Tonight is surely going to be an interesting night. Every time professional wrestling rolls into Chi-Town we are in for quite a ride. Regardless of which side you take on tonight’s potential “hijack,” whether you agree with the message or not, when a crowd is emotionally invested segment to segment, match to match, it makes for great television and we all win. One of the biggest reasons I am drawn to wrestling is its seemingly innate and endless ability to create great moments.
In this regard, Chicago has a tremendous resume. In a way it functions as the crescendo or the climax to great builds. In other ways, it acts as a wake-up call to the fans worldwide. Chicago fans are seemingly tapped in to the pulse and the mood of the pro wrestling community and when given the opportunity shout to the heavens what we all, or most of us, are feeling or should be feeling.
WrestlemMania XIII will always stand out in my mind as the night WWE turned it all around. I fully admit I wasn’t sold on Stone Cold Steve Austin from the start. I was, and still am a huge Bret Hart fan, OK borderline mark, and wasn’t ready for him to make the heel turn. Low and behold, Chicago knew what needed to be done that night, and as Austin has admitted himself, WrestleMania XIII officially established him as a face, and set him on the path to be the face (ugh I hate myself for saying that) and the crowd that night had everything to do with making that official.
Wrestlemania XXII is another great example of Chicago taking full advantage of the worldwide spot light. There were rumblings for a long time about John Cena. True a lot of fans were never really sold on him, but I would say from post-WM XXI, the resentment toward him began to fester. There were boo’s occasionally that had steadily grown but he was positioned as the face, beloved by children, and a lot of us felt it wasn’t OK to “hate” him. Well Chicago wasn’t having that. They knew what we were thinking because they were all thinking it too and from the press conference a few days before to the event itself, they booed him and showed their disdain for him and from that night on, they made it OK for the
rest of us to “hate” him too.
The latest great example was Money in the Bank 2011. Now sure, Chicago Made Punk is a hometown favorite, but he is also a quintessential example of what a Chicago upbringing produces. Love him or hate him, he speaks his mind, he acts as the wake up call. He is/ was, we’ll see, the Chicago fan’s representative in WWE. Everything he said during the “pipe bomb” was what Chicago fans were feeling. How/why? Because he is one of them. Money in the Bank comes along, CM Punk was the guy that Chicago knew could create the much-needed change in WWE, so they got behind him, they launched him into main event status, something that should have happen a year earlier IMO, and they got the rest
of the world on board that night. They knew change needed to be made and knew he was the guy to do it.
Unfortunately there is only so much one guy can do in the face of a multi-media conglomerate, especially when the “machine” doesn’t really fully invest in you. So the results, up to date anyway, have been mixed. Chicago certainly didn’t get all that they had hoped for, so bring on tonight. Tonight is not about hijacking. Tonight is about delivering yet another wake-up call. I saw one fan on twitter say, “Us fans don’t dictate the product.” Actually, yes we do. We always have. Everyone from Dusty Rhodes to Michael PS Hayes to good ‘ole JR and mostly recently Mick Foley, have said it’s all about the fans. It’s all about pleasing that audience (my personal favorite is “a butt every 18 inches” and hopefully on the edge of its seat.) Part of the problem, and to me Chicago’s big beef with WWE, is that top brass has seemingly lost sight of that.
In wrestling, there’s always been an understanding, an agreement between the audience and the promoter. The audience lets the promoter know when they want to see more of someone (they’ve gotten over). Once that communication has been made, the audience trusts the promoter to move that wrestler up the ladder. They will wait for an angle or story-line to be developed that facilitates the wrestler’s ascension and they will happily go along for the ride once it happens. It is an unspoken trust that WWE seems to have broken. They seem to have made the mistake that the audience is just there to be led; to sit there and be the studio audience for their TV shows and the fans in Chicago are not
Tonight is going to be very interesting to see how this all goes down. @ChicagoRAWcrowd on Twitter, agree with him or not, has done a tremendous and unprecedented job of rallying the fans and Chicago. Love it or not, gathering 9000+ Twitter followers in a week is damned impressive, and again, another
great example of Chicago rallying the troops, so to speak, and reminding us, if not outright getting us to admit, how we feel. As all of these fans have said, it’s bigger than Punk, it’s bigger than Bryan or HHH, it’s about re-establishing the trust.
Now personally, I am a huge CM Punk fan. I see him in the same light as I see Bret Hart. But, personally, I don’t want to see him tonight or back in WWE at all. I would much rather see him return to Ring of Honor, help to unite it with Dragon Gate USA and create a new wheel, one with an emphasis on professional wrestling, rather than assume the role of the cog in the sports entertainment machine. With AAA coming into the US on the El Ray Network, with Ring of Honor co-promoting with NJPW, and TNA dying a slow death, hopefully sooner than later, a new era in professional wrestling could emerge, and I believe will to an extent. With CM Punk positioned as a catalyst for real change, we could see a
new “boom period” or “golden age.”
But in the mean time, Chicago is going to works its magic once again and attempt to amass this change in WWE. Will tonight lead to a renaissance? No probably not, or at least not in the way fans might envision. What tonight will do though is officially cement that Pittsburgh or Green Bay were not isolated incidents. What began at the Royal Rumble and continued through to Elimination Chamber was that feeling that a majority of the fans have. Tonight will be the night that it officially becomes OK to “hijack” WWE until this trust is rebuilt. How and to what extent it is rebuilt is the question. But like WM XIII, XXII and MITB, one thing is for sure. Tonight is a night we will all look back on and remember for a long, long time as the night “it” started.
And if you’re asking how I am so knowledgeable about Chicago fans, I lived there, I know. Until next time, you can follow me on Twitter @AJarczyk. Hit me up, praise me for my insight or call me a mark who doesn’t know anything. I love hearing it all.
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