Given the violent nature of the sport and the rabid excitement of those watching, this incident is why the WWE needs to stop sending wrestlers into the crowd.
The very nature of pro wrestling, and the heel persona in general, is to create an emotional response from the viewer. The match that night between Punk and McMahon had the crowd in a frenzy not seen in quite some time, with the cameras literally shaking from the noise.
With the fans in such a state of excitement, Punk should have never entered the stands. The WWE cannot control what the people watching will do. It is simply not safe for either wrestler or fan to have the wall between audience and performer broken.
Having any wrestler cross the barricade and enter the stands is asking for trouble. People can get overzealous about getting on camera or touching their favorite superstar. Wrestler themselves, as demonstrated by Punk, can overreact when feeling threatened.
And honestly, when has a wrestler not been overrun by the fans when entering the crowd?
One of the reasons some people attend live shows is that interaction with the wrestlers, whether it be to cheer them on, to heckle them or to get some kind of reaction from them. But there needs to be a limit, a line in the sand, because of what can happen.
WWE released this statement last week after the incident:
“During a Monday Night Raw televised event, WWE Superstar CM Punk exited the ring into the stands as part of the show. WWE security was unfortunately not in the appropriate place at the time. Given CM Punk’s persona as a ‘bad guy,’ fans were naturally heckling him, but unfortunately a few fans began shoving him and one struck in him in the kidney and on the back. WWE regrets that proper security measures were not in place, and CM Punk apologizes for reacting in the heat of the moment. Other than this isolated incident, WWE always provides proper security to ensure the safety of our fans and our performers.”
Wrestling has a history of violent fan altercations with wrestlers. A perfect example would be Kassius Ohno when he was in the IWA. A few choice words with a fan at ringside led to an exchange of blows.
Also consider Sabu attacking a fan that knocked off his turban as he made his way to the ring.
And it goes further back. When wrestling was still considered real, fans would attack the heels on the street or even try and stab them as they walked to the ring. Blackjack Mulligan was once cut on the arm and leg by a fan that jumped into the ring in the Boston Garden.
This clash between athlete and spectator is not just confined to the WWE. In 2004, Ron Artest (back when that was his name) and three other NBA players were suspended after a fight that included Artest attacking some fans in the stands after being hit by a drink. Those suspensions led to missing 146 games and a loss of $11 million in salary.
The WWE can’t afford to suspend or fire the main heel of the company, especially with John Cena still on the disabled list. But what they can do is stop sending wrestlers into the crowd, for everyone’s safety.