Friday, December 23, 2016

The Airing of Grievances: It's Not the Crowd's Fault

"I got a lot of problems with you people." - Jerry Stiller as Frank Costanza

Another Festivus has arrived, and I have another instance of grievances for YOU PEOPLE. This time around, I'd like to tackle the subject of bad crowds, you know, the ones who, as some say, "go into business for themselves" during boring matches or whenever. It gets irritating to watch as a viewer at home, especially when the people in the ring are working hard or are fan favorites of that viewer. But my grievances aren't with the fans in the arena, no.

It's with everyone who calls those live fans out like it's their fault the show is bad.

My least favorite kind of wrestling analysis has to do with how crowds react to certain things as if the onus of reacting is on the fans and the fans alone. This analysis seems backwards. Fans pay money to go to an arena to watch wrestling. In exchange for that money that they pay, they expect entertainment value, which they express through participation in the narrative. Wrestling is unique in that crowd noise is not only a desired outcome, but an actual part of the show. I can see where some people might think because of that fact that fans have a duty to react.

Well, the rub has always been that crowd reactions are part of the show only if the performers are effective. Wrestlers and other moving parts in the show don't expect to be cheered or booed. They work for it. Think of fans as insta-critics. If what the wrestlers do in the ring or in a given segment is engaging or entertaining, then those fans will react with a positive outcome, i.e. cheers for the good guys and boos for the bad guys. But if the players are ineffective, then the fans don't react, or at least in a normal setting they won't.

When fans start "going into business for themselves" and chant for CM Punk or Randy Savage or whatever, it's a reflection on what kind of crowd they are, in that those fans are the ones who really want to have a good time at a wrestling show. Those are the fans who are the bread and butter of any promotion. IT's the reason why those kinds of chants pop up at the RAW after WrestleMania; that arena is filled with the geekiest, most passionate fans WWE could ever want. If they like what they see, the arena will melt, but when they don't, they react in the way wrestling nerds might.

But if the crowd is dead or trying to entertain itself, whose fault is it? No one willingly spends money or time on something they actively want to hate. It's a reaction to bad wrestling, bad characterization, or in many cases, bad writing. If RAW attracts garbage crowds wherever it goes, is it the fault of the people in the crowd, who are not monolithic Lego bricks with interchangeable parts and the same mind. If the show gets malaise no matter where it goes, maybe the blame should go to the performers, the bookers, the writers, the actual wrestling show itself.

Basically, whenever I see someone go in on the crowd instead of what they're reacting to, a little piece of me inside dies. It's wrestling fans cannibalizing other wrestling fans in the name of crediting a lazy billionaire (multi-millionaire?) with a show that he has been too complacent in tending to for nearly two decades now. It'd be one thing if the fans were being abusive, although a lot of that blame could also go to Vince McMahon and his staff for fostering such a hostile environment to anyone except fit white cishet males. But a lot of times, these reactions are to bad or boring wrestling television. I can't in good conscience blame any fan who paid good money for tickets to show displeasure in whatever, non-abusive way they see fit.

And now, let all who are left listening gather into the living room as the feats of strength will commence!