With all due respect to Gandhi, I am a WWE fan. I was weened on Stone Cold Steve Austin's middle finger and cut my teeth on Shawn Michaels' crotchchops.
Wait. That sounds worse out loud than it did in my head. Let's start again:
I don't cotton to "non-violent, civil disobedience." We pay good money and take time away from Monday Night Football commercials to watch the WWE. When things aren't going our way, we have a right to complain, and loudly. Let it be said that sometimes the heel wins. That's fine and good; in fact when done right it's great. No one complained when Triple H won a street fight and a Hell in a Cell match with Mankind/Cactus Jack back in 2000. Did we "boo"? Of course; you're supposed to boo the heel.
You're not supposed to boo the product.
Lately, fans have been growing restless. They see the guys they want pushed be jobbed out, marginalized and given little time to grow their audience.
Meanwhile, Batista happens.
This is not a new phenomenon: Back in 2006 Edge broke through the glass ceiling, after being a long-time upper-midcarder and fan favorite (beloved both as a babyface and heel), and won the WWE championship. Take your minds back to what feels like an eternity ago. Cena had won the title from JBL at WrestleMania 21. It was clear he was positioned to be 1B to Batista's 1A. Some might have even recognized the potential for Cena to be THE guy back then. Eventually his popularity could not be ignored and he moved to Raw in mid-2005, immediately launching into a program with beloved workhorse Chris Jericho. Spoiler alert: Cena won. That, coupled with Jericho's "retirement" caused a lot of fans to feel disgruntled. Cena then moved on to feud with another beloved veteran, Kurt Angle. Spoilerz: lolcenawins.
Now the fans are flat-out angry. And by the time Edge cashes in, as a full on heel mind you, and beats Cena, the division in the fanbase is solidified. Those too young to appreciate the days when Jericho, Angle and Edge carried the midcard with great feuds, entertaining segments, and classic matches naturally cheered Cena. The older ones were firmly in the camp of Edge.
Then comes the 2006 rematch at Royal Rumble. Keep in mind that after Edge won the title, Raw popped a 5 rating. That would have been laughable in 2000 but it was solid gold in 2006. Still, he defended his title against Cena and lost. Cena then went on to defend the belt at WrestleMania 22 against a guy who was far from an internet darling, Triple H. Here the first true fan-revolt broke out. The crowd booed Cena mercilessly, with men far outnumbering the women and children. By the time Rob Van Dam (another staple of the past generation and THE breakout star of ECW) challenged for the belt, the crowd of ECW faithful were so rabidly against him, many in the WWE were legitimately afraid for Cena's health. His loss created a new feeling, the anti-lolcenawins: It was "cenalossgasm." It was not to last, however: Cena continued to be the guy (and rightly so, he had all the things you want for the face of an organization).
The point is anti-Cena venom had given the fans the outlet to express themselves in negative ways. No longer did fans simply stay quiet when a performer they disliked appeared. Now the fans began to boo openly and revolt against the direction of the product they were paying for. For a long time this was confined to the anti-Cena crowd (with their "Cena sucks" retort to the pro-Cena women and children), but eventually the hostile crowds found a face for their movement. Edge was not it; he was a staple of SmackDown and had a good run helping to carry the B-show. RVD smoked his way out of potentially being that guy.
No, the guy the fans rallied around was CM Punk.
He was talented, versatile and charmingly sloppy in the ring. The opposite of Cena's cookie cutter moveset. He was sardonic on the stick where Cena played it safe. He was unpredictable where Cena was focus-group tested.
That summer of Punk was glorious but it did not make a new company face. It only made a new main event guy. Punk wanted more. The fans wanted more. Vince wanted Cena. So while we enjoyed seeing Punk featured more and more on Raw, and while we enjoyed his title reign and his outstanding heel work and his incredible matches, Vince was more than happy to give him to us. We were paying for it, after all.
Because Vince is the head of a big corporation, not a wrestling promotion.
With the news that Punk has taken an unplanned hiatus, you might think it selfish of Punk to decide to split (even if only for a short time) after a year+ run with the belt, an Undertaker match at WrestleMania, and a potential fight with Triple H to come. You might think he's too greedy, but for Punk it's not greed; it's ambition. He wants to prove he can be the best. So far all they've let him prove is he is the second-best. It's not about being number two to Cena's number one; Punk has said he likes being Savage to Cena's Hogan. Punk seemed to be fine with an on-again, off-again feud with Cena. Who wouldn't want the face of the company as their most famous rival? Such things tend to lead to big PPV matches and, ultimately, a WrestleMania main event. It happened to Miz for crying out loud. Miz! Surely Punk would get his big WrestleMania match with Cena...
