I Want To Talk A Little Bit About Catering To Different Groups Of Fans

One of the biggest complaints you’ll see today is that wrestling is booked for kids or that so many fans think the product is stupid. How many times have you heard someone complain about John Cena targeting almost exclusively to children with his promos (ignoring that this isn’t correct)? I’ve tried to explain this over and over again, but if a short version doesn’t work, why not write a lot more about it? Today we’re going to look at how wrestling is marketed to certain audiences and why it’s a bad idea to cater to certain fans. Let’s get to it.


We start in a book instead of the 80s this time. There’s a very interesting (and highly recommended) book called Those Guys Have All The Fun which chronicles the history of ESPN. Back in the early days, ESPN was known for airing almost all college basketball. As in it was aired for over three quarters of the day at times. It was becoming more and more popular, so an executive suggested that ESPN aired nothing but basketball 24/7, but a fellow executive said no way. While it was fine to have a lot of basketball, it would be a much better idea to include stuff like skiing, tennis, running etc.


Now why did the other executive suggest this? His answer was very simple (paraphrased): “If we have 19 hours of basketball instead of 24, we’re not going to lose many basketball fans. But, if we have 24 hours of basketball instead of 5 hours of other stuff, we lose the skiing, tennis and running fans.” As is the case with almost anything else in life, this can be tied into the world of wrestling.


I’ve seen every single episode of Monday Night Raw ever. Whether it was watching live or taping it, I’ve never missed an episode in the twenty plus year history of Raw. In short, I’m a lifer. There is nothing I can imagine WWE doing that is going to make me stop watching the show and they have my full loyalty. I’m sure there are a lot of other fans who are in the same group that I am: loyal fans who are going to watch no matter what is presented.


That last line sums up the entire point of what I’m talking about: a large amount of fans are going to watch wrestling no matter what’s presented on the show. Fans that are intense in their devotion to the product, as in intense enough to go on the internet and check out sites like this one and read other peoples’ opinions on wrestling, aren’t going anywhere anytime son. Therefore, why in the world should WWE waste their time catering to them?


The obsessive fans, often called the IWC, stereotypically love people like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan while thinking guys like Orton and Cena are shoved down our throats. However, when guys like Cena and Orton are on top and guys like Punk and Bryan are clearly steps below those bigger names, the same fans keep coming back over and over again and can snap off histories and results like no one else can. In other words, they claim to hate the show yet they never miss an episode.


That’s why WWE doesn’t cater to the internet fans and why they shouldn’t: those people are going to watch almost every week and it would be a waste of potential revenue to appeal to such people. We may want to see Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk for the world title at Wrestlemania, but the masses have little interest in seeing such a thing. While the fans that know Bryan and Punk know what they’re capable of, a lot of fans see them as just two small guys who don’t look all that interesting. How likely would you be to spend $50-$60 to see two guys who might be interesting fight?


Here’s the thing that the more obsessive fans can’t accept for whatever reason: most people that watch wrestling don’t care to see wrestling. Yeah it’s a part of the show, but much more of it is about the entertainment aspect. Companies like Ring of Honor talk about being all about the action and jazz like that, but look where Ring of Honor is: on a few television stations in less than major cities with a good PPV meaning the feed only cuts out a few times per match. Most fans likely have no idea what ROH is other than hearing it on a Punk DVD and there’s a reason for it: the masses do not care about all wrestling all the time.


If you want a more historical example, look back at the two most successful eras in modern wrestling history: the Golden Age and the Attitude Era. The Golden Age of the 1980s was all about the over the top and colorful antics of guys like Hulk Hogan. Hulk was never what would be considered a ring general, but he had a formula that worked out as well as anything else ever has. Look at Wrestlemania III. There’s a match with incredible action that changed the way wrestling worked, and on the other hand we have the biggest match ever. Which do you think drew more people to the show?


