In the entertainment world, professional wrestling has been an outlet for fans of all ages to enjoy for decades. In the midst of World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE’s) peak, professional wrestling was even considered an entertainment medium of rival value to the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League, (NHL) and even the National Football League (NFL). Presently, with social media, podcasts and analysis, professional wrestling, to some, has dipped in popularity.
But recently it appears that business may be picking up for professional wrestling, and it shows in ratings. According to Sports TV Ratings.com, On Tuesday September 13, WWE Smackdown ranked fourth in ratings during prime time (8-10 pm) with 2,658 viewers. The program only trailed FOX News and the Oprah Winfrey Network in ratings. Smackdown trumped popular sitcom The Big Bang Theory who reeled in 2,191 viewers from 10-10:30 pm.
Here at Keene State College, professional wrestling fans do exist, and some are more outspoken about it than others, while dealing with certain stigmas about professional wrestling that may not be true. KSC first-year Noah Drouin has been a professional wrestling fan since he was five years old and understands the misconceptions that come with being a fan today at the age of 18.
“It’s hard to tell people now because I’m 18,” Noah said. “I’ll put on wrestling in my dorm and people will be like, ‘you know that’s fake right?’ But the way I’ve always looked at it is, it’s one of the more athletic things someone can do. There’s a lot of work that goes into just training to become a wrestler, and I think that’s something that isn’t really known on face value when it comes to how much work that goes into training and things like that. It’s not something I would ever do, but just from being a fan I know that it takes a long time to get to that point of being on national TV, and you have to be a good actor and you have to be a well-rounded performer athletically and vocally.”
Drouin even met some of the superstars when he was just five years old, because his father was a manager of a Gold’s Gym in the New England area.
“I actually got a chance to meet Triple H because my dad used to run a gym in Manchester. I met him when I was five years old,” Drouin said.
Meanwhile, KSC sophomore attack for the men’s lacrosse team, Bobby Carey does not share the same fond memories about professional wrestling. In fact he doesn’t share any wrestling related memories at all. He said he was “Not a big fan” and that he is far more interested in other legitimate sports such as football, basketball, hockey lacrosse and baseball.
“It’s kind of more like acting and it’s not like a UFC fight…real fighting,” Carey said. “It’s good entertainment if you’re into that stuff. I’m just not into the costumes and stuff like that.”
Carey added that he would be more interested if it were less focused about the pageantry and more about the actual wrestling.
Although Drouin is a dedicated fan, he doesn’t try to “preach” to anyone else or force any of his friends to watch.
KSC student and Vice President of the KSC Brazillian Ju Jitsu club, Sydney Kleiman also wieghed in on professional wrestling. Kleiman has been a part of the club for four years but has been practicing martial arts since she was three-years-old. Kleiman said she is not a fan of professional wrestling and would rather watch mixed martial arts.
“I thionk think that everything has it’s place and there’s a demographic for it (pro-wrestling),” Kleiman said. “So if people want to watch it, and that’s what they enjoy watching, I think there’s no comparing the two (MMA and WWE) becaue they’re completely different. Personally i would rather watch UFC.”
Kleiman added WWE wreslters who have attempted and failed in the MMA world only further differentiates the two art forms.
“It’s definitely not for everybody,” Drouin said. “Its definitely something you would’ve had to have grown up with or really gotten into later on. If you enjoy athleticism of people, how strong someone can be,- there’s a lot that goes into it. It’s sort of like watching a movie, which isn’t something that people really don’t understand, I guess.”
But Drouin, like many fans, will provide “selling points” to others who may not understand the entertainment value in professional wrestling. One of those selling points involves some of the things WWE has done with recently acquired superstar and new WWE champion AJ Styles. Styles was one of the most famous wrestlers in the world who was not a part of the WWE, making a name for himself with his acrobatic moves and aerial maneuvers. Styles had previously performed as a part of independent american promotions such as Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerilla. He also won the World heavyweight Championship wrestling for Japan’s New Japan Pro Wrestling.
“He’s [Styles] been wrestling for 20 years,” Drouin said. “He’s now the champion, there’s this whole thing of how he’s been all over the place, but he’s never been there. You can really gravitate to some of the wrestlers and their backgrounds. I think that’s one of the better ways to get people to watch it like ‘this could be you’ sort of thing.”
Even though Drouin does not try to aggressively promote professional wrestling to others, it appears he has coincidentally recruited his girlfriend onto the WWE bandwagon.
KSC first-year Morgan Prittie said she was not a fan at first, but has become more of a fan since witnessing a WWE live event.
“Once we started dating he kind of showed me what he liked. We showed our interests and we started watching wrestling together, and I kind of did it to spend time with him and I kind of started getting into it to. He got us tickets to a wrestling event for WWE and I had a ton of fun there with a lot of my friends, so I’m slowly learning about wrestling more. It’s just very entertaining.”
Faced with the conflict of wrestling being considered “fake”, Prittie said she found a new respect for the realism of the art after the event.
“On TV , people always say that it’s not real.It seems more realistic when you see it in person because they’re actually hitting each other and throwing themselves, and you can hear the sounds that they make when they hit the floor or the wall better,” Prittie said. “You can see more things that happen on the sideline too; sometimes wrestlers will come out to intimidate other wrestlers. Sometimes you just don’t capture the full feeling when you’re watching it, but when you’re there live, the audience really creates a mood. Everyone’s so excited to see them, and it makes you more excited to see it when it’s live right in front of you.”
Prittie has earned the right of watching professional wrestling with a unique eye for some of the techniques used in the ring, as Prittie is a third degree black belt in karate with ju jitsu experience as well. Before coming to KSC Prittie had trained in karate for nine years in Derry, New Hampshire and said the in ring movements of the wrestlers share some similarities.
“I can recognize some of the moves that they do and when I watch I’m like ‘I know that hurts,’ especially for the women,” Prittie said. “I can understand the grabs that they go into and it’s just very entertaining.”
Prittie added that she especially enjoys watching the women’s division and said that WWE superstars, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch are two of her favorites. One of the things Prittie was most impressed by when watching the wwe superstars was not only the injury risk and the hectic schedule the profession offers, but the performers ability to stay in charcter.. WWE superstars Kevin Owens and Samni Zayn are best of friends in real life, but in the ring they have had one of the most heated rivalries in recent memory.
Although Prittie, like Drouin said she does not force wrestling onto anyone, she said anybody can be a wrestling fan.
Prittie said., “You just have to get passed the fact that some of it is planned. I think anyone can learn to like it or at least tolerate it.”
Nick Tocco can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org