Divided We Stand: Wrestling Fan vs. Wrestling Fan
Let's be real girls and boys; discourse in professional wrestling is not only expected at this point, it's borderline required. Wrestling isn't wrestling without somebody complaining about something. For the most part, it's been about the usual things; fans complaining about wrestlers, wrestlers complaining about fans, fans complaining about the product, fans complaining about the matches; like the movie described in Journey's "Don't Stop Believin", it goes on and on and on and on. But in recent years, a new type of "feud" has started, a real life storyline that may be the most interesting wrestling tidbit that no one is talking about; fans vs. fans. Yes, starting with the post Wrestlemania 28 RAW, where the Miami crowd hijacked the show in protest over the treatment of nerd king and pro beard activist Daniel Bryan, the conversation on fan behavior at shows has continued to grow. At first, hot crowds like that Miami one and the IZOD Center crowd from the post Wrestlemania 29 RAW were highly praised for a variety of reasons. But recently, somewhere during the Wrestlemania 30 buildup (funny how it's always around Wrestlemania time when this happens!), a certain sector of fans began to turn on these crowds, blaming them for hijacking shows, ruining the experience, and a whole laundry list of other stuff. The debate has raged (or whimpered. Yeah, let's go with whimpered) on since.
And then, there was this Monday night. Not the whole RAW mind you, but a segment that took place in the middle of hour two that focused on what's being called the Divas Revolution. If you have seen, I'm truly sorry. If you haven't, let's just say that it went about as well as theatrical release of Dune did. By the end of the segment, which eventually segued into a six woman tag match, the bored Brooklyn crowd took it upon themselves to entertain themselves, chanting everything from announcers names, how awesome they were, how bored they were, how much they like wearing Blue Pants and the name of a long lost wrestler whose name makes Vince McMahon's wrinkles tighten like they were caught in Great Khali's vice grip. Naturally, in the wake of all that, reaction everywhere was mixed. Some people had no problem at all with the chants. And others thought they were the worst thing to happen since the last time this happened. And so the debate begins again. Even if, in this writer's opinion, there really is nothing to debate.
Now before I get heavily into the meat of this, let me just say that I don't believe every rowdy, creative, hostile crowd is a good one. I'm not a fan of the "We are Awesome" chant, which is pretty much the dumbest, least creative chant crowds have come up with since "What?". And I was personally appalled earlier this year when I heard about the post Mania RAW crowd serenading the Divas with chants that, if we're being honest, were disrespectful at best and disgusting at worst. Not everything that a wrestling crowd does is great, nor will it ever be. But that being said, on the whole, do I believe that these sort of crowds are bad for wrestling, that they're actually killing wrestling like a lot of people evidently seem to believe? No chance in hell. In fact, not only do I think they're not bad for wrestling, I think they're great for wrestling. And for the life of me, I don't understand why fans seem to hate these fans so much.
Allow me this quick tangent before working my way back. The best reason I can come up with as to why fans are looked down upon by other fans these days is this; whereas many wrestling fans have long been considered to be cynical, way too harsh and in some cases even mean (I'm probably as guilty as anyone in the cynic department at least), in recent years there's been a large group of fans who have emerged as more positive and forgiving of wrestling (and not just WWE per say). Which is good, you should be positive about something you love. At the same time though, where as some hardcore wrestling fans negativity was viewed in an extreme, the positive fans aren't really that much different. I've come to learn that many a positive wrestling fan can be just as bad as a negative one; they can be ultra, ULTRA sensitive to any sort of criticism, can be demeaning and insulting to those who don't agree with them (just like negative fans use to be) and are sometimes just downright cruel. Put both sides together, and you're pretty much looking into a mirror in a bizarre sort of way. What I'm trying to get at here is this; certainly, it's great to be positive about things, but there's also nothing wrong with being critical and pointing out what you perceive to be flaws either. Without that, without either really, we're just standing still until the machines take over. And I think some people's refusal to accept criticism, especially in this case with fan reaction, has allowed some people to miss the point.
