Wrestling is a strange, wonderful thing. Business, artform, pop culture genre, television show, live performance... its hard to even define what kind of “thing” it is. And that’s without taking one particular match or moment and debating it’s validity, as some famous insiders do all the time.
Whatever it is, it also comes with its own language and lexicon - for which fans and even those inside the industry often can’t agree on definitions. Is so-and-so “over”? Is that wrestler being “pushed”, or is this wrestler being “buried”? Further muddying the waters, the terms get thrown around by the performers themselves in everything from joking tweets to “worked shoot” in-character promos.
Here’s another one to debate, courtesy of the latest Vince Russo beef. Cody Rhodes got into it with to a fan criticizing him for taking “the side of the loser marks that have killed wrestling” in his Starrcade/All In issues with the former WWE/WCW/TNA writer. Cody responded:
"Mark" means fan or customer. So yea, that'll be the side I take. Always.— Cody Rhodes (@CodyRhodes) May 25, 2018
Wrestling is doing pretty wonderful these days. Onwards and upwards with every show.
Well that's incorrect. If YOU don't like them, so be it...but more and more fans. Casual, hardcore, whatever fans...no need to qualify unless you're doing market research. Dollars and cents wise and merchandise and tickets/ticket returns is staggering. Facts.— Cody Rhodes (@CodyRhodes) May 25, 2018
It goes on from there, with the best part being Cody correctly pointing out the guy doing Sting cosplay in his avatar pic is the one complaining about people being too obsessed with wrestling, but that’s not really the point.
Historically, the term mark might not always have been meant as an insult per se, but it certainly wasn’t meant to be flattering. Dating back to at least the mid-19th century, the word was used to refer to the target in a confidence scheme of some sort. Wrestling’s carnival roots were seen as a form of a con, tricking people into believing they were paying for a legitimate fight when the outcome had been agreed to in advance by the participants and the promoter. A wrestling mark was never a victim to the extent someone being grifted out of their life savings was, but, especially if those involved in a match were accepting wagers, they were being lied to in exchange for their money.
Today, even a lot of children know about the con of wrestling, and are still willing participants. Sometimes the term is still an insult, like how the man Rhodes is arguing with in those tweets used it. Sometimes it’s something to aspire to, a way to say a story was so good or surprising the viewer forgets what they’re watching is pre-determined - “I’m marking out!”
Then there’s a word which has evolved as more and more observers (pun semi-intended) learned about the business. “Smart marks” or “smarks” is probably a whole nother discussion, but Cody is right that the business has evolved, and maybe the language should as well.
Personally, I don’t really care if you call me a mark or a smark. I use both terms in several ways, usually with positive connotations or irony. I’ve been through too many things in life to get hung up on someone else’s judgement of what kind of partaker of scripted fighting I am.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in the discussion/debate.
Should we accept Cody’s definition of “mark = customer” and leave the term in the dust of the past? Or are there varying levels of how fooled you are by the wrestlers and the performance? Are there good and bad fans, at least in terms of how invested they are in the product?
You tell us marks! Oops, I mean valued readers.
(Just kidding! Or am I?)