"I think a lot of people are embarrassed about pro wrestling and I don't think anybody needs to be." -CM Punk
Here’s my favorite “Learning Someone is a Wrestling Fan” story. I was hanging out at a party one night when I noticed a plastic WWE Undisputed Championship hanging on the wall. I had seen the belt on the wall weeks before, but the fear of outing myself as a wrestling nerd overcame me. But that night, I went over to ask my friend whose belt that was. After asking, my friend and I went through a generic conversation about what was going on in the wrestling business. Generic until we got onto the subject of CM Punk. What followed was the sentence that instantly cemented me and this person’s wrestling friendship:
“CM Punk got screwed, man!” (In reference to CM Punk losing the World Title WITHOUT even being in the match at Unforgiven 2008)
For those who listen to our podcast, Podswoggle, (FIND IT HERE) you might of guessed that this was the day I learned Podswoggle’s Chris Mullet was a wrestling fan. And along with Rich, Augie and Whidden, we've all been complaining about pro wrestling ever since.
From my experiences, these type of ‘Meeting Wrestling Fans in Real Life” moments aren't as uncommon as one might think. Moreso, it seems that meeting wrestling fans in school or work or anywhere follows the same format, to some extent. This is ‘The Five Stages of Meeting a Wresting Fan in Real Life’:
This is the stage where most wrestling fans live for most of the lives. Millions of people watch wrestling every single week but outside the Internet, it’s nearly impossible to spot them in real life. A sports fan can wear a team’s jersey anywhere they want but most closet wrestling fans wouldn't dare wear an Miz “I’m Awesome” shirt or one of those ugly Christian “Hit The Switch" shirts in public. In my mind, the average non-wrestling fan probably thinks the average wrestling fan looks like this (on a good day). It's our job as wrestling fans to try to destroy this stereotype. And by destroy it, I mean try to hide the fact we watch wrestling from as many people as we can. For most wrestling fans of a certain age, we go to work and/or school and assume we’re the only ones who actually watch wrestling. We bite our tongues when we hear people still calling wrestling the ‘WWF.' At the end of the day, we go through life assuming other wrestling fans don’t exist in real life. Then all of a sudden….
It could be overhearing someone saying a wrestler’s name. It could be hearing three seconds of Randy Orton's entrance theme as someone’s ringtone before they quickly try to silence it. The incidents are endless, but the question in our heads is the same every time. “Wait...is he/she a wrestling fan?” The awkwardness comes from a variation of the following questions we ask ourselves in our heads:
Should I ask them if they still watch wrestling?
What if they’re just huge Rev Theory or Downstait fans?
Should I pretend I don't watch now but watched during the Attitude Era?
How much should I let them know I know?
How much will they let me know they know?
What should I tell them!?!?!?!?!
This is the Mexican Standoff. Neither wrestling fan wants to admit how much they love wrestling, but neither want to lose a potential friend that they can talk about Raw with every week. Usually when two people learn the other watches/watched wrestling, the conversation starts at a very basic level:
Basic Level: Oh yeah, that guy from the Real World was the champion a while ago.
As you can see from the example, the topic is specific but you can play it off as something you read on Yahoo News. Very generic and well-known names are used during this level as well (your Cenas, Triple Hs and Undertakers). After a few minutes of discussion, the conversation might evolve to something more recent or specific:
Advanced Level: Yeah, I’m actually starting to like, um, Dolph Ziggler a lot. I think he could be a modern day Mr. Perfect.
Once you learn the person watches somewhat regularly, you can break out your viewpoints on the product. Throwing in less common wrestlers and opinions allow you to seem casual but not a Super Mark. Finally, when one side pulls their guard down (maybe by revealing embarrassing information or marking out about their favorite wrestler), it’s N3rd Alert time:
Full-Out Nerd Level: The day John Laurinaitis signs good talent is the same day Vince Russo sells out MSG booking Konnan and Rick Steiner as the main event.
I think this step explains itself, so instead of giving out a long-winded explanation of the joy one might feel when they find a new wrestling friend, here's someone's inner monologue the moment they find a new wrestling friend:
“OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! I HAVE A NEW WRESTLING FRIEND! SOMEONE AGREES WITH ME THAT CODY RHODES NEEDS TO WEAR KNEEPADS! WE SHOULD TALK FOR TWO HOURS ABOUT HOW RING OF HONOR IS THE SAVIOR OF PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING! I’M NOT THE ONLY PERSON WHO REMEMBERS RODNEY MACK!”
This is the step where you realize people in everyday life who actually love wrestling. It's time to yell out "“I’m not alone! Real people actually like wrestling!" As time passes, you know you can talk wrestling all day long with your new wrestling buddy (pun intended). Unfortunately, you’ll quickly re-learn that other people will still give you weird looks when they hear that dirty word “Wrestling.” After a while, you start thinking other wrestling fans don’t exist in real life anymore. Maybe you got lucky finding that one wrestling friend. Then all of a sudden, you overhear someone calling their friend a ‘Lil’ Jimmy’. The cycle begins again…