Geeks and nerds exist for all different types of fandoms. One of the things I like to do with this column is check out various fan sects and subcultures. To look at the differences, the similarities and everything in between.
This week, I got to hang out with a bunch of wrestling fans I didn’t know, at a bar I’ve never been to for the Monday Night Raw after Wrestlemania. An event put on by Live Audio Wrestling and their WHTS NXT podcast (of which I co-hosted their Star Wars episode this past December), it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up despite the fact it was a little out of my comfort zone.
I’m a little weird about my love of wrestling. I don’t have a problem talking about it with people who know me but I always get a little skittish when it comes to fans I don’t know. I think it goes back to an ex-boyfriend of my sister’s who LOVED wrestling but didn’t quite get that the matches were predetermined. I mean, he knew that The Undertaker wasn’t a zombie but he didn’t seem to be able to make that leap to the point where The Undertaker won due to a script as opposed to being a huge bad-ass. Trying to explain this to him was maddening and in many ways coloured my worries whenever I met someone who would spot a t-shirt I would be wearing and say “I like wrestling too!”.
That being said, I’ve known the guys at the LAW for over ten years and I hoped that this particular night would be filled with fun conversation amongst fans of a similar outlook on the squared circle.
For those of you who don’t follow wrestling, this particular Raw is always an interesting one to watch. Mania is like the end of the television season for the WWE and the following Raw tends to mark the start of something new. The fans in attendance tend to be the hardcores; people who are willing to pay more than a couple of grand to fly to wherever Wrestlemania is, tickets to that show, hotel, tickets to Raw and probably at least a t-shirt if not more merchandise.
It’s a Raw I tend to enjoy watching every year by myself so I was curious what it was like with a group of fans I had never met. With the promise of good nachos and some good company, I climbed into the car and headed to Bryden’s (right at the corner of Jane and Bloor in Toronto) for the first annual WHTS NXT: Aftermania extravaganza.
It was a lot of fun and the crowd was an interesting mix of people from different walks of life.
Gone were the dudes who believe it’s real. Maybe my mind made these guys out to be more prevalent then they ever were but at the very least, there were none to be found this night. For the most part, they were just guys who loved the athleticism and storylines that this male-dominated soap opera provides. But one of the things I was kind of surprised at was the amount of women who had come to the event. I didn’t get to talk to them too much but at least two of the women there were moms, one with adult kids and the other with two young ones at home.
When I got into wrestling in a major way (in my teens), there were very, very few women who liked it as much as I did. I remember one girl in high school who knew everything that I did and more. She was an encyclopedia of wrestling knowledge. Beyond her, I think there was one other woman I knew who dug wrestling and that was it. To be fair, at the time, it was hard to blame them as there wasn’t much in terms of female representation. There were a few women who could work like Trish, Lita and Molly Holly, but up until a few years ago, women’s wrestling in North America was dominated by models with little in ring ability.
In the past few years, that has changed. The WWE’s NXT brand helped bring up a new standard of women wrestlers to the forefront. These women are there to be wrestlers. That’s not to say they aren’t attractive but these women aren’t at the top of the bill due to their boob size. They are there because they can work. You can put in any two of the top women in a match right now and it is almost guaranteed that it will rival anything you will see out of the men that night, if not surpass them.
Maybe that’s part of the reason for the change in crowd as well. I imagine it’s a lot more comfortable watching wrestling with a group of guys who’re cheering for a women’s world title match as opposed to a group of guys cheering on a match where the winner is determined by the lack of clothing they are wearing. Hell, there’s even a wrestler on NXT named Bayley (pictured above on the left) who has captured a niche market within a niche market. Among the throngs of fans (myself included) that Bayley has gathered, she has gained a strong fan base of young girls, something I would have never thought possible two years ago, let alone ten.
It reminds me a lot of the change in demographics for fans at conventions that we’ve seen over the past ten years. More female fans began appearing at conventions and soon we started to see more kids and families.
In the end, the demographics have changed and the product itself has changed, but hanging out with a group of wrestling fans is still fun. We booed at the bad booking ideas. We were confused at the idea that bringing up Apollo Crews from NXT was a good idea to anyone. We cheered when Enzo and Cass came out to a thunderous ovation and when AJ Styles finally hooked on the Styles Clash on Chris Jericho for the win.
At the end of the day, that kind of fun is hard to beat.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!