There’s also the Attitude Era, where wrestling was a rare luxury. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched a Raw from 1999 where a match ran about two minutes before someone came in for a DQ to set up more story elements. Again though, look at how much money the Attitude Era produced by comparison to times like the mid-90s or the Ruthless Aggression Era when wrestling was the focal point of the show. It’s two different worlds and the story driven shows, as in the shows booked for the masses instead of the loyal fans, are far more successful.


Let’s move on now to a more modern idea which continues to make me shake my head: the John Cena issue. One of the most common complaints you hear about Cena is that he’s booked for children and makes really stupid jokes. This is very true and I don’t argue any point of it. I also don’t argue that it’s the smartest thing the WWE can do for a variety of reasons.


First and foremost, there’s the obvious one: merchandising. John Cena appeals to children and every few months he has a new t-shirt out and it’s only $24.99 to make your kid smile because he gets to look like his hero. The NWO did it, Austin did it, Rock did it, but now Cena doing it is stupid because the shirt is red or blue?


Side note about the shirts: look at the lessons/morals the shirts are teaching kids. Austin: “Screw authority and beat up people who disagree with you.” Rock: “Be as big of a jerk as you can and insult anyone you don’t like.” Hogan: “Exercise, pray and believe in yourself.” Cena: “Work hard, be loyal and respect people.” Why do people complain about Hogan and Cena’s catchphrases? Austin, Rock and the NWO basically tell people to cause as much trouble as possible while Cena and Hogan say be good and work hard to get what you want. Those are bad things to teach kids?


Second, yeah Cena caters to kids and the jokes he makes are usually really corny. I hear all of his promos and I don’t get why people complain about them so much. At the end of the day, they’re not made for me and I’d be ridiculous to expect everything was trying to appeal to my demographic. Cena is there for kids (other than that whole year long feud with Rock where the promos were mostly for adults, as was the entire feud. The same was true with Lesnar. Cena only caters to kids though and there’s an army of fans who will tell you so) and guys like Punk, Heyman, Orton, the Wyatts, Shield and Bryan are there for older fans.


Finally, yeah Cena does a lot of the same stuff over and over again. This would be totally different than:


Right hands, middle finger, Thesz Press, Stunner

Samoan drop, spinebuster, Rock Bottom, People’s Elbow

Big boot, chokeslam, Last Ride, Tombston

Knee crusher, knee drop, cannonball down onto the leg, Figure Four

Atomic drop, backbreaker, middle rope elbow, Russian legsweep, Sharpshooter

Hulk Up, right hands, big boot, legdrop


And I could go on and on. EVERYONE has sequences they use and Cena is no different than anyone else. He uses the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but for some reason that’s stupid where as a 20 second build to a standard elbow drop is fine? You can call most of Daniel Bryan’s spots ten seconds before he does most of them. Again, it would be ridiculous to try to mix things up simply because some fans are bored by what they see in Cena’s matches.


Overall, the rabid fans that watch every week have one general problem: they watch every week. If you watch wrestling, or anything for that matter, long enough you’re going to see a few of the same things come up over and over. Here’s the thing though: there are a lot of fans who either A, don’t care that things happen again and again or B, don’t watch every single episode and don’t notice it over and over again. Wresting should never be catered to the people that watch weekly, for that very simple reason: why try to get people to watch when they’re already watching and you could bring in more fans with other stuff?




  1. Mike says:

    I’ve never understood The hate Cena gets for his “same old shit” When every wrestler ever has a sequence they go into. If people want to say He’s boring or his jokes are stupid fine. That at least makes sense or can be argued. But why isn’t it ok for Cena to have a sequence he goes into, But it is ok for all the ones you mentioned above.

    This is what I hate about Cena haters, They yell and scream and complain so much that most people, when someone says I Find him boring at times or, his jokes aren’t funny. Want to Bunch me in with the same idiot fans who hate him because of the colour of his shirt.

