The Stomping Ground: The Relevance of the IWC
by Mike Gojira on April 8, 2011

Great googly moogly! What a ridiculous amount of “thoughts” (including my own right here) we’ve had this week in reaction to Wrestlemania XXVII! Or should I say WWE Mania XXVII? Or whatever the hell they want to call it now. Stupid PR decisions. So they are an entertainment company who, despite refusing to use the word “wrestling” in any context, make the most money off of WRESTLING to further their toy lines, T-shirts, movie company, and video games? Pure, unadulterated assery. That’s right, ASSERY. I made up a new word.

Ahem.

Welcome, everyone, to the SECOND Stomping Ground of the week. I am your always humble and slightly lactose-intolerant host, Mike Gojira, riding high after CORRECTLY PREDICTING THAT EDGE WOULD RETAIN AT MANIA.

Did I mention I was modest, too? (The key word being was)

After watching Mania last Sunday, and after reading the reactions of my fellow columnists, it got me thinking about an issue that has been in existence since the birth of the Internet. Now this issue is nothing new, as it has been discussed to death in the past, and most of us are aware of and have come to terms with it. Ah, acceptance.

I am talking, of course, about the relevance (or irrelevance) of the Internet Wrestling Community.

Before the birth of Al Gore’s alleged love child with a computer, the only way most fans got their wrestling fix was through paying for house shows, watching wrestling on television, or reading magazines. There was very little inside info spread to the masses; kayfabe was as intact as it would ever be. As a kid you found yourself believing the legitimacy of the storylines and characters; as a teenager you saw through the smoke and mirrors and cheered for the heroes and booed the villains; as an adult, you looked for the storytelling WITHIN the matches themselves, you saw and appreciated the effort and pain of the performers and you knew that it was all in good fun. However, there was never really a forum in which to express your opinion other than chatting with fellow wrestling aficionados face-to-face.

Then came the Internet and everything changed.

Many blame the Internet for the death of kayfabe in professional wrestling, and maybe they’re justified in believing so. After all, it was the Internet that gave rise to taped Raw spoilers, rumors of backstage altercations or politicking, and leaked storylines from credible sources. Prior to the instant message, fans would either have to wait for the dirt sheets or have to know someone in the business.

Over the years burgeoning websites popped up all over the World Wide Web. Each proclaimed to have “insider info” on WCW, ECW, and the then-WWF. Each proclaimed to be run for the fans, by the fans. In a sea of endless mark-developed websites, there seemed to be no respite. In order to stand out, some more prominent sites had guest columns written by those in-the-know, both wrestlers and bookers, who would let the fans in on the secrets of professional wrestling.

Suddenly the terms “babyface” and “heel” replaced “good guy” and “bad guy.” The fans were referred to as “marks,” an old carny term for a paying member of the audience, and many took offense. They believed that they were being called mindless sheep who were being “fleeced” out of their hard-earned money. In response, some fans who claimed to know more than others began calling themselves “smart marks,” or “smarks,” to distinguish themselves from the generic fan. The truth is that there is no such thing as a “smark;” regardless of how much you may or may not know about the business, we all share the same love for wrestling that unites us together.

The Internet had become a place to praise or gripe about the product in a way that could never be rivaled. Here was a place of instant gratification, where your words could be seen by hundreds of thousands across the globe in a matter of seconds. Students of the game wrote their thoughts in hundreds of columns, eager for their words to be read and their egos satiated. They loved and hated and clamored for recognition not only from their peers but ultimately the McMahons and Bischoffs of the day.

And their voices went unheard by the business for a number of years until the Internet had become such a large facet of human life that it could no longer be ignored. The Internet Wrestling Community had become too large to simply brush off, and it seemed as though we’d finally get a say in how to run our favorite pastime.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned.

Luminaries of the wrestling world such as Eric Bischoff claimed that the IWC was irrelevant; we made up such a small percentage of the audience that our complaints didn’t matter. People would still be ignorant; they would still pay for wrestling, because it wasn’t the matches themselves that mattered…it was the intrigue of the characters that brought in the people. I find myself wondering if guys like Bischoff are right.

This past Sunday’s PPV gave me pause.

Think about it: the fans tuned in to see The Rock, glued their eyes to the set to watch Snooki, sat around at bars and apartments all over the world to see the spectacle of the Streak. We were baited with a gloriously delicious-looking worm on the hook and we bit into it…only to find that it didn’t taste right.

The Rock may have overstayed his welcome, we lost a title match in Sheamus/Bryan, the Streak continued as we always knew it would, and the main event failed to deliver anything other than a promo for the following year’s Wrestlemania.

