Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On Insider Terms and Teachable Moments

Hardy has a problem with YOU using terms
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Wrestlers and hardcore fans have been at odds for years over the use of "insider" lingo. The disagreements are as old as the age of the first non-kayfabed newsletter, when Dave Meltzer first started his endeavors of attempting to report the backstage dealings and wasn't shy about using the industry jargon to describe them. As knowledge of idiomatic terms increased in percentage among the fans, resentment from some corners of the wrestling world grew exponentially in relation to it. Backlash from wrestlers is not a new thing, but the easy access of Twitter plus the rampant insecurity of some personalities who tend only to interact with the "haters" and the people they deem stupid and needing to be called out makes its existence on schedule for daily reminder.

Michael Bennett has made part of his new, hardline old school character calling people out for using words that he thinks should belong only to wrestlers. Jim Ross is another personality on Twitter who, when not shilling his sauces or his podcast, likes to take people to task for being "keyboard warriors" who think they know more than they actually do. Last night, Matt Hardy had an episode of public shaming over the use of the word "worker:"

While I agree that the Twitter user Hardy called out probably has a skewed version of what a worker is, I find Hardy's response and defensive prohibition of using that specific word only to those who have stepped in the ring is emblematic of the disconnect between fan and performer. The problem isn't that fans are using terms incorrectly; a majority of those within wrestling still refuse to teach the outsiders what those terms mean.

On one level, I can understand why wrestlers might want to remain secretive about their trade. The age of kayfabe is still fresh in people's memories. Those who have come up through the business now may have spent their time when wrestling was nearly universally acknowledged as more art than legitimate sport, but they have mostly been trained by people who were in their primes when the ruse was still strong in public perception. Old habits die hard, especially in an industry with such a close-knit fraternity of wrestlers with almost dogmatic respect for the past. No matter how much the business changes over the years, the people within it have to be the ones to enact change. If people take cues from Hardy, like Bennett and so many others seemingly are, then no matter how modern the finished product looks, those bringing it to life may still remain as secretive as their forebears were in 1960.

I don't necessarily think knowledge of those terms is necessary for enjoyment. As an aside, I've tried to step back from using those terms myself, but not because I have "respect" for the business or for whatever stringent reasons I'm not supposed to use those words or whatever. My reasons are purely aesthetic. Regardless, terminology is the last thing anyone, fan or performer, should really worry about, but at the same time, hey, it's not like wrestlers are out in the open using those terms in front of anywhere from hundreds to millions of followers on Twitter or to audiences on podcasts, right?


When the Bullet Club's entire Twitter gimmick is using insider lingo in an attempt at being too cool for school, when arguably the most widely-listened to wrestling podcast in the Steve Austin Show regularly features him shooting the shit with wrestlers using those terms, when people like Lance Storm (who, to be fair, is more in line with Meltzer than Hardy and Bennett) and Sean Waltman live-Tweet RAW from an insider's perspective, then the problem no longer rests with the fans who are prying behind a curtain. The toothpaste is out of the tube, and the people who squeezed it out are the same ones who were supposed to be stewards of the tube in the first place.

People like Bennett, Ross, and Hardy have no reason to be angry or resentful to fans anymore. Their rage would be better aimed at their peers, but in all reality, rage is not the right emotion to feel. Bennett especially has taken to comparing using wrestling jargon like "disrespectfully" using accounting terms to a CPA. I can only speak anecdotally, but whenever I engage in conversation with someone about their business, they are open and actually want to discuss their jobs with people. Then again, the comparisons aren't exactly congruous. I'm sure an accountant would love it if someone came up to him or her and asked about supply and demand curves, but that industry is, in a word, boring compared to pro wrestling.

The year is 2014, and I would assume most people over the age of 10 who continue to watch wrestling do so either in spite of its "fakeness" or BECAUSE they know and love that its staged nature allows for better storytelling and implementation of sports action without the drags of boring strategy for winning. Would teaching people about the correct definitions and usages of terms be that damaging? The answer, unequivocally, is hell fucking no, it wouldn't. If random Twitter users don't know what the word "worker" means, then Hardy can do one of two things. He can ignore those people and not use Twitter as a haughty platform for shushing and condescending people who are not part of his fraternity (and who, especially on the level of work where he's at, are the ones paying his appearance fees), or he could use those missteps as teachable moments and try to get as many people educated on what "workers" are.

Words are words, and you don't need to have experience to know what they mean. The modern era and proliferation of information makes this veil of secrecy that some wrestlers want to live behind a mirage. Teaching fans the right and wrong way to use terminology is not pulling back the curtain. It is not akin to a magician revealing how to perform his/her tricks. It is free exchange of ideas, which is never a bad thing.