With the announcement of the second AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door, I was brought back to June of last year when the first event occurred. I thought about the snakebit card. I thought about the negative conversations surrounding the show. I thought about the card overdelivering both critically and commercially. However, the thought that stuck with me was the question that was repeated endlessly during the Forbidden Door build and has persisted to today.
What about the people who don’t know who this wrestler is?
For many pundits, the solution to this problem is simple: show a video package. In reality, a video package is not the one size fits all solution that people claim. For Eddie Kingston, the best introduction was a promo.
For someone like Hiroshi Tanahashi or El Hijo del Vikingo, a video package explaining their accomplishments will ring hollow for a fan with no context of what those accomplishments mean. The best introduction for some of the best wrestlers in the world will be seeing them wrestle.
It’s okay not to know someone. I promise.
Wrestling is a television program that has been running for over half a century, with hundreds of spin-offs and thousands of characters. You can’t go back to season one and start from the beginning. Every wrestling fan has a blind spot, but your blind spot isn’t someone else’s problem to fix. It isn’t your place to speak for new fans because you know less about a show than you’re used to.
What happened to the curiosity in wrestling fandom?
The worry about introducing a new wrestler is usually framed around a new fan watching. The idea of a new fan turning off the TV when an unfamiliar wrestler is on screen is antithetical to the process of becoming a wrestling fan. The barrier for entry is higher than we would like to think. Wrestling is confusing from the outside, and the structure makes it impossible to introduce a new wrestling fan to every wrestler or company before they start watching. No matter what company they watch, they must start watching and learning as they go. If someone genuinely wants to become a wrestling fan from scratch, they have accepted seeing unfamiliar faces and learning about new wrestlers.
I still remember the first time I saw AJ Styles on Impact. I still remember watching NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9, not knowing anyone other than the English commentary team on the show. Almost all of wrestling history is at our fingertips with the internet. What makes us better than a new wrestling fan? Why should we be above learning for ourselves?
Never forget that at one point, as a wrestling fan, you didn’t know anything. Regardless, you put in the time. You kept watching. You kept learning. You kept discovering new wrestlers and finding new favorites. Don’t think that means you can’t learn more.
Next time a wrestler you don’t know is announced for one of the shows you watch, take the time if you have it and learn about the wrestler beforehand.
Let them show you why they’re special rather than telling you. If you sit back and watch, you might have a new favorite wrestler.
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