A hard, cold night in snowy Sudbury, Ont., in a cold, run down tavern. Pat Sully, lifelong wrestling junkie sees his best friend talking to a girl. He’s going in like Robert Gibson, because there is no way he is not going to help his best friend.
Sully approaches the couple. His friend seems to be doing well and Sully is sure he is about to seal the deal. He then proceeds to spend the next 10 minutes telling her how the two of them are completely obsessed with professional wrestling. She can’t get away fast enough.
But for wrestling nerds like Sully, this is all they know. They don’t watch wrestling, they live it.
Sitting across from fellow wrestling fan, Jordan Hoath, he completely understands. “You can’t just enjoy wrestling. It demands that level of commitment and emotional investment and I think that’s why we love it. That’s why there are very few casual wrestling fans. You love and live for wrestling.”
Sully knows what Hoath means. “I would trade tapes with people I met on the internet. I had to rent VHS tapes to get my fix of new and interesting wrestling.” Sully ended up with “hundreds” of nine-hour, bootlegged wrestling tapes.
With tapes being passed back and forth like bad crack, it’s no surprise that Sully describes wrestling like heroin addicts describing their highs as “chasing the dragon.”
“It’s almost like I am trying to chase the same high that I had watching wrestling back then. It makes me want to keep tuning in, in the hopes that I will see something truly remarkable again.”
Hoath and Sully are what is known in the wrestling world as a “smark” or “smart mark.” Mark being the term wrestlers use to describe the fans. But what does it mean to be a smark?
Hoath describes his interpretation of his status, “smarks are long term fans who love the product and love quality wrestling. They are not there for a storyline, or a fad. They are there because they love it. They feel like they are part of the product.”
But professional wrestler, The King of the One Night Stands, Gigolo Jock Samson has a completely different view of smarks, he yells into his phone as he travels to pick up his tag team partner, Magnum CK and, “drink beer before the show.”
“The thing with smart marks is they think they should be involved with the inner workings of what we do and the answer is that if you want to be part of the inner workings of what we do, you need to be a fucking man and train to become a professional wrestler.”
Samson has an understandable viewpoint, as smarks have a tendency to excessively heckle a show, turning the focus away from the wrestling and towards them.
“They’ve never done nothin’ in their entire fuckin’ lives and yet they think that they can dictate what I do inside the ring. They want to cuss, they want to scream and they want to make it to where this eight or nine-year-old kid cannot enjoy it or his parents will not allow him to come back and watch it.”
Sully agrees with Samson, “No we are not in the business, we do not know the ins and outs and we probably don’t know what makes a good and bad wrestler.” Both Sully and Hoath love the product, and leave the mic work to the men and women between the ropes.
But what unites fans like Hoath and Sully, who are quickly trading wrestling references and laughing, is a true outsider status. While nerd culture has gone mainstream, gaining wild acceptance as “the new cool,” wrestling remains a playground of the socially inept. Sully and Hoath unabashedly do not care, even trying to convert their wives to grapple addicts.
“We have great fun watching it together,” says Sully. “Critiquing things and finding aspects of the show that are really good, and share our various opinions on various wrestlers. She can’t stand Becky Lynch.”
Hoath showed wrestling to his wife. “She didn’t get it.” They’re divorced now.
Romances failed over wrestling. Back at the tavern in Sudbury, talking to that girl, with Sully spouting off about cage matches; I am that best friend and I can’t help but smile as she walks away. Sully and I spent that night watching wrestling until the sun came up. Two best friends, forever united by our common love.