The Empty Arena | Renegade Cut

The Empty Arena | Renegade Cut

Professional wrestling is a performance art
in which two individuals work together to give the appearance of an athletic contest
to a live audience. The contests contain variations, such as a
tag team match in which two or more wrestlers compete against two or more other wrestlers,
modified stipulations such as a reward for victory or a change in the rules, as well
as a change in venue, such as a contest taking place somewhere besides the ring. Prior to the contest, sometimes the wrestlers
will perform a narrative which gives the wrestlers motivation for why they are participating. If this “angle” occurs in a professional
wrestling company that has weekly television, the narrative could take place over the course
of several weeks or even several months. Wrestlers take classical theatrical roles
as protagonist and antagonist – “babyface” and “heel” respectively – to provoke
the appropriate cheers or boos from the audience. Example: Popular wrestling babyface “Stone
Cold” Steve Austin is tragically struck by a vehicle, and the identity of the driver
is unknown. Over the course of several weeks, World Wrestling
Entertainment commissioner Mick Foley investigates the crime because nearly all matters taking
place in professional wrestling narratives are handled internally. Otherwise, every surprise attack that takes
place outside the confines of a wrestling match would be a matter for law enforcement. Commissioner Foley eventually reveals it was
babyface wrestler Rikishi would struck Austin. This effectively changed Rikishi’s alignment
from babyface to heel in front a live audience, leading to a showdown between the two. Due to the popularity of the angle, it is
furthered by implicating heel wrestler Triple H as the mastermind behind the attempted vehicular
homicide, prompting another match. Throughout the angle, due to the clear instances
of right and wrong, the audience cheers for the babyface, Austin, and boos the heels,
Rikishi and Triple H. They have a series of matches, all of which are designed to illicit
specific reactions from the live audience during specific points or “spots” in the
match. These narratives and these matches play out
every week, and every week, a combination of the writers and the wrestlers prepare their
narratives, matches, monologues (called “promos”), and other aspects of professional wrestling
around attempting to persuade the live audience to react a certain way so that their actions
are applauded and therefore universally understood by the audience watching from home. Who is babyface? “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. We know this because the narrative, promos,
and matches are manipulated in such a way that the live audience cheers for him, immediately
instructing the audience watching at home who is the good guy, even if that home audience
has never seen Steve Austin before. Sometimes the live audience reaction does
not go the way it was intended. When Rikishi revealed his role in the attack,
he gave the audience his motivation: he wanted to protect The Rock’s place as a main event
wrestler due to WWE’s history of favoring white wrestlers. This was meant to be a heel turn, but some
people in the audience agreed with Rikishi’s statements, as the fictionalized motivation
brushed up against reality. WWE course-corrected and had The Rock refute
Rikishi’s claims in later weekly episodes, which aligned future live audiences against
Rikishi and put all the pieces where they were planned to be. Playing to the live audience and working the
audience is everything in professional wrestling. Unlike traditional theater in which the separation
between the drama and the audience is a thin, invisible wall, the separation between pro
wrestling and the audience looks a lot different. The pro wrestling audience, instead, surrounds
the ring. The audience works with the wrestlers to create
the show. The audience also works with each other to
enhance the show, such as leading chants of the wrestlers’ names or catch-phrases. It’s hard to imagine professional wrestling
without the audience. What would that even look like? What would change? We got the answer to the question a few weeks
ago, as social distancing suggestions and legal requirements prompted immediate changes
to televised wrestling programs. New Japan Pro Wrestling shut down entirely. The American independent wrestling scene slowly
faded out and waited for a return to normalcy. Weekly professional wrestling in the United
States, programs put on by top wrestling companies World Wrestling Entertainment and All-Elite
Wrestling, experimented in shows with no audience. Empty arenas. This is not the first time a wrestling match
has taken place with no live audience. For example, aforementioned wrestlers The
Rock and Mick Foley, then going by the name Mankind, once battled in an empty arena match
in 1999. Furthermore, some rare matches are more theatrical
