We see a lot of examples of pro wrestlers getting defensive when what they’re doing isn’t received well by audiences.
They’re not unique among artists and performers in that regard, but wrestling is a business/art form that was originally based on conning fans into paying for non-fiction and then delivering fiction, so there’s often another level to the animosity.
It’s understandable - they literally and figuratively put a lot into their work, and it stinks when people don’t like what you’ve sacrificed to produce. Plus, the internet and social media puts the most thoughtful critics’ voices in the same sea of noise with hundreds of haters and trolls. It’s human to want to stick up for yourself and lash out.
Maybe it’s because he’s one of the least online stars of the present day, but AEW World champion Jon Moxley’s take on wrestling fans is refreshingly not antagonistic. He explained it to Joe Rivera of Sporting News:
“[Pro wrestling is] a bunch of different things all rolled into one. And it can be anything. A lot of different ways, like different genres this thing can be. I’m a fan of all of them. To me, wrestling in 2020, the fans are smarter and more educated. I don’t like when I’m in the locker room and some guy’s going, ‘Oh the marks on Twitter are saying this, bunch of stupid marks’ or whatever and treating fans like they’re idiots. That pisses me off. The old-school wrestling mentality was that this is a work, and we’re carnies and we’re trying to cheat people out of money — we’re trying to present this thing, tricking them into thinking it’s real, and taking their money from them. That’s the origins of carny wrestling a century ago. That’s not what it is today.
“Wrestling fans, to me, are the most passionate, educated, some of the smartest fans in the world. And they really appreciate, not only the effort, they appreciate the passion of the wrestlers for their craft, they appreciate the effort, they appreciate how we’re putting our bodies on the line.”
He’s representing his promotion in the interview, so Mox goes on to specifically talk about why AEW fans are great, and how he believes the company & its fans are moving the business forward together. You may or may not agree with that (and having some prominent AEW stars strike a different chord when talking about fans & audience reaction makes it harder to buy in (pun semi-intended) completely). It’s still nice to hear a big star recognize that just because someone in the audience isn’t fully on-board with a match or a gimmick, it doesn’t necessarily mean that fan is attacking the wrestler as a person or performer.
We’ll see if others follow Moxley’s lead. In the meantime, check out his entire Sporting News interview here.