The JC Guide to Writing About Wrestling 01/10

Over the years I’ve been asked many times about writing about wrestling online. People ask me how I got started, how they can get started and if I knew of a place that was hiring, etc. I’ve done my best to give answers, but until now I never really wrote it all out for people to look at. Now I’ve finally gotten around to doing that.

The most important thing I have to say is in this paragraph, so please read closely and remember this: Not everybody can write well. That’s fact. I don’t say it to be mean or to prevent you from ever writing. It’s the truth, though. Think of it like a musical instrument. Sure, I can TRY to play a saxophone, but having never played it in my life or having any music talent I can’t play it well. It’s the same with writing. Just because you can put together a few sentences about a subject you enjoy (like pro wrestling) doesn’t automatically mean you can write. Don’t be discouraged, though. I’m not here to do that. I’m here to help.

First thing I’m going to throw out some commonly asked questions that I’ve been asked over the years.

Why’d you start writing about wrestling?
After discovering the online world of wrestling in 1997 (right after the Montreal Screwjob) when I was 17 I always thought, “hey I could write about that!” I didn’t write my official first column until the night after the Breakdown PPV in September 1998 that I attended live. The column sucked, but I liked it. At the time there really weren’t a lot of websites yet. Most people had newsletters you signed up for. I can remember having signed up for at least five at one time and I sent my sample to all. Got nothing back. Over the next couple of weeks I kept sending. Finally I heard back from something called “The Wiseguy Newsletter.” I was in. Two days a week I was writing. Random stuff. Was I good? Hell no. I was a 17 year old high school English student that was pulling in A’s in my English class every year thinking I was amazing. I was not. I can even remember being asked by the guy that ran the newsletter, I think it was a kid named Wes, to feud with the other column writers. He thought it was entertaining. After a month of that, I got the hell away from that newsletter. I will always remember it though because it let me wet my beak so to speak and the feedback was good on it. My favorite part was getting emails from other wrestling fans. In many ways it still is even if it has translated over to facebook and twitter now too.

What was your first “big break?”
The Big 3 Newsboard, which also spawned the Oratory. Still exists today with my columns prominently featured. Started that in February 1999. The Big 3 was popular for news because at the time sites like the Observer, Torch or PWInsider didn’t exist (1wrestling.com did), so when you wanted news from a Meltzer or Keller you had to subscribe to their newsletters (only in print form at that time) and post it on a newsboard. I kept sending column after column in those days. It was easy to write about wrestling because the WWF, WCW and ECW were all on national television with multiple PPVs every month and guys jumping from company to company. Eventually they opened up the wrestling column site called The Oratory, I emerged as the guy in charge of that (along with a couple other guys who are still friends to this day) and I got to post on Big 3’s main page too. There was a time in 1999 when I was posting at 8 different sites at once. I remember copying it from Word, then pasting it into eight open windows and clicking “submit” on all of them. Of them all, the two biggest were Big 3 Newsboard and PWBTS.com, which still exists.

How’d you make it to Rajah.com?
I had exchanged emails with Rajah (yes there’s a guy named Rajah that created the site) over the years asking to write columns for him. He always said they weren’t hiring, but when they did hire a bunch of people in the fall of 2000 I made the cut. By that point I had really improved to the point where I thought, “hey I’m pretty good at this.” It took me a good year, maybe year and a half to really look at my work and be proud of it. It’s kind of like when you watch the Simpsons and seasons 1 and 2 are just okay, but once they find their groove from seasons 3-8 they are at their peak? That’s kind of what I felt like although on a much lesser scale. Rajah’s site has been around since 1998, I believe. It was big. Like 50,000 page views a day big. Still is. Over the course of a decade I probably “retired” at least three times, yet when I stopped writing I always missed it. I came back to full time writing in May of 2009 because there was this void in my life that needed to be filled. My job is boring, so writing these columns helps spice up my life a little bit. I’m glad I’ve come back to it as strongly as I have.

How can I write for Rajah.com?
No idea. It’s not up to me to decide. They hired me, I write there. That’s it. I don’t think they’ve hired a column writer in six or seven years. I can remember there being six of us, but people simply stopped writing.

Have you made any money writing online?
Nope. It’s a hobby. I’d love to get paid for my work and in the future I will look into that possibility, but I’m doing fine financially in my everyday life.

Here are some general tips that I’ve come up with over the years:

Read a book on writing or read up on it online – I know, I know. Nobody likes books, right? We’re the digital generation. All we want are things on a screen to read. Trust me, though, it can help. Go to a bookstore or a library, check out the books they have on writing or even specifically writing on the internet and follow their advice. The more you read – no matter the subject – the better a writer you’ll be.

Find your voice – This is huge. By “find your voice” I mean try to identify what kind of writer you can be. If you’re not a funny person, stick to the serious writing. If you have a good sense of humor, try to mix some humor into your work. If you’re writing a serious article then try not to throw in jokes. The tone of your article is important. For me personally when I write TV or PPV recaps I will always throw in jokes because frankly you have to be able to laugh at pro wrestling to enjoy it. I know I have a good sense of humor, but it took me a while to be funny in my writing. I tend to be dry in my jokes. When you have a dry sense of humor you shouldn’t be the kind of person that tells jokes like a comedian. Your tone should be more of a one line variety without much of a setup. Jokes aren’t always about WHAT you say, but rather HOW and WHEN you say them. Timing is key for jokes both when speaking to somebody as well as when writing. A lot of people forget that. Getting back to my point, if you’re not a funny person then stick to being serious.

