The 8-Ball 10.11.12: Top 8 Wrestlers Hitting Fans
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 8-Ball. My name is Ryan Byers, and I am your party host for this column. We’re coming off back-to-back weeks of counting down the top overrated and underrated performers in professional wrestling today.
Now that we’ve mined that topic for all that it’s worth, we’re ready to move on to a new subject. As always, remember that, if there’s something you want to see discussed in these virtual pages, you can feel free to drop me an e-mail or leave the suggestion below in our fancy new Disqus comment section, and I will strongly consider implementing it.
That said, let’s hit the banner!
Would you believe that this was scheduled to be my topic for the week before this past Monday’s episode of Raw?
You don’t believe me?
Okay, you’re right; I’m just trying to cash in on current events here.
For those of you who may be reading this column well after its original publication date, the “current events” that I am referring to here are WWE Champion CM Punk hitting a fan twice during the closing moments of a WWE Monday Night Raw broadcast on October 8, 2012. As of this writing, it appears that there will be no criminal charges pressed and that the fan is not hurt, so a civil suit of any merit will be difficult to maintain, meaning this is no longer a potential legal threat to WWE but is instead more of a P.R. threat to WWE.
Before this incident, there was an era where professional wrestlers could deck fans who got out of line without any fear of repercussions, legal, P.R., or otherwise. It was expected that, if you came over the guard rail or got out of line, you were fair game and were going to get your ass handed to you . . . both in front of the live audience and potentially in the locker room as well if the wrong people got ahold of you. However, those days have slowly faded away, wrestling has become more corporate, fans no longer have as strong of a desire to be part of the show, and we’re left with far fewer of those moments where unruly audience members get their comeuppance.
Those moments were always entertaining, if only for the “Holy shit, that wasn’t supposed to happen!” factor that we love to periodically see in our otherwise worked pro wrestling. To look back on those moments, today we count down the top eight instances of professional wrestlers getting their hands on fans.
(NOTE: Including a moment on this list should not be construed as my thinking that a wrestler’s actions in a particular situation were or were not justified. I am simply ranking these moments on their pure entertainment value, which I admit is based almost entirely on schadenfreude.)
Of course, it was CM Punk nailing a fan on October 8, 2012, which inspired the writing of this column. Usually I try to avoid ranking things that happened very recently on my lists because I feel they need a bit of historical perspective in order to justify making the cut. However, I think that, given the show on which it occurred and the wrestler’s standing as a world champion, it is impossible to deny that Punk’s encounter with the Sacramento crowd will be remembered just as well as any other entry on this list, if not more so. After fleeing the ring to avoid an attack by the Ryback, Punk found his back turned to a whole gaggle of fans, some of whom decided that it would be a good idea to shove the reigning WWE Champion. After reportedly taking two fairly strong shots, one in the kidney area and one in the back of the head, the Second City Saint backhanded and then jabbed the man he thought was responsible. There were two problems with this, though. The first is that he misunderstood what was occurring and hit the wrong fan. The second is that, despite being a pro wrestler and a world champion, Punk didn’t even manage to give his target a black eye according to follow up YouTube videos by the victim, which is pretty sad when you think about it.
If you believe everything you read on the internet (and who wouldn’t?), Chris Hero has actually had several different incidents with fans over the years, though this is the one that has gained the most infamy, because it was fairly clearly caught on video and “went viral” to a limited degree thanks to sharing on social media sites. Hero doesn’t really get a good shot in on either one of them, but, all during the course of the same match, that Young Knockout Kid gets confronted by two different ringside fans at an independent show, both of whom get way out of line with some of their comments and try to get physical with the current Kassius Ohno. Hopefully if and when Hero gets called up to the main WWE roster, he will have worked on his shoot boxing skills, because, based on the experience of his buddy CM Punk, he’s going to need them.
You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and you don’t . . . touch Sabu’s turban? Apparently that lyric should have been added to “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” because, during Sabu’s reign as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion in Japan, a member of the usually reserved Japanese audience decided to go for Sabu’s headgear and paid the price. The Homicidal, Suicidal, Genocidal competitor immediately leapt the guardrail and gave the fan what for. Fortunately for the audience member, it seems as though Sabu was in things more to get his property back and to shake the fan up than he was to inflict actual physical punishment. Had he been inclined to do the latter, this youngster would have probably never been able to come to a professional wrestling event again . . . at least not an event at an area without ADA compliance.
This incident is not particularly well-remembered, nor is it particularly flashy, but I believe that it deserves some recognition on the list because it occurred during what was literally one of the five biggest moments in the entire history of American professional wrestling. At Bash at the Beach 1996, as you all know, Hulk Hogan charged the ring during the main event, ostensibly to assist the WCW team of Randy Savage, Lex Luger, and Sting in beating back the invasion of the “Outsiders,” Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. Hogan had other plans, though, and joined the former WWF wrestlers to establish the New World Order. The Hulkster’s heel turn was major news, both inside and outside of wrestling, and a lot of fans who “still believed” were very angered by it. Large amounts of trash rained down on the ring that night, which would become a staple of hot WCW angles involving big heels over the next several months. Most people forget about it, but there was also a second staple of WCW telecasts over the next year that was established that night . . . the fan run-in. For some reason, WCW during the Monday Night War had an excessive number of audience members hitting the ring, and this was one of the first key examples, with a rather obese man attempting to get at the Hulkster, only to have the Outsiders stomp him as he enters the ring, which dispatches him long enough for security to take him away. You have to feel bad for the guy. Not only does he get his ass kicked, but he also gets edited out of most archive footage of the nWo formation, so he doesn’t even get his moment in the sun.
