Last weeks episode of Monday Night Raw ended with a frenzy of “YES” chants when Daniel Bryan turned babyface, after two weeks of being a heel, he laid out Bray Wyatt in the middle of the ring. It was the perfect scenario as Bryan had his nemesis all to himself and locked in a steel cage. The live crowd can make or break a match because they provide that intangible “thing” that makes a moment so special. However, in general, crowd reactions aren’t as vociferous as they once were.
The thunderous “YES” chants Bryan received as he stood atop of the cage reminded me of days gone by when fans responded out of genuine emotion instead of cheering because there supposed to. Watch some events from the 80’s and 90’s, and then watch any event after 2003 and you will see a stark contrast in audience response. I’ve been to my share of wrestling events in the Boston area and beyond, and there are four shows in particular where the crowd ovation turned into something that I’ll never forget.
WCW Monday Nitro: 6/9/97 Fleet Center in Boston, MA: The nWo was at the apex of their popularity as the Fleet Center was a sea of black and white. A pier six brawl ensued involving every member of the WCW roster. Diamond Dallas Page was walloped in the back of the head with the championship belt by Hulk Hogan and knocked out of the ring. Sting descended from the rafters to save the day and the crowd noise volume went from ten to twenty. I couldn’t hear or think and my ears were vibrating, but I didn’t care. I was with my Mom and we were having the time of our lives. This remained the loudest reaction I ever heard until many years later.
WWF Monday Night Raw 12/28/98 | Worcester Centrum Centre | Worcester, MA: This is the historic night where Mankind, otherwise known as Mick Foley, defeated The Rock to capture the WWF title. Interference from Vince McMahon’s Corporation prompted D-Generation X to even the odds. The Rock hits Mankind low and all looked lost until the infamous sound of breaking glass resulted in what had to be the single biggest pop in wrestling history as Stone Cold Steve Austin marched to the ring. It was as if every single person inside the Centrum cheered at the exact same time. This moment demonstrated how badly the fans wanted Foley to win and how happy they were to see their hero, Austin, assist with the title change.
ECW One Night Stand | 6/11/06 | Hammerstein Ballroom | New York, NY: “IF CENA WINS WE RIOT” is all you need to say about the atmosphere that night. Rob Van Dam vs. John Cena, for the WWE title, in front of the rebellious ECW faithful was an exhilarating experience to be a part of. The entire night was electric and as good as the show was, the fans made it that much better.
WWE Summer Slam | 8/20/06 | TD Bank Garden | Boston, MA: This is the only time I have ever walked out on a show as it was just an uninspired mess. I’m glad I stayed as long as I did because I would have missed out on something truly special. Hulk Hogan received the longest and loudest reaction I have ever heard anyone receive. I watched the fans more than the match because I was in awe of what I was hearing. The Hulkster always gets a lot of love, but this was something different. It was more than a nostalgia pop. It was a real and emotional message from the crowd to Hogan that he has been, and always will be, their guy.
Daniel Bryan is clearly the most popular wrestler in WWE, today. If the company doesn’t realize that by now, they never will. Maybe that’s why fans don’t cheer as much as they used to. No matter how you slice it, loud reactions from an audience are a clear indicator of something positive that can be taken to the bank.