A couple of weeks down, and we’re still feeling the remnants of this year’s Royal Rumble. This being the repeat year of the fans displaying their collective Howard Beale, one is literally amused at the amount of willing ignorance WWE has showcased towards their fans desires. So, with such an overwhelmingly unified outcry of fans against the product, of course there would be someone waiting to play devil’s advocate.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that an opposing viewpoint is crucial to bringing out another perspective, setting checks and balances, and building vital components to a progressive solution. But if you’re playing the role for the sole sake of playing the role, then please expect your balloon full of hot air to be deflated.
It was the 155th episode of Classy Ring Attire where my two favorite podcasters (besides myself and Blair, of course) were addressing the situation of the Rumble. I was intrigued when C.W. Sanders took an opposing view from the majority of fans when it came to canceling their WWE Network subscription. But intrigue quickly became confusion when the usually on-point Sanders stated:
“The whole ‘cancel your WWE Network’ thing, it felt like, it felt like the whole wrestling community just suddenly became these spoiled brats that didn’t get their way. And now, they’re throwing a tantrum, you know. And the way I think of it is, you’re canceling your on demand service because you didn’t like one match. It’s like watching Netflix and watching a TV show that you feel very passionate about. There’s one episode you didn’t like, and now you just decide you’re going to cancel your Netflix.”
“I don’t know the exact figures, but I think WWE’s stock went up at least 20 percent because of the [one million subscribers to the WWE Network] announcement.”
“And yeah, I do believe that canceling your subscription would be a big message to them. But again, like, what good is that message if a lot of them are going to renew anyway? And some people, they may be gone for good, but I still think it’s kind of childish, to be honest with you. It’s like, ‘I’m going to cancel because of this one thing. And yeah, if you want your voice to be heard, that’s how you do it.”
This was so odd to hear. Not only were there several contradicting statements made about this being a ‘childish move’, yet the ‘best way to let your voice be heard’, but I just didn’t understand the concept of demonizing consumers who didn’t enjoy a product, so they rejected it fiscally, which is a pretty normal response for anyone who buys a shitty product and doesn’t want to pay for it anymore.
I responded to Sanders on our sister podcast, Trashy Ring Attire Episode 14
“Chris, have you ever heard of the concept of ‘the final straw’? Because this isn’t necessarily something that is, like, they’re not canceling just because the Rumble sucked. This has been years and years of pent-up frustration, and not just that. This is basically a carbon copy of what happened last year.”
“WWE fans, as much as we voice our opinions online or on Twitter, as much as we do all of that, it doesn’t come across. Because on more than one occasion, on television, we’ve seen wrestlers like Triple H and the higher ups call us the internet nerds. So, they obviously don’t respect our opinions whenever we say anything online. To be honest, the only time when they ever start to listen at all is when the fan response is overwhelming enough that they have to turn it, like what happened with Bryan last year, but even then, they rationalize it by saying ‘any reaction is a good reaction’. So, the only way you can really hit them is in their pocketbooks.”
“I don’t understand this mentality of ‘being childish’. It’s very ‘big brother’ talk when you’re speaking like that. There was an analogy that Chris had made: if you canceled Netflix because you didn’t like an episode of something’. Well, yeah, that’s why you WOULD cancel Netflix, because you didn’t like their content. If the content isn’t something that you like, then you have every right. It’s not childish. It’s your choice.”
“Even if there was a mass cancellation of Netflix because…Season three of ‘House of Cards’, Frank Underwood gets killed in the first episode, and people are mass canceling because they didn’t like the content. I don’t know how you would call that childish, because it’s a uniform decision based on creative content that people didn’t like. Why is that childish? If Netflix had a good business mindset, they would retcon the fucking thing. So, it’s not childish. It’s a bunch of people, the majority of your customers, letting you know that we are dissatisfied with your product. So, either you change something about your product, or you’re going to lose our business.”
With my peace being said, I was set to leave this alone. However, the latest episode of CRA had Sanders responding to the heat he’d garnered from his “advocating”.
“Let’s just chalk this all down to ‘I’m a grumpy old man’. I’m almost 27, but I act like I’m 65, and I’m ready to just sit on the rocking chair and yell at kids as they drive by with their overly-loud music. See, my thing is, if you’re going to cancel the network, being you’re mad at it, cancel it. You don’t have to let the freakin’ entire world know. “
For Chris and anyone else who might agree with this sentiment, I’d like to explain to you the meaning and purpose behind what is called a “movement”. When you’re unhappy with a particular current product or service, but you still believe in the underlying culture or institution of said product or service, sometimes you will vouch for change in the product rather than completely giving up on it. Sometimes, the majority of people involved in the involvement of the same culture will get together and try to perpetuate this progressive change.
Now, stay with me on this. One of the biggest ammunitions that a group can have in regards to this motive is something called ‘awareness’. In modern times, we use a channel called ‘the internet’ to communicate and spread awareness. We do this through social media, through blogs, and many other avenues utilizing the internet. And we do this not only to grab the attention of people who may be feeling the same and just needed to know there are other people out there who share their discontent so they can join said movement, but also to let the company controlling the content (in this case, WWE) know that there are many of us who are dissatisfied with their content, and if the right kind of change isn’t initiated, then there will be ramifications to the consumption of their product.
Thankfully, they now have a direct way for us to effect this that they actually care about: the success of the WWE Network. So, if enough awareness is spread, maybe there will be enough action taken to hit the subscriptions of the Network, and thus, hopefully, effecting the right kind of change. This is why it’s rather poignant to, as you say, “let the whole freakin’ world know”.
This is actually just an example of an anti-audience mentality that many bloggers and podcasters at times showcase, as if to put themselves on some hierarchy over the crowd that warrants condescension because we have a blog or a podcast. Let me spell this as objectively as I can:
We can debate about booking. We can debate about how the company is run. We can debate about who is the better wrestler, and who is relevant or not. We can debate about who should be pushed and why. But you cannot, and I mean CANNOT, criticize the crowd for their reactions and how they respond to a product (outside of outright violence) without looking like an asshole with no credibility in your argument.
This particular example caught me off guard, because I personally know Chris as a smart guy who’s generally right on the money. No disrespect intended to him personally, of course. Like I said, this stance against the crowd is something I’ve seen a lot of wrestling writers have recently. But let’s think twice about playing devil’s advocate for the sake of playing devil’s advocate, at least for the sake of one’s own ethos.
And that’s my Kue to bounce.