The Stomping Ground: “Who’s Responsible For This?!” (WWE Universe, The Wyatt Family)

Sooooooo……this happened. For those of you too lazy to click on the link, or for those of you who need a slight refresher course on the big debate that occurred this past Tuesday, our very own Chris B. (or CB as he’s referred to these days) graced the pages of Pulse Wrestling with his thoughts on the debut of the Wyatt Family on Monday Night Raw. In fact, here’s the debut in full:

I know that many of us wrestling fans tend to get pretty emotional at times – I myself am not immune to getting choked up hither and thither when I feel the situation warrants it. As such, CB’s slant (as it were) was based on the chants for “Husky Harris” that can be heard at about the 4:20 mark in the above video. In his opinion, the Baltimore crowd potentially ruined Bray Wyatt’s debut by calling attention to his former gimmick. In CB’s defense, he did also call out the WWE for saddling Wyatt with such a stupid name in the first place. He also admitted in the comments that perhaps he should let time reveal whether or not the chants would affect the gimmick in the near future. I understand that you made a knee-jerk reaction to something that caused you grief, CB, so I want you to know that this is not an attack on you or your ideals as a wrestling fan. You did, however, bring up a topic of conversation that simply could not be contained within the comments thread:

Should the live crowd be held responsible for whether or not a match/skit/gimmick gets over?

Arguments can be made about whether a particularly hot crowd can enhance or devalue the product on a weekly basis. In Canada, guys like Bret Hart and Edge are hailed as heroes while Sergeant Slaughter and Shawn Michaels are booed out of the building (for their own individual reasons). Hell, Canada is often referred to as “Bizarro World” by the commentary team when the audience goes against the grain. When Bret Hart was booked as a heel following the rise of a certain Texas Rattlesnake, he had the unique distinction of playing both sides of the fence depending on which country’s soil he had stepped in. He was supposed to be the guy you booed, but Canada didn’t care; he was their version of Austin and the populace sympathized with him. The crowd response during this feud made it a one-of-a-kind experience that will most likely never be duplicated.

The crowd can also take what is initially seen as a bad experience and turn it into something extraordinary. Case in point: The Rock vs Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania XVIII. Watch that match again with the volume turned off. Look at the pace of the bout and how moves were delivered. Does that scream “classic” at you? Now turn on the sound. Listen to the crowd reactions. It was so unexpected that Hogan turned face that very night in response. The match was terrible; the ambiance created by the crowd is what made it memorable.

On the other side of the coin, the fans also have no problem letting you know when something just plain sucks. When they’re bored, you’ll hear it through random name chants or, even worse, a complete lack of reaction at all. I humbly submit to you the match between Randy Orton and Sheamus on Raw the night after Wrestlemania XXIX. The crowd wanted nothing to do with these two and it showed in the endless chants throughout the extended match-up. Look at how people reacted to Alberto del Rio’s abrupt and unconvincing face turn; now he’s back to playing an obnoxious aristocrat. John Cena’s reaction every week shows no signs of letting up, and he’s supposed to be the top fan favorite. CM Punk’s fan base cheered for him consistently throughout his heel turn last year, despite his behavior.

But to blame the audience for “ruining” something is just silly. The WWE knows how to goad people into responding in a certain way. Vince McMahon will say something that he prefers just to get the audience to hate on it. The easiest pop in the world is to just mention the city you’re in or, conversely, to gain heat all one would have to do is mock the town incessantly. In a similar vein, the infamous Raw Active polls are geared to influence the fans’ votes.

“Here are your three choices for tonight’s main event: a lumberjack match, a strap match, or………..a STEEL CAGE MATCH!”

You get my point, right?

If the audience reacts negatively to something, 9 times out of 10 the general consensus is that what we’ve just witnessed was horrible. There are always head-scratching moments where we murmur, “What’s wrong with this crowd? That was amazing!” but for the most part that just isn’t the case.

However, I really don’t think what some members of the crowd did on Monday negatively influenced the perception of Wyatt’s character. It was good old-fashioned heckling that caught on and it is most certainly WAY too soon to tell whether this will go on to impact the gimmick. You can’t blame the only part of a live scripted show that isn’t being overtly influenced by the company for ruining something. It’s the WWE’s job, as well as their performers, to convince you to suspend disbelief for three hours on a Monday night. In the age of the Internet, that becomes more and more difficult to do as fans have a seemingly infinite number of ways to somehow wind up within the inner workings of the business.

It’s not our fault that the WWE and Wyatt didn’t get the “Husky Harris” character over, or didn’t distance him enough physically from the gimmick.

I’m all for being a part of a cool moment in wrestling history, and I can see how it’s annoying to some when other fans don’t “tow the line” and fall in with the rest of us, as CB may have been trying to convey. We just have to remember that this is entertainment and not to get so heated over something that could very well end up being inconsequential in the long run.

Or it could, you know, totally kill the gimmick before it even gets a chance to gain momentum. Wouldn’t that be fun? 😉

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

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