What should be asked of a perfect wrestling event crowd? I, and many others, thought they witnessed it on 16th December 2015, though others weren’t nearly so happy…
I just thought that I would get this off my chest after reading some reviews of last night’s fantastic NXT Takeover: London, which I had the pleasure of witnessing in person (a review is coming up). It is not on the subject of the matches, but on the audience. During Asuka and Emma’s brilliant opening match, Corey Graves quipped “Does Dana Brooke ever stop talking?”. Probably not. However, they had far more chance of shutting up Dana than London’s wrestling fans tonight, whose ecstatic screams could probably be picked up on the Richter scale.
Almost non-stop during NXT Takeover: London, the sold out SSE Arena in Wembley rattled on its foundations as the British crowd brought their own chants to the table, based upon football (in a soccer sense) mainstays. Having a nose around Reddit upon getting home, understandably with a very sore throat, it was interesting to find just how much of the live feed of comments was centred upon these chants, especially as besides at the unaired shows during the UK tour, many of them came across as entirely new. Online comments were primarily variants of “How the hell does the UK crowd even manage this”, “why couldn’t the crowd in [the last event they attended] be like this?”, “where are these new chants coming from?” and “why do they never get any PPVs?”.
For the most part, it was well received. In fact so well received that it caused the odd problem, as Bayley visibly struggled to keep a straight face while a “Hey Bayley, ooh-aah, I wanna know if you’ll be my girl” (to the tune of Bruce Channel’s ‘Hey Baby’) rang around the arena while she was meant to look slightly worried before her match against the monstrous Nia Jax. Similarly, Big Cass smirked while watching his own tag team partner being beaten to a pulp set to a “Na-na-na-naaa, Big Cass” being sung to the tune of The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’.
That said, there were some who weren’t so grateful – enter the legendary wrestling writer Dave Meltzer who had some stern words to say about the audience. In his review Bayley and Nia Jax’s great match: “During the first part of the match, the crowd was more into serenading (sic) Bayley with songs (“Hey Baby” (sic), “Bayley’s Gonna Hug You”) and wasn’t really paying attention to the flow of the match. The match itself was mostly Jax using power moves and the crowd not taking it seriously. But after Bayley kept kicking out of legdrops that they thought were the finish, the crowd was into the match itself and the singing stopped.”
Sorry Dave, but I beg to differ. This crowd could not have been any more in sync with the event. In fact, I think that besides some of the most shocking moments in NXT programming, I have not seen an NXT crowd being nearly as connected to the action as they were in London, as opposed to detached and going about their own noisy business and focusing upon themselves. This begs the question of what Dave Meltzer, and anyone in general is after when they are after from a crowd.
The ultimate pet hate of my own is when a crowd makes a point of stating that how superior they, and the show, is to something else. While “NXT!” is just about how NXT is great, nothing justifies the smug “This is wrestling!” or “Women’s wrestling!” chants heard quite often at Full Sail. This can be spotted too in the main roster with the crowd’s attempts at winding up WWE Creative with “CM Punk!”, “Daniel Bryan!” and “We want Sasha!”, when they are obviously not on the card that week.
Nothing came across as especially self-righteous, and if it were, then it certainly didn’t state it bluntly. Beyond one piece of cardboard in the crowd that read ‘NXT > RAW’, and there were two very brief “women’s wrestling!” chants during Asuka vs Emma, and Bayley vs Jax, there was nothing linked to the superiority of anything beyond the face of the match. Just that it was great, and there was zero context with anything outside the arena either. During the match that Meltzer cites in the above quote, Bayley was cheered, Jax was booed, and if daft chants like “Hey Bayley…” started again, it was when egging Bayley on to get back to her feet. Also, not once all night was there mention of location. No “UK!”, “England!”, “Wembley!”, or anything anti-USA.
The most defining moment hasn’t yet been broadcast totally, although it will be on WWE NXT at some point in the coming weeks – Sami Zayn vs Tye Dillinger, recorded after Finn Balor vs Samoa Joe. And it demonstrated everything that was right about those chants. All night when there were close count-outs, a Dillinger signature “TEN! TEN! TEN!” chant broke out with everyone’s hands aloft. Subsequently, when Dillinger arrived, the crowd was ecstatic – arguably coming across just as excited to see him as they were to see Sami Zayn. This was not an attempt to engulf the match at all, but part of the engrossed party-like atmosphere that a WWE event asks for, and the main roster has tried to, but failed to emulate in booking for a very long time. When the bell rang, the cheers for Dillinger suddenly switched off, and the crowd was instantly fine-tuned to boo Dillinger until he was pinned. Both men were then applauded. (4:10 for the moment where Sami Zayn makes the mistake of using the word “ten”.)
What more could anybody want from an audience besides the precise silent opposite (commonly associated with Japanese wrestling shows), than to be punctuating everything that was going on, down to the preciseness of boos and cheers as Asuka and Emma countered one another’s locks in quick succession. “Oooh-yeah-ooh…”
Anyway, that’s me done. A review of the event is coming up. What did you think of NXT Takeover: London’s British touch (or rather, SCREAM)? Comments below.