Spoilers have been part and parcel of wrestling for its entire life. Especially when matches didn’t air live on TV, there has always been a group of fans looking to be ahead of the curve and figure out what’s happened before it’s broadcast to the masses. (Friendly tip: there’s none included in this article!)
During the Attitude era, as the fabled Internet Wrestling Community grew, spoilers were something that would be embraced by fans who’d be unsure as to what show to watch every Monday, and wanted to avoid flicking back and forth between USA and TNT. Of course, on some episodes of Nitro, they used to give away the results of the already-taped Raws, with the January 4, 1999 episode of Nitro featuring the most famous example: when Tony Schiavone spilled the beans about Mick Foley winning the WWE title later that evening. It resulted in 600,000 people immediately changing the channel from TNT to the USA Network to see Mick Foley win his first world heavyweight title… did it spoil people’s enjoyment?
Maybe – particularly if you were one of those fans who were able to watch one show and record the other. But generally speaking, Schiavone’s spoiler led to fans actually changing the channel to watch a show where something happened.
Fast-forward to 2016, and in this day and age, the general usage of spoilers is to determine “Is X worth watching this week?”, whether that be SmackDown, NXT, ROH or TNA. Granted, 99% of the time, SmackDown is skippable, in spite of the company’s efforts to put extra emphasis on that show this year. NXT can be a nothing happening show, but their recent taping schedules have shown that the order they tape in isn’t necessarily the order that shows will air in, whilst TNA spoilers seem to exist only to give fresh ammunition to the company’s critics, especially for the direction they look to be headed in.
All of those shows I’ve just mentioned belong to promotions that are (or at least, were) traditional wrestling groups. They have TV shows that air every week (even if they change the network every year), and in the case of everyone but TNA, tour most weekends. However, the debut of Lucha Underground in October 2014 has created a new use case for the theory of the spoiler.
Whereas all of the other shows I have mentioned tape regularly – SmackDown is weekly, whereas TNA, ROH and NXT all tape in blocks every few weeks. Then you have Lucha Underground, who follows the standard “television” format of taping an entire season in one go.
With no touring shows, Lucha Underground news is sporadic at best – unless they’re taping, the general theme around that show has been much the same as TNA. Financial problems, constant scrambling to get funds for another season… and talk of when they’re taping again. At time of writing, the group just completed tapings for a third season, airing in 2017. The second season of the show hasn’t even wrapped up on TV yet, but the company is now has a year of television in the can. Of course, this can be a problem if you have live touring shows to maintain alongside your TV, particularly when injuries come into play. But the other issue that Lucha Underground has to face, especially when you’re taping this far out, is news leaking out.
Whilst wrestlers can sign non-disclosure agreements – with MLW Radio being forced to pull a podcast because of spoilers, and MVP having been hired and terminated in short order because of his NDA breach. Even fans sign NDAs as a condition of entry, but still results leak out. One particular spoiler from next year’s “Aztec Warfare” supershow angered a sizeable number of people. Now, Lucha Underground is not a traditional wrestling group – they don’t do touring shows – and they are a television show about wrestling, in much the same way that Friends and the Big Bang Theory were and are television shows about friends and flatmates. If news leaked out about either of those shows storylines, it was usually because the television networks put it out there to generate interest, as opposed to “random fan or disgruntled writer leaking information”. I’m not saying El Rey are providing these results to Dave Meltzer & co, but it does make you think.
Without defending or arguing over it, I will say that all spoilers – whether it’s in a news article, commentary, podcast or whatever, should be prefaced as such, so as to let people skip them if they don’t want to hear it.
And whilst there is an argument for “perhaps you shouldn’t be following ‘insider’ media if you didn’t want to know” or “does knowing something a year out really hamper your enjoyment?”, the fact remains: spoilers are spoilers, no matter if you find out five minutes ahead of time, or a year ahead of time. Especially if you’re being paid by people for this, there’s a lot to be said about catering to multiple audiences, rather than just the one mindset…