Vader vs. Ron Simmons is not one of my favorite title matches of all time. It’s a damn good, energetic match, but it’s not in the high-end, high-caliber level of championship matches I’ve ever watched. I’ve watched countless amounts of them in various decades, it probably doesn’t even crack match quality-wise the top fifty. This may sound like I’m being quite the downer on this match right off the back. Contrary, I’m telling you right now you need to go watch this match if you haven’t at some point. Never mind everything you may hear about how much of a flop Simmons title reign is afterward. Don’t concern yourself with any and all of that. The point is, this may be one of my favorite title changes of all time. It’s right up there, definitely a top ten. Add it’s a damn good match on top of the historical significance of Simmons, a black man, holding the WCW Championship, yes this is worth your watch. It’s required viewing, necessary viewing. Anyone with an appreciation of wrestling history and championship lineage needs to make time to watch this match. It’s one of the better decisions, and there are not many, of Bill Watts’s reign of terror.

As stated above this is one of my favorite title changes. It is important though to explain why. Explaining the why is easy, emotion, in particular, the emotion of one young black fan in the crowd whose reaction has stuck with me since I watched. Who enhanced the match for me, and made me see how important the match was to too many wrestling fans who at times may feel like their favorites and preference get shoved aside, and even to this day still feel that way. I can’t speak for them, that’s not a viewpoint or a scope I can grasp. It is beyond me, and too many white fans already try to explain the viewpoints of people they are not qualified to express. Instead, I’m going to focus on the match, and in particular this one fan.

You already know the fan. You already know the moment. We need to discuss and talk about it though. It is one of the BEST examples of the importance of fan and crowd reaction. It is one of the best examples of fans expressing how something makes them felt can enhance something, even great and significant moments, higher than it otherwise would be. This fan, this young black fan, I don’t even notice or pay attention to the entire match. He comes out of nowhere. A bundle of energy, excitement, wonder, joy in the closing moments. Rushing down from his seat to the front row as fast as he can to make it to the front for the three count, and his reaction to the three count afterward. These few seconds of response and reaction are as well built and hot as an excellent long paced match itself. Watching as he races down, focusing as he makes it to the front, then the climax and pay off as he happily gets excited and starts jumping up and down as Ron Simmons successfully gets the three count against Vader. I can picture it in my head as I describe it, you probably can as well. That’s the great thing about certain fan reactions, they stick with you, they play in your mind. You can recall it happening equally as your favorite spots, sequences, and moments in a wrestling match. They play as important, if not more so than the match itself. They are those genuine expressions of emotion that convey and converse what a match or moment means. If one foolishly and needlessly gave out star ratings for fan reactions, this would be an easy *****.

This match already had a genuine feeling of meaning something and being important, this one fan reaction, as well as the excitement of the crowd, puts over how true that was. Again, ignore everything that did and didn’t happen after this match happened. With certain companies constantly talking about creating moments (and failing to do so), this was a moment successfully created. A moment in time when pro-wrestling was the boundless bundle of joy it can achieve. Vader the man who decimated Sting, Ron Simmons the man who was told he couldn’t be champion colliding together, and Simmons pulling off what many in his shoes could not/was not allowed to.  He became champion. That alone is magic, but there’s the magic that’s an illusion, easily disproved and then dismissed as a fraud. This was no illusion, no fraud, this was a pure damn spell and this fan for me will always be the mystery component, that one special ingredient that puts it over the top.

Millions of fans have come to wrestling matches over the years. Countless amounts of witnessed title changes in various promotions and territories. Most will fade away to obscurity, the only memories of these reactions in their own mind as they think and consider what it means to them. This fan’s reaction lives on in all of us. It was a legit expression of raw emotion. Nothing staged, nothing planned. This was not a fan playing to the camera trying to get himself over at the detriment of the match. This was a fan who became an organic part of the match instantly and without regard to how people would remember or think about him. All he had at that moment was THAT moment and how it made him feel. He was caught in it, willingly allowing it to wash over him as he bolted to the front. Imagine him running to the front of the fuse to explosion lit, and then his reaction to the dynamite going off. An explosion of happiness and excitement. It was pure, it was perfect. It’s the way I want wrestling to make me feel, to make all of us feel. Whether we live or in our living room. Rushing in, leaning forward, fist-pumping, jumping, cheering, excited. I will always defend and applaud wrestling when it breaks my heart, it is part of the order of things. Wrestling though is at its BEST when it makes us cheer, makes us celebrate, makes us feel good not because we watched a five-star match, but something with meaning, significance, importance was built to, worked for, achieved, and we fucking felt it. 

I have no backstory on this fan or any knowledge of who he is or where he went on from there. I don’t want to know, and that’s not an insult. I don’t want to risk the picture of this moment that’s in my head. This fan came on down and for a brief moment of time and stole this fangirl’s heart.

(Editor’s Note: Ron Simmons has met the fan several times!)

A fan reaction that has lived on in my mind longer than countless amounts of wrestling matches I have viewed. Ron Simmons vs. Vader would have always been a very good and important title match, but with this crowd reaction, it reaches a legendary status to me it otherwise would not have. Fans are an important and vital part of matches, Their reactions, emotions, and contributions should never be disregarded or dismissed. Whether it’s a collective thousand, or one excited young fan rushing the front to cheer his hero on winning the championship, let us never take the importance of fans for granted. Wrestling companies AND wrestlers, do so at your own peril.