Packed houses have been a part of AEW Dynamite for a couple weeks now, and fans return to WWE starting tonight (July 16).
It’s a welcome site, and sound. After almost a year-and-a-half of watching a handful of real and virtual fans respond to a performance art that relies on audience reaction, we know what a difference it makes. In a larger sense, after a long period where people were isolate, scared, angry & confused, it’s comforting to believe we’re returning to pre-COVID life (even as the delta variant and vaccine-resistance remind us we’re not out of the woods just yet).
As we dive into these experiences we’ve been craving since early 2020, it has a lot of us anticipating certain elements of pro wrestling in front of live fans. We’re wondering what you’re most - and least - looking forward to.
Here’s a couple to start the conversation.
The reaction to Roman Reigns
Reigns’ transformation from The Big Dog to The Head of the Table is the biggest and best thing WWE did during their ThunderDome residency. More than just giving fans the heel turn many of us have been clamoring for since the 2015 Royal Rumble, it’s told the story of why Roman broke bad in an interesting way. The use of his cousins Jimmy & Jey Uso has been a surprising highlight, and places them on the list of intriguing options to dethrone The Tribal Chief - a list that includes Big E, Cesaro, Edge, Kevin Owens, and The Rock.
Most importantly, Reigns has excelled at portraying his new character. Playing an arrogant-yet-insecure mob boss, Roman’s finally put it all together and delivered on the potential all but his most irrational detractors saw in him.
He’s been so great, under normal circumstances you might anticipate Reigns getting some “cool heel” pop when SmackDown’s back out on the road. It might happen, and is probably more likely to occur in some towns than others, but I mostly think audiences will be so excited to go along with WWE’s best story - and to finally have a clear reason to boo the “divisive” Superstar at the center of it - that the jeers will be deafening.
Can’t wait to find out.
The return of good crowd/bad crowd arguments
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve taken part in a lot of these discussions... I was just on the fringes of it talking about The Big Dog.
And there are absolutely things that make crowds, or some of the people in them, “bad”. Racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic chants, and rushing the ring or trying to touch wrestlers immediately come to mind, but there are tons of ways people can make the live wrestling experience miserable for others.
In general though, one of the things I’ve enjoyed about pandemic era shows is the absence of debating the merits of beachballs, or “CM Punk” chants. It’s been interesting to judge a show or performance based on what’s on my screen without speculation about how it would be better if only people in Lincoln, Nebraska had made more noise.
That’s mostly me, a notorious fence-sitter, looking to see both sides of something though. Even if I’m not looking forward to adding whether or not WWE piped in noise on a specific episode of Raw to the long list of things people argue about the internet, I’ll gladly take it in exchange for what the roar of the crowd adds to pro wrestling.
What about you? What are you most, and least, looking forward to with the return of fans?