This week, Wes Keefer, Ben Guest and Robert DeFelice will be giving their opinions on the interaction and relationship of WWE Superstars and fans outside the ring.
The line between fans and WWE talent is constantly blurred nowadays due to the advent of social media, and the accessibility of the superstars themselves. This week we'll examine the relationship more closely.
Question 1: What was your favorite match from WWE SummerSlam 2017?
GUEST: This is difficult, because social media is a great opportunity for character development, but in a world where the person behind the superstar is being shown more and more, it's difficult to think that people are going to be in or out of character all the time on social media. Ultimately, I think superstars need a way of showing whether or not a message is in character. Obviously, certain things are unacceptable whether in character or not and I personally think Corbin's comments on Meltzer were unnecessary but didn't warrant punishment. I think the answer is that stars either need to stay in or out of character on social media or have a way of showing whether or not they are in character.
KEEFER: This has been an ongoing issue in WWE, as Dolph Ziggler is another recent incident of a star being punished for speaking out on social media. To be honest, the wrestlers have a right to either be themselves or remain in character in their lives outside of the ring. It doesn’t make sense to why social media is the only factor. For example, there was a video posted on social media that included Alexa Bliss, Big Cass, and Strowman presenting Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees with a WWE title belt for his Home Run Derby performance. All three are heels, but they weren’t in character in a clip that circled around social media. No one was punished for it. There should be some sort of formal meeting behind the scenes if a wrestler airs their grievances on social media, but the immediate reaction should not be to pull the rug out from under a superstar. Things won’t change though. Superstars with the highest merchandise sales will get the big pushes while stars who put in the work and aren’t happy with being skipped over will continue to speak their opinions on the matter and they will further fall down the ladder, i.e. Miz.
DeFELICE: Social Media and Pro Wrestling is a very weird combination that plays a huge role in the evolution of the business today. In my opinion, I think would be cool if people were in character on social media. That’s why I like Baron Corbin’s utilization of the medium. He’s a heel. He acts like it on social media. He’s not obligated to be your friend, he shouldn’t be punished for being a dick to Dave Meltzer, and how in the world is he supposed to know that somebody is in the military when they come at him trying to poke the bear?! I think being punished for Social Media is stupid, and I feel going forward WWE should outline what they want their characters to be outside of the ring. Why shouldn’t a heel always be a heel? Again, I’m a very old-school guy despite how young I am and I like when wrestlers utilize social media for furthering angles in wrestling and not to put each other over and praise how great everything is.
Question 2: Sasha Banks receives a lot of backlash for the way she reacts to fans while out in public. Brooklyn, in particular, had a lot to say on social media about her attitude out of character. Do you think WWE Superstars should be expected to be approachable and fan-friendly at all times, regardless of the presence of cameras?
DeFELICE: To keep it simple, Sasha banks owes us nothing. I realize the phrasing of this makes it seem like I’m some sort of Sasha super fan but it’s true. I know the rumor is that she wouldn’t even stop for kids, but think about this: if you stop for one kid then you have to stop for all. If you’re stopping for all the kids all the adults are going to crowd you around as well. I highly doubt that Sasha intentionally ignores children because she doesn’t like them, and I certainly don’t believe that she would blatantly ignore someone with special needs, seeing as her own brother is autistic. The problem is that stopping for one mean stopping for everyone.
There was a video circulating of an entire mob of people surrounding Sasha as she walked from her hotel to get a pizza and she didn’t stop because she’s just a person going to get a pizza and then the jeers ensued. She was just going to get a pizza! How would you feel if a massive amount of people were hounding you for interaction while you were trying to buy pizza? Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if she ended up being the female CM Punk. She loves the art form of the business, but she’s not a fan of being hounded at airports or in her everyday life. I think once she’s done, she’s done for good. I’m fine with that. I think wrestling fans are a little too entitled when it comes to things like interacting with superstars in today’s social media world. They don’t have to stop for you and in Sasha’s case, she exercises that right more than others and that is perfectly fine.
