Inevitable Culmination - Crowd Hijackings
by, 03-04-2014 at 08:04 AM (2144 Views)
A wrestling audience's ability to be vocal is one of its greatest strengths. There are few other instances where a crowd of several thousand will unanimously chant for or against a wrestler. If someone cuts a promo and seems to take long pauses between each sentence, they almost have to expect a "WHAT?!" response. In recent years, though, the audience has become more vocal, but in a different way: hijacking the matches or entire shows. This growing trend isn't just crowds deciding to be jerks. They're still fans, after all. They paid to see the product. So where did this hijacking trend start?
The easiest place to point fingers is the New Jersey crowd last year, on the RAW following WrestleMania. They cheered and chanted for everything but the Randy Orton/Sheamus match. Hell, they even cheered for Michael Cole.
Maybe the blame could be put on the crowd at the Royal Rumble, where for the first time in my very long time as a fan, witnessed a crowd completely hijacking not just one promo, match, or wrestler, but an entire product. Batista was all but booed out of the building.
Lately, WWE has been on a distinctive defensive against these hijacking crowds. The first hour of last night's RAW was some of the absolute best, consistently entertaining product I've seen them deliver in a long time. Paul Heyman's opening promo not only blatantly acknowledged the crowd's vocal want for CM Punk, but he managed to brilliantly segue that acknowledgement into the current feud between The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar. Then the New Age Outlaws actually acted like heels for a change, which led to their long overdue lose to The Usos (a tag team who have become better and better over time). And of course, you have another fantastic showing from The Shield and The Wyatts, arguably showcasing that all six men have the potential to be major superstars in the future.
Of course, the second hour featured another Sheamus match where the crowd did everything but pay attention to it. Which is a shame because Sheamus is a pretty good worker, but they continue to put him out there in nothing matches that give the crowd little reason to cheer or boo. However, despite the deflating disappointing ending, WWE had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand during the promo involving Daniel Bryan, Triple H,and Steph. Right to the end of the show, they played the audience like a fiddle, never actually saying whether CM Punk was at the show or not.
Now, many people have commented on the reason for the hijackings. Is it CM Punk leaving? No, because crowd hijackings took place even while he was employed (Royal Rumble, New Jersey crowd). Is it the continued teases for Daniel Bryan to win the world championship? Partly. Is it Batista, whose return has been greatly disappointed as he's given us no reason to cheer him while he delivers sloppy manoeuvres and is completely exhausted after five minutes of wrestling? Also partly.
No, the reason for these hijackings is none and yet all of these things. It's a culmination from years of WWE not listening to the crowds. Thanks to them not listening to the crowds, we may never know if Zack Ryder was meant for more than what he achieved. Or the constant stop-and-go push of Dolph Ziggler. It's the culmination of them force feeding storylines or wrestlers that most crowds clearly don't want. I don't know about you, but I'm absolutely sick and tired of the authority figure character or storyline. It's been going non-stop since the Attitude Era as the most dominant angle, taking up the most screen time.
The thing is, these hijackings are very different from anything we've seen before. These crowds aren't booing characters or stories anymore. They're booing the booking. They're booing the product as a whole. There are still enough reasons that WWE is getting their money, though, such as Bryan, Cesaro, The Shield, The Wyatts (and Ziggler to a lesser extent). It's the main event scene that they're absolutely sick of.
If WWE continues down the path they're going, force feeding storylines or wrestlers we don't want to see, they will see these hijackings as a growing trend.
For what it's worth, Nick Piers has been part of the usually vocal and slightly hijacking crowd of Toronto, including "WHAT?" and "You Screwed Bret" chant to Shawn Michaels. Piers is the author of his first novel,The City of Smoke and Mirrors. You can read more of his work at his blog, including his multi-part series Bump in the Road, chronicling his attempts to get into wrestling school. The blog can be found here: http://nickpiers.wordpress.com/