We Internet columnists are a fickle bunch. The week before, we were hyped up because the build for the show had improved just seven days prior. The week after, we became disillusioned with the product, wondering where the company would go from here. Such is the roller coaster of professional wrestling. Yet we continue to watch.

When Eric Bischoff handed over the newly-christened World Heavyweight Championship to Triple H without him actually earning it in a match, I went on a sabbatical for a few months. I refused to watch Raw because I was sick of seeing The Game bury talent after talent in the ring. But in a few months, I returned. My love for the business could not keep me away from it and Raw was THE show to watch (although I did watch Smackdown on a regular basis). I thought, like many did, that Triple H would destroy the business from within. Here we are nearly ten years later, and the WWE is still thriving.

The majority of my fellow writers believe this year’s Wrestlemania to be either an outright failure or just a simple misstep on the road to bigger and better things. What it all comes down to is this: the WWE made a shitload of money, Atlanta made a shitload of money, and old school fans who just wanted to see old school names like The Rock walked away satisfied.

I often find myself wondering if writing about this business is worth it.

Then I look back at all the fond memories I have of wrestling, I smile, and I say to myself, “It’s most definitely worth it.”

I ask you, dear readers, whether you believe the IWC is relevant or not. Feel free to leave your comments below. But before you do that, here are some…

Cheap Plugs

There was A LOT going on this week, since everybody decided to throw their hat in the “Let’s Bitch About the PPV” ring, but I won’t link you to those. Instead, here are a few columns that, although may have some focus on Mania, are not fully devoted to a list of thoughts shared by all.

Our newest columnist, James Alsop, has joined the Pulse with a look back at the InVasion. Hard to believe it’s been ten years, but I digress. James has a very interesting positive spin on it, so check out his work.

We say goodbye to Mark Allen, whose final column was posted earlier in the week. I loved him like a brother, although I’ve only known him for a few months, we never really chatted, we never actually met, and I don’t know a damn thing about him. Still, a brother!

Rhett Davis (who thinks he’s RAD, but I keep telling him that people are saying he has a RASH) has a great column on how he would have shaped the card of Wrestlemania XXVII. Can someone tell him that it’s “Rey Mysterio,” not “Mysterios”?

If you read ANYTHING on Wrestlemania, get your ass over to Pulse Glazer’s brutally honest review. The man knows his shit, and I’m not just saying that because he got me a job here.

……….

Not at all.

My boy Joe Fiorello has taken over responsibilities on this season’s Tough Enough recap. I can’t believe that chick said her favorite match was Melina vs Alicia Fox. Jeez.

Although Jonah Kue threatened to fire me for comments I made about him being disorganized, I laughed them off because he doesn’t pay me for my services anyway. Here’s his positive spin on the results of Wrestlemania and what it means for the company’s future.

You’ve also got Chris Sanders, Joel Leonard, Chris Biscuiti, Steven Gepp, Andrew Wheeler, and A CAST OF THOUSANDS all over the damn place. Seriously, they’re like cockroaches or something. I’m not giving you the links. Just search ‘em out, you lazy misfits.

Finally, I’d like to once again thank Penny Sautereau-Fife for her excellent work on my new icon. I thanked her previously in my “Top Thoughts on Wrestlemania” column, but I figured most of you haven’t checked it out yet. Nothing spells WINNING! like Godzilla as a masked luchador. Smell the buy rates!

Until next time…so long, and thanks for all the fish.



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Mike Gojira

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  • flamingwombat

    Good topic. If we are honest, we would admit that the IWC is totally irrelevant, or to go even further, has caused more harm than good for the business. Internet spoilers absolutely hurt TV ratings, and any who argue otherwise are seriously deluded. The breaking of kayfabe and leaking of stories has also hurt the business tremendously.

    Smart marks of the IWC feel superior to general rube marks without realizing that they are by far the biggest marks of all. They feel entitled because they know a wrestler’s real name (GASP!) or feel cool for going to a live show and cheering for heels or explaining behind the scenes info for kiddies sitting near them. (Notice, none of this knowledge is earned firsthand; it’s all second and thirdhand knowledge gleaned from other internet sources, mostly due to the efforts of the 3 or 4 actual legit IWC writers with connections). Total marks.

