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The Five Wrestling Fans You Meet in Hell: Beach ballers are just the tip

By hell, I mean Brooklyn's Barclays Center during SummerSlam 2017, and the subsequent tapings of Raw and SmackDown Live. Yes, NXT's TakeOver Brooklyn III gets off scot-free. That crowd was an innocent.

Before I denigrate many of the people who -- as I did -- spent their cash to attend one of -- or all four of, in my case -- the WWE's SummerSlam stint at Brooklyn's Barclays center I want to say that the WWE itself it not without fault here.

Many of these problems, have some root in the programming that the McMahon dynasty placed on cable TV for the last decades. Specifically, the YES! Movement and The Attitude Era. While I love Daniel Bryan and a lot of that era, it's led to a lot of problems that WWE nurtured, rather than eradicating. Problems that I think can (or at least should) be fixed.

The Beachballers

For those fortunate, enviable souls who didn't see: the beach balls returned at SummerSlam, to the delight of some, and to the seeming ire of Cesaro, who famously ran out to rip one apart. The problem exacerbated on Raw and SmackDown Live, where the arena became plagued with beachballs. Riddled, in the way I'd wager Jeff Jarrett's brain is amok with Syphilis.

Positing conjecture wouldn't be right (but I'll do so below anyways), but the recent history of this trend is simple. During the Raws after ‘Mania in 2016 and 2017 saw fans bringing, and tossing, beachballs, because past attempts at hijacking had gotten stale. No longer was The Wave enough, they had to turn the seating into a terrible game of keepaway.

WWE even encouraged it, giving it attention during its 24: WrestleMania Monday documentary special. Even smart fan favorite Chris Jericho enabled it, saying "Beach ball mania was running wild!" during a backstage interview. And those who brought the beach ball that Cesaro shredded on Sunday seemed to take this quasi-interaction with the Swiss Cyborg as encouragement, as the flying balls seemingly multiplied by a factor of four at Raw.

While some argue that this is a sign of the fans expressing boredom (the cruiserweights whose Raw match did get sent out there with zero story), the Raw Tag Team Championship match proves this isn't a good enough excuse. That storyline is one of the hottest Raw's had in months and by throwing a beach ball during it, you forfeit your ability to claim any respect.

So: why is this bad? It's a shame that this needs to be explained, but no other art would suffer this mockery. By saying we find swatting a giant ball filled with air to be more entertaining than these men and women (on SmackDown Live, the balls dropped during a tag match featuring Naomi and Becky Lynch vs Natalya and Carmella), is insulting. It's even worse when you think about the risks that professional wrestlers (minus Randy Orton) put their bodies through.

How does WWE fix this? Not by asking security to be more stringent, as PWInsider reported that WWE banned beach balls on Tuesday, and yet they persisted. I think there are one of two ways out.

The first, and most risky, is to have superstars express their disgust, as Rollins did by posting a message to social media a year ago, telling the crowd that they let him down by focusing on their dislike of the design of the Universal Championship during his match with Finn Bálor.

The second idea? Co-opt it further and make it uncool. Maybe this is having Stephanie involve herself on camera, I'm not sure. Clearly, beach ball bros (and from what I saw, it was only men throwing them out, including one weirdo cosplaying as Ric Flair) think they're doing the dopest thing ever, and maybe push them onto something less annoying.

The Fans Obsessed With Non-Kayfabe Rumors

I was shocked when Sasha Banks entered SummerSlam to a reaction that contained more boos than cheers. At first, I thought this was a super-progressive reaction to her promo questioning Alexa Bliss's fandom and gate-keeping.

Alas, no. Multiple fans I spoke to at the Barclays (all of which were men, for what it's worth) said that there were stories on Facebook about Sasha being mean to fans or not having time for them. This Cageside story, where Rusev subtweeted someone about not being as good as Eddie Guerrero, is reportedly about Sasha.

Not to dismiss anyone's possibly correct allegations of poor fan interactions (though I don't personally think that's part of their jobs), but this doesn't rise to being worth booing a clear babyface. Sure, Roman gets heat from crowds who don't like him for how he's been booked, and JBL still gets heckled with "FIRE BRADSHAW" chants over his rumored harassment of Mauro Ranallo, but Sasha was the white-meat babyface of this storyline.

So: why is this bad? To make sure wrestling works properly and cognitive dissonance doesn't occur, we're supposed to cheer the faces and boo the heels. Sure, Cena and Reigns and now Bayley may be exceptions to that rule, but pushing against the grain screws up the story that's going on, and is a dick move.

