Recent movies like Beyond the Mat and the upcoming Ready to Rumble may rope in the curious, but know this: Being a wrestling fan is not a job, it’s a preoccupation. Mounting upwards of 15 hours of television per week, the three major grappling promotions — the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) — provide a whole lot of body slamming and backstabbing for fans to chew over. It’s not surprising, then, that hundreds of websites have sprung up to answer that demand. The official sites aim for a flashy dispensation of news, sneak previews, and tributes to the spandexed superstars. But die-hard fans also go online to dissect wrestling’s dense dual reality: ”Marks” (industry parlance for fans) scour the Net to learn results from untelevised ”house” shows, what ”angles” (story lines) are planned, whose title belts are in jeopardy, and what ”swerves” (plot twists) are in store. Here’s a quick takedown on the house Web organs and two fine unofficial sites.
As in ”real” life, WWF.com (http://www.wwf.com) puts on the best show, offering up a fistful of naughtiness in addition to news, bios, and hype. Particularly cool is The Rock’s ”Smackdown Hotel,” where visitors can wander from room to room, sampling the Brahma Bull’s take-no-prisoners put-downs (those opting to check in would be well advised to ”know their role and shut their mouth”). The well-traveled ”Shop Zone” features merchandise that, like everything else WWF, reflects a giddily pubescent fascination with sex (”Va-Chyna” T-shirt, anyone?). All in all, a veritable amusement park for teenagers of all ages. A-
ECWWrestling.com (http://www.ecwwrestling.com) also plays the sex card, but the pics of the organization’s femmes fatales are too tame to sate self-respecting mouth breathers. Once past the ad-cluttered splash page, however, the site provides a few newsy nuggets, a link detailing the history of the promotion’s title belts, and, in ”Locker Room,” bios on all ECW personnel (should one have a hankering to learn where Balls Mahoney went to school). B-
As with its on-air action, WCW.com (http://www.wcw.com) brings nothing new to the table. Although it’s the cleanest (in both senses of the word) and most easily navigable of the promotional sites, the desperate plugging of upcoming bouts is the main event. C
Ironically, WCW has been the year’s biggest story on fan-based sites, thanks to a ratings free fall and a protracted behind-the-scenes power struggle. WrestleBoard, created by Scotland’s Ross Marshall, has proven indispensable for keeping up with the Sturm und Drang: The home page alone lists postings of news, could-be news, and red herrings (to throw fans off the story-line scent). Updated 24-7, it functions like a daily tabloid for inquiring minds. A
TDH Communication’s Pro Wrestling Torch emphasizes punditry, with three in-house columnists to keep the marks informed and indignant. Anxious for the return of ”Stone Cold” Steve Austin? Puzzled as to why Hulk Hogan still has a career? Here’s the place for vicarious venting. An archive function provides a handy way to call up past editorials to see who got it right and who was just blowing smoke. Because if there’s one thing wrestling fans cannot abide, it’s fakery. B