Wrestling With Expectations

I had an absolute blast at Wrestlemania yesterday. I didn't take many photos (just a quick iPhone shot of Lesnar in the ring), nor did I buy any souvenirs (but I did get to keep my limited edition folding chair). I simply went in as a fan, enjoyed the show, cheered when I felt like it, and came unglued like everyone else around me when Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract to steal the victory and the WWE Heavyweight title from the main event superstars. All in all, I'd say it was a pretty spectacular show. Even my wife loved it, and she's not a fan in the slightest.

My friend Ben, on the other hand, walked out disgruntled and annoyed; not at all pleased with many of the results. He's a hardcore pro-wrestling fan, even though he tries to disguise it with common sense and a carefree attitude. He's the kind of guy who looks at every booking decision through a micro-lens and weighs the long-term impact of each decision made in the ring. Every win is scrutinized and every loss is lamented. "What's this going to mean for Bray Wyatt going forward?" he asked after the Undertaker pinned him cleanly. "Who's going to care about the legitimacy of his character now that he's lost at Wrestlemania two years in a row? I don't see the point of having that match." The more Ben kept drinking last night, the more upset he became and the less he was able to control his disappointment. By the time we got back to the car, he had become a ball of sarcastic negativity.

"If this is bothering you so badly, then why do you keep watching it? Why are we even here?" asked Ben's wife incredulously.

That's the question analytical superfans of any hobby hate to hear because it completely misunderstands and misinterprets their anger—at least in their mind. Ben wasn't upset at the events of Wrestlemania because he hates pro-wrestling. He was upset because he loves it with all of his heart and he wishes it could be better. It's no different than what happened when Maker's Mark fans went ballistic over the company's decision to reduce the proof, or when Johnnie Walker fans decried the loss of the beloved Gold 18 year. It's the same thing that happens when legendary labels lose their age statements, or when brands decide to discontinue certain expressions. Just like professional wrestling, whiskey has its own following of serious fans who become emotionally attached to the fates of their favorite characters. And, just like with the WWE, those fans become upset when they feel the politics of business interfere with the quality of the product. Ultimately, however, it's not their business to run, so there's nothing they can do in the end but vent their frustration.

Of course, guys like Ben could always stop watching, but that would be like asking a parent to disown his or her child. "Just because they make bad decisions doesn't mean I don't love them!" they would probably say in response to such a suggestion. Just like parenting (I imagine), it all boils down to expectations. If you expect perfection and everything to be done to your own set of standards, then I guess disappointment comes easy. But if you know going in that mistakes are going to be made, it's much easier to focus on the positives than the negatives. Nobody is perfect (except for former WWE legend Mr. Perfect). You can't ever expect things to go exactly the way you want them to.

I don't ever expect perfection from my wrestling or my whiskey, and maybe that's why I'm able to enjoy both hobbies for what they are. There are times when I think I should hold both businesses to higher standards when it comes to quality, but ultimately that level of fanaticism comes with a price. Yes, I have my own opinions about what constitutes high art in both the squared-circle and in the bottle, but I'm not willing to ruin my enjoyment (or the enjoyment of others) in pursuit of them. Like most of what I enjoy in life, I try to focus on the great moments while they're happening, rather than constantly bitch about why they don't happen more often. I've been that guy before. I've felt like Ben does about wrestling and many other things in my life that were important to me—including booze. You can have certain standards of quality as pertains to art. That's ultimately what taste is. But if you can't alter those standards to fit reality, then really those expectations are just fantasy.

For me, the wrestling itself is fantasy enough.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll