One of the great traditions of professional wrestling is recognition of the fine line between a mark (someone who unabashedly prefers a particular wrestler…and may/not know the sport is staged) and a smark…or smart mark (an individual aware the sport is fake, and prides themselves on understanding subtle nuances).
While complete denial of professional wrestling’s sports entertainment status is a bit, well…Santa Claus-esque, so is snarky elitism by self-proclaimed connoisseurs’ and arbiters of good from bad wrestling.
Perhaps no one put it better than the great Colt Cabana, whose weekly hit podcast ‘The Art of Wrestling‘ declares the sport as, well, an art form. In doing so, he acknowledges professional wrestling a genre with finite moveset and specific storyline genres. Most importantly, however, he highlights that – akin to any art form – the true masters are those who can transform a pre-determined storyline and sequence into something truly special.
I’ve met many a smark…both online and at shows. In both instances, these individuals – while not necessarily bad people – share a common, not so smart trait. They consider their interpretation of the art as the true brushstrokes. There’s a reason Sotheby’s doesn’t paint.
This approach is shameful for an array of reasons, most importantly, it’s admiring the sport with blinders on. Smarks will – in almost all instances – steadfastly pay homage to only a specific wrestling type…in the vast majority of instances, mainstream WWE. Even smark allegiance to developmental NXT is from a WWE versus independent, house show frame for which the former (akin to its FCW and OVW predecessors) was always intended. Sadly enough, the loud but also insignificant in number smark blog voices are forcing WWE’s hand in re-branding a product and roster no where near prime time ready.
Most disturbing is their ignorance of all things independent (non WWE) wrestling. Ring of Honor and sister leagues (PWG, Evolve and FIP, for instance) thrive under a fanbase supportive of house shows and athleticism. AAA and Lucha Underground supporters are traditionalists, wed to a very unique and longstanding Rudos and Tecnicos-based storytelling. Extreme wrestling also holds a loyal midwestern and PA fanbase, also the style to pull of such feats. Likewise women’s wrestling leagues (Shine and Shimmer, most notably), ones stacked with global talent…but will never make it to prime time television based on looks.
Worse yet, smarks think it clever to hope for TNA’s demise; a tragedy for a league rooted in tradition and a deep roster. Many of which once wrestled in smark-happy WWE. These are the same individuals with a stated goal to interrupt wrestling matches with insulting chants.
The one exception appears to be New Japan Pro Wrestling, a smark flavor du jour that will likely pass in the breeze. The smarks will soon discover they can’t easily assimilate into NJPW’s loyal fanbase, nor blaspheme strong style by comparing it to WWE’s camera-based, sports entertainment.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s arguably no better show than a live WWE event. The spectacle, the interaction, the larger than life presentation. Vince McMahon is a genius; no one will debate that. Only Vince never turned smark.