I hate 'WHAT?'
Big Daddy's Beefs
By DONNIE ABREU --
For SLAM! Wrestling
Who would have thought that one of the few surviving elements of the botched Invasion angle would be "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's new catch phrase. Austin stumbled across a little nugget of long term marketing madness one night on Raw while verbally undressing his Alliance teammates. I'm the first to admit, when "The Rattlesnake" goes into his shopping list routine, waiting for the crowd to respond appropriately after each item mentioned, I enjoy it. The promo he cut before his Royal Rumble match was pure gold. But to quote the late great Owen Hart, "Enough is enough and it's time for a change". The fans are out of control.
I understand where the die-hard fans are coming from. Unlike the now defunct Extreme Championship Wrestling, WWF fans have never been taught to respond to a wrestler either on the mic or in the ring on a continuous basis. Sure, they told DX what those two words were and they'll sing along with The Rock when he throws out a familiar sequence but this "WHAT?" phenomenon is different. This is a lot more fun. In ECW the fans had a "worker-specific" chant for almost every guy on the roster. From Little Guido to Balls Mahoney to Super Crazy. When all else failed, those rabid beer-guzzling hardcore enthusiasts would just chant the initials of the company. Point being, they were always screaming something. This "WHAT?" thing is generic enough that the fans have started shouting it out whenever given the opportunity and more often than not, at the worst possible time.
The World Wrestling Federation spent weeks promoting the return to RAW of Triple H. When he did get back he immediately marched to the ring to cut a solid promo. Much to his surprise, the crowd that was so hot to see The Game, suddenly started chanting "WHAT?" each time the "Cerebral Assassin" took a breath. Why? To kill his heat? To lay even more focus on Austin? Because they were bored?
During the Ric Flair and Vince McMahon scenes which were important to developing the nWo angle, fans berated both men with that painful single syllable projectile. Are they even listening to the dialogue? "WHAT?" Do they care? "WHAT?" Did Vince just say Hogan was coming back? "WHAT?" Scott Hall? "WHAT?" Kevin Nash? "WHAT?" In my opinion, way too much is falling between the cracks as well as being glossed over by the "WHAT?" happy fans.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin celebrates a win at a Toronto house show. (Photo: Warren Toda - Toronto Sun)
In a recent Undertaker interview as well as this week's discussion between the McMahons, you could hear the "WHAT?" chant very faintly in the background. The audio engineers are making a concerted effort to eliminate it from the broadcast amd hopefully conditioning the fans to understand they're supposed to do like the champ says and please, "Shut the hell up".
Kurt Angle has done a great job playing up to the fans and giving them an extra opportunity to chant when he comes on. The problem with that though, is Angle doesn't currently have a program with Austin. It confuses the viewers. It tends to take focus away from whatever feud Austin is running and right now being the very uninteresting squabble between he and the "Living Legend", Y2J.
The most disturbing thing of all is the behavior of many fans (in various cities through out the United States) during the National Anthem. Yes, it happens at the start of the night when fans are hyped up and want to scream and cheer but in this era of supposed patriotism it makes me nauseous when I hear about fans chanting "WHAT?" after every line of the Star Spangled Banner. Is there anything more disrespectful? I certainly hope Canadian fans respond better when the whole world is watching, at Wrestle Mania.
Join me in fight against "WHAT?" Drop an email and add your name to my cyber-petition! Until next week.