Editor’s Note: In the introduction to this column, we went over some of the basic jargon that wrestlers use to describe themselves and their place within the “universe” of their promotions. Faces are good guys, heels are bad guys, tweeners have no friends and turns occur when wrestlers change from face to heel, or vice versa. In this edition of the column, we’ll go over some of the jargon that both wrestlers and fans use to describe the fans themselves. Now, I must ask that we take all of these descriptors with a grain of salt. Not everybody falls into these categories nicely. They are generalizations.
The “marks” rank first and foremost in the minds of World Wrestling Entertainment (CEO Vincent K. McMahon and his son-in-law, Triple H). Marks believe that the storylines and characters on their TV screen or in the ring are real. Marks buy T-shirts, collector cups and watch events on Pay-Per-View. Marks dress up as Randy “Macho Man” Savage and chase CM Punk down an airport baggage claim looking for an autograph. Basically, the WWE refers to these people as marks because they keep the product afloat. Wrestling, like any business, needs to make money to have success, and marks fund the business.
After marks come smart-marks, or “smarks.” Smarks used to be marks, but have grown up a bit and now understand that wrestling is “fake,” or a performance art. They know that the wrestlers choreograph most of the matches. They understand that when the cameras go off, Dolph Ziggler and Chris Jericho probably hang out all the time, despite their positions as on-screen rivals. They know that in real life, the 5-foot-6 Rey Mysterio would not stand a chance in a fight against 7 foot monsters like Kane or The Big Show. But that wouldn’t be a fun story.
The name smark also brings to mind other connotations. Since smarks think they know the ins and outs of the business, they spend their time on Internet message boards, in chat rooms and on social media sites like Reddit, complaining about how the WWE has no idea what it’s doing. They complain if John Cena beats CM Punk. They complain if Sheamus beats Daniel Bryan. They complain if Ryback beats Dean Ambrose. Basically, they tend to prefer wrestlers who paid their dues in the indies, working intense matches for little to no pay, traveling in cars and eating fast food, because that appeals to a certain romantic side in all of us. We all like to believe that hard work pays off, so smarks like to cheer when hard-working but undersized wrestlers end up atop the WWE summit. Smarks don’t like to cheer when guys just show up on their TV screen and immediately win a championship belt; it angers them. Who is this guy? What did he do to deserve that shiny piece of golden deliciousness? Can he do a crooked moonsault?
The IWC, or Internet Wrestling Community, is comprised of both marks and smarks, though the smarks tend to make up a vocal minority. Since older teens and adults tend to be more tech-savvy and expressive on the internet, the most notable part of the IWC tends to be single, male teens and 20-somethings complaining about the WWE’s direction. Ironically, these complainers also tend to be those who stream WWE Pay-Per-Views illegally from the Internet, rather than paying for them, like the marks do. But most of the IWC seems to either not care or not notice this contradiction.
Here’s another contradiction: Smarks make the best wrestlers. That’s why CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler hold such a large spot in the collective heart of the IWC. They grew up watching the product, and it’s in plain view every time they step into the ring. That’s why Triple H calls himself “The Game,” because he lives and breathes wrestling. He studied the great heels that came before him, took what he liked, and made it his own. CM Punk does the same thing, and that’s why he’s currently the top guy in the WWE.
Currently, with CM Punk in the top spot (even though he doesn’t have the WWE Championship at the moment), and Triple H controlling the creative direction of the company, the WWE appears to be on the upswing, at least according to the IWC. I agree with them, even if it might just be because I can’t take any more complaining.