Time to Retire the Term “Internet Wrestling Community”
Suppose I told you I had a bone to pick with the IWC. Could you tell me what group, specifically, provoked my ire? This is not a rhetorical question. I want you to really think about it. Who is the IWC and what does it do? (Hint: It’s not a tooma!) How is it defined? More importantly, how is it used in everyday discourse both on and off the interwebs? When one explores these questions, one begins to uncover an aggravating truth: the term “Internet Wrestling Community” doesn’t actually have a meaningful definition and is merely a vacuous term that allows online wrestling writers, their respective commenters, and even people in the wrestling industry to make blanket statements that dismiss opinions with which they disagree. In other words, if you use the term “IWC”, you’re likely either acting like a dick or allowing yourself to be pigeonholed, so just stop.
Don’t believe me? Then allow me to explicate. Full disclosure: I used to use the term “IWC” regularly until I really started thinking about it.
First, let’s break apart the term “Internet Wrestling Community” into its basic elements: internet, wrestling, and community. Taken at face value, the term merely describes a community that exists online, which discusses issues surrounding professional wrestling. Pretty innocuous, right? Maybe, but even at the basic level, the term “IWC” is also embarrassingly immature. Think about it. Do the nerds who write user reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or wax philosophical about the latest Wes Anderson movie on IMDB forums refer to themselves collectively as “The Internet Movie Community”? Do car enthusiasts who congregate on the BMW subreddit (I don’t even know if this exists, but I assume it does) refer to themselves as the “Internet Beemer Community”? If you think the answer to either of these questions is, “yes”, please locate the back button on your web browser and begin frantically clicking as if this webpage were going to self-destruct — this place isn’t for you. The truth is, nobody feels the need to qualify their online community with the word “internet” in 2013 other than dumb ass wrestling fans.
You see, everyone else on the internet knows that EVERYONE is on the fucking internet. Hence, the “Internet” qualifier for the collective online wrestling community is bone-gratingly obnoxious and stupid due to its inherent redundancy. “But wait!” you say. “The term “IWC” is meant to designate fans who spend an exorbitant amount of time debating wrestling intricacies. It’s meant to draw a distinction between the smarks and the casual fan.”
Though this argument doesn’t get around the intrinsic redundancy of an online community using the term “internet” to describe itself (why not “The Smark” community?), it does point to a desire to categorize different types of wrestling fans. I have no problem with this, by the way. Specificity is good, but another problem with the term “IWC” is that it is no longer used just to refer to smarks or wrestling enthusiasts. It is used to refer to smarks and wrestling enthusiasts who hold a certain set of opinions — and the opinions in question almost always run contrary to the opinions of the person using the term “IWC”. Hence, the term “IWC” becomes devoid of any concrete meaning, but instead becomes just an instrument by which people flippantly dismiss others with whom they disagree. If someone is a passionate wrestling fan who likes to discuss wrestling with people online, using the “IWC” label would almost be tolerable if it were just a blanket category for all wrestling fans online, but it’s not.
More often than not, the term “IWC” is thrown around as a pejorative even by, so called, “smart fans”. This trend is especially prevalent among wrestling writers. For example, take this piece from TJRwrestling.com. In it, Mike Ayers writes:
Finally…no FINALLY…The Internet Wrestling Community, (sadly known as the IWC) has blown their freaking gaskets.
Seriously. I can no longer sit idly by and watch you guys kill yourselves.
Just to sate your curiosity, the column is targeted toward disgruntled wrestling fans angry about CM Punk’s loss to The Rock at The Royal Rumble, but that’s beside the point. The point is that Ayers seems completely unaware of the irony of his own actions. He refers to the IWC as some kind of third party with which he has no affiliation. The glaring reality is that nobody is more “IWC” (under the innocuous definition) than a dude whose hobby is writing wrestling opinion pieces; however, here, it’s blatantly obvious that the the term “IWC” means “a category of opinions I disagree with”. I don’t mean to single out Mr. Ayers. You can find similar sentiments directed toward the “IWC” from writers all over the internet, especially from writers who like to talk about “WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE BUSINESS, STUPID” — as if they are the only people insightful enough to realize that The Rock vs. John Cena Part 2 will generate a billion dollars. We get it, jackasses — John Cena is a CASH COW — but “good for business” doesn’t equal “good”, just like movies Adam Sandler stars in aren’t better than Paul Thomas Anderson movies just because they make more money. This new trend of the meta-smark internet writer chastising the mythical “IWC” has got to stop. You people are the real hipsters of professional wrestling; you hate the haters just to be different; congratulations on being total non-conformists. I want to find every one of these assholes and throat punch them. Hard. But I digress.
Amateur wrestling writers are annoying because they have the ability to frame the dialogue; they generate both the discussion and the parameters around it. At the end of the day, though, they are a harmless bunch when left to their own devices. The problem is they are often empowered by “wrestling insiders” who legitimize stigmatizing wrestling fans on the internet with dissenting opinions. These people don’t always say “IWC”, they sometimes refer to fans “who read the dirtsheets”, but wrestling news sites always translate such attacks as attack against the “IWC”. The problem is that “dirt sheet” doesn’t mean the same thing it did in 1992, but guys like Eric Bischoff act like it does. Before, “dirt sheets” referred to a few, specific, in-print publications that put out behind-the-scenes wrestling news/rumors. Now, a “dirt sheet” is defined as any source that puts out wrestling information/misinformation that isn’t sanctioned by wrestling companies — i.e. pretty much any place where wrestling is a topic of conversation that isn’t wwe.com and wherever TNA lives on the web.
Certain wrestling insiders attempt to paint a picture that shows an irrelevant number of fans bitching and moaning, while everyone else is actually 100% satisfied with the product being put out. The argument is more plausible when the only people who read “dirt sheets” were the ten assholes in their basement who read The Wrestling Observer in 1995, but as I previously pointed out EVERYONE IS ON THE INTERNET. You are not talking about ten uber-nerds. You’re talking about a sizeable chunk of your audience. Even if it’s only 10% as Eric Bischoff has claimed in the past — that’s still a sizable chunk. Only the worst businessman ever (Hi, Bischoff!) would intentionally offend the cohort most engaged with their product because a smart businessman knows that this cohort, though only a fraction of the overall audience buys more wrestling gear, generates more social media, attends more events, and allows themselves to be brainwashed by more TV ads than any other segment of fans. In other words, every fan that makes up this 10% is worth MORE than a fan not in this 10%. To dismiss this group, under the “IWC” label, is not just wrong, but stupid.
But the wrestling business knows it can control the narrative as well, so it intentionally perpetuates the myth of the “IWC” to dismiss the opinions of some fans as irrational and/or irrelevant rather than address them head-on. That’s far easier and more expedient than actually addressing aspects of the wrestling product that are obviously stale.
The IWC doesn’t exist. It is now just a pejorative term used to shout down people with different (often better) tastes. And if the IWC is an actual thing (it’s not) the people who criticize it are, by definition, its most militant, ironic flag bearers. More often than not, a person who uses the term “IWC” is just trying to bludgeon someone else; they’re trying to make the fan who bemoans banality feel like this kid:
That’s because it’s easier to denigrate and dismiss someone than engage them in substantive debate. We make it too easy to take the former approach when we treat the IWC as an actual thing. It’s not. We should stop. That’s why as long as angrywrestlingguy.com exists, I will give the term the treatment it deserves by not taking it seriously and ridiculing its use.