Meanwhile Batista happens.
And the boos Batista heard at the Rumble and the Raw after (and hopefully more Raw shows to come) is the product of a crowd that has been trained by Punk-love and Cena-hate to boo what they don't want. And they don't want Batista.
Actually they want Daniel Bryan, a guy who -- with good reason -- has yet to be mentioned in this article. Bryan represents the solidification of what began with boos for Cena and cheers for Punk. With booing Cena, the fans merely expressed what they didn't like in relation to the alternative (Edge, RVD). With Punk the fans had a wrestler they could cheer for while also booing the guy they didn't want. Bryan is the first guy to receive that kind of reaction (and surpass it even) since Punk. Dolph Ziggler got a good pop when he won the world title, and others have had their moment in the smark sun, but Punk, and now Bryan, are a cut above the rest. With Bryan, WWE brass can't say the fans revolting is just a "Punk phenomenon." It's now a movement. It's now the norm. Get used to it Vince, the fans aren't going to take it anymore. We're going to vocally and stubbornly support the guys we want to see. Even if we have to hijack a show to get it.
Meanwhile, Batista happens.
And Batista represents what Vince wants: to pop a buyrate, to get a quick ratings boost and to look like a company of mega stars in advance of the TV negotiations and launch of the WWE Network. He cares about the bottom dollar. And while that's smart for the head of a company, it's a short term solution that brews a long term problem: the fans are restless. They don't want Batista, and they're not the sheep they used to be. They are going to let Vince know they don't want Batista.
Punk, it seemed, had been successfully moved aside to make room for Batista. But while Vince and co. were working (and writing and re-writing) on how to sidestep the fans desire for "D-Bry", Punk had been slowly growing more and more frustrated. Having to watching a true superstar come in and take what he felt was his WrestleMania spot two years in a row is one thing. Rock is certainly among the elite in WWE history. Having to watch an out of shape, fan-rejected Batista do it? That's something else.
So while all eyes were on Daniel Bryan, while Vince and co. were scrambling to contain his popularity into something they could control (imagine how stupid that is!), Punk walks out. Now the rumors are that he has not "quit" but will be taking a sudden and unforeseen leave of absence to heal up and rest. Call it what you want, but when you walk away from a WrestleMania payday, I don't care how much money you have saved up, you're not just taking a break.
Punk is walking away. He may come back this summer. He may not come back ever again. I'm sure Vince and co. will be working on a nice new contract for him to be signed before the Payback PPV comes to Chicago, but what more can you offer Punk? He has gotten everything he wanted except for what he really wanted. That Stone Cold moment where you win the Rumble, kick off a road to WrestleMania story (that is actually the main program), and climax with a title win at the big dance.
So here's where the "hostile takeover" comes in. Punk is gone, and who knows for how long. In the meantime it seems Bryan is stepping into his place as the thorn in the side of Triple H. Fine. Please continue to cheer YES and DAN-IEL BRY-AN to your hearts content. Let the powers that be know that he is what you want.
But also continue to cheer for CM Punk. Chant his name whenever Vince or Triple H is on screen...or when they're not. Cheer it at house shows. Cheer it during commercials. Cheer it during Divas matches and Randy Orton promos. Cheer for CM Punk. Not the tired, directionless, unmotivated babyface we've had to watch for a while now. No, cheer for the brash, anti-authority, ubertalent that won us over long before he blew a kiss to Vince at Money in the Bank 2011. Cheer for the man who has given everything he had to a company that has continued to take him for granted.
Monday Night Raw is a three-hour show. They can't keep hiding Batista forever. So please continue to boo him too. Make Vince sorry he spent whatever he did to secure the rights of "The Animal". Boo everything you are dissatisfied with, and boo loudly. I'm not talking about the stupid cheers for JBL and Michael Cole, or the random Randy Savage chants in the middle of a good mid-card match. I'm not talking about doing the wave. I'm talking about hijacking the show and getting the message out to viewers that there are wrestlers who you actually want. There are matches you actually want to see. Vince knows we're hooked; we'll keep buying the shows even if the main event is Orton vs. Batista. What we can do is make it painful for him until he finally gives up and gives us what we want.
It's time for the fans to truly take over the show we pay to see.