Professional wrestling, rooted in carnival traditions, has given rise to the “smark” – fans aware of the scripted nature yet profoundly engaged. Their deep involvement not only shapes industry dynamics but also mirrors a broader evolution in how audiences consume entertainment.


  • Mark: Historically, a term used to describe someone who believes the events in professional wrestling are real. Originating from carnival slang, a “mark” was seen as a potential victim of a con game, a reflection of the carnival origins of professional wrestling.
  • Smark (Smart Mark): A fan who understands that professional wrestling is scripted but is emotionally invested in it, often to a degree matching or surpassing traditional sports fans. They often pride themselves on predicting story outcomes or knowing about backstage politics.
  • Kayfabe: A wrestling term referring to the portrayal of events in the industry as real, including the storylines, rivalries, and personas, even when they are scripted or predetermined.

The Carnival Origins and the Evolution of Wrestling Fandom

Professional wrestling has its roots in the carnival and traveling show world. Historically, wrestling bouts were genuine contests. Over time, for entertainment value and to ensure predictable outcomes beneficial for business, events became choreographed spectacles. This evolution in presentation led to the differentiation between marks and smarks.

Distinctions Between Mark and Smark

  • A mark believes in the reality of wrestling storylines. In contrast, a smark, while acknowledging the scripted nature, delves deeper, showing interest in mechanics behind the scenes. This includes how storylines are developed, wrestlers’ training regimens, and the business side of wrestling.
  • Armed with insider knowledge, smarks discuss terminologies like “work rate” (e.g., the quality and athleticism of a wrestler’s performance) and “push” (when a wrestler is highlighted or given significant story arcs).

Smark Influence in Wrestling Culture

  • Wrestling promotions, aware of the smark audience, craft storylines that intentionally blur reality and fiction. For instance, the “Montreal Screwjob” in 1997 saw Bret Hart genuinely double-crossed in a match. This real incident was later used in storylines, capitalizing on its notoriety.
  • The smark segment, with its deep passion and knowledge, can impact wrestling business dynamics. Their preferences can influence ticket sales, merchandise purchases, and even TV ratings.

Connection to Broader Media Consumption Trends

Similar to wrestling smarks, there are enthusiasts in other entertainment forms who delve deep into the behind-the-scenes aspects. For example, fans of TV series might dissect production choices, speculate on plot developments, or follow actors’ off-screen lives closely. This behavior signifies a shift in media consumption where audiences are not merely absorbing content but actively engaging with its creation and nuances.