In an amusing interlude during last night's WWE Night of Champions pay-per-view, a fan decked out in Shield garb invaded the ring before the company could reveal Chris Jericho as the mystery partner of Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose for their match against The Wyatt Family. The fan had a few seconds of fame mugging for the cameras before being hauled off by security.
Clearly annoyed by the recent spate of fans trespassing into the ringside area, especially now that it had occurred on live television during a key moment of the broadcast, WWE quickly issued a statement that suggested they would crack down much more severely on any such intruders on their turf:
"WWE takes the safety of our performers very seriously and any fan entering the ring area will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
According to PWInsider.com, the legal threat wasn't idle talk for media attention, but a genuine change in company policy to punish these interlopers much more harshly:
"While the company has indeed pursued prosecution in the past when it came to fans crossing a line or physically hopping the rail in the past, after the last several weeks of incidents (most recently last night at the WWE Night of Champions PPV), the word is that WWE intends to pursue the most stringent prosecution possible if and when another incident occurs. There will be no apologies afterwards from fans at this point, as sometimes has happened, just an immediate arrest followed by WWE's legal team pushing for prosecution and jail time for all offenders.
So, while someone might think they are going to get a momentary laugh or thrill out of getting involved in a WWE event, the reality is that because so many fans have "poked the bear" so to speak of late, anyone that attempts this going forward is looking at not just a lifetime ban from WWE events as well as the venue where the incident takes place, but being charged with criminal offenses."
Interference with a professional sporting event is a misdemeanour crime in some major cities like New York and Los Angeles, whilst in those places without such laws fans who invade the ring could be charged with criminal trespassing.
My opinion is that although WWE are well within their rights to prosecute any fan that invades the ring area, this is an odd case to single out, given that the fan in this incident did not attempt to attack or even touch one of the participants. It would have made more sense to take such a hardline stance when a fan hit Reigns with a replica Money in the Bank briefcase at a WWE house show last month, as anyone who attacks a performer deserves no sympathy. That said, it makes sense to have some uniform policy in place, given how common such incidents have become this year.