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Thursday, October 11, 2012

You Can Look, But Don't Touch


Well, folks, it's almost Halloween. That means many of our readers are getting ready to celebrate the holiday in style— with candy, costumes, and shoddy attempts at pumpkin carving. Some of you may see a seasonably scary movie or, just maybe, visit a haunted attraction. If you've been to a haunted house, hayride, or corn maze, you know what we're talking about. While Michael Jackson's “Thriller” plays on a loop, you'll be followed around by vampires, zombies, and guys with rubber chainsaws. All of these characters are highly trained and put into place for your maximum enjoyment. Regardless of whether you enjoy them, though, we can assume that you probably won't try to attack any of them. Right?

… Right?

Right. You would never strike or grab an actor at a haunted house or hayride. Rule #1 of any established haunted attraction is: “Don't touch the performers, and they won't touch you.”

Why is this rule so hard for some wrestling fans to grasp?

Two weeks ago on Raw, a match between Ryback and The Miz was interrupted by an overzealous fan who decided to enter the ring. The fan, who appeared to be running toward Ryback, was quickly tackled and ejected by WWE security.

This week on Raw, CM Punk left the ring and made a hasty retreat through a sea of excited fans. As Punk stood among them, one or more of those fans began to make physical contact with him. A younger fan aggressively shoved him. Another fan appeared to accidentally bump into Punk, which prompted the champ to abruptly turn around. As Punk returned his gaze to the ring, that same fan grazed Punk with his arm. Having apparently had enough, Punk turned around and swatted at that man, then pushed him by his face.

A video recording of the Punk incident can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKQM5aYuKXE

Charles Schmidt is the fan whom Punk went after. He told CBS' Sacramento affiliate that he's considering pressing charges against the wrestler. Schmidt stated that Punk broke his glasses and upset him personally. Both WWE and Punk have apologized formally for the incident.

Right away, let's clarify that it appears Schmidt did not intentionally strike Punk. Most of the shoving appeared to come from a younger fan to Punk's right. Punk told wwe.com that he felt pushing, bumping, and even heard a fan threatening to shove him down the stairs on which he was standing. The stairs comment may have been uttered by the fan to Punk's right, judging from the early portion of the above video, although this is not clear.

So yes, Charles Schmidt was most likely an innocent bystander. Further, Punk's response was far more than the situation called for. Video footage makes it clear, in hindsight, that he was not in any real danger. Finally, WWE usually has security guards assigned to follow wrestlers through crowds of fans. In this case, no guards were present. Had there been a human barrier between Punk and the fans, this whole situation would not have happened.

Still, there is another lesson to be taken from all this. Punk felt threatened by the fans around him, and the actions of one fan seem to have led to another being attacked. Punk did not injure Schmidt in any serious way, but he could have. Similarly, the fan who charged at Ryback two weeks ago would have stood no chance in a showdown with him. Fans who attack wrestlers at work never do.

If you enjoy watching pro wrestling, it follows that you should have a great deal of respect for the men and women who perform for you. Reaching out for a high-five is okay. Striking or grabbing a wrestler never is. If a fan does happen to hit a wrestler, it's a grappler's natural instinct to defend himself. The Punk situation had an unfortunate and unintended result, but it was a reaction to a situation that never should have occurred in the first place.

Kevin McElvaney
Contributing Writer
@OfficialPWI Contributor