by Kevin D’Hooge
Phone in hand. Twitter account signed in. WWE App loaded up. The way we watch (or not watch) wrestling has changed.
A few weeks ago I was driving back to Boston from Rhode Island late on a Sunday night. I had just watched a superior night of action at Beyond Wrestling. The drive home coincided with Hell in a Cell.
Even though I couldn’t watch HIAC live on TV, if I wanted to I could still get WWE alerts, browse Twitter, or test my LTE capabilities by watching it on my phone (I didn’t do any of these).
There are 2 types of television programming: sports and everything else.
I’m a firm believer that sports have to be watched live. There’s just some type of urgency that is felt while watching games in the moment. This feeling cannot be replicated when watching the game hours after it has taken place and after it has been dissected by the rest of the world. If necessary, Twitter spoilers and score-checking can be sought if live-watching is not an option.
In my opinion, recurring television shows do not share this same urgency. In most cases they are filmed long in advance and the impact they create is different than a live sporting event. Therefore, every odd South Park or Ballers can be viewed days after the original broadcast date. Obviously spoilers must be avoided at all costs.
Wrestling is sports entertainment so technically it falls into both buckets I just mentioned.
My dilemma was that I felt conflicted with HIAC: I wanted to know the results of the pay per view, but I also wanted to do the event justice and watch it in its entirety without prior knowledge.
I avoided all spoilers to the best of my ability…until I opened the WWE app on my iPad the next day to watch HIAC.
Spoiler alert, but the home page revealed the return of Alberto Del Rio and the fact that Undertaker lost and was kidnapped by the Wyatt Family. Way to go WWE!
What I have deduced is that WWE should be treated like sports programming. In the future I will not avoid spoilers of an event (as long as I can’t watch it the same night).
Watching wrestling is very much an interactive and social experience. So much so that WWE dominates social media during Raw and PPV Sundays.
Intentionally avoiding the discussion and results is counterintuitive and antiquated in modern times.
Negligence robs us of the all-important live reaction. Watching and reacting to wrestling on a delay is very much an isolated experience. If you can’t share a live moment with someone (even if it is the internet) does it hold the same power?
Last year South Park did a terrific job of portraying the death of the living room. Essentially, in-person discussion of TV shows has moved to the internet. We scout Twitter, Facebook, and internet forums for the top hot take and in some cases, provide it ourselves.
We are no longer concerned with being the sharpest commentator in the room or even interacting with those physically watching with us; we’re more concerned with being the smartest and wittiest person on the internet.
Speaking from anecdotal experience, some of the most emotional feelings I’ve ever had while following wrestling have occurred after hearing spoilers to events. To give further context, these events were in the pre-Twitter days. One match was the Street Fight between Triple H and Cactus Jack at No Mercy 2000 with the stipulation that if Jack lost, Mick Foley would have to retire.
I did not have the luxury of ordering the PPV that Sunday. Luckily there was always that one kid at school whose parents ordered the events for him. The next day at school he told us all that Mick Foley, my favorite wrestler at the time, lost. I was devastated. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I would have experienced the same feeling had I watched the PPV live.
Word of mouth was our social media at the time. The method is still the same; the scope just changed.
With wrestling, there’s no sense in delaying the news of the inevitable. We wouldn’t say “spoiler alert” for a breaking news story or when announcing who won a football game.
It’s more important to be informed and to be part of the discussion than to hold onto the archaic idea of a “pure” viewing experience.