Additionally, if the stories are true we don't know what's happening in Sasha's life that could lead to her not having time for fans. While there's been rumor of her being hard to work with, she's also had a hard time of it lately, feeling like she had to keep her engagement to Mikaze (of UpUpDownDown) secret.

To be honest, I don't think there's any solution for this, not in the age of the internet, which enables all of the here-say.

The Creep Who Won't Stop Being THE WORST

And let me just get this out of the way first: yes, there is a double-standard here that I'm completely fine with. Women can objectify the fuck out of whomever they like, because our society isn't filled with a history of the female gaze devaluing anyone or belittling them.

So, to the guy who sat next to me at SummerSlam, who wouldn't stop talking about Alexa Bliss's "booty," I say sir, shut your pie-hole. Sure, sex appeal is a part of the WWE and probably will be forever, but you're grossing everyone around you out by verbally perving.

To be fair to WWE fans, it gets far worse than this. When I saw a TNA show in the Hammerstein Ballroom in the summer of 2014, some drunks repeatedly shouted "show your tits" at wrestlers, and one would just not stop shouting "GAIL!" at Gail Kim.

Also, regarding the guys who shout transphobic and misogynistic comments throughout the show? Ban them for life.

How does WWE fix this? Maybe bring back Jerry Lawler for another one-off segment where you lean into his history of being a lecherous asshat. Either have him show remorse and regret, or have a babyface just rip into him for how terrible it is.

What can we do? If you feel comfortable doing it, shout them down. At a recent New York indie show, one guy cat-called a wrestler, shouting about her ass. My immediate reaction was to shout "DON'T BE A DICK!" in the style of Progress Wrestling's Jim Smallman. The unseen dick didn't cat-call again that night.

The Bullet Club Superfan

Wear all the Bullet Club merch to a WWE event that you want. I don't even care that you bought it at Hot Topic. But don't – as fans did at SummerSlam – do the Marty Scull "WOOP WOOP" chant all over AJ Styles. They weren't ever in the Biz Cliz at the same time, and have no association with each other outside of being in the faction at different times.

On the same topic, the Terminator clap pattern that Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks started? Doing that during AJ's matches – or anyone's really – isn't as cool as you think it is.

We've already given up on stopping the still-annoying "1-2-SWEEET!" chant after a kickout at two (even though it kinda screws with the dramatic moment), but blarting all over the WWE product with content that isn't relevant doesn't make sense, and just confuses others.

The Solitary Drunk Chant Machine

"Shane! Mc! Mahon!"

I hope nobody could hear him from the Network stream, but during AJ Styles vs Kevin Owens at SummerSlam, this one guy in my section would not stop trying to start a Shane chant. Put aside the fact that it's not even the right chant (that's Shane! O! Mac!), but Shane wasn't even doing anything interesting during those parts of the match.

Again, this is bad because a fan is trying to hijack the focus of the show to themselves, and for no good reason. His quickly-hoarse voice had no cause on concern behind it (nobody was fired on their wedding day nor were they harassed by the company loud mouth), and solely existed to make himself a star.

The same fan would later attempt to start a "MA HA RA JAH" chant — with dozens of attempts — that were only later politely joined in by someone taking pity on him.

How do we fix this? Maybe cut people off from buying more beer when they seem like they've had enough?


If you made it this far without jumping to the comments section to say I sound like an unpleasant grump, thank you. I'm sure some didn't have that patience, and I understand them.

I take this stuff a little too seriously on occasion, as my ire for the beach ball bastards was triggered by them throwing balls out at the start of the 4 on 4 cruiserweights tag match on Raw. Like some others, I care a lot about the success of the 205 Live'ers, and found that this disrespect wouldn't help their cause.

But nobody wants to sit next to the guy who's found a target in the crowd who isn't living up to his standards of fandom. I'm aware and I'm trying to temper that. By Tuesday, my fourth WWE show in as many days, I'd sort of stopped trying to fight it all. My surrender was half because my energy was depleted, and half because I saw the futility of such efforts in such a large venue.

I'm also not-the-best when I see Evolve shows, as I sometimes can't help but crack one-liners that carry in their smaller venues. These are bad habits I'm trying to correct, so I'll end this by saying I hope others can be as introspective.

Henry T. Casey is a tech writer for Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag who thought he couldn't get enough wrestling until Barclays showed him his saturation point for consecutive nights of WWE live events. He can be found at @henrytcasey on nearly every social media service.

Henry podcasts about wrestling at The Ring Post, which you can listen without worrying about it being too negative or going over every damn segment on Raw.

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