What a difference in the crowd from Raw in Miami on April 2 to Raw in D.C. on April 9. It was essentially the difference between a rock star show and an indy act.
Yes, Miami's crowd had many WWE diehards who made an entire WrestleMania weekend of it with Raw as their final event (unless they traveled to Orlando for Smackdown). Those crowds are typically the loudest. But the crowd in Washington seemed to buy tickets and be content to sit on their hands.
I don't often make comparisons to Corpus Christi, Texas (which I deem the quietest WWE audience in the world), but on a scale of Corpus Christi to 1 (with 1 being the loudest), the nation's capital this past Monday on Raw was a 9.
When Brock Lesnar appeared to the crowd this past Monday on Raw, the impression I got from the audio on TV of the crowd response was that Washington didn't care that Lesnar was there. A few people stood up but didn't bother to cheer or boo.
I don't think this has anything to do with altered crowd response, either. Some people tweeted me throughout Smackdown last week saying the crowd reactions they heard on TV during Daniel Bryan's breakup with AJ were very different from being live in Orlando. In the case of Lesnar, I genuinely believe that the pop wasn't there.
It's no surprise to anyone how important the crowd is to a WWE or pro wrestling event. David Shoemaker of Grantland wrote a great article about the various chants at events (for example, "Lets go Cena / Cena Sucks," "This is Wrestling" and "Yes! Yes! Yes!"). Crowd reaction defines a superstar. John Cena is proof of that.
Monday's Raw showed that a lack of crowd response can make superstars seem ... mortal. That's exactly how Lesnar appeared Monday. Connection with John Laurinaitis changing his crowd response or not, the response lacked not only in this segment but throughout the show.
Looking to the past, consider these moments / feuds that were brought over the top due to crowd response:
* The crowd in Miami for WrestleMania 28 was fantastic. The crowd made John Cena vs. The Rock. It may not have been the best in-ring matchup of all time, but it doesn't matter – it didn't need to be. Crowd interest brought it over the top. The difference between the WrestleMania 28 matches of Rock/Cena and 'Taker/HHH is that the crowd response made Cena/Rock, while HHH/'Taker made crowd response (including the loudest reaction to a near fall I have ever heard).
* Take the match that Rock/Cena was often compared to leading up to WM28, Hogan vs. Rock. The Toronto crowd was fully invested. Not only that, the crowd dictated a wrinkle to the plot – fans sided with Hogan. It was a welcome addition to the match and put in motion a future sequence of events that saw HulkaMania once again run wild. The next night in Montreal, as is customary for crowds to provide standing ovations to several minutes (typically reserved for legendary NHL players), Hogan received a similar standing ovation that prevented him from talking in the ring.
* Money in the Bank 2011 was a homecoming for CM Punk with the hottest angle in 2011. The crowd may have been the loudest in Chicago's history, which is typically among the hottest crowds for WWE events. The match was great, and the crowd made it even more epic.
* In 1997, The Hart Foundation essentially feuded with the United States. Week after week on WWE TV, they were vilified in the USA and treated like heroes in Canada. Crowd response was crucial to that program and dictated its success. The ovation the Hart Foundation received at In Your House: Canadian Stampede ranks among the loudest in history.
* It's not just hometown of pay-per-view reactions that make a moment. In Nov. 2009, Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton brawled through the crowd at Madison Square Garden. As the old saying goes, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. It was easily one of the loudest reactions of the year when Kofi Boom-Dropped Orton through a table in the crowd, which created a big moment.
* Does crowd response have something to do with how frequently WWE visits a town? Absolutely. Toronto is a perfect example. When WWE visited this past March, the first time since Smackdown's Edge Appreciation Night in September 2011, the crowd for a live event was large (7,000-plus) and loud the entire night. Scarcity does play a factor. During the Attitude Era, WWE would visit the Toronto three-to-six times a year and of course in the 1980s, TV tapings would take place monthly. Star power and storyline interest certainly play a factor in crowd responses being steadily loud during the eras of more frequent visits ("Stone Cold" Steve Austin was being cheered by everyone in 1998, no matter how frequently a town was visited). "Starved" WWE audiences outside of North America that rarely see live events, particularly in countries that are getting WWE for the first time (Abu Dhabi a couple months ago, Russia this week, China a couple years ago) will experience unique and fully invested WWE audiences.
So why do crowds like D.C. this past Monday night stay silent for the majority of the show? Why would fans spend their hard-earned money on tickets to a WWE event and not participate? Is it a personality thing? Are crowds in certain cities more/less likely to cheer? Is it because there are an abundance of the "hangers-on" crowd like friends, parents and significant others that were dragged to the event by their obsessed counterparts?
Whatever the case may be, let's use this as a lesson and make a pact. The crowd is such an important part of the show. In today's WWE, no matter what is happening in the ring, if the crowd is out of it, fans watching at home will be far less likely to get into it. If you are planning to go to a WWE event, do your part in making the show enjoyable and get involved. Nobody – not the superstars performing, not the crowd in the arena, not those watching at home – appreciates silence.
Off topic but important to me: I'm launching a campaign to have Bret "The Hitman" Hart nominated for Canada's Walk of Fame (like the Canadian version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame). You can learn more and vote here (no matter where you live).