You know how every once in a blue moon some guy will jump the railing at a baseball game and run across the field? Or a streaker will jog out in front of tens of thousands of people at a soccer stadium and dangle his naked balls for the whole world to marvel? I imagine they do these things for fame; a common motivation for many stupid activities. They’ll earn the ire of an entire security staff just so they can get their mug on the Jumbo-Tron. Security tries to take these guys down as soon as possible, but more often than not it’s too late: The entire crowd has turned their attention away from the game and towards these newcomers. They shout, they point, they even cheer as the intruder makes the maddest dash of his life. It’s not hard to see why the audience would switch their focus. Every sport has its own rhythm, a rhythm that draws the crowd in for the entirety of the game, and when some naked schmuck breaks up that rhythm, the crowd switches to this new point of focus.
WWE has recently seen a rash of fans jumping the barricade to get a bit closer to the action in the ring than they’re allowed. Whether they walk down the ramp next to Seth Rollins on Monday Night Raw:
Nearly attack Dean Ambrose at a SmackDown taping:
Smash Roman Reigns in the face with a tossed Money in the Bank Briefcase:
Or simply jump in the ring and stand alongside Ambrose and Reigns at Night of Champions while wearing tactical gear (strange how all these incidents involve members of The Shield), WWE fans have become very bold in their attempts to cross the line between audience and performer.
Fans have been trying to break that divide for decades, of course. Ox Baker started a full-blown riot in Cleveland in 1974, while forty years later some guy in South Africa uppercutted Randy Orton in the groin. This is not a new phenomenon. But thanks to the advent of social media, these incidents are now captured, saved, shared, and replayed a million times over for our viewing pleasure mere minutes after they’re happened, whether they take place on television or at a house show.
There are a number of reasons why someone would jump the barricade. Like I said, fame is probably the most common. Human beings constantly crave attention; it’s only the methods that change over time. Babies cry, teenagers whine, and wrestling fans run into the ring.
When that barrier between fan and athlete is breached, when the rhythm of the event is broken, the audience can’t help but turn their attention to it. These interrupters completely disregard their role as an audience member—to look, but don’t touch—to become part of the performance themselves. In the crowd, they are one of many nameless faces whose sole purpose is to watch. But in the ring, they are the one whom is watched. All eyes are on them.
Another reason a fan would want to interfere is because they actually want to fight. It’s not hard to picture a fan getting so worked up in the wrongdoings of the heels that they would want to leave their seat and physically assault them. Ox Baker didn’t cause that riot on purpose. It happened because he kept giving his opponent the Heart Punch after the match had ended and the crowd was so incensed that a riot broke out. They don’t comprehend the concept of kayfabe; to them, it was all real. Now, I understand that this reason is nowhere near as prevalent as it was back in the day. As wrestling has progressed throughout the years, fans have grown a lot smarter to the inner workings of the sport. They might get mad at certain outcomes or moments, they’ll boo their lungs out, but they’re wise enough to know that what’s going on in the ring is pre-planned and it’s not worth throwing fisticuffs over. “It’s all part of the show” is the apt expression.
That said, there are those fans who will still try to throw down. Case in point, Bash at the Beach 1996. Hulk Hogan had just turned his back on WCW and formed the nWo with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. While they celebrated, a fan rushed the ring. Nash and Hall immediately attacked the guy, punching and stomping him until he unceremoniously slunked under the ropes and to the floor, most likely unconscious. Given that fans were pelting the ring with garbage, my best guess was that this man was looking to defend the honor and glory of World Championship Wrestling by attacking the evil invaders Hall and Nash, rather than show himself off to the audience. Again, it’s a guess. But either way, trying to beat up Kevin Nash and Scott Hall was probably the dumbest thing he could have done.
And then there are the mentally ill. “The ones who live out where the busses don’t run,” as George Carlin once said. Kind of like the deranged nutbag who showed up outside the WWE Performance Center wielding a knife. The guy was an obsessive nuisance who was court-ordered to stay away from WWE property, yet he still decided to cause some trouble. A police officer eventually took him down with a bullet to the torso. You can never always tell if someone has a few toys in the attic, but they are out there and they are unpredictable.
Whatever the reason, this needs to stop. Fans need to learn that paying for a ticket and coming to a show does not give them license to physically insert themselves into the show. They can chant whatever they want. But the second they decide to enter the wrestlers’ domain, it becomes a different story.
Needless to say it shows a complete disregard for safety for both themselves and the wrestlers. In a world where even the simplest of moves can result in a finished career or worse, an untrained fan getting in the ring without notice is a dangerous thought because you just don’t know what is going to happen. Is this merely a case of showboating, or are they actually going to attack? Do they have a weapon? There are too many unknowns involved when a fan jumps the ring. It’s even scarier when ladders are involved. On the May 27, 2002 edition of Raw, Eddie Guerrero fought Rob Van Dam in a ladder match for the Intercontinental Title. During the match, while Eddie was on top of the ladder, a fan ran into the ring and pushed the ladder over. Thankfully Eddie landed safely on his feet and promptly socked the guy right in the face. That situation could have gone a lot worse, but it wouldn’t have happened at all if the fan had never left his seat.
It also ruins the flow of the show. A great match or a stellar promo can be seriously hindered when some dolt breaks up the momentum. It’s not fair to the wrestlers who work their asses off to put on a good show. It’s also not fair to the crowd or the people watching at home. They didn’t pay to see someone drunkenly try to impress their friends in the second row. They paid to see Cesaro destroy people with uppercuts. Well… that would be my reason, at least.
The good news is that these intruders aren’t running around for too long. Security guards, referees, and even the wrestlers themselves are very quick to take down the unfortunate bastards who dare enter the ring. And more good news recently came out that the fan who entered the ring at Night of Champions got ten days in jail for criminal trespassing. Harsher punishments can help deter future incidents. WWE are also looking to beef up their security.
The bad news is that while a company like WWE can afford a full security staff, a lot of indy promotions cannot. Some don’t even have barricades. Plenty of small promotions have the crowd’s seats situated just a few feet away from the ring with nothing in between them. It would be very easy for some fan to get a wild hair up his ass and go after a wrestler with nothing in his way.
99% of wrestling fans know not to rush the ring. But to those few who are looking to jump the barricade at a wrestling event, I say this: DON’T. You’re not funny. You’re not cool. You’re not a tough guy. The only thing you are is an ass. When you’re being tackled to the ground, you’ll realize that.