If you ask me why I watch wrestling, I have a lengthy, passionate response, but the gist is a little simpler: I find pro wrestling to be a great form of performance art that tells stories through the performances of real people playing fictional characters. Wow, that sounds a WHOLE LOT like television, stage plays and movies! Exactly. Anyway, the Department of Health, Sport, and Exercise Sciences at the University Of Kansas wanted a more psychologically-valid answer, so they conducted a research study to find out why people watch pro wrestling (specifically the WWE), cheer the heroes, and boo the villains.
For the survey, Professor Jordan R. Bass, KU doctoral research fellow Claire Schaeperkoetter and North Carolina State University assistant professor of parks, recreation and tourism management Kyle Bunds, used the Manual for the Motivation Scale for Sport Consumption, a rating scale used to measure fans’ reasons for watching various sporting events. According to Bass, the majority of the 400 respondents from eight countries reported that they watch pro wrestling for three reasons: novelty (new story lines, characters, etc.), physical skill of athletes, and enjoyment of aggression. Bass says novelty was the No. 1 motivating factor for wrestling fans, and wrestling organizations such as the WWE are uniquely position to take advantage of those motivations given that the sport is predetermined. Also, unlike other sports fans, though, wrestling fans don’t live vicariously through the athletes.
“The reason that I think [the study is] it’s super important, especially for wrestling executives, is they have the ability to alter the story line based on what people want. If we did this with the Chiefs, say, and we find out the fans are really interested because of novelty — they want new story lines — well, the Chiefs can’t have new players every week. Well, they can, but they wouldn’t be very good. But if wrestling finds out that they really like these story lines and physically skilled athletes, this week they can highlight that. The only other one that was low was physical attractiveness of athletes. … That’s always been rated low in terms of every sample.”
[Thanks to The Pitch]