GUEST: Again, this is not a straightforward yes or no. There is no reason to be rude to fans (unless they're rude first), but there also shouldn't be an obligation to be the nicest, friendliest person 24/7. Wrestlers (as well as other well-known people with big fan bases) have a certain obligation to interact with fans, but this shouldn't intrude on their personal life and if they don't want to talk at that particular time, it should be respected, in the same way, that the performers should respect that fans will want interaction of some kind. It's all about finding a balance where the person can live a reasonable life, and the fans can get something back from the performers they support.
KEEFER: Any superstar should consider being a friend of the fans as often as possible, as we all know that if you are over well with the fans, you will be kept relevant, i.e. Enzo Amore. However, I don’t believe it is in their contracts to constantly interact with the fans. They are just people like us and deserve their personal space. With that said, I do applaud the ones that take time out of their normal lives to interact with a fan. Matt Hardy is always seen stopping in a restaurant with his family and taking the time to take a photo or even strolling through Wal-Mart with his sons and sign an autograph. John Cena barely breaks character in the real world because of all of his charity work and love for the younger fans. Sasha Banks should not be rude to people unless they initiate an issue and she shouldn’t have to stop her normal life or be bombarded getting dinner by fans. It is a suggestion, not an obligation.
Question 3: John Cena is a polarizing figure in the Pro Wrestling bubble. A recent video of him reacting to letters from fans has gone viral and caused a lot of people to respect Cena as a man. On the flip side, he’s also been said to have a hand in the recent downgrade of Baron Corbin, which has caused more painted a picture of a more egocentric John. Which side of the argument do you fall on? Does your perception of John outside the ring affect your feelings about his on-screen persona?
DeFELICE: First off, the man outside the ring shouldn’t reflect the persona inside the ring, that is the theme of this week's article. This is a little tricky here when discussing John Cena because John has always stated that what you see is what you get and he’s more himself than he is a character. However, there are aspects of himself as a man that he has admitted are much different than the persona played on television. Even the Total Bellas reality show depicts a version of John that is kind of stuck up. I’m okay with this. I don’t expect John Cena to be in Jean shorts and cartoony at all times. His work with children though is something to be admired. In the viral video referenced in the question, you can truly see the kids take his catchphrases and his never say die attitude to heart. To me, when you see that kind of positivity entering a child’s life, how are you possibly going to adamantly say that the guy sucks just because he didn’t toil away for years on the independent wrestling circuit. If you do this, you’re truly lost in your own bubble and you need to stop.
As far as John’s hand in getting Corbin this recent dose of punishment, I can’t say and it’s really not my business to say. I would hope it’s not true but the inner workings of that industry have always been shady and I’m not gonna fault John for playing the game but, I will say that I think it’s stupid and I think John knows better to put the future of the industry above whatever pettiness may or may not have occurred. I do hope that Corbin rises above whatever forces are against him right now.
KEEFER: I think I fall in the middle of this controversy. John Cena is undoubtedly the most influential and charitable figure in WWE. The work he does behind the scenes is one of the best things he has done for the company. He attracts the younger viewers to tune into him every week and he is looked at like a hero and it is no surprise he has been the face of the company for some time. WIth that being said, from a more adult viewpoint, John Cena did have a reputation of constantly burying talent in favor of himself. He does have some say and power in the locker room, but I don’t think Cena played as big of a role as people think in Baron Corbin’s push being scrapped. Yes, he did take shots at him by calling him a dumpster fire and the higher ups probably talked to Cena about it. I doubt it was the deciding factor.
GUEST: John Cena (or at least what we see of him publicly) is one of the nicest people in the business and treats his fans better than most. His character and the man himself, seem to be very close to one-another, so I find it difficult to see why they should be treated differently.
As I've previously said, I don't think Corbin should have been punished for his Twitter antics. That being said, John Cena has earned the right to have a say in what goes on backstage. If The Undertaker had done what Cena did, no one would have a complaint, and I think Cena has earned the right to have the same level of swing. He's been a company man for around 15 years and is undoubtedly the biggest star in the company. If he thinks someone should be punished, he has every right to say so, if Vince disagreed, I'm sure Cena’s opinion alone wouldn't make a difference to that.
Those are our thoughts on the issue, but where do you stand?
Let us know your answers to these questions in the comments below!