You guys might not realize this yet, but I am so all about the Internet. I use it constantly for pretty much everything: socializing, working, gaming, learning and everything in between. I know to some, it’s an unwelcome diversion that’s “dumbing down” our culture, but as I’ve seen and experienced it, the Internet’s ushered in an unprecedented era of innovation, creativity and accessibility that’s benefited everything from the arts to our organizational infrastructures.
In gaming, more designers than ever have the ability to come together with other prospective developers; in film, YouTube and other free broadcasting services have promoted the advents of vlogs, micro series and, in some cases, full-fledged movies; and in writing, just about any person can find an audience for his ideas and craft, even finding occasional ways to make money off their work through advertising or electronic self-publishing.
As much as the Internet has enabled innovation in other genres and as much as it’s already changed the industry that is of our chief interest (wrestling, obviously), it’s only natural to expect professional wrestling would get bitten by the e-bug.
At the top of the industry, WWE’s made good use of the Internet in offering alternative methods of accessing their weekly shows through Hulu Plus, in addition to creating diverse and original content on YouTube. Also, Superstars on YouTube and Twitter are able to develop their characters outside the WWE machine. Without any apparent interest from creative, Zack Ryder fostered a strong following with his YouTube audience that eventually transitioned into a push on television, albeit a brief and poorly executed one. Then other talents have benefited from YouTube in exploring alter egos, such as Daniel Bryan with his “The Dazzler” persona. If you haven’t seen The Dazzler perform magic, beat up a bear or rap about Kane’s smelly glove, what are you doing with your life?
Fans also enjoy the unique advantages of the Internet. As I discussed in my article on agency, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, blogs and other websites have become additional outlets to exercise our agency in relation to pro wrestling. We can promote our favorite superstars, voice our opinions (some of which I like to think actually reach the WWE, especially in the case of more prominent blogs), and simply experience wrestling more readily than ever before. I think a wrestling fan could spend his whole life sifting through the exponentially growing store of wrestling content on YouTube. Then there’s pay-per-view streams, which are totally awesome you should never use out of respect for the law and copyright holders.
Independent wrestling promotions may have discovered some of the most creative and frugal uses of the Internet. Beyond Wrestling in particular, a mostly e-based promotion that emphasizes its break from traditional promoting conventions, even sells individual matches as one-dollar microtransactions on YouTube. Ring of Honor, after a brief stint with television on HDNet, now makes their weekly shows available instantly on their website for premium (paying) members, whereas free members can still watch the shows, although a few days later. Additionally, many independent promotions have invested in Internet Pay-Per-Views in order to earn some of the profits of traditional PPVs, but without the costs.
I think the examples I gave show how at each level of the industry, members are using the Internet in ways appropriate to their relative needs and interests. What’s different about wrestling compared to other genres is that there’s no comprehensive perspective that represents the entire scope of this change, let alone the entire scale of the industry as a whole. However, I think that’s a subject for another article.
What I will say in summation of the discussions herein is that with the strides we’ve taken so far, there’s a lot to look forward to in the future. We have a stronger voice in the industry than ever and instant access to wrestling promotions we would have never even heard of without attending them live ten or twenty years ago. Perhaps in another ten years, interactivity, even within the WWE, will be elevated from presumably rigged (or botched) Twitter polls to true engagement with the product.
However, that’ll necessitate not only the technology, but a will on WWE’s part to acknowledge its potential and break from tradition, which is hard in an industry where old school dogma often dictates the direction of the industry. Obviously, we’ve already embraced the Internet in a lot of regards, otherwise there wouldn’t be the Twitter polls to criticize in the first place. However, this defection needs to be more fundamental than using the Internet. There needs to be a change in how WWE approaches audiences and how they present their fictive world and product to the people. But now I’m nearing a different subject. For now, I ask you take in what I’ve shown and add to the discussion. We’ll revisit it in the coming weeks.
Welp, that’s it. An anorexic 800 words. Sorry for the length, but per usual I put the article off until last night, which hadn’t been an issue any other week until this Sunday. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty details, but suffice it to say it was very draining and, to be blunt, a slice of New York-style pizza did not sit well with me. I’ll take this as a lesson: start the writing process earlier in the week in case greasy cheese tries to kill me on Sunday.
At the same time, there was less I wanted to say about this subject and by the end I was mostly satisfied to have simply cataloged some of the ways in which we use the Internet without drawing out any broader theoretical discussions. Plus, it serves as legwork to a future project that’ll incorporate this information as well as subjects from other articles I’ve written so far. So yeah, look forward to that.
Until the next week, I’m going to go throw out the rest of that pizza. In the meantime, check me out on Twitter or shoot me an angry email. Since people are actually starting to follow me on Twitter (wasn’t really expecting that), I’ll have to actually start Twittering. Chirping? Birding? Fandangoing? Whatever.