Friday, January 31, 2014

Instant Feedback: The Thrill

You can't see the fan I refer to here, but this is about the time when he was marking out like a youngster
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The opening segment of Smackdown was notable for several reasons. The Shield teased breaking up, only for Seth Rollins to play mediator. Vickie Guerrero got big-timed by Triple H, who in turn got intimidated into making the match that the Hounds of Justice wanted, nay, hungered for, a war with the Wyatt Family. During that time, when Roman Reigns stood tall in the COO's face and told him without saying a word that he didn't care how many titles he won or what powerful family he married into, Trips asked the crowd if they wanted to see the two most evil trios in WWE square off in a match at Elimination Chamber.

Among the throng of people shouting "YES!" at the rare black hat vs. black hat match was an elderly man, white hair slicked over to the side, black and red rugby shirt adorning his upper body. He had a surly look about him, like a sailor or an old hockey pro from a time long passed. But along with the young kids and the lifer fans from the Attitude Era, he swooped his arm across his chest in uppercutting fashion and in grandfatherly fashion mouthed the affirmative that put the match in stone.

No matter what date was on that man's birth certificate, he had the thrill as if he was standing in the crowds in his youth.

I know I've gone through a lot of grief and weirdness this week. The Rumble fallout, Daniel Bryan narratives, and CM Punk's walkout was a butterfly whose wings caused a perfect storm of annoying discussion. Half was dealing with fans and writers, no matter whether I held them in high esteem or not, engaging in arguments that I thought were running in place at best. The other half was the sinking idea that the puppetmasters within WWE were immersed some kind of out-of-touch ideal represented by the "PLEASE LIKE ME" campaign of Batista-fluffing articles on the Dot Com. WWE did not make things easy to be a plugged-in fan.

But then I saw that fan tonight, that guy who probably saw it all, from the Original Sheik and Andre the Giant selling out arenas in Detroit to the national push to Hulkamania and the Monday Night Wars. And he was there in the front row, looking like he was still as drowned in the spirit of being a fan. Smackdown tonight had a wealth of those moments. When Dolph Ziggler hit the canvas after failing at his Zig Zag, allowing Antonio Cesaro to pick him up with the Giant Swing, I felt the thrill. When Titus O'Neil left his partner Darren Young out to dry, I felt the thrill. When Christian fell from the heavens to get one more match, when Summer Rae broke Emma's sign in half, when Bryan told the piped in noisemaker to chill with that artificial shit, and when Roman Reigns broke Rey Mysterio in half, I felt the thrill.

I don't think fans should ever turn off their brains. Whether you're just looking to blow off steam or whether you're like me and process everything critically, you should never accept something as is for the sake of trying to force yourself to like something. But when the show allows you to be able to lose yourself in its warm arms, then all the cares in the world can melt away like old snow under the warmth of the Sun. Smackdown reminded me that in many cases, the backstage chatter and speculation machine are irrelevant. When the show is clicking, then no matter how old I am, I feel the thrill.