There is a weird thing that happens the first RAW after Wrestlemania. All the hardcore fans who save up to go to the biggest show of the year hang around and go to the show the night after. Grown-ups. With jobs. Folks who have been fans all their lives. Folks, who aren't always happy with what WWE have been doing lately. And the RAW show seems to be where they make their points.
Last year, we saw the "YES!" chant begin. The discontent with how Daniel Bryan was being treated, especially after losing his title in an 18 second match to a man who isn't exactly universally liked, was being shown in a way that couldn't be ignored. The whole show was being dominated by "YES!" chants. Now keep in mind, this wasn't a thing before, this was the very first night we saw it. The fans homed in on something that Daniel did on the way to the ring, embraced it, and it became a rallying cry. It dominated promos from The Rock and also John Cena (to the point where both had to acknowledge it). They started to chant "¡SI!" for Del Rio. Daniel didn't even perform that night on RAW but they put him in a dark match at the end. Here is what happened at the end of that match.
I like to think those fans changed some of the thinking back-stage. Bryan got a huge push since and is still part of most of the big happenings in the company now. And it's well deserved, I must add.
Well, this year it was no different. I think there was 1 main moment where I think the amazing New Jersey crowd managed to make a point that I think was important, and one long moment where I think they were just having fun.
By far, THE biggest pop of the night was Dolph fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinally cashing it in.
It's been a long wait, but hopefully this will once-and-for-all legitimize Dolph as a top drawer talent. For years now, smart fans have been telling anyone who will listen that Dolph Ziggler is one of the best wrestlers in the industry. The guy has had to job for everyone and has been amazing doing it. He has all the skills but just not the opportunity. Fans have been getting ravenous waiting for him to cash in the Money In The Bank contract and when he finally did it he got not only the biggest reception of RAW but of the whole Wrestlemania weekend. Now, all I can do is pray that the boys in the back took notice and acts accordingly.
You know, I've enjoyed Fandango. Before the name change, when he was just Johnny Curtis, he always impressed me on NXT as the guy who deserved a shot. When I found out his shot required a gimmick change, this gimmick change in particular, I thought "well, that's the end of that guy". This ballroom dancer schtick had "dead end" written all over it. But somehow he managed to find something fun with it and I've genuinely laughed at some of the "Faaaaaaahn-daaaaaahng-goooooo" antics.
Now, was the fans chanting his theme tune through half the show an endorsement of his excellence? No, it was fans just trying to have fun but hopefully it will give the guy a chance with what would have otherwise been a no-hoper. They did more for him in one night than WWE Creative did in 6 months.
Much like last year, the post show promo (this time delivered by John Cena) had to address the crowd and particularly their reactions for both of the guys above.
But what does this mean for the future? It's hard to tell. Like I said before, I hope this solidifies Ziggler's place in the company the way it has for Bryan. But I think it emphasizes something else.
The vast majority of the crowd were above the age of 21. Any regular watcher of the WWE product will note that the opposite is the norm. 12 year olds often dominate the RAW and Smackdown crowds. The problem is, the crowds have been dead for far too long. Deathly quiet arenas have stagnated a product long overdue for an overhaul. The PG experiment has been divisive and while I think it's probably been a positive as a whole they need to get some more grown ups back in to fill some seats and make some noise because wrestling is nothing without the crowd.
If only we could have this crowd every week.