and highly-staged than others, such as Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt in the House of Horrors
match in 2017 that was filmed like a movie and without a live audience. But a weekly show with all matches in front
of empty chairs? This was unprecedented. There was too much money on the line, too
many contractual obligations with their respective television partners. Pro wrestling follows the old theater adage:
the show must go on. But even if it were safe to continue wrestling
during this crisis, and it very well may not be, should it even continue, considering how
much of wrestling is built around the live audience? Professional wrestling, both the angles that
lead up to the matches and matches themselves have long been formatted to play to a live
audience. The live audience can occasionally detract
from the festivities, but far from often than that, the audience contributes to them. In fact, some things that wrestlers do are
not only enhanced by the live audience but are dependent upon them. They simply could not happen and cannot work
with the audience. One aspect of professional wrestling, particularly
professional wrestling promos, is the “call and response” nature. When the aforementioned “Stone Cold” Steve
Austin would conduct his promos and hype his upcoming match for the audience, he would
ask them to participate. A typical Steve Austin promo would involve
him asking the audience “If you [insert relevant actions here] – and then inserts
something like “want to see me do this particular action” or “agree with what I’m saying”
and the follows it with his call to action: “gimme a hell yeah.” to which the audience
will invariably respond “hell yeah.” Another call and response, a far simpler one,
in fact, is when Austin would say “What?” to the crowd, to which they would respond
with the same word. In doing this, Austin connects himself with
the live audience, cementing his status as babyface or fan favorite. The live audience sees themselves in Austin
and this familiarity breeds popularity and acceptance. This call and response is not relegated to
Austin, as it is common among most major wrestlers throughout history. [“If you’re not down with that, we got two
words for ya.”] A variation on the call and response is for
the audience to recite the catch-phrase simultaneously with the wrestler instead of waiting for the
pause to make their response. In both cases, the call and response and the
sing-along variation, the live audience is absolutely necessary. On the March 16th episode of Monday Night
Raw, broadcast from WWE’s empty performance center, they played up the fact that there
was nobody there to respond to his call. [“Gimme a hell yeah.”] Without the live audience, wrestlers perform
their promos under a different set of rules, but due to their complete unfamiliarity with
these rules, wrestlers who have performed promos to empty arenas sometimes seem a little
bit lost due to the lack of immediate feedback and the inability to feed off the reaction. As for the match themselves, certain key factors
in matches do not exist without a live audience. Wrestlers and the live audience generally
have a symbiotic relationship to helps the match. Some of this is invisible, but some of it
is obvious. One example is that a wrestler will perform
various actions designed with the intention of causing the crowd to react and make the
match seem exciting, epic and important. One common way is for the babyface to rhythmically
stomp on the canvas or clap their hands in hopes of provoking the audience to do the
same. As part of the narrative, this is the wrestler
trying to garner support either for themselves or for the wrestler’s tag team partner, currently
in peril, and in need of a boost in morale. As part of this show, this is actually the
wrestler trying to get the live audience excited either because the match isn’t exciting enough
on its own or as a signal to the audience that the match is about to have a shift in
power, with the babyface turning the tide and suddenly gaining the upper hand. This connects the live audience with what’s
happening in the ring. It gives the audience the impression that
they are participating rather than being passive onlookers. That way, should the babyface prevail, that
is also their victory. In this match, on the March 13th episode of
Smackdown, Nikki Cross instinctively stomps her boot on the canvas to provoke the audience
and connect them with her partner, Alexa Bliss, currently being trapped by the other tag team. Cross undoubtedly learned to do this a long
time ago, and it’s a difficult thing to just remove from a wrestler’s repertoire, even
though it serves no real purpose in an empty arena. On the March 24th episode of AEW Dark, comedy
wrestler Colt Cabana performed the classic babyface clap to an empty arena before realizing
there was no reason to do this. He may have done this on purpose as a joke. One of the most famous ways a babyface wrestler