With that, let's examine the Divas segment/match from this Monday that started this. There's no doubt about it that the crowd was brutal here; you don't chant "boring", "JBL", "CM Punk", "We Want Sasha", "We Want Blue Pants" and all the other stuff they did and not mean for it to be anything but a slap in the face to the people performing. And certainly, I'm not going to suggest that anyone in the ring deserved that...okay, maybe Team Bella did, but certainly the rest didn't. Here's the problem with criticizing the fan reaction however. While it's certainly easy for fans against these sort of reactions to call out fans for these chants, they often only focus on the words. They don't focus on why the chants were happening. You know, only the most important aspect of it all. So let's ask the question here; why were the fans at RAW Monday chanting all that stuff during this Divas segment/match? Simple; they didn't think it was very good.
And truth be told, it wasn't very good. In fact, both the segment (a MizTV shindig for those who don't know) and the match combined to be terrible, and I may be being kind when I say that. Obviously opinions may vary, but I find it hard to believe that any wrestling fan out there could enjoy tons of awkward conversation, a total lack of intelligence, a total disregard for wrestling history (I must've missed when the Four Horsemen were in WWE. Write your scripts better dudes!) and an average at best ten minutes worth of action that had absolutely no heat. By the end of it, Team PCB (Paige, Charlotte and Becky Lynch. Not the most clever name sadly), the good girls, looked either catty, annoying or stupid, and Team Bella (pretty self explanatory) weren't that much better. To quote CM Punk, ironically one of the people Brooklyn chanted for the other night, "The winner is...nobody. They're BOTH losers.". Well, except for the Miz, which should tell you everything you need to know.
Now tell me; why exactly should the fans have been silent there? Some may argue that it's a sign of the crowd being disrespectful to women's wrestling, which is the stance that at least a few of the performers in that match (Paige, the Bellas) have taken on Twitter. Some will say it was just to get themselves over and hijack the show. I'd simply ask all those people this question; if that crowd hated women's wrestling, why were they completely into the amazing Sasha Banks-Bayley NXT Women's Championship match that took place this past Saturday night? Better yet, if they don't care for women's wrestling, why were two of the chants during this 15 minutes of hell for TWO WOMEN'S WRESTLERS?! And if the crowd really wanted to just take over the show, why didn't we hear them putting themselves over when the Dudley Boyz made their return earlier in the night? Or when Sting returned at the end of the show to attack Seth Rollins? Both those arguments lose everything the moment you point that out, and leads us to only one conclusion; they were disrespectful because it sucked. Because the fans were disrespected. It's the same reason people protested Daniel Bryan's treatment a few years ago, shit on the last two Royal Rumbles (particularly the endings) and have done similar things at numerous other events. They aren't booing just for the hell of it or just for kicks, they're doing it because the audience thinks they're being fed shit and won't accept it.
Silly me, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. And again, I don't really get why so many are so against it. I've always looked at my place in wrestling as this; I'm in this to do whatever part I can in making this business, one that I love and one that I believe is one of the greatest examples of performance art ever, the best it can be. You know how I cannot help it be the best it can be? By sitting around, putting money in and saying nothing while the product (for whatever wrestling company you watch) continues to do the exact opposite of what I feel is the best for wrestling. My buddy Plan has often said that when wrestling isn't working for you, find a way to make it work. That's a nice thought, and I do believe that fans of any medium (wrestling, movies, music) should have to work for what we want. But we shouldn't have to do all the work; otherwise, it gives those putting out the product license to not put their full effort forward. That is an unacceptable practice that cannot happen. And thus, I really don't see all that problem with tens of thousands of fans, who paid money to expect something decent, to let WWE, NXT, TNA, Lucha Underground, ROH or any other wrestling company know that they're screwing it up. Even if their chants are sort of lame.
If you're someone reading this right now who doesn't feel the way I do, who feels these fans suck, are ruining wrestling and need to be stopped, I don't know what to tell you. I'd simply ask you to consider this; the next time you want to blame the fans (people who love this business likely the same amount you do) for chanting something, perhaps you should look at your wrestling company instead and wonder if maybe they should be doing something different. Hell, shouldn't we all do that anyway? Maybe it's about time we ask not what we can do for wrestling, but what wrestling can do for us.
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