The events of June 4th, 2005 have opened my eyes as to where the modern-day professional wrestling fan has come to. That night featured two independent wrestling shows. The first of which was a very-much hyped Ring of Honor card that made its debut in the Buffalo, NY market. The second was a not-as-hyped card for Jersey All Pro Wrestling in Rahway, NJ. I attended the latter. The main event was Jay Lethal defending the JAPW title against Steve Corino, so I felt that was worth checking out.
The show was really really fun. Before the show even officially started, I was already starting to lose my voice from cheering during the five preliminary matches (two of which featured Corino and indy-favorite B-Boy). During one of the main matches, B-Boy vs. Azrieal (formerly Angel Dust in Ring of Honor), I rallied most of the crowd for B-Boy, and it got to the point where they were trading forearm shots, and the crowd would boo when Azrieal would be on offense, and cheer when B-Boy was on offense. The atmosphere was unreal. For drawing maybe 300-400 people, the crowd was electric all night, and it made for a much more enjoyable experience.
Then I come home, and look on the ROH message board to find out the results of the Buffalo show, and I find out that five "smart" fans were making rude comments out loud during the Samoa Joe/James Gibson match, a match a lot of people were looking the most forward to. They started chants like "Atkins Diet" for Joe, and calling out Triple H's and JBL's name during the match. A lot of fans who attended said that those five fans ruined their enjoyment of the match. I experienced a similar problem when I attended Glory By Honor III back in September. My enjoyment of watching Bryan Danielson take on Alex Shelley was hampered by a spectator making smarky comments heckling Danielson.
So after June 4th, I decided something. It just isn't fun to be a smart anymore.
This thought was cemented for me after hearing people complain about John Cena being on Raw. They immediately panned the idea as soon as Cena walked through the curtain on the Oratory Forums. "Smackdown is doomed!" they cried. Smackdown will be just fine. Then later in the night, people were upset about the ECW invasion and damning Vince to hell because he's not presenting true ECW. Please. ECW was about great matches and a rabid fan base. With matches like Storm/Jericho, Benoit/Guerrero, Rey/Psichosis and Guido/Tajiri/Super Crazy, the PPV this Sunday is going to kick ass. And I don't really care that WWE guys are going to be there. I'm going into the PPV with an open mind, and more than likely, I'm going to enjoy myself a lot more than the fans who have groaned for months that this isn't authentic ECW.
We're all critics by nature. We're passionate about things that we enjoy, and we feel the need to make our concerns heard when our passion is being tainted. I've expressed my concern over the direction of The Simpsons to anybody who would listen over the past five years. But every so often when a somewhat decent episode comes along (like the Homer smoking weed episode or the parody of Indecent Proposal), I'll enjoy it like I always had. I'm not negative for the sake of being negative. I'm negative when I actually have a concern for what's going on. Same with pro wrestling. You all heard my concern for making JBL champion, and even after his reign is over I still stand by my opinion that Bradshaw should have never been given the belt. But had JBL put in an awe-inspiring performance, I would recognize it (he hasn't as of yet).
Now, I just want to sit back and enjoy the art form that I've loved since 1991. I don't want to scrutinize and analyze everything anymore, because I find when I do that, I'm never satisfied. Ever. I'll always find something that the writers should have done and didn't do. It's quite exhausting, actually.
Chris Benoit, an internet darling for years, finally won the World Title at Wrestlemania last year. It was the biggest mark out moment of my life. And one year later, people are arguing about how much offense Benoit got in the match and how Hunter and Shawn were trying to steal his spotlight. It's just not worth arguing about anymore. Can't we just simply enjoy the moment without having to worry about every single minute detail? Star ratings don't matter to me in this instance. Last year's Triple Threat was 2004's match of the year for me, hands down. It will probably register for me as one of the top three moments of my life as a professional wrestling fan, right up there with Bret Hart making Mr. Perfect tap to the Sharpshooter in that very same arena.
Like my Oratory colleague Lauren C., I view professional wrestling as an art form. My other friends go to rock concerts during the summer as their form of entertainment. I go to Ring of Honor shows. And as much as ROH doesn't like to classify itself with WWE as being "sports entertainment," that's exactly what it is. It's entertainment. WWE's idea of entertainment just differs from ROH's, that's all. ROH fans are entertained by great wrestling and captivating matches and storylines. I think of going to an ROH show like going to a play, because that's essentially what a wrestling show is. It's a play, with a little violence thrown in.
When you go to a regular play, on Broadway or whatever, if it's starting to be a stinker, do you cat-call the actors and remark on their performances as they're performing? Of course you don't. You wait until afterward when you talk to your friends, or if you're a professional critic, you'll write about it. If anything, the best way to express your feelings of disgust is by not reacting at all. Silence is the sign to any wrestler that they're not doing their job well. It's not condusive to the atmosphere to heckle the talent mercilously and try to get yourself over.
To the best of my knowledge, over-heckling has only worked in two instances, the first when Jeff Hardy was in ROH and the second was in MSG during Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg. In those cases, you had guys who were in the ring but who didn't want to be there. In Hardy and Lesnar's case, they lost their passion for wrestling, and in Goldberg's case, he was doing it for the money first and foremost. Then fine. Let em have it. But for people who care about the business and step in the ring to try and entertain us, we should never ridicule them past the point of it not being part of the show, nor ever bring a wrestler's personal life into things, if at all possible. ESPECIALLY at independent shows, where the wrestlers don't make that much, and everything you say can be heard by them.
In being that wrestling is a show and a performance, I'm also of the belief that you should go along with the show. Cheer the faces and boo the heels. I am a proponent of free speech, and since you bought your ticket, you can cheer and boo whoever the hell you want. But the heel's job is to make you boo him. If you like a bad guy, and you want him to do his job better, then boo him. It's also a lot easier to do that at an independent show, where you can catch wrestlers in the lobby or leaving after the show. Steve Corino is one of my favorite wrestlers, but when he took on Jay Lethal, I started a "Let's Go Lethal!" chant, and Corino stared a hole right through me. I went up to him after the show and shook his hand and told him he had a great match. He had a great match because he was able to be a heel and do his job.
On the flip side, during the early stages of his heel turn, Homicide was having a hard time getting booed. He was so damn cool, it was tough to boo him. We kept cheering him at the 9/11 show that to try and get some boos, he resorted to making a low comment about the terrorist attacks, which he apologized for. I'm not blaming the crowd, but due to smart fans who refused to boo Homicide, he had to resort to cheap tactics to get heat, which frustrates me, because I see Homicide in the lobby at every show I've been to. He's very readily accessible, and you can walk up to him anytime and shake his hand, and tell him he did a great job out there. I'm sure he'll appreciate that more than you cheering him when he's trying to get boos.
So in the end, be whatever kind of wrestling fan you want to be. I just think it takes too much energy and has very little in the way of reward to scrutinize and analyze every minute detail of what it takes to put on a wrestling show. Me? I'm going to sit back and enjoy the show that I've been enjoying for 14 years now. I'm going to stop worrying about every little thing and I'm going to go with the flow.
And the next time I cheer a little too loud, and somebody says to me, "God, you're such a mark!" I'll reply, "Thanks."
About this column: This is the first time A Birds-Eye View has made the Rajah home page. It has been a staple on the Oratory since January of 2004. Please click on "The Oratory" link on the right side of the screen to take a look at all of my columns, plus the columns of the other writers on the site. It's well worth your time.
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