can make their comeback is by “hulking up” named after Hulk Hogan, who would suddenly
feed off the crowd support to gain superhuman strength. In doing this, the live audience could feel
as if they were responsible for Hogan’s many victories. In addition to these flourishes to garner
live audience support, there are also specific wrestling moves that require audience participation
or always illicit a particular audience reaction. For example, sometimes a babyface will corner
a heel wrestler and climb the turnbuckle and throw a series of punches. The punches are counted by the crowd, usually
to the count of ten. It’s only a series of ineffectual punches,
but because of the audience participation, it’s a big favorite among crowds. Without the crowd, ten punches in a row form
a fairly boring spot in the match. One way that wrestlers establish the babyface-heel
dynamic is by dueling in a flurry of repeated moves, most commonly punches. The wrestlers strike one another, and when
the babyface connects, the audience quickly cheers, and when the heel connects, the audience
quickly boos. This is repeated until either the babyface
gets the upper hand, resulting in an explosion of greater cheers, or the heel gains the upper
hand, temporarily deflating the audience and making them want the babyface to make a comeback
that much more. Occasionally, the audience will react to the
babyface and heel in an unplanned way, such as cheering the heel or booing the babyface. In this match from 2015 between babyface John
Cena and heel Kevin Owens, it is Cena who is booed and Owens who is cheered during their
dueling punches. Recognizing this “wrong” reaction and
hoping to maintain their alignments, they quickly stop their duel of punches, and Cena
launches himself at Owens to move on. Without the live audience, this might have
gone differently. The symbiotic relationship between professional
wrestlers and the live audience is helpful to the wrestlers because it lets them know
what’s working, what’s not working, how quickly or how slowly they should proceed. In fact, matches are formatted with reactions
in mind, and without the live audiences, the format is exposed in ways that that can be
detrimental to the action. Let’s use a different and more accessible
medium to better explain for people who have never watched professional wrestling. A traditional situation comedy will use a
laugh track in the space immediately after a joke, and a modern situation comedy will
not. However, the existence or non-existence is
related to the format in which the jokes are written for the respective shows. A sitcom with a laugh track and therefore
artificial breaks in the narrative generally only allow for jokes to be structured with
a lead-in, punch line and then the canned laughter. The laugh track makes it impossible for jokes
to have rapid succession or an immediate comeback by another character. Singular jokes, which require long leads-in. A sitcom without a laugh track allows more
freedom to tell jokes in rapid succession or have immediate comebacks by other characters,
but they also require more jokes to be written due, as there is no canned laughter filling
up any dead space following a joke. In short, a sitcom having or not having a
laugh track cannot be the same show except with or without canned laughter. The very format must be different because
the timing, spacing of jokes and the requirement of lead-ins to the joke are different. A sitcom without a laugh track is not just
a traditional sitcom with the canned laughter mysteriously missing. It’s designed from the ground up to be formatted
and structured differently. Wrestlers in an empty arena performing the
match exactly as they would with a packed arena is like a traditional laugh track sitcom
with the laugh track removed instead of a sitcom designed from the ground up without
a laugh track. Note the difference: Professional football player
Lawrence Taylor made a Wrestlemania appearance years ago, and though the match only lasted
eleven minutes, he went on to say that it was more exhausting than anything he did in
his football career. Wrestling is exhausting, and the ring is not
a trampoline. It’s made of wood and metal, and wrestlers
land back, neck or sometimes head first on it many times throughout the course of one
match. Wrestlers need to rest or else the match will
suffer. So, the heel slaps on a chinlock or something. It generally needs to be the heel. The audience is willing to watch a chinlock
or headlock for a while if they think their chants and cheers and cries will help provoke
the babyface to make his comeback and escape the hold. If the babyface slaps on a rest hold, they
the dynamics change. The audience is not conditioned to cheer for
the heel to make his comeback, and since all the babyface is doing is applying a hold while
not moving, there is nothing to excite the audience. If anything, he’s upsetting the audience hoping