    No IWC writers outside of Meltzer and the PWInsider guys are truly connected to the business in any way. Glazer, Penny, Charlie, Scaia, and all the rest are no less marks than the toothless Southern cracker stereotypical wrasslin’ marks. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Marks participate as fans, fulfilling their half of the bargain of the entertainment sphere that is pro-wrestling. The IWC is fan club/fan fiction/Trekkie clique who obsess while mocking, criticize despite being ignored by the business (any smark who believes that the WWE reads their columns and cares at all to cater to the IWC is delusional), and spend way too much time and effort thinking about and debating the product without realizing that doing so makes them…MARKS. All of this is fine of course, if it’s what one enjoys, but we must just all realize that the IWC is no better or different than a Glee or Twilight fan site.

  • Zork

    Is there any actual PROOF that Triple H ever “Buried” anyone? (I assume you’re talking him not wanting to take a loss) I’ve heard people harp on him for years and years about his vaunted “BACKSTAGE POWAH” but have never seen anything to show me he has such abilities. You sure he wasn’t just given that title because he was the most reliable worker and biggest star on the Raw roster at the time?

    Don’t tell me you would’ve preferred seeing Scott Steiner as world champ, RVD and Booker T were not viable at the time and needed built back up. Only other guy that remained that I would’ve bothered with was Undertaker at the time.

  • flamingwombat

    @Zork

    The HHH comment is a good one. No one here has any clue if HHH pulled strings and intentionally buried other wrestlers. Yet you will constantly see it spewed about here in the comments (and columns) as if the commenters had backstage jobs or worked in Stamford and know this for a fact.

  • http://twitter.com/pulseglazer Aaron Glazer

    Wombat – we’re all, Meltzer and PWI included, marks. Don’t fool yourself.

  • CB

    I have written wrestling columns for 11 years now, and I never even pretended that anyone from the actual wrestling business cared or listened. I don’t do this for insider approval, I never have. I do this to simply share my thoughts with other people who simply got hooked on wrestling for one reason or another, because it’s fun and always enlightening for me to see what those of us who care enough to come here think and feel about something I happen to be passionate about myself.

    I like being on the outskirts of the business end of it all, because it lets me step back and breathe as a fan. If being labeled a mark means I get to make the friendships I’ve made and have engaging conversation with people I’ve grown to appreciate and love, then so be it.

    After all, the 30 bucks I spent on an ultimately underwhelming WrestleMania (split it with a friend) this year is pennies compared to the value I see in being able to have a place to share my opinions, and, even better, reading everyone else’s.

    11 years from now, you now what I’ll remember? Rey Mundo’s heart, Blair’s wit (Fuj!!!!), Penny’s sheer honesty, Rhett’s humor, Kelly Floyd’s passion, M.C.’s recap style (LONs), incognito’s love of TNA, Glazer’s depth in reporting, Wheeler’s raw brilliance, FLEA’s refusal to give up CAPS, etc., etc., etc.

    With all of that, I could care less about whether or not Paul Levesque thinks the IWC is relevant, because I know, in my heart, that it truly is.

  • Mike Gojira

    Well said, CB. Well said. It’s good to see you guys are passionate about this.

  • Steven Gepp

    I think it’s like saying is fantasy football relevent? Is endlessly debating baseball records and statistics relevent? Is arguing over the scoring discrepancies in Olympic gymnastics relevent?

    Well, the answer to all of them is YES… if only for the people making the points, the fans who want to know more and wnat to get involved in their chosen sport, even if they cannot peform at that level. Those in charge do not care that I think Collingwood is treated with kid gloves in the AFL and write about it in a column, They don’t. But I care enough to write it, to show some passion.

    Now, sure, some of the stuff is hearsay, is assumption, is rumour, whatever. But we let our fandom come out in the way we respond to these things. We KNOW the WWE is not going to read the columns at PWI, InsidePulse, 411, TWP or whatever and say to themselves, “My golly gosh! We’ve made a bit of a blunder. Let us remedy it, post-haste!” We do not write for them. We write for us and for other fans.

    Now some of us have actually stepped foot inside that squared circle, no matter at what level, and we may have some understanding about how the business works from a technical point of view. But we have no idea how a multi-billion dollar global entertainment industry works backstage. We have no idea what it is like to train seven days a week because it is your job, your vocation, your life.

    This is us being fans – marks, if you will. Now some of us may have an “inside”. But does that matter? Because in the end this is by fans and for fans.

    I guess if you want the professional company line, there’s always WWE.com, TNA.com and whatever else dot-com to read. But if you want to read opinions or share opinions or argue over opinions with other fans, then come on in. The water’s fine.

  • Nigel Chaos

    Wombat – I think spoilers actually *help* the fans. When WCW Nitro announced that Mick Foley was going to win the title on Raw (“yeah, that’ll put butts in the seats.”) I changed the channel to watch Foley get his moment in the sun.

