McGuire’s Mondays: …And now a word about pro wrestling crowds

By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer

I can’t recall the last time I made it a point to check in on an NXT PLE (or PPV, depending on how far back you want to go in the brand’s history). Nothing against WWE’s (maybe?) developmental, but there’s just too much wrestling these days. Some Tuesdays, I’ll drop in for a few minutes of the weekly television show, but more often than not, my NXT knowledge is limited to whatever John Moore says happened on this very website (so here’s hoping he doesn’t start making shit up).

That in mind, I was intrigued by Sunday night’s Battleground show. Jordynne Grace! Ethan Page! A new women’s title! The UFC Apex! This wasn’t just another NXT card; this was interesting and I was curious. And so, despite Game Two of the NBA finals going down and an overly exhausting weekend begging me to end it by about 8 p.m. Sunday night, I turned on the Peacock and gave it a look. The wrestling was fine. The results offered no real news. The show was, by all accounts, fairly inoffensive. Or, well, that is, except for one tiny thing ….

… The crowd sucked.

Moments that felt like they should be bigger than they actually turned out to be were compromised by a live audience that refused to play along. That’s not to say every moment of every match should be accompanied by a gaggle of standing fans foaming at the mouth singing “Ole!” and chanting weird things at Bayley; it’s just to say that if the crowd would have even tried to get up for this show, it would have made the proceedings infinitely better than they turned out to be.

It got me thinking: I don’t get it. Pro wrestling crowds are different from any other entertainment crowds out there. If you go to a football game or a basketball game or a hockey game or a baseball game, you are at a place where the majority of those in attendance will be a fan of one of two teams. That’s because you get one, nine inning, four quarter or three period competition between two entities. At pro wrestling live events, you get that luxury times five or times six or times seven or times eight (or, in the case of AEW, times 15).

That’s all to say, there are more things to enjoy, more options to be entertained at pro wrestling shows than there are at most any other athletic event. And yet, more often than anyone would prefer, we find that some crowds refuse to do their part and it makes no sense. Live events aren’t cheap. Why go through the trouble of heading into a city, finding parking, grabbing something to eat and paying for the ticket itself, if you’re just going to sit on your hands as a group of young women jumps off ladders for about 20 minutes in the name of entertaining you? It hurts the performance, your own pocket book and the collective experience for those watching from somewhere not in the arena.

Worse yet, Sunday wasn’t even the most annoying pro wrestling crowd moment of the weekend. That, instead, went to Friday night’s Smackdown audience, who quickly got bored with an otherwise solid Piper Niven promo that checked all the boxes for what a wrestler should be doing to help build a title fight in two weeks (which, of course, was what she was doing). It’s one thing to not agree with the booking or not necessarily be into a matchup; it’s another to actively denigrate someone’s work when the work they’re doing isn’t objectively worth denigrating.

Still, Niven found herself battling a sea of “What?” chants that all but ruined her ability to get in momentum on the mic. What’s the point in that? To shake her? Dismiss her? Reject the upcoming match? Reject the booking? Reject the wrestler? Cut her ability to succeed off at the knees before she even has a reasonable chance to make something of it? Not every WWE women’s title match needs to have Bianca Belair or Rhea Ripley in it to be worth an audience’s time. Everyone has the right to have their own personal preference and/or taste. That’s fair. But loudly refusing to give a chance to anyone who doesn’t meet your preconceived, arbitrary criteria for what you consider good or entertaining is obnoxious, close-minded and, generally, a bitch move that takes the piss out of everything for everyone else.

Not every live pro wrestling crowd can be All In at Wembley or the ECW Arena in 1996 or an NXT Black And Gold-era PPV or even a GCW night at the Ukrainian Cultural Center. But at the very least, if you’re going to be part of this communal experience that is, at its core, scripted entertainment, why waste your time and money only to openly hate what you’re seeing? It’s like buying a ticket to see Bruce Springsteen and then booing once he kicks into “Thunder Road,” or shelling out a couple grand for good Taylor Swift tickets only to whine once the first notes of “Blank Space” or “Cruel Summer” echo throughout the stadium.

Why?

Because you think you know better than what you paid to see? Keep your money and stay home. You’d both do yourself a favor and contribute to the greater good of the live experience for anyone who actively wants to consume it in good faith. The producers of the show already have your money, so they could give a hoot if you cheer, boo, stay silent or even show up at all. As fans, we should strive to do better if only to increase the enjoyment of our own experiences in real time.

Or, in other words, if you don’t like NXT or you don’t care to know much about NXT, here’s an idea: Don’t go to an NXT show. Ditto for any other company, wrestler, performer or any other element of entertainment in between. It’s not just common sense; it’s a matter of respect. Not just for the performers themselves, but for those who actually do want to give a show, a match, a promo or an event an honest shot at entertaining those who decide to consume it. A great crowd can make a good show great while a bad crowd can make an OK show unbearable.

So, do your part, fans. Don’t be a dick.

Oh, and get off my lawn, too, while you’re at it.

WE VALUE YOUR PRIVACY

Readers Comments (7)

  1. The “What” chant is the most unoriginal, smooth brained chant. Not just in wrestling, but any entertainment medium. Almost ironic that Austin is responsible for some of the greatest moments ever, but is also responsible for the single worst chant

    • I disagree, “What” keeps wrestlers in check to be entertaining. I’m now starting to hate hearing “This is Awesome” after something as simple as a hip toss. Um no its not, it’s basic wrestling. That chant should be used more sparingly.

  2. Might be the fact WWE chose the wrong place to run a show. UFC Apex wasn’t the most brilliant of choices. Sure rent free and owned by your umbrella but still wrong place to go.

  3. Probably because the product is subpar and not worth much noise in the first place. Somehow AEW had a super hot crowd down the street two weeks earlier at the MGM Grand for more than 4 hrs.

    • Oh good, tribalism. There’s just not enough of that these days.

      • I respect what you’re saying but telling the audience “not to be a dick” and cheer on the most commercial wrestling company in the world is pretty regressive. Fans have a right to demand a better product. As George Carlin says always punch up, don’t punch down.

  4. This is a good article, it might just be today’s pro wrestling fans. They’re hit or miss based on the city you go to. The big-time wrestling markets, are usually pretty great during shows in any company, then in other cities they’re just plain dull. Back in the late 90s and early-to-mid 2000s the crowds seem to be more rowdier and great compared to the 2010s and current day.

    I hate it when fans attend and don’t make noise, like why are you at a wrestling show then? I like to have fun the entire show.

    This is why American crowds suck compare to international crowds because they know how to make noise and enjoy the experience for what it is as well.

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