for more action. So. A rest hold in front of a live audience, applied
correctly and at the right time, can excite the live audience, which in turn excites the
television audience. It’s infectious. All that needs to happen is a smattering of
people in the live audience chanting or cheering for it to spread across the arena. But without a live audience, there can be
no transmission of this excitement. They are relying on each individual watching
on their televisions to be excited by the least exciting part of the match. A chinlock or headlock now looks like what
it really is: a rest hold. Even matches with few or no rest holds still
have spots in which they’re resting nonetheless. Such as immediately following a failed pinning
attempt or after one wrestler is knocked down. But while the fallen wrestler rests, the standing
wrestler has been conditioned to use this time to rile up the crowd. If there is no crowd to rile up, the wrestler
still standing will have to do something else to pass the time while the fallen wrestler
catches his breath. Perhaps argue with the referee, but that’s
something usually reserved for heels. Without a live audience, a lot of what wrestlers
do is exposed. Wrestlers communicate with one another during
the match to prepare for moves, to remind them of what is meant to come next, and to
warn them about any potential danger. Over the roar of the crowd, this is usually
drowned out, except for loud and consistent talkers like John Cena. Without the live audience is drown out the
communication, wrestlers can either opt not to do this anymore, resulting in potential
problems, or just do it anyway and hope that the television audience does not mind seeing
the curtain pulled back. Without the live audience, everything becomes
awkward. Empty. Listen to bits and pieces from this empty
arena match. The only way to push their matches into territory
where they can never feel awkward is if they are constantly attacking, never resting, never
slowly building the match to a crescendo. Wrestling cannot work the same way in an empty
arena. This is Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock from Wrestlemania
18, often stylized as Wrestlemania X8. In the angle leading up the match, The Rock
was firmly positioned as the babyface, and Hulk Hogan was firmly positioned as the heel. He returned to WWE after a long stint in WCW
as a main event heel and one of the leader of the massive heel faction, the nWo. And The Rock was…The Rock. The most electrifying man in sports entertainment
and one of the most universally beloved babyfaces in the world. Yet, when it was time for this epic, first-time
encounter between the two titans, this dream match once thought impossible, the crowd was
so excited that they eschewed their role as designated cheer section for the babyface
and began cheering both men. The Rock even received a fair amount of boos. The ovation and the electricity in the air
even before the match began gave us this iconic moment in which Hogan and The Rock, realizing
what was happening in the crowd and what was about to happen between them, turned from
side to side to listen to the live audience and to savor the moment. It was unexpected, and it was amazing. That can’t happen…here. Wrestlemania 36 is scheduled to take place
soon, and due to what’s happening in the world, it can only be done in an empty arena. Vince McMahon, against the wishes of many
people within the company, decided to go ahead with it instead of postponing the event. Several major stars in the company like Roman
Reigns have opted not to participate due to health concerns. WWE and AEW have both tried to roll with the
punches due to the obligations. AEW, knowing that matches are not the same
without an audience, elected to have a lot of their wrestlers act as audience members
during one episode of their weekly show. In the following episode, they opted not to
do this, perhaps out of concern that the number of people at ringside began to skirt up against
violating the social distancing recommendations. AEW also tried to make lemonade out of their
lemons by performing special effects in the empty seats that they otherwise could not
do if there had been a live audience. Nevertheless, their weekly show has suffered. WWE’s weekly shows have suffered even more
because WWE is simply not as likely to try new things as AEW is. Vince McMahon is set in his ways whereas Cody
Rhodes and the Young Bucks are more open to try new things. In spite of this, all of them – meaning
WWE management and AEW management – are going to need to make a decision about the
health and safety of their performers soon. Empty arena matches are better than no matches…until
you take the health risks into account. Nobody needs to tell me there is money on
the line, I know, but this can’t continue. And to be honest, holding on to their weekly
shows to produce empty arena matches is only maintaining something that does not really
work anyway.