  2. abhilash mendhe says:

    watching every single show of raw is really quite an achievement. I started watching in mid 2002 and missed almost half of the episodes till date due to various reasons

  3. Conor says:

    Great article but I think you do Punk and Bryan a little bit of a disservice. The fans are interested in them (both get great pops on TV and PPV) and I would even suggest that Punk is more over than Orton. It’s just that people are more interested in Cena. That’s a plus point for Cena, not a negative to the other performers.

    And on the point of catering to different types of fans, I don’t think that means that Punk vs Bryan for the title at Mania is ruled out. They could still have a title match that would cater to the more hardcore/internet fans who tend to support them while Cena vs Undertaker and whatever Lesnar does will draw in casual fans as will the Wrestlemania factor – the event is a draw in itself. I’m not saying that Punk vs Bryan is the match I’m most desperate to see (I’d prefer Punk vs Lesnar II with Punk getting his win back) I’m just saying that it’s still plausible even given the points you’ve made.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Punk might be, but the Summerslam buyrate suggests Bryan isn’t.

  4. deanerandterry says:

    Its too early to suggest Bryan can’t draw and you can’t blame him for the shit buyrate.Cena, Lesnar and Punk were all there too, its like blaming Miz for the Survivor Series 2011 buyrate when it was Rocks first match back.

    Anyways I agree with pretty much the whole article, with that said it doesn’t mean hardcore fans don’t have to like it but if they don’t then its counter productive to watch it, buy the PPVs and then complain on the internet. Watch other wrestling, buy some old DVD’s and reminisce about the good ol days but don’t complain and keep giving WWE your money because you are encouraging things to stay the same.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Why can’t you? Last year had Punk, Cena and Lesnar and the buyrate was much better. Bryan was the focus of the show this year and the buyrate drops. That’s not a coincidence.

    deanerandterry Reply:

    So then it was The Rocks fault for the 2011 Survivor Series buyrate that was beyond shit?

    deanerandterry Reply:

    It was Bryans first time he main evented a PPV, a lot were unfamiliar with him. You put anyone in that position the buyrates aren’t gonna be that good.

  5. klunderbunker says:

    Just….no. You’re beyond stretching here and it comes off like a Bryan fan boy. Bryan has been around over three years now. To say people aren’t familiar with him is laughable. he was world champion for months and has been the star of Raw for months. I’m assuming we’re supposed to ignore the 300,000 people who changed the channel the night he ran the gauntlet leading up to Summerslam too?

    Bryan isn’t a draw to the masses so far and the Summerslam buyrate proves it. That show was entirely built around him and people didn’t care.

    deanerandterry Reply:

    He never main evented a PPV up to that point and he was never in a position to draw up to that point. Austins first year in the main event he did less than favorable business too, including his first PPV main event. Now I’m not calling Daniel Bryan the next Austin, I’m not even calling him a big draw, I’m not saying he ever will be but what I’m saying is its unwise to sell someone short after his first time at bat.

    I had a house full of people watching Summerslam, a lot didn’t know who Bryan was because they usually only watch the big PPVs (Rumble, Mania and Summerslam) and nothing else so to them it was Cena vs. Some guy or Cena vs. Some midcarder. You assume the people who buy Summerslam watch every week and if you didn’t watch the last 2 months of Raw leading to Summerslam then you wouldn’t understand why Bryan was in that position. Its only been recently Bryan has been a main eventer. You are also forgetting the number of people who watch it in bits and pieces and don’t pay much attention to what’s going on, so they don’t know much about Bryan either.

    When you use the he’s been there 3 years and was World Champ argument you undermine anyone who isn’t a hardcore fan because they aren’t familiar with the guy. Cena was built like nuts a year and a half before he became a draw, same with Austin and both were always in the main event picture before they got the ball. Austin was messing with Bret, Taker, Owen, Foley, Rock and HBK before he became a draw, Bryan messes with The Shield and then becomes the #1 contender at their #2 PPV of the year.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    So we’re supposed to ignore Money in the Bank from two months ago when Bryan was in the main event? Or the world title match he had at Wrestlemania?

