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SmackDown: Thrill of the Moment

Reporter’s Notebook: Loud, Aggressive, and Furious ... and That’s Just the Audience

By Joseph Graham

Staff Writer

Vince McMahon is today’s P.T. Barnum -- he is a showman who knows just what the audience wants and always delivers. If your UPN-phobia has gotten the best of you, WWF SmackDown is a live show to beat all live shows. What you see on your television every Thursday is less than half of what is being taped on Tuesdays when the show is (a)live.

Filmed on July 17 at the Fleet Center (the first time since April), this was a four and a half hour event cut and edited into a two-hour TV show safe for family viewing. Mr. McMahon has hired quite a creative team of writers, composers, and costume designers. Even his trained performers, the ones the announcers call “athletes,” know exactly what’s to be expected of them when they take to the ring.

The Ring? Now that has a circus kind of sound to it. Unfortunately, the WWF is only a one ring circus. Of course you can always count the crowd as the third ring in Vince’s twenty-first century circus, and it is the crowd that makes the WWF SmackDown such a unique event.

This is one of those events that you are not better off watching at home -- this is audience participation at its best. Without it, there is simply no show.

Allow me to try and fill you in on what that experience is like. At the moment the lights go down and the fireworks explode with a force that utterly shakes your insides, hurts your ears, and blinds anyone that forgets to look away, the crowd simultaneously comes to its feet with cheers and screams that are as loud as the pyrotechnic introduction.

As the smoke clears and the evening’s list of matches is displayed on screen (the Tritantron, to those in the know), the crowd roars and rises again, yet this time you may find yourself wearing a little soda or beer down the back of your shirt, compliments of the out-of-control fan in the seat behind you. (I was fortunate enough to wear the beer).

There are also fans that have to acknowledge their presence by throwing whatever they are holding into the ring (I was lucky enough to see a full cup of soda sail overhead and land right in the middle of the ring). Splash! The crowd goes wild.

Security is everywhere, and these overzealous ticket holders probably watch the show from a jail cell, waiting for their buddies to them bail them out (after the show, of course).

Did I mention that the wrestling matches in the ring have not even begun yet? I didn’t think so. This is when it really starts to get loud. The WWF stars are loved by many and hated by just as many, and both camps are equally represented. To my left is a boy probably 14 years old, to my right a man of maybe 40, both cheering and voicing their love or disdain for the combatants in the ring using many colorful metaphors I can’t mention.

And what is going on around me is going on throughout the arena. These are not isolated events. The audience is comprised of young and old men and women, and in time the entire crowd is involved in group chants so characteristic of the wrestling scene.

Forget about the wrestling matches, the fans all know the outcomes are predetermined -- they know what’s going on. To tell a fan of the WWF that it’s fake is to insult them. Of course it is! But we don’t care. It’s flat out fun and entertaining.

In the eight years the Fleet Center has existed I have attended Bruins hockey games, Celtics basketball games, rock concerts, as well as Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus. Yet nothing compares to the visual spectacle, the volume, and the excitement of the WWF SmackDown. This is a must see event, and just may be The Greatest Show on Earth.