Should Sports Entertainment Be More Realistic?

Vince McMahon Dies in Fiery Car ExplosionBoris Milman posted a blog at and brought up a point that’s so obvious, it’s easy for jaded fans- especially internet fans- to overlook. Here’s an excerpt from his post, which we think is worth passing on.

The John Cena and JBL car angle from Raw last week, which was immediately bashed all over the internet, made me think about a problem I’ve had with wrestling commentary on the internet for years. The bulk of the criticism of the angle was that the situation was not realistic and thus ruined the viewer’s suspension of disbelief.

While I do acknowledge that the angle was silly and not the best work the WWE has done in recent weeks, I strongly disagree with the specific criticisms mentioned above as well as with the general idea that the problem with the angle was its lack of realism. As a general rule, I believe that complaints about realism in pro wrestling are almost never valid and I will try to explain why in this post.

The problem is somewhat difficult to articulate but I will try my best. Those people who follow the wrestling business closely on the internet know better than anyone that what they see on television every week is not real in any way. They can enjoy a good match or an entertaining promo but they never really suspend their disbelief in any real way while watching. Thus, their perspective is completely different from that of the more casual fans who constitute the vast majority of WWE’s television, pay-per-view and live audience.

Having been to a few WWE shows in the New York and Boston areas over the past couple of years, I can definitively state that most of the fans who show up to the live shows have no trouble suspending their disbelief for even the most preposterously illogical angles, provided the angles involve characters that the audience has a strong connection to and that those characters act in ways that is at least somewhat consistent with the way they have been portrayed on television.

The internet fans and journalists argue that the Cena and JBL angle was bad for business because it ruined most fans’ suspension of disbelief. In criticizing angles for their lack of realism, the internet wrestling fans and media are speaking for an audience that cares about realism in professional wrestling, and that audience doesn’t really exist. Those people who follow the business closely already understand that everything they see is ‘fake’. There is no point to making wrestling more realistic to please them, because they will never see it as real anyway.

In this particular case, the “smart” fans know full well that JBL isn’t trying to kill John Cena but they are criticizing the WWE for presenting the angle because they claim it ruins the viewing experience for the vast majority of fans. These fans theoretically get angry at the nonsense on their television screens and refuse to buy PPVs or watch Raw or go to live shows.

However, in reality those casual fans don’t even think about wrestling deeply enough to give much thought to the question of whether JBL is trying to kill Cena. To them, Cena and JBL are in the middle of a feud, and within the context of that feud, the two of them should do all kinds of terrible things to one another. I have a friend who watches wrestling casually and his response to the angle on Raw was that it was “cheesy but pretty cool.” He wasn’t complaining that Cena should be dead or that JBL was not arrested for attempted murder because that would “make sense.”

He also did not complain about the cameras being present to record the whole scene. The reason for this is that he has no reason to worry about these silly details and there is no point for the “smart” fans and journalists to worry on his behalf. Even the most naive fan knows that if everything goes according to plan, no one will get hurt during a wrestling show and that everything they see is entertainment.

The main point I am trying to make is that criticizing professional wrestling in 2008 for its lack of realism is intellectually lazy. Literally every single second of what is on WWE or TNA television today could easily be broken down and shown not to make sense on some level.


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