    I was at Rupp Arena for a house show ten days ago, after Bryan had main evented two PPVs. Zack Ryder got a louder pop than Daniel Bryan did. I’m sure that’s still not his fault though, right? The people just need another five PPV main events to get to know him, because they didn’t get to in the last few years.

    The argument about casual fans watching no matter what doesn’t hold up. If those people are going to buy anyway, those numbers would be constants in 2012 and 2013, meaning the drop is from people who watch every week and know what’s going on from week to week, meaning they would be familiar with Bryan’s story.

    Again, you come off like a fanboy who is trying anything he can to defend Bryan when the numbers just don’t back it up. Your solution seems to be have him keep main eventing no matter what he does for business, which is a horrible idea. Basically you want people to keep watching Bryan until they just accept him and watch whether they like him or not. Bad idea indeed.

    deanerandterry Reply:

    MITB was not a major PPV and had mad star power outside of Bryan. He opened a Wrestlemania and lost in 18 seconds (which in retrospect was the best thing that ever happened to him) not to mention the WHC is the top title in they eyes of no one. After that he dicked around in the #2-3 feud for 2 months and started teaming with Kane, only moving up again because the fans were loving what him and Kane were doing.

    The casual fans wouldn’t just buy a big PPV for the fuck of it but if there were 2 guys like Lesnar and HHH fighting they would, because they know its 2 big stars and they are familiar with them, they aren’t familiar with Bryan yet that’s all I’m saying. I rarely watch UFC but if Silva is gonna fight I’m gonna watch because he’s familiar and I like him, I also watched every Lesnar fight for the same reason. My UFC buds talk about Faber a lot and how good he is, I got no clue, I know nothing about him and as of now I don’t care to, but if I find out he murders Silva (or whoever is champ of his division) I may check him out. That’s what I’m saying, a lot of people have heard about Bryan but haven’t seen him, or don’t have a real impression of him yet because he hasn’t been tangling with every top star like Austin and Cena did for 18 months before they became big.

    D-Bry is my favorite right now, I will admit that but so is Punk and I don’t think Punk should be the face, but Punk did mingle with every major superstar and had a long time to become top dog, he just didn’t get above Cena so Cena deservedly stayed on top as he should have. Cena is their only big star that is reliable so now is the perfect chance for Bryan to shine and really cement himself since Cena is out. Since their only full time draw is out anyways its not like anyone else is gonna outdraw Bryan currently so it may as well be Bryan at the top.

    When Cena comes back he will take away over as he should, but if Bryan holds the fort well in the next 6 months and they keep building Bryan right under Cena then maybe he will become a draw who can not just hold the fort, but lead it. If he doesn’t find someone else, simple as that. I don’t think he should just be on top regardless but don’t sell him out just yet, a lot of greats have growing pains when they start off as a top guy and since the guy who is the true top draw is out its not hurting WWE anymore than it already would be.

    Mike Reply:

    All that matters is if you liked the show. If you liked D-bry being in the main event. Why should it matter if other people didn’t?

    Christian Sharp Reply:

    Those other people are the ones who buy the shows, who bring up the ratings, who ultimately help the company decide who to keep on top.

    Entertainment is the one industry where what other people think of someone DOES matter, because those other people are the ones giving them a paycheck.

    mike Reply:

    Great but why do you care?

    Your not the one who has to worry about who’s employed.

    Just like whomever you like and enjoy the show. You don’t have to force everyone to sway to your opinion. Someone can tell you who’s best for business or who’s the most likely to draw. That doesn’t mean you have to like them.

    Ah the wrestling business there’s nothing like it.

    Christian Sharp Reply:

    I am interested in getting into the entertainment business, but in the end, I really do like Daniel Bryan. He’s very talented and from what I’ve seen, solid on the mic. This is more out of concern that he’s about to get buried despite showing promise, kinda like what’s happening to Ziggler.

