When I decided to start writing articles for this website I mused over several possible topics that I could write about; this article comes from one of those ideas I discarded initially (not because it was bad but because I felt it needed more thought).I genuinely believed until recently that the last time I "Marked Out" was quite some time ago; excuse me for not mentioning the moment now but I will be covering it later in the article.
I had honestly started to believe that those great moments of surprise that define many's favorite memories of wrestling were becoming a thing of the past; we're all so much more connected in our world today through the internet and smartphones that it's become common that if a wrestler scratches his arse in Milwaukee then a guy in Manilla can see a photo of it within minuets if not seconds. What kept wrestling so much fun over the years was the unpredictability of certain events; and while it's not solely a result of our world changing around us in that way, there are other factors such as the death of the territories, WWE's main competitors (such as WCW/ECW) and the effect those events have had on the size of the recognizable talent pool for example, it is certainly a big factor. This doesn't just apply to wrestling; but it certainly has a more detrimental effect when it comes to it.
Suspension of disbelief is a key component of watching professional wrestling; I, like many of you, caught the wrestling bug as a kid and have remained a fan into my adult life. We know wrestling's fake/predetermined/fixed/whatever but we don't care; it's an art form of entertainment just as valid as film or the theater. Yes as a kid the line is a bit blurred; but, as you stick with it into adulthood and "smarten up", you learn how it works and you appreciate it on different levels. Whenever I'm met with the question "How can you like wrestling; it's fake?"; I answer something along the lines of "You know Robert Downey Junior isn't really putting on a robotic suit and fighting crime yet you still enjoy those films; it's no different". Wrestling is sports based theater yet it isn't received as such by those who are not fans; which is a failing on their part. As a student of the theater there's a very highbrow argument I could make about wrestling being truer to theatrical principles, especially those of the German practitioner Bertolt Brecht (relax; I'm not going to do it here. Though it could be the basis of a future article...), than something like "Mama Mia"; but people being snotty about wrestling is one of those things you learn to put up with as a fan.
That's what makes the "mark out moment" so special; we like to think that we, as smart marks, know what's going on to the extent that we can make informed predictions about what is going to happen. But, just once every so often, wrestling throws up that moment that either none of us saw coming or plays off our suspension of disbelief so well that it truly shocks us; moments like Seth Rollins' heel turn on last Monday's Raw. Who can truly say, hand on heart, that, after what happened at Payback and how strongly The Shield had been put over in recent months, they saw that coming? And that's what made it magical; and is also the moment that brought me back to my initially discarded idea.
So come with me as I look at a personal list of "Mark Out" moments and examine why they worked or didn't work; I must stress that this is a personal list. In no way am I ranking these moments or saying that they are the greatest example of those types of moments; but they're the ones I remember the most and can talk about in greater detail.
Let's start with two that didn't work so well...
The Debut of The Gobbledy-Gooker, Survivor Series 1990.
This moment fell flat for a plethora of different reasons; but I think it's mainly because it was hyped up so much in the build up to the event. While I accept that the WWE was a different beast in those days; even as a six year old watching this unfold I felt extremely let down. But it qualifies as a "Mark Out" moment because who amongst you reading this can honestly say that when the massively hyped egg hatched you expected it to be poor Hector Guerrero in a turkey costume and that he'd proceed to dance a jig with Mean Gene Okerlund? Though a shameful moment in wrestling history and nowhere near as effective as the many example I will give for good...