This post was inspired by a question that was asked on Quora.
In some respects smart marks help the business and in others they hurt it. Their best quality is passion. They love wrestling and continuously invest their time and money to support it at all levels. They often comprise a majority of the audience at indy shows, so much so that many smaller promotions might not exist without them. These shows are critical to the business since they provide a stage upon which young wrestlers can hone their craft.
Smart marks can often be assumed as “a given.” Whether the business is hot or cold, they will always be there. On one hand, their constant baseline level of support prevents the floor from falling out of the pro wrestling business. On the other hand, this means they can be more easily taken advantage of since companies like WWE know they will buy whatever they put out.
However, there are some smart marks whose behavior can detract from the quality of a show. Some become a distraction
when they act as if they’re part of the event. For example, a handful with a vendetta against a performer can chant “boring” loud enough to ruin the experience for others.
They can also become jaded to the extent that nothing pleases them anymore. When the same fans attend a company’s shows over and over again, as with the TNA Impact Zone, their reactions die out because they’ve seen everything before. Once a company breaks free of them, as TNA did by leaving the Impact Zone, the shows can become more vibrant.
Other smart marks believe that good wrestling depends on how many spots wrestlers can work into a match. They think that if a wrester can’t perform a flipping powerbomb into a twisting springboard DDT 5 seconds into the match, he’s garbage. This mentality diminishes the impact of all moves and makes them mean less. (As a counterexample, see CM Punk’s piledriver on John Cena during their #1 Contender’s match for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania 29 on February 25, 2013’s episode of Raw.)
I once heard a story about two ROH wrestlers working a frenetic style during a show. When they came backstage they encountered George South who suggested that they slow down and make individual moves matter more. The wrestlers said they couldn’t do that because the fans would chew them up for it. In effect, the reactions of a small group of fans had directly influenced (arguably negatively) the styles of wrestlers in the nation’s third largest promotion.
So with smart marks you get a mixed bag. In a sense, they are a critical component of the audience that supports young wrestlers and is usually willing to part with their money to support wrestling. At their worst, they can think that what they like matters more than anything else and any wrestler who doesn’t meet their conception of greatness isn’t worth the time of day.