Lutz's Blog: Rowdy fans diminished an otherwise (mostly) excellent Raw
By Jeffrey Lutz
I'm usually not the one to recap Raw episodes, especially one week after they happen and after Jason, Will and Ryan have summed up the show pretty perfectly, but so much happened last week that it's difficult not to add a few extra thoughts.
Of course, the biggest story of last week was the crowd. WWE allows and even encourages more fan participation than many other entertainment venues, but a crowd should never take over a show. I went to a comedy show last year in which one fan twice interrupted the performer to ask inane questions or offer her two cents. It dampened the experience for me, and that was just one fan. Imagine how the fans who weren't chanting felt, the fans who wanted to enjoy a show, not be a part of it. If there even were any of those fans.
The Sheamus-Randy Orton segment was a complete disaster, of course, but there are many other ways to show disapproval outside of chanting for everyone else near the ring. Orton's phoned-in performance deserved lampooning, and we saw the thin line between doing that effectively and going completely overboard.
I'm not even totally sure where that line is. Is a "boring" chant OK? It seems accepted, but I've never heard that at a baseball game, where so much time can occur between pitches that some fans grow restless. (For the record, I'm not one of them.) Is every reaction a good reaction? Does a "boring" chant mean performers are getting through to the audience, no matter how negatively? I admire the passion of the fans at last week's Raw, but they had to know that the show wasn't going to entertain from start to finish.
Then there's Fandango, who rose above the rest of the crowd's antics to become an instant cult classic. But did he, or was it just his music? They might be one in the same, but they might not. This week's Raw crowd might love Fandango's music but still express apathy toward a character who hasn't yet been fully established.
All eyes will be on Fandango this week, and that could be dangerous. When Daniel Bryan became the crowd favorite at last year's WrestleMania, he was the World Heavyweight Champion and obviously had accomplished more beyond winning a single match and possessing a glamorous ring-entrance.
If WWE had a recent track record of capitalizing on the instant popularity of performers, I'd feel better about Fandango's chances to make a real breakthrough. But Johnny Curtis's inexperience combined with WWE's inability to effectively push characters to whom fans have offered their approval makes me fear that Fandango will fall just as quickly as he has risen. If he's truly popular beyond his music, then I hope he gets every chance to succeed.
The crowd diminished last week's Raw because it would have been a fantastic show even without the chants. Dolph Ziggler cashed in Money in the Bank -- finally -- but his momentum might already be stalled because that wasn't the major talking point of the show. Then again, that could be a good thing since it will allow Ziggler to ease back into a heel role after earning a babyface reaction when he won the Championship last week.
I also have initial hope for a Ziggler-Alberto Del Rio feud. Del Rio's facial expressions are underrated, and he pulled off an excellent emotional reaction to the inevitability of losing his title. For the two seconds Del Rio's resigned and disappointed face was shown while Ziggler was coming to the ring, I kind of felt bad for him.
Perhaps playing a sympathetic babyface, especially against a Ziggler character that hasn't been portrayed as dominant, isn't the best direction for Del Rio's character. But anything is better for Del Rio than confusing promos about his heritage against a one-not performer like Jack Swagger. Since he lost his title in controversial and perhaps unfair fashion, maybe fans can finally get behind him. Ziggler is a much more well-rounded heel, and it's likely he'll be able to bring out the best in Del Rio.
Maybe fans can get behind something other than chanting for referees and humming a rookie's entrance theme, no matter how much it makes us talk.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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