Why is this relevant? Well, for a lot of reasons. But the important one is that pro wrestling as an industry has this really weird relationship with the Internet. One that, if studied, can provide insight for the rest of us who’s job it is to get people to care about our products.
The Internet and WWE are at opposing ends of the information sharing spectrum. The culture of the Internet is that “information wants to be free” so everyone should know everything about anything at anytime. On the other end, pro wrestling is built on secrecy. That’s the way pro wrestling has operated in America since the dawn of the twentieth-century.
Yet pro wrestling fans like myself have been trading rumors, gossip, news, and opinions since the earliest days of the consumer Web. And, with some exception, this has created a very adversarial relationship between pro wrestling and the Internet. Even today, in what Grantland’s David Shoemaker refers to as “The Reality Era” of World Wrestling Entertainment, where the real lives of the professional wrestlers are bleeding over into their fictitious lives, there’s still an active attempt on the part of the WWE to limit the Internet community’s role in anything.
For example, interactive polls where WWE claims fans can vote during their shows are total, comical, farces that only present the illusion of fan participation. A typical WWE Interactive Fan Poll looks like this:
Who would you like to see wrestle in tonight’s main event:
A. Hulk Hogan.
B. This plastic bag we found behind the dumpster.
C. I don’t know. Some guy I guess.
The relationship between the two is unlike any relationship between a major corporation and their online fans. In fact, if you look at most advice concerning online marketing, whatever the WWE does seems to fly in the face of it.
In the above video, you’ll see WWE Superstar, Ryback, talking about WWE fans on the Internet. Granted, he admits in the video that he’s more or less trolling those fans for a reaction, but he makes this great point that I think is worth repeating: “The Internet is run by negative people who should not have an opinion.”
I don’t know if he’s repeating the WWE company line or not, one would think he is based on what I just laid out for you, but think about what he’s saying here for a moment. Let’s take a moment to look at the larger picture before we talk more about WWE’s online behavior in another post.
Ryback is right.
Yes. He’s acknowledging the 1% Rule without probably knowing it. And yes. He’s clearly pushing buttons. But. Put that statement into a larger context about the Internet and Web. Go to Gawker. Go to Salon. Go to CNN. Look at the headlines and stories. What you find is a bunch of divisive bullshit created in an effort to drive up page views and make advertisers happy. Patton Oswalt was saying that about Salon not too long ago: Negative people pushing negativity and tearing down others in an effort to boost themselves up and profit from it.
And before you go, “Well that’s the websites, not us” remember that they only pump out stuff like that because WE click on it.
That’s the story of the current Internet and Internet Culture in a lot of respects. We don’t want to admit it. We like to talk about the positive stuff like, “Information wants to be free”, but we don’t often talk about the other stuff like where, if you start to get some attention, someone on the Web is going to come and cut you down for no other reason other than, to borrow from the current WWE storyline, “it’s best for business”.
You can think what you want about pro wrestling, but there’s a lot we can learn from it, even if their wrestlers are just saying stuff the rest of us don’t want to admit out loud.