Professional Wrestling and Social Media

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Photo: Twitter/Instagram

Since the end of (the original) ECW and WCW, it has never been easier to make it outside of the WWE. Promotions seem to be more prevalent, but a more accurate description is probably that the Internet has made it easier to hear about a promotion. The territory days have come to an end, but today we live in a world where the globe is one big territory.  Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, if you know how to use them to their fullest potential, you can make a fortune. Social media has become one of the most powerful tools at anyone’s disposal.

Each social media platform has its own benefits and pitfalls. Twitter allows users to engage with their audience on an unprecedented level. You can promote shows, appearances, and new merch available. You can tell people where you like to eat. Some wrestlers will host Q&A sessions with a specific hashtag. The fans get to ask a question directly of the performer, and the performer gets to build their brand with the hashtag. Cody has been great with this. #kissthering gets used on a regular basis on things regarding him, question or not. The Young Bucks are quick to acknowledge virtually any time a fan posts anything involving them or their merchandise. Kevin Owens has been notorious for his Twitter banter, and Rusev can be hilarious. Chuck Taylor and Trent? are must follows. Luke Harper has been tweeting the same thing every day for nearly a year and a half.

For every positive interaction there is on Twitter, there is plenty of negativity. Will Ospreay has recently come under fire over for a tweet assumedly responding to fellow British indie star Pollyanna. Though he deleted the tweet, the damage had already been done. He has been spending the past few days doing damage control. Pollyanna sent out several relatively vague tweets discussing a sexual assault taking place within the industry. Twitter has been a good way for the wrestling community to become engaged with social issues within the community. Wrestlers like Joey Ryan, Pollyanna, and, more importantly, the fans have a platform to share their opinions on what is affecting the community. While Twitter can be very quick to react, often before all sides have been heard, I’d like to think it has been fairly effective at keeping both fans and wrestlers in check.

https://twitter.com/GothicLolly/status/932661361296924673

In the build to Wrestle Kingdom 12, Twitter was used in a way we have rarely seen before. Will Ospreay and Vader were able to get a match out of an online exchange, but that wasn’t co-main event of one of the biggest cards in the world. On October 20th, Chris Jericho tweeted “best in the world? (Kenny Omega) isn’t even the best in Winnipeg…” With that, the wrestling world began salivating at the idea of Omega vs Jericho. The two continued back and forth for two weeks, and at Power Struggle, the challenge was issued for Wrestle Kingdom.

People have never had these levels of access to their favorite wrestlers. In this instance, the wrestlers were able to use this to their advantage. Fans are smarter than ever before, so when someone can get them questioning what is real, that’s a major win. Jericho and Omega did this masterfully. But you don’t have to go that far to use Twitter to your advantage. Promotions simply posting a poster for an upcoming show can be effective. The wrestlers will spread the word, along with fans and sponsors. Most likely, the show will be on some sort of streaming service, live or otherwise. There is one streaming service in particular that is on the rise in wrestling.

Twitch has been increasing its wrestling presence over the past year. In June, the site traditionally used for streaming video games announced a deal with WrestleCircus. On a post Adpocalypse Internet, promotions needed to find a different site to monetize their content. Twitch allows viewers to subscribe to a certain account that they enjoy, which is a minimum of five dollars. If you are simply following an account, you can watch for free. If you are enjoying a stream even more than you believe the subscription is worth, you can also cheer for a stream, which is a one-off payment. In other words, the better your product, the more people will pay. Your subscription, and sometimes cheers, will also unlock additional content from some streamers.

WrestleCircus, and now House of Hardcore streaming on Twitch is a much different image of the social streaming site from as recently as a year ago. The Justin.tv spin-off and Amazon subsidiary was meant to be used for gaming. What started off as a haven for speedruns and eSports has quickly become a platform for countless types of streams. Of course this change didn’t come easily.

Twitch has had a history of controversy stemming from content. For as long as the site has existed, there have been accusations of “fake gamers” and cam girls using the service. We spoke with Twitch affiliate, and active community member Bassix about the site’s controversies. “Originally, the site was having issues with users streaming things other than gaming on a game-streaming site. The addition of the IRL channel has made it much easier for streamers to give viewers content that isn’t game related.”

The controversy was less about the lack of gaming from the streamers, but more about keeping the rules consistent. “Most involved in the community welcome IRL, and now wrestling content. It brings eyes to Twitch that might not have otherwise heard of the site. As long as the streamer is obeying the rules, adding variety doesn’t hurt. I think a lot of the controversy comes from streamers who might not be the most rule-abiding users are making more and more money off of the site, while other users are getting banned for accidentally breaking a rule that they might not have known they were violating.”

With an interactive, supportive community and earning more money based on the quality of your product, Twitch makes sense for many promotions. Especially as YouTube looks to be ending paid subscription channels. If your product is of high enough quality, Twitch can be a lucrative option for promotions on the rise.

Twitch may be moving up the ranks, but they are still well behind YouTube in terms of reach. If there is an audience for your product, you’ll find it on YouTube. From Grimm and Duhop, two of many pages dedicated to action figures and toys, to WhatCulture Wrestling and Cultaholic, two pages dedicated to providing you with wrestling news, you can find any tone you are looking for. Wrestling With Wregret (hosted by Brian Zane, a wrestler and manager on the indie scene) and Dave Knows Wrestling both provide solid wrestling commentary on both current and older stories.

When wrestling fans think of wrestling related YouTube content, one of the pages that most likely come to mind is Being The Elite. The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega initially started Being The Elite as a road diary of sorts. The three started to make skits and sketches that fans seemed to enjoy. As the trio started to make more and more skits, they started to recruit other talent.

Adam Cole was one of the first recurring characters. His removal from the Bullet Club, as well as Marty Scurll‘s admission into the faction, were both built predominantly through Being The Elite. After killing Adam Cole’s character off, the Cody and Hangman Page joined the crew. Today, Scurll, Omega, The Bucks, Cody, and Page are the hottest acts outside of the WWE. Surely they are all great in the ring, but the extra time they get to spend showing off some character no doubt helps The Elite find the level of success they see today.

There’s also the in-house streaming service model. The WWE Network and NJPW World, most wrestling fans are familiar with. The HighSpots Wrestling Network let’s you view indies from all over North America and Europe in one convenient location. CZWProgressChaotic, Chikara, and plenty of other promotions have their own subscription services. A quick Google search can get you set up watching your favorite local promotion. What’s more, you can find a promotion across the globe to follow.

The world is becoming smaller, faster, and more connected than ever before. With so much knowledge and access, fans want more of both. The way wrestlers and promotions use social media shapes the fan experience. With enough savvy, determination, and hustle, it has never been more feasible to become a self-made wrestling superstar.

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