A quick note for anyone who is planning on attending a live show in the near future: If you are going to a wrestling show, it is okay to boo.

This may seem like something that doesn’t have to be made clear–after all, wrestling fans have been jeering performers since the industry’s inception. Lately, though, there has been some pushback by fans and wrestlers, suggesting that fans shouldn’t be allowed to boo wrestlers if they see an inadequate performance.

After WWE wrestler Maxxine Dupri was booed by fans following a house show match, Rhea Ripley took to social media on Wednesday to tell fans that booing performers is not okay.

The attitude Ripley has towards fans expressing their honest opinion about performance is alarming and also indicative of a toxicity that has crept into the wrestling fandom and the product itself.

The notion is that Maxxine is an inexperienced performer working on a house show to try and improve. It is therefore rude for fans to openly insult her performance, in fact Ripley scolds fans, telling them to “be better as humans” for being so rude to an innocent performer that is trying their best.

The absurdity of this stance is that Maxxine is working in WWE. She is being put out in front of a live audience to perform. That audience has paid money to see a performance, and they are entitled to vocalize their opinion if that performance is not good. This is true in pretty much any performance industry, and wrestling should be no different.

If Maxxine were working at CVS, or at a preschool, or a standard desk job, she wouldn’t be subject to public ridicule for making some mistakes. As Ripley tells us, many of us don’t know what it is like to be learning a job in the public eye because we have those types of boring jobs. That is all true–but Maxxine is electing to work in the public eye. Nobody forced her to become a professional wrestler and to work for WWE, she chose that path and part of that path is dealing with fans being upset with a poor performance.

Every single wrestler in the industry has been booed by the audience for a poor performance. The Rock, Roman Reigns, and Cody Rhodes, currently engaged in a red hot angle, have all been viciously booed by the live audience during times in their career. It really is a fundamental part of the gig, and if someone doesn’t like it, they probably aren’t going to make it in wrestling.

To any sane person, there is an understanding that the booing that Maxxine is receiving is not a personal attack on her character or her work ethic. We can all understand that she lacks experience (according to Cagematch, she only has 13 matches in her career) and that she isn’t expected to be as good as veteran performers.

The booing of Maxxine is really a reflection on WWE and the decision-makers who thought it would be a good idea to have her go out and perform at live events and on television despite clearly not having the experience to reach the established standard. Instead of getting mad at the fans for booing Maxxine, Ripley and anyone upset by the booing should be directing that anger at the company, for putting someone out there before they were ready.

What makes this even more ridiculous is that Maxxine is not wrestling on an indie show. She is in WWE, the company that is regarded as the top promotion in the world and advertised as the best entertainment in the world. Fans go into the show and expect everyone to be the best in the industry–it is not the place for rookies. WWE even has a developmental program because they know that most wrestlers are not going to be ready instantly for television and main roster live events, but for whatever reason, Maxxine was put onto RAW well before she was ready.

If fans go to wrestling school’s show, chances are you will never see performers being chastised for poor performance. Fans that go to those shows understand that these are trainees just getting started in their career. It’s absurd for fans to have that same expectation when they paid hundreds of dollars to go see a WWE show.

As a top star in WWE, Ripley should really be using her influence to make sure that people like Maxxine are getting the proper training and experience before they are thrown into the deep end. Instead of getting on a soap box to yell at fans, she should be looking into safety at the WWE Performance Center, and whether or not it is a good idea to have wrestlers with such little experience on television.

In the wake of Ashley Massaro’s suicide in 2019, a story emerged that came out of the affidavit for a court filing Massaro had made against WWE. In that story, Massaro alleged that since she was rushed onto television after winning the 2005 Divas Search, she never was properly trained in wrestling and suspected that led to her suffering numerous injuries, which could have led to her suffering from CTE, and perhaps led to her eventual suicide.

Maybe the takeaway from Maxxine being booed at a live show shouldn’t be that fans are mean and nasty–but that WWE should do a better job at properly training wrestlers before they are put in front of thousands of paying fans. Maybe the takeaway should be that fans who pay hundreds of dollars to go to a show expect to see top-level performers and not people learning on the job. Maybe the takeaway should be that wrestlers working with very limited in-ring experience can be dangerous.

That would, of course, require wrestlers like Ripley to say something bad about the company. If you haven’t noticed lately, WWE wrestlers really don’t like doing that, even when it is totally called for. Instead, the annoyance is taken out on the fans.

The issue of this constant avoidance of negative criticism sadly goes much deeper than just Ripley, or other WWE talents’ comments. It would be one thing if the wrestlers, who know the other performers personally, take exception to the crowd’s negative reaction. But this attitude also exists through the fanbase itself, particularly on social media, which much to the irony of social media’s reputation for being a basket of toxicity, is full of people heaping constant, unearned praise on talent.

The response to Ripley’s comments were almost universally in support of her stance–that the fans are mean and should never treat someone like Maxxine like that. This is truly, through-the-looking-glass type shit. Fans aren’t allowed to show displeasure at something they don’t like? What world are we living in where that is expected standard?

It speaks to a true toxicity in wrestling.

Fans are expected to like and appreciate quite literally everything, even an inexperienced rookie stinking out the joint. There is a real expectation from both some talent and fans, that they should stand and applaud any effort, no matter how poor the performance is.

This is particularly true when it comes to women’s wrestling, and to be fair, there are logical roots to that sentiment. For decades, women in wrestling were often unfairly criticized by fans with misogynistic tendencies. It wasn’t long ago where any women’s match in the US, no matter how objectively good it was, would be met with numerous jokes about bathroom breaks, channels changing, getting up to get snacks, etc.

However, the pendulum has now swung too far in the other direction–we’ve reached a point where quite literally anyone who gets on TV should be praised for their effort, and that any criticism about their performance is viewed as ruthless and mean. It’s no wonder that many of these performers coming out of the WWE Performance Center don’t get any better–they are being barraged with constant positive feedback from fans online who have no objective critical understanding of the industry, and any negative feedback is being met with obnoxious criticism and finger-wagging by established WWE talent.

Booing a poor performance is a core part of going to a wrestling show–if fans truly liked everything and never expressed true disdain, nothing in wrestling would ever change. Maybe that is the way WWE wants it, but fans absolutely should not be accepting of that.

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