    Mike Reply:

    You want to be a wrestler? Good on you best of luck. Bryan will be fine regardless of what everyone says he’s Doing a fine job. If they truly aboandon everything they built just because cena back. That’s not good for business

  6. ted says:

    ” Your solution seems to be have him keep main eventing no matter what he does for business,”

    Worked for Triple H.

  7. klunderbunker says:

    I’m not going to bother breaking this down point by point anymore as it’s like arguing with a brick wall.

    In summary: the card last year was almost the same as it was this year with the exception of Daniel Bryan as the focal point of the show. You can try to spin that any way you like and make any excuse you want, but those numbers coupled with Bryan’s big main event showcase on Raw a few months ago drawing flies show that you’re incorrect.

    deanerandterry Reply:

    What about Lesnar vs. Punk? That was a huge focal point as well if I recall correctly.

    Im a life long wrestling fan, I’ve excelled in business too believe it or not so don’t think for 1 second I’m blindly defending Bryan while having a complete disregard for business because you are dead wrong. What I do know is that Cena is out and Bryan is over as fuck so he’s as good as any to hold base until Cena is healed up. I also know Cena ain’t getting younger and its time to groom people to take his spot when his time is over.

    Bryan is still relatively new to the main event and has yet to reach his maximum potential in terms of drawing. Currently Bryan and Punk are the most over guys who are active and it would be wise to get the most money out of them while they can. With Bryan we don’t know how high he can go, he’s not recognized as a huge star yet but with the fans and the chants he gets he could be. That’s why I say its not wise to crucify him as being a piss poor draw because of Summerslam, if that’s all it takes knock a potential draw down the ladder then WWE better hope Cena can draw like he does for the next 30 years or else they are in trouble when he retires.

    Summerslams card intrigued hardcore fans but did nothing for your average joe because its not big star vs. big star.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Indeed it was, though a lesser point. Also, Lesnar has proven he’s a draw, meaning it can fairly be said that it’s less likely to be on him. Bryan has zero proof of being a draw, whereas Punk’s coming out party (MITB 2011) drew better than the previous year’s show. Again, Bryan is the only new factor and the numbers dropped as a result.

    Actually Bryan isn’t as good as anyone. The better options would be Orton, HHH, Punk, or anyone else with a proven track record. You don’t go through a rough time with something untested. That makes little sense for just such an emergency.

    The last line sums everything up: Bryan isn’t a big star after three months of being pushed harder than anyone has in years. If he’s not over now, it’s not worth pushing him even further.

    ted Reply:

    It’s always good to see someone relativity new being given a shot. You can’t ride the same horse forever. Do you really want to see more of Triple H in this day and age?

  8. deanerandterry says:

    What emergency? Just because Cena is out doesn’t mean its an emergency and currently its far from an emergency.

    Also I wouldn’t be against Punk and Orton on top at all. It doesn’t have to be Bryan but its a good time to see what he’s made of. Also with guys like Bryan you wanna see what he can do as a draw that’s why you put him at top, you already know what Punk and Orton can do and if Bryan is killing business then this problem can be easily rectified. WWE is lucky, they have such a machine behind them that they can take gambles with Bryan and not suffer. If Bryan doesn’t work out no big loss, but if he does work out it could be a big win.

  9. Heyo says:

    Interesting how things turned out for Bryan. He managed to rise to the top, not just because of his in ring work, but because he got a storyline to compliment it. A lot of people wanted to see Bryan take down Triple H and the Authority. In other words, people cared about Bryan, because he was the underdog they knew could win the big one if he was given a chance. And he got that chance at Wrestlemania.

    Punk was a guy I think COULD HAVE been on top longer than he did. I know about the ratings shtick and how Cena brought them back up, but Punk was good on the mic and his 2011 shoot was possibly the most noteworthy angle WWE did in years. In other words, he could tell a good story when he was able to.