    And as far as the IWC doing more harm than good, it really depends on how you look at it. Sure, the WWE doesn’t *need* the IWC. They’ve got the kids. TNA.. I think they try to court the IWC but we’re basically irrelevant to them too. But when you look at a promotion like Dragon Gate, ROH or Chikara, I would say that they even actively court the IWC (such as streaming pre-shows on the internet) because they rely so much on word of mouth.

    And finally, good column CB. That one made me think.

  • CB

    Thanks Mike, and thanks for making me *want* to respond so passionately today.

    @Steven: Excellent analogies, friend. In the baseball book Moneyball, it was the same kind of dismissal of possible new approaches born out of passion for the sport by MLB insiders because they just didn’t care.

    @Nigel: Mike G. wrote the column, but thanks for the compliment on my response to what Mike penned up top.

  • Jamal

    Have you guys ever been in an arena filled with marks? SUPER marks… the type that will cause a riot over an angle? Ever had to see a wrestler legit have to leave with security following him because the fans were waiting outside the arena for them? there is definitely a difference between those types and smarks.

  • Gator

    GREAT discussion going on here guys!

  • flamingwombat

    “Have you guys ever been in an arena filled with marks? SUPER marks… the type that will cause a riot over an angle? Ever had to see a wrestler legit have to leave with security following him because the fans were waiting outside the arena for them? there is definitely a difference between those types and smarks.”

    Yes, and those days of arenas filled with those types of marks were much better for the business, and I’d be surprised if there was a wrestler working today who doesn’t wish it were still that way.

  • Nigel Chaos

    Sorry about that Mike. Good column.

    and yeah, good response CB.

    Don’t drink and browse.

  • Mike Gojira

    No prob, Nigel. It’s amazing how a simple issue could rally the troops so efficiently.

  • incognito

    Very interesting article, Mike, and great comment by CB.

    As to the Triple H argument, I don’t hate him as a person, but you will never see me defending his actions from his 2002-2003 reign of terror. That formula of:
    1. Verbally bury potential opponent in 20 minute promo, claiming they are not in your league, all the while even the good guy announcers are backing up your bragging by saying things like “Damn it! I hate to admit it but he’s the best!”

    2. Soundly and convincingly beat your opponent, proving they truly were not in your league.

    3. Move on to the next promising prospect while your last victim falls back down to the midcard.

    got very old very fast. People crying out “No Proof!” are right, to a point. None of us were backstage. However, its a bit of an eye-brow raising coincidence that the man taking part in this is and was married to the boss’ daughter and is soon to take over the company. No stroke…riiiight.

  • CB

    Just think, 9 years ago, everyone was mad at Triple H for almost everything. Now, many folks are looking at him to save everything. Crazy how things change.

  • incognito

    Whether I think Triple H will be putting on great shows or bad shows when he’s in full control depends on how much hand he had in Wrestlemania this year.

  • Zork

    Never claimed he didn’t have stroke, alls I said was I don’t think he’s responsible for burials and people tend to stretch the fact (?) that he probably had influence at the very least.. I agree though, 2003 on Raw was quite the long year.

  • flamingwombat

    Other IWC myths include the “if wrestler A loses (especially if he’s one of our darlings), his push is RUINED!!!!!!” Like some columnists claiming that Del Rio’s loss at WM nullifies his push. WTF? He’s been made into a main-event heel, is STILL a main-event level heel, and is massively over. Wrestlers can lose without their pushes being ruined.

  • Mike Gojira

    I never claimed del Rio’s push had been nullified; simply stalled, especially if you look at the two -three weeks prior to Mania where he was soundly beaten by Christian. I always said he’d get the belt eventually, most likely at Extreme Rules.

  • flamingwombat

    The push isn’t a failure even if he never gets the belt.

  • CB

    Remember when Gail Kim won the WWE Women’s Championship in her debut? How about when Carlito was pushed as Intercontinental Champion against Cena? You just never know what will happen down the road regardless of how early people win titles.

  • sideshowbob

    Marks. All of you. Me too. Any of you who says you wouldn’t get a ticket to your favourite Federation (for lack of better terms) when they come to town are either too jaded or too broke. It’s a fun time for all as long as you can afford to go. That’s my only real complaint; at least in the US there’s a huge recession, but prices continue to rise. Lower some costs, and business will pick back up because once again, people will be able to afford to go.

    Just in general comment:
    For the ones who want to try and say ‘I’m not a mark’.. try not to be so persnickety with each other and the product. And yes you’re still a mark. In fact in can easily be argued that the kids following Cena is better for the business than you. You spend how many YEARS ripping on a product you love? Those kids enjoy their show, how about you?

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