Chris Jericho doesn’t have much of a reputation as a tough guy among wrestling fans . . . but he probably should. Jericho, the son of an NHL hockey player, has had more than one incident during his career which should lead to the conclusion that, despite his small stature compared to most wrestlers, he is a scrappy little bastard and can take care of himself when the situation warrants it. Take, for example, his early days in Smoky Mountain Wrestling when he wrestled a classic match against the Heavenly Bodies with a freshly broken arm or his reported backstage scuffle with Bill Goldberg, in which he was able to stave off the much larger wrestler with a facelock until the fracas was broken up. Somebody apparently needed to give the group of fans who swarmed Jericho on February 7, 2009 that memo, because they were clueless and a bit too aggressive in seeking an autograph from the then-heel Y2J, who wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. The security guards assigned to the venue that day looked on with their thumbs up their proverbial asses as the fans harassed Jericho and wouldn’t give him room to breathe, which resulted in the Canuk, well, making his own room. The Ayatollah of Rock-and-Rollah shoved several fans (one female) away from him, all while informing security that they should do their jobs. In fact, when one of the security guards got into a position that Jericho deemed inappropriate, he was shoved away as well. Much like the Punk incident, it is hard to blame the wrestler here, as the whole situation could have been avoided if his security detail was competent.
The majority of this list consists of wrestlers doing their thing, but, from time to time, referees are also called upon to join the fray. Such was the case when Dean Malenko and Psicosis were wrestling during an installment of WCW Monday Nitro and a particularly hyperactive fan decided that he wanted to try to nab himself some screen time on the incredibly popular TNT telecast. There was one thing this fan did not count on, though. This fan did not count on Mark Curtis. Curtis (real name Brian Hildebrand) was a 5’6″ referee who couldn’t have weighed more than 130 pounds soaking wet. Curtis handled things like a legit old school badass, punting him in the face as he came through the ropes and then applying a front facelock that neutralized the fan, all while Bobby “The Brain” Heenan had the time of his life mocking the pathetic fan on commentary. In subsequent weeks, Curtis was given the nickname of “The Shooter” by the announce team as a result of the incident, which stuck with him through the conclusion of his WCW career in 1998. Unfortunately, the conclusion of his WCW run was brought about by a battle with cancer, which ultimately claimed Brian Hildebrand’s life in 1999. Fortunately, unlike many people, Hildebrand got to do the one thing that he truly loved at a high level before he left this earth, and he was able to participate in many memorable moments like the one above.
Well, it’s the Big Show. You would think that, of all of the professional wrestlers roaming the face of the earth, the one guy that people would know not to mess with is Paul Wight, a.k.a. the Big Show or, at the time this incident occurred, the Giant. The WCW and future WWE star was minding his own business at a New York hotel when a presumably intoxicated fan decided to swear at him, flip him off, and, in a final act of sheer idiocy, shove him. The Showster’s reaction was the same reaction that most of us would have under the same circumstances, i.e. to punch this obnoxious bastard square in the face. However, most of us are not 7’2″ and 385 pounds, so our punch would likely not go quite as far as Show’s. Whereas most of us could only hope to knock the interloper on his ass, the Giant literally shattered the fan’s jaw with his right hand. As noted in the above video, the incident did result in Wight being arrested and charged with assault. However, the video was prepared before the verdict was handed down, and, ultimately, Show was determined to be not guilty of any wrongdoing after a bench trial.
In certain parts of Mexico, professional wrestling is almost a religion as opposed to being sport or entertainment. And, in the religion of lucha libre, perhaps no single item is more important than a competitor’s mask. They are a huge part of each wrestler’s persona and, perhaps more importantly to this story, top level wrestlers reportedly receive payoffs from promoters that are BY FAR the largest of their careers when it comes time for them to lose mask vs. mask matches in the twilights of their runs. This explains why L.A. Park, known to many American fans from his time in WCW under the name of La Parka, got more than a little bit testy when a fan at a CMLL show attempted to forcibly remove his hood. Park decked him and decked him HARD, immediately laying out the fellow, who from his look I can only assume is some kind of Mexican over-the-road trucker. This particular punch tops the list just because it was so perfectly executed from a visual standpoint. Park goes from not paying attention to what was going on behind him at all to pissed off and swinging in a split second and yet, despite the suddenness with which his masked was pulled on, he still manages to catch his assailant square in the face, sending a shockwave throughout his whole body that sends him down like a ton of bricks. Then, consummate professional that he is, the former Chairman of WCW goes right back to the match at hand as though nothing happened. Park was already one of my absolute favorite luchadors before this moment, and it only served to cement his status.
That’s it for this week’s 8-Ball. If you can’t get enough of Ryan, follow him on Twitter here.