If you tune into WWE programming, you are bound to hear it week after week. It comes from the audience; the combined voices of thousands of people brought together over sport and spectacle, all of which took their hard earned money and invested it in a product provided by World Wrestling Entertainment. With standard ticket prices being between $25 and $100 dollars, fans also visit the merchandise booth, the snack bar and the actual bar for overpriced souvenirs, nachos that cost an arm and a leg and $8 dollar beers, all at their own expense and cost.
When the show begins, the fans cheer who they love and boo who they hate; the idea of “face” and “heel” being terms so passé to them that if a fan wearing a “Fubu” sweatshirt were to teleport in from the year 1998, they would scoff along with the majority. Some yell “Cena Sucks”, others say “You can’t wrestle” to anyone they dislike. In Chicago, they seem to only know the words “CM PUNK” and all over the planet, the world echoes the sentiment of “Roman Sucks” any time the former “Shield” member steps through the curtain and opens his mouth.
Regardless of the chant, the name of the game is “entertainment” and in a tweet sent out yesterday, NXT wrestler and “Tough Enough” alumni Patrick Clark parroted that point along with a laundry list of brazen insults hurled at fans for selecting who to cheer and boo, calling wrestling fans “ignorant, disrespectful and classless” while calling them out for attempting to “hijack” shows from the performers through chants and internet posts full of complaints.
— Iconic Patrick Clark (@PatrickClarkWWE) January 7, 2017
From my prospective, this can be taken two ways.
First, from the performer’s standpoint, it has to be difficult to be boxed in and not allowed to breathe. When creative thinks of an idea, it’s always that old school logic of “good guy vs. bad guy”; a formula that in my opinion died the moment Scott Hall walked onto WCW’s Monday Nitro and declared war all those years ago. As the “Monday Night Wars” heated up, both programs saw “heels” get cheered as we were all privy to amazing “heels” turned “face” at the audience’s prompt almost weekly as we saw the rise of the NWO, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Mankind, The Rock, Degeneration X and many more that saw more benefit from the crowd’s reaction than simply what creative wrote down for them to do that evening.
For the current performers, I understand the uneasiness and the worry. If you are a heel and you illicit cheers, to me, that isn’t a bad thing; over is over, but to the WWE brass, it’s a whole different story. Why the WWE cannot get out of its own way is beyond me. The fans have always enjoyed having a say and in times when they have selected their own “top guy” the company has netted record income for it, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin being the lone figure needed to make that point.
Secondly, as a lifelong fan, I can safely say I have seen my fair share of good and bad through the years, and currently, while most other organizations have kept the focus on both the fan’s prospective and the competitive level of wrestling happening between the ropes, WWE has fallen off the boat when it comes to both. The matches are heavily toned down (on the main roster) or are recycled, meaningless contests ending in disqualifications or count outs on television hoping to rope you into watching the PPV where you will get an actual finish…sometimes. The wrestling portion of the shows are always seemingly secondary to the talking and “entertainment” portions of the show, wrestlers far past their prime are sticking around, winning titles and being granted main event caliber slots in an era where WWE has both the bulkiest and most talented roster of athletes its had in perhaps the entire history of the company, yet they scoff and wonder why the fans are becoming more vocal and demanding more of the product.
Think about that for a minute. You watch the vignettes, the talking segments and the highlight packages for a PPV event, sometimes dozens of times leading up to the PPV, and then sit through them again during the “kickoff” show and during the PPV itself. Take all of that into account and compare it to the toned down match you get later in the evening and it doesn’t seem fair. That would be like if you went to Applebee’s tomorrow, gazed at appealing pictures in your menu for 15 minutes, ordered a delicious looking Steak and instead, they brought you a child’s order of chicken fingers. Think about that even further, as if you were to complain about the issue and having the waiter tell you “Well, sorry…there is nothing I can do, though the word “steak” is on the menu, but it’s mostly just for entertainment” and having him move along without doing a single thing to remedy the situation. While not the exact same scenario, it is very similar.
If you are dissatisfied with the product and you pay money for that product to exist, then in my opinion, that at least entitles you to say what you feel, regardless of how you do it. Whether you cheer, boo or piss and moan on the internet, it is your right as a wrestling fan to feel how you feel. Sure, there are always fans (whom I can’t stand) who cannot find even one good thing to say, but there is always going be. While the old phrase “you can’t please everyone” comes to mind, if thousands of frustrated voices are coming together and saying the same things week in and week out, I may consider taking a piece of opinion into account every once in awhile. The fans got it right with Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler and others over the years, so what is so different now?
Sometimes, the jeers towards a superstar aren’t even hostile. John Cena, for instance, seems to love riling up a crowd whether it’s for him or against him and takes each case in stride, making for great television in the process. Often times, from one week to the next, you will see patterns in the crowds chants, borrowing chants they saw the week before and employing them in the moment. If you buy a ticket to a WWE show, more often than not, this type of participation can make someone feel like they are truly part of something special and could be the best part of the show for many. If this is the case, why would the company want them to stop?
WWE is completely delusional if they think an outburst like this from one of their performers sheds good light on the company. If anything, something like this is bound to awaken a sleeping giant full of chants and criticisms that won’t necessarily paint them in a positive light. If anything it’s an invite to the masses to show up and cheer louder, to protest and undermine the decisions made behind the curtains just to be annoying or vent the frustrations spawned from being looked at as an ignorant group of morons who cannot be pleased by anything. View the fans how you wish, but remember without the fans, there is no revenue and without the revenue, there is no WWE; so how in the world can anyone say the fans should have no opinion?
I feel like this situation is a good learning experience for both parties. For the fans who don’t know when to stop, please take in to account that these are people’s lives. This sport they sacrifice their lives and well-being for is meant to entertain us and it sometimes easy to lose sight of that, cast them aside and see them simply as characters when in reality, they are just like everyone in the audience, trying to put food on the table and keep the bills paid. To the performers who feel the need to lash out this way…I implore you to find a better way. This bridges no gaps and only creates more friction in the process. It shows a complete disconnect between performer and fan and not mention, shows how thin a person’s skin can be in an industry where you are out to prove that you are made out of iron.
Until the WWE humors its fan base even the slightest bit, the chants will continue. Ironically, as I am finishing this article, I saw one more post on Patrick Clark’s twitter and it is pretty much a shoulder shrug at what the fans want to see reading simply:
It was fun 4 a day & a half, but honestly guys…… UR NOTIFICATIONS R BORING ME
If @WWE wanted UR opinion WE would take a poll. Now Sit
— Iconic Patrick Clark (@PatrickClarkWWE) January 9, 2017
Either Patrick Clark is the biggest real life jerk on the planet or he is primed to be a top heel somewhere down the line, either way, I have to admit, I am thoroughly entertained and that my friends, is the overall name of the game. For more stories (or if you have any leads) follow me @NicholasGrooms on twitter.
image credit – USA