100 thoughts on “The Empty Arena | Renegade Cut

  1. Honestly, I could see an amazing film being made on Pro-wrestling during this period; the Covid-19 pandemic. Start the film with a normal performance, white text saying "a month before", the wrestlers going about their behind the scenes work, stepping out before the cheering crowd, going through a match, the Babyface standing triumphant over the Heel before a roaring crowd, basking in the cheer, only for the camera to pan around them and for the crowd to fade and disappear to the silence of an empty stadium, camera at the Babyface's back, their arms raised in triumph with white text saying "a month later", and then the film begins.

  2. There, now we no longer have any use for Max Landis's video on wrestling. This covered all the same ideas more succinctly and we don't have to support a man accused of sexual assault (among many other issues).

  3. Brilliant essay! Keep up the good work. Your videos are always thoughtfulness and entertaining.

  4. its fake, so fake audience, green screen, cgi, very "wag the dog": you'll go far, kid…

    still waiting on the zombie apokolypse

  5. Wrestling could embrace the fact that it is live theatre and do more story based show. Get out of the ring and film a 30 minute drama with ass kicking and terrible acting. Just make The Raid but with wrestlers. One wrestler is a cop looking for a bad guy or someshit.

  6. This is fascinating! I hadn’t even considered the effect quarantine might have on Pro-Wrestling!!!

  7. Guys, you gotta check out AEW, it is amazing. People there are doing their best on these times to entertain while staying healthy and some of the results of these experimental moments are awesome.

    Something you didn't get into is the fact that the shooting of the footage has been altered as well for AEW, with closer shots and frames filled up with the human figures rather than the audience. Yeah, some of it is awkward, but the fights are tight and interestingly choreographed, at times I forget there's almost nobody around.

  8. So I'm at the part where you are talking about wrestlers wrestling after a pinfall or one of the wrestlers being knocked down and I don't know if you watched ECW back in the day but Rhino would be the king of that moment right now because his squatting in the corner and yelling at his opponent while intended to have an effect on the audience would still appear to be just as focused on his opponent without an audience. I'm not explaining this well and I'm not sure how to do a better job, there was just something about his body language in those moments that did a better job than any other face or heel, like all wrestlers he rotated between the two, then anyone I have ever seen in that situation at convincing you he wasn't focused on the audience he was just genuinely yelling at his opponent and waiting to attack

    By the way thank you for your continued output during this weird time. You and your peers' work help me to get through the anxiety of it all

  9. Wait, is Stone Cold Steve Austin still around? He was popular in the 90s! Surely he isn’t still wrestling 25 years later?

    Obviously, I don’t watch the stuff. I can appreciate the athleticism that goes into it- because faking hits and those flips to land on people without actually harming them or you (hopefully) is really bloody difficult, and extremely impressive. I was just never into the whole soap opera thing with the bad acting. My brother was, for a year or two in the mid 90s, which is how I know of Steve Austin in the first place.

    So it is impressive physically… but not for me.

  10. I don't even watch wrestling, but this is the third video about wrestling in my subs this week and I'm down for it.

  11. most of the dynamics you bring up make me think of politics and i still think you're gonna round back to it

  12. 17:11 Why couldn't they do music though? It's harder to cut along the action, but lots of other staged forms of life entertainment (like Medieval Festivals or Talent/Game shows) have music. Would make it a lot less awkward at least.

  13. I think perhaps this could make for even more interesting entertainment. WWE has a chance to use something in their matches that has never been there before, a sense of existential dread. Perhaps they can use that hopelessness and theatrical indifference to their advantage, maybe even have the wrestlers talk during the match about how different this all is. The babyface could wonder what he even really is without an audience whereas the heel doesn't care about the fans and just wants to fight. Later on in the match the babyface could refute this idea, turning the tide and finally proving that… hope wins? or something? It's just a thought.

  14. Renegade Cut and Thought Slime both doing videos at least referencing pro-wrestling in the same week…I feel so targeted right now…

    In the wrestling fan community, there's also dispute as to who is handling the empty arena thing better, as far as the presentation (AEW imo. But I honestly don't watch WWE beyond clips here and there, so I can't say).

  15. I sympathize more with WWE than AEW here. After building for WrestleMania for months, I understand the mentality to push through and get done with it. They should shut down and give their wrestlers a break after Mania though.

  16. Its reality TV show Time. Each week featuring a different wrestler. A day in the life of Rikishi day in the life of The Rock so on and so forth but just make it quarantined Style. What hard core fans wouldn't love that.

  17. Apparently AEW moved their operations to Georgia this week to take advantage of the fact that their stay at home order hadn't gone into effect yet. They were almost shut down by the cops but had the proper permits. Its rumored they shot enough matches to last through May.

  18. Awesome video! Theatrical analysis of wrestling is fascinating to me. Also, I love how your video and Thought Slime's video about whether politics is wrestling came out around the same time.

  19. It seems like literally all people who generally perform in front of audiences are discovering big challenges. I haven't watched any recent wrestling matches, but this is a wonderful example of how live performance is charged by the presence of an audience.

    We also see it in the monologues of Late Night Hosts, who are playing their monologues a little more conversationally. However these sets are written in a standard standup tradition. This is a challenge, but I hope and imagine that artists will figure out this new mode of media and how best to use it.

