One of the most striking things about the Money in the Bank pay-per-view was that the Chicago crowd was A) so vocal and B) so independent spirited. Heck, it made the audience at ECW's One Night Stand show seem timid in comparison.
Wrestlers—and one wrestler in particular—they didn't like were treated with contempt, chants of "you can't wrestle!" booming about the Allstate Arena. Wrestlers that they respected, like Daniel Bryan and CM Punk, were respectively given a wave of cheers and an outright flood of acclamation was given an outright flood of acclamation.
We've seen this pattern before, haven't we? Disdain for bland characters and poor wrestlers? Praise for charismatic figures and skilled grapplers? (Or, in more specific terms, disdain for SuperCena and praise for guys like Bryan and Punk.) It's almost as if—for the night, at least—the "WWE Universe" had become the "IWC."
I got into wrestling after the birth of the PG era. Old ECW and Raw is War clips were far more entertaining to me than contemporary shows and so, naturally, I sympathized with the Internet Wrestling Community. Still, I couldn't help but feel that it was whining past the graveyard. It's for kids, I presumed. Sure, it'd be more fun if X, Y and Z were changed but, hey, what business do we have to tell people what they should enjoy. Let them have their SuperCena, ÜberOrton and Hornswoggle.
Well, I may have underestimated wrestling fans. Sure, the hometown of CM Punk might not be the best place to judge the fans’ opinions. (For the same reason it'd be foolish to judge the outcome of presidential elections on polling in, say, New York or Texas alone.) And, sure, I'm not saying that Eric Bischoff's infamous Internet-based 10 percent of fans have made every one of their opinions mainstream. (Otherwise Ring of Honour would have leapfrogged TNA.)
But it's clear that the WWE Universe is on the verge of imploding over the bland regresses of the PG era. John Cena is greeted with as many boos as cheers. Jerry Lawler actually said in his defence that crowd reactions were typically “50-50."
That ain’t a vote of confidence for a "fan-favourite"! Meanwhile, supposed heels like Sheamus have been greeted with as much enthusiasm as hostility.
Few people, as far I'm aware, want a return to the Attitude Era. They’re sensible enough to know the pleasure they might take in chair shots is rendered irrelevant by the harm they do to performers. As for things like “bra and panties” matches...well, don't the guys who'd have cheered on such “contests” just watch porn nowadays?
The message is simpler than that: Have some respect for the audience. They don't want performers who are simple goody-two-trainers. They don't want movesets a goldfish could predict. They don't want wrestlers who could be ran over with a tank, get up, win the match and crack a joke about dinosaur poo. When you think about it, these aren't the pedantic demands of nerds but the basic requirements of people who aren't A) six or B) idiots.
Last night showed signs that Vince McMahon is recognising this. Punk, for example, didn't merely win but rubbished Cena's "five moves of doom" shtick. He nailed his fireman's carry powerslam over and over and the champ was kicking out as if he'd he only hit the worm. Whether they'll keep this up remains to be seen, but if they don't it'll be their loss.
The audience's patience isn't going to last forever.