

At the moment, what we are experiencing is low, boring, and partially to blame for why people still think pro-wrestling is stupid. 

So many pro-wrestling fans are ashamed to admit they're wrestling fans. It's no surprise why when the content of wrestling is so out of step with the quality of other television, and the audience of wrestling is defined by infantile meanness. It's shocking that anyone manages to break through the gate-keeping wall of self-importance that defines so much of this fandom. It is a testament to the inherent goodness of the art of wrestling itself that it manages to remain appealing despite the onslaught it faces.

As previously stated, finger-wagging isn't going to fix this. Think-pieces, like this one, aren't going to fix this. Not a single pro-wrestling fan who reads this and disagrees with me will be convinced to think, feel, or act differently about anything. Fans who read this will simply be encouraged to double-down on whatever their original position was before they started reading.

I know that.

I've been doing this for too long to naively think otherwise.

And that's fine because, believe it or not, this article isn't for wrestling fans.

This article is for the WWE.

- YOU ARE BETTER THAN THESE PEOPLE -

I may not be able to think-piece my way into anyone's hearts, but the WWE can toss idiots out of arenas and theaters.

My rants can't stop "What?!" chants, but the WWE can film interviews in the back, record segments in advance, or tell stories in a way that doesn't encourage kayfabe-breaking boos.

I can't make these fans actually smart with a Twitter thread, but the WWE can reclaim professional wrestling and stop catering to its smallest, loudest, and most obnoxious base.

Just as the WWE could have avoided creating the situation where Bayley's character was compromised, the WWE can avoid creating situations where terrible behavior is permissible. I'm not so shortsighted to think all obnoxious behavior can be eliminated. I simply know that it can be curbed by a multi-media conglomerate that makes it their business to shape public perception (and WWE happens to be very good at shaping public perception).

To start undoing the terrible behavior of this fanbase, it's important that the company fully understand that this is a problem that is negatively affecting the product.

Then, we must ask, "What is the root cause of it?" 

There are many events within the past decade that we can point to as the inception of today's version of "smart" WWE-fan. Rather than focusing on any individual WWE-event or booking decision, it is more effective to focus on the overall marketing philosophy and rhetoric of the company.

Almost every narrative defers to the presence of the audience, the importance of audience participation, and the approval or disapproval of that audience. In an age where social media did not exist and kayfabe still held some sway, this strategy wasn't quite so problematic. Today, with the death of kayfabe and the advent of social media, this approach is not only inhibiting the WWE's creative ability, it's destroying the average fan's ability to simply enjoy watching wrestling.

This generation of wrestling fandom has been raised to believe they should decide who gets pushed. They have a tool (the internet) that reaffirms that point of view on a daily basis and gives them a false sense of influence. They have been told, directly, in non-kayfabe interviews by representatives of the company, that they are "the focus group".

Even the way wrestlers look to the crowd, heels and faces alike, before executing almost every big move is a subtle, visual representation of the company's constant deference to this live-crowd. This is painfully ironic because the company is often accused of "not listening", and this results in even more booing.

"Getting over" drives so much of the decision-making that there's no time to ask whether or not "being good" matters. Just as the company strains to balance disparate concepts like "entertainer" and "athlete", the company strains to balance disparate concepts like "booker" and "fan".

In reality, the WWE is dictated by a single overseer. That overseer may make adjustments based upon feedback from those within his inner-circle, and occasionally from the noise he hears inside arenas. But he decides whether or not he actually takes that feedback.

That reality is very different from the bedtime story "smart" WWE-fans believe. They have been conditioned to think that they have way more power than they actually do. That belief leads to terrible behavior. They have been conditioned to think, especially in this age of "smartness", that their ticket is a seat at the writer's table.

That simply isn't true, and it must stop.

What the WWE must realize is that in 2017 fans of anything do not need to be expressly told how important they are. They already assume their importance because social media affords them the ability to exist as celebrities of their own lives. When the media that fan consumes also tells them they're important and even the reason that media exists, the fan's sense of ownership balloons into an unstable delusion. Everything becomes fixated on the fan, rather than the art. The fan starts to think that the art wouldn't exist without them.

That is undeniably backwards.

First comes art, then comes fan.

When art forgets that, it cheapens itself.

Subtly, over time, the WWE can altar its rhetoric to distance itself from this obnoxious, self-obsessed wrestling fan. All talk of "smiles on faces" and "focus groups" can be be dropped. The talking points can evolve, both in the marketing and in the actual shows. WWE representatives can focus primarily on the greatness of the WWE itself.

WWE wrestlers can focus primarily on the greatness of themselves, wrestling, and athleticism. WWE babyfaces can stop telling fans, "It's all for you!" and start talking about what drives them to succeed. All talk of the fans, as it is today, either in the positive or the negative, can gradually be stripped from the product to the point where fans aren't focused on each other.

In place of this focus upon reactions there would be a renewed focus on the personalities of WWE Superstars. Characters, who are motivated by more than a cheer or a boo, would return to wrestling. The content of the show, not the reaction to the show, would be more important.

In the future I'm describing, the WWE would function similarly to a movie studio or a legitimate sports organization, possessing ownership of its creations in a transparent way while purposefully facilitating an environment where fandom is defined solely by fun. 

Currently, WWE-fandom is defined by a lingering sense of creative frustration and an unhealthy dose of self-importance. If the company makes a concerted effort to shine a spotlight on itself with unapologetic confidence, removing this destructive strain of fan-deference, eliminating the "choose your own adventure" tone of the show, then it will recondition the audience to be viewers again, and undo some of the damage that has been done.

- CONCLUSION -

The definition of a WWE-fan should include genuinely liking the WWE, shouldn't it? 

As a writer and a podcaster, I'll always have constructive criticisms to offer the company.

But as a WWE-fan, I tend to actually like a lot of what the company creates. I don't like all of it, but the successes and the joy outweigh the failures and the frustrations. I'm also selective with what I watch and engage with. I curate my fandom, I don't expect it to be served to me perfectly. I also don't think I'm more important or better than a particular company or wrestler. I understand that I am the viewer. Staring at a television or sitting in an arena takes much less effort, ingenuity, and bravery than creating wrestling; least of all a successful wrestling empire.

I do not believe this is the perspective of those fans who purposefully disrupt and disrespect the company, its wrestlers, and its other fans. They do not know nor adequately appreciate their role. As a WWE-fan, I am disturbed that the company seems fixated on the emotions of these particular people. They seem to hate the WWE, and so it no longer makes sense to court them. Given the company's power and resources, it is unacceptable that WWE would persist in allowing this blatantly repugnant behavior. Put as simply as possible, these fans get in the way of enjoying wrestling. 

I stopped watching NXT because of it. 

I hesitate to attend live events because of it.

I'm preemptively gritting my teeth in anticipation of Summer Slam because of it.

And I know I am not alone.

This destructive behavior is not something I want to be associated with.

I doubt the WWE wants to be associated with it either.

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