  20. And just before watching this I finished an improv jam with folks around the country. I think everyone is still figuring out the ways of the technology. I think it may point to new directions for the art.

  21. Great piece, as always! The one way they could address their story telling challenge would be through editing. With no fan in the house, they could edit out the boring bits, and use different kinds of out of the ring nonsense to fill in the lost time.

  22. I know this isn’t the point of the video, but WWE wrestlers need a fucking union! Vince McMahon makes Roger Goodell look like a saint in comparison!

  23. I never noticed that only heels apply rest-moves. Makes total sense, when it’s pointed out to you. Thanks.

  24. I love wrestling so much. It's sad how many dismiss it as low-brow when it's an intense combination of performance art, athleticism, and theatrics. Thanks for this analysis. I feel like there's a lot to analyze in wrestling beyond just anecdotes.

  25. Meh I stopped watching wrestling when I was 8 when a mean old lady told me it was fake or at least had a predetermined winner, after that it was just men dancing around in their tights and underwear. Great video RC.

  26. The image of Stone Cold with an actual baby face has been solidified through repetition. Thanks for that.

  27. Never would have pegged you as a smart-mark, LOL! Anyway, I agree: These empty arena shows are more harmful to pro wrestling than just simply going on hiatus would. Wrestling NEEDS the energy of a live crowd in order to work.

  28. it's funny like a month ago I was aching for a philosophical analysis of this kind of Machismo Theater known as "Pro Wrestling," sure enough it would be Renegade Cut to be the one to post it

  29. I'm a little torn. Obviously, I think they should take better care of the workers health, but I have actually been enjoying AEW's shows even without the audience, and I think having weekly wrestling to look forward to adds a little comfort and normalcy to people's lives.

    But, again, they should be taking care of the performers. I don't want my favorite wrestlers getting sick with this, and potentially even dying from it. If it takes going off the air for a bit to prevent that, I'm willing to go without.

  30. You probably know already but there's an obvious miss-cut at 10:29 in case you wanted to reupload or anything.

  31. I fully expected them to pipe in canned cheers, you know, like they do when Roman Reigns is on screen and the actual crowd is booing

  32. There's a interesting thing to observe though that All Elite Wrestling has a interesting paradigm where they are the only game left in town for a lot of indie wrestlers, since most indie promotions got hit like a sack of bricks by coronavirus and shut down. Since capitalism is what it is and wrestling capitalism is even worse, they have nothing to fall back on for these kind of situations and All Elite Wrestling is their only chance of a payday to sustain themselves.

  33. Watching wrestling I always thought it like maybe some softer mats or something but nope its still hard as mess

  34. Excellent video. I loved watching wrestling in the 80's, then I looked down on it like a snob, then I read about it and really admire those guys.

  35. Have the wrestlers perform in minecraft. The guys on the hermitcraft server just showed how this could be done and it was awesome.

  36. how different entertainment companies are handling live events without an audience has been endlessly fascinating to me — i'd love to hear your thoughts on NASCAR partnering with iRace to have drivers race virtually from their own homes. there's no replacing being physically at a race, but from a televised standpoint, the virtual race looks insanely realistic, plus there's the added aspect of seeing drivers react to this new and interesting situation. i'm not that big of a NASCAR fan — my dad is, he's the one who told me abt this — but i just think the virtual races have been one of the coolest things to come out of the present situation

  37. So in essence, the WWE could be currently burning their show to the ground and neither they or us has any idea because no live audience, and in the process they're also endangering the lives of everyone's favourite wrestlers.

    Smart business…

  38. Somewhat apropos of this video, I wonder if RC has a topic that's illuminated through the lens of American Gladiators

  39. I always thought that them stomping or banging on the mat was them "trying to overcome how shaken they were," I didn't realize it was to pump the audience up. I have a bad knee that goes out sometimes and when it does I often kick or stomp as I'm trying to right myself because my leg isn't cooperating well

  40. Your description of the audience during a wrestling match just made me realize that they are the modern version of the GREEK CHORUS!

  41. The only way I could think of this "empty arena" form of wrestling really thriving is if they lean into it more as a performance art than a combat situation. Using music to set up anticipation and crescendos in time with the action, but I highly doubt something like that is ever really going to happen.

