Maybe I’m weird, or old, or both, but I actually remember enjoying seeing a movie at a movie theater simply because I loved the crowd. The movie was somehow better because of the way we all reacted or didn’t react to the different characters, story lines, climaxes, let downs etc. I remember truly believing that some objectively awful or at least cheesy movies (e.g There’s Something About Mary) were masterpieces simply because I saw them at the movie theater and the whole crowd was transfixed (aforementioned movie actually drew a standing ovation from the audience I was in). Something seemed to happen in the crowd, a shared experience that elevated a simple movie into a kind of group journey. But that is from my past. These days I’d rather sit at home and watch a movie on Netflix, than suffer through a crowd of people distracted by their cell phones, side conversations or make out sessions.
Fortunately I have wrestling, which I still believe is an event better experienced live and in a crowd than on TV. Wrestling can be like a movie in that some athletes or promotions only play up to the cameras almost oblivious or indifferent to the live audience surrounding them. This is what I would call “bad” wrestling. After all why do it live in the first place if you aren’t going to acknowledge there is an audience? However, acknowledge the audience too much and you break the suspension of disbelief.
In my opinion, “good” wrestling embraces the shared experience while not letting the audience dictate the event. When this is done well, wrestling becomes like a group hypnosis session, all eyes fixed on the play unfolding. (See the Intercontinental Belt’s write up on live performers, to understand: An Ode to the Older Live Performer). In these moments, emotions expressed by fans are genuine and the athletes play off of them acknowledging the acknowledgement. Something creative and unique to that moment has been made and we were all in it together. While these moments are rare, I find them at almost every live independent wrestling show. I’d say more often than not at Shine, FIP and Evolve; the great independent promotions in my local area. I go to wrestling for that moment; that sacrosanct flash, when most have their phone, camera, tablet, whatever, tucked away and are training their focus on the wrestlers who give that focus right back. That is my live experience, and no television camera can ever do it justice.