Write about your subject, not about yourself – This is key and something I learned very early. The fact is the majority of the people reading your column don’t know you personally and they probably never will. They don’t really care that you got an 87 on your algebra exam or that you got a new job. Sure it makes you happy, but don’t go rambling on about yourself. People want to read about your subject. If you veer off subject too much you’re going to lose your regulars and do a poor job in bringing in the new ones.

Don’t ever take yourself too seriously – Reality check: You’re writing about men in tights in a fake “sport” (I don’t like calling it sport, by the way) on the internet. You’re not a God. You’re just some person that can type. The minute you take yourself too seriously is when you’re going to lose your passion for writing. Trust me on this, I know from personal experience. Ever read my stuff and notice how I make fun of myself? You need to be realistic about what you’re doing. Be proud of your work, but don’t grow a big ego because of your work. That’s how you turn people off from your writing.

Write articles geared towards long time readers and new ones – This was one that took me a while to get a grasp of. You never know who’s reading out there. In my case, I know I write for a site that has 50,000 views a day, but I also know that not everybody’s going to read my work. You have to try to cater to everybody. I don’t try to be “too smart” with my comments. A 15 year old that just discovered wrestling sites on the internet could be reading it just as an actual wrestler could be reading it. You never know. Target everybody. It’s the best way.

Don’t be frustrated by lack of feedback – It’s like everything else. Don’t give up if you’re passionate about something. It takes time. There are hundreds of thousands that probably write about pro wrestling in some form on the internet whether it be on sites, blogs, facebook, forums, twitter, whatever. It’s a LOT of people. You start out as a nobody. You’re random person in a sea of millions with a name that only your friends and family know. That’s how it is. It’s how it was for me and how it is for you.

Edit, Edit, Edit – Kind of like the location thing that real estate people talk about. Editing is huge. After you’re done writing, make sure you go over your work. If something doesn’t look right, read it aloud. Sometimes I don’t edit The Raw Deal or Talking Smack when I post them because I’m ready to head out the door and I just post the damn thing. I should be better about that. For my more formal columns I always edit. It’s very important. If your writing is too sloppy and filled with grammatical errors it’ll turn people off. It’s like going to a restaurant and having a bad meal the first time you go. You never want to go back, right? Well, people won’t want to read your work again if it has poor grammar.

Be Consistent – Your readers need to know when you’re writing. You need to try to post at the same time on a weekly basis, or monthly if that’s your style. People that read my work know that The Raw Deal is getting posted on Tuesday. They know that Talking Smack is on Saturday. That’s big for me. I like having those deadlines too because it makes me want to bust my ass to get it done. I want to do it for my readers, but also for myself. If they know when you’re writing they’re likely to keep reading your work. We’re all creatures of habit.

I think that’s enough. I could probably think of more, but frankly that should suffice. Don’t overthink it. It’s only pro wrestling.

The most important thing to remember is to write because it’s fun. If it’s not fun, then why are you writing? It needs to be a hobby more than a chore.

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  1. Bryan Kirchoff
    January 7, 2010 at 8:55 PM

    as you know I’ve been a reader of yours since you started basically. I just wanted to say thanks for all the years of great columns and for being consistent in your work! I appreciate all that you do for us fans man. You are the man!

  2. tony m
    January 7, 2010 at 9:36 PM

    thank u jhon . that helped me alot ,

  3. Jay
    January 7, 2010 at 11:07 PM

    Pretty solid fundamental advice. I agree that actually reading and writing on a daily basis are the two best ways to become a good writer. (The writing that you should be reading should be quality material.)

    I think that preliminary outlining with creative flexibilty is helpful. For today’s audience, less is more. Editing should include a minimizing approach. You should never talk down to your audience, and overuse of Jericho words should be avoided.

    Welcome constructive criticism. You only receive it if you have written something worthy of another person’s interest. On the flip side, if you respect the writing of someone else, ask them for pointers. People are usually flattered, and will teach you things that are new.

    But the key is reading and writing in your spare time. This teaches you to tell a story and express yourself in ways people want to read.

  4. Matthew Wagner
    January 8, 2010 at 3:38 AM

    Hi John,

    Great column.

    I started reading your stuff on Rajah and now I can get it off here with no pop ups!

    Is there any better feeling in the world?

    I also follow you on facebook and twitter since i signed up over the past week.

    I can only congratulate you for the work you have done, you show that you have a great passion for wrestling every time you write about it.

    I don’t watch shows as much as I use to due to the lack of good storylines and feuds but your columns keep me more then in touch with what is going on and keep me interested in it.

    Every writer has their own style and point of view; yours is one I enjoy and will continue to read with a smile on my face.

    Matthew

    Northampton, UK

  5. swanni
    January 29, 2010 at 2:43 AM

    John

    Have been reading your exploits since I 1st heard of Rajah. I’ll admit I did come and go, but man I didn’t have pay TV back then and Rajah was my to follow something I’ve loved since I was 7.

    I tried my hand at writing a few years ago, but unfortunately I constantly get writers block and I trail off from subject to subject without realising it. I’ve penned a few stories for my girls, who enjoy those more then their Dora the Explorer or Blue’s Clues books. Ive even given a copy here and there to friends, but unlike blogging I don’t have a deadline to meet, and I can have writers block because my stories will never see the light of publishing.

    Probably long winded and off subject but meh

  6. February 8, 2016 at 9:09 AM

    do u have any topics of jh wrestilig or a fav move

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