Aside from the Brie Bella controversy, another topic that seemed to be trending highly in the wrestling community was a fan encounter in a store. This past week, a fan’s father apparently saw Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins and Universal Champion Roman Reigns, and they were apparently “d*ckheads*.
— Veronica (@veestwtr) September 21, 2018
Now, I’m sure we all know the deal with WWE superstars. They perform every Monday and Tuesdays on national television, perform on Sundays for certain PPV’s, have live events on the weekends, and when they’re not doing that, they are doing interviews and promoting the product with little time to themselves. This all equates to a bare minimum of over 300 days out of the calendar year, with the only “break” they get is if they are rehabbing from injury. It is a very demanding job, and if you were to just look on the facial expressions of both Rollins and Reigns, you could visibly see the fatigue that one may go through with running a tight schedule.
The debate of how you should act with professional wrestlers in public is a topic of high debate. Seeing your favorite superstar in public could be the experience of a lifetime, because you may never see them again. At the same time, they probably won’t be as nearly as excited to see you because they are simply tired. One of the portions of this argument that makes it so difficult is on the topic of privacy. While there are many superstars that won’t mind spending a couple of minutes out of their busy day to take a photo and sign an autograph, some fans take it a step further. They’ll go as far as following them wherever they go, taking photos of them without them knowing, and stalking.
These kinds of behaviors erode trust between the professionals and the onlookers and it provides further incentive for superstars to ignore people altogether. Former Women’s Champion Sasha Banks has had a particularly strong stance on this issue. I recall some of the sentiments she made on this issue last year on a podcast with Sam Roberts:
“I grew up a wrestling fan, so I knew that I wanted to meet all my favorite wrestlers. But always in the back of my head I never thought in my life to be like, ‘Hey, they’re gonna fly in. Maybe I should wait at the airport for like 12 hours at a gate. Hey! They don’t want any sleep. Maybe I’ll go find their hotel they’re staying at and let me bother them.’
Like to me, that’s stalking. I don’t tweet out what hotel I’m at. I don’t tweet out what airline I’m flying. I do tweet you what arena I’ll be performing at, so I do expect fans at the arena, and I’m so happy to sign at the arena, that’s fine because I’m telling you where I’m going to be at. If I see you in public, that’s fine.
But when I’m at an airport at 4 in the morning and I see somebody with a carry-on and they open it with a hundred items of everyone and they’re bothering everybody to get an autograph, and I see it on eBay – that’s not okay to me.”
I also recall an incident regarding one of my favorite superstars, Randy Orton. He was prepping for a live event in Arksanas when a fan came up to take a picture of him without his consent, and The Viper responded with a profanity-laced tirade.
Just like with the Brie Bella incident that I detailed, there seems to be two opposing viewpoints. One recognizes that WWE superstars are also human beings, just like you and I. They get tired, frustrated and fatigued, and they may not just be in the mood for any form of interaction with anybody else. On the other hand, people also who take on the Bubba Ray Dudley viewpoint that fans are what make professional wrestlers relevant and that they should be open to responding to any fan’s request because that’s a part of the business.
Never worry about fans waiting at an airport at 5am asking for your autograph. Worry when they're NOT there at 5am asking for your autograph
— Bully Ray (@bullyray5150) September 3, 2017
This topic has always been a touchy one to me, simply because both sides can be considered true. Fans are what make superstars relevant and on the surface, there should be no problem with paying forward, lest you come off as entitled and ungrateful. At the same token, it’s because they work so hard to entertain the fans why they should deserve some downtime and may not like being hassled in the late