  42. I stopped caring about wrestling a long time ago. I only watched this video because I like your content. It did not disappoint.

  43. This years upcoming election is going to be : Vince McMahon x Ric Flair.
    It would be more exciting if the people's champ was the runner of the democratic party instead of Ric Flair

  44. A sitcom without laugh track also needs significantly better jokes, because the audience at home doesn't just instinctively laugh along. Poop jokes, stereotyping and bullying-as-a-joke don't work without a laugh track

  45. COVID-19 spares nobody. People in their 20s and 30s are dying. For the sake of the wrestlers this all needs to stop.

  46. Something you didn’t mention about Stone Cold Steve Austin’s “What?” chant: it’s still called out by thousands of fans to throw heel wrestlers off their rhythm in live shows to this very day (well, ‘til a few weeks ago before the virus, anyway) approximately 15 years after Austin retired. I’m indifferent to it, personally, but some find it annoying as hell that people won’t let it die.


  47. Jeff Hardy appealing to the crowd would have been a better example than Nikki Cross, Nikki's character specifically would try to get a non-existent crowd into the match for comedy… same with Asuka/Kairi sane because they are basically Tokatsu bad guys.

    I personally have not minded the empty arena shows, but AEW keeping a few wrestlers in the crowd has worked out pretty well for them, It WAS weird when they didn't have them that week.

  48. I was waiting for an analogy of WWE and US election for the whole time watching this, but no, this video is just about WWE

  49. It's been twenty years that I watched wrestling but this is very interesting and informative, as always. Thanks, for your content, Leon!

  50. Even as a small child, I felt instinctively uneasy about mob mentality or coerced/manufactured participation.

    The Pledge of Allegiance in elementary school really freaked me out, all of our little munchkin voices droning together words we didn't understand, because the teacher commanded it.

    Gaston's murder mob in Beauty & the Beast freaked me out.

    Political theater being taken seriously freaks me out now.

    I think only you, Leon, could successfully get me to watch a whole video on a sport/art that relies on canned mob mentality.


  51. i'm always really skeptical of people who compare laugh-track sitcoms to "modern" sitcoms as a way to drag or make fun of laugh tracks, especially since live sitcoms are often a lot like live theater and part of the fun of them is anticipating how the audience will react to a given joke. like leon says, it pulls you into the narrative in a way only a live audience can. modern sitcoms use the effect, too, even without a laugh track, by keeping an eye on, and taking advantage of meme culture. when a character on something like the office or b99 looks directly into the camera, pauses, and then the camera zooms in, this is the show's way of telling the audience to laugh at and/or meme that moment. same principal, just adapted to a different medium. i really hope nothing horrible happens to these performers as a result of mcmahon's continued fuckery. i don't watch wresting, but john oliver's wwe episode really highlighted the types of problems leon addresses here.

  52. TBH if they have to keep doing it they may as well break completely with the formula and do it as permanent "offstage" fights where they can cover a lot more of the mechanics and get in the storylines. Even then they should just bite the bullet for their workers' safety.

  53. I don't really watch wrestling, but even to an outsider like me it just looked wrong when I saw clips of wrestlers in empty arenas. Something about it didn't fit and this video did an amazing job of explaining why.

  54. At first, I wondered where Leon was going with all this. Was he leading into something else? Is wrestling a metaphor? But eventually I caught on that he enjoys wrestling.

    Yay, me!

  55. That Rock-Hogan match at 18 was indeed awesome. I checked out of Wrestling years ago, but that's one of the moments I'm happy to say I watched live.

  56. I thought about how the Covid-19 situation was affecting filmmaking and theatre, but I completely overlooked the theatre of wrestling.
    How many artifices can one virus expose? Or re-expose, most of these have been exposed already…

  57. Not exactly on point but have you seen the work of independent wrestler David Starr? The way politics is so fundamental to his character and really shines light on politics in wrestling that goes unsaid. Plus he is a really good story teller.

  58. Wrestling without and audience looks like an actually serious sport… I mean, those guys are athletes and damn good ones; but without the circus like enviroment, it doesn't look like a performance but a true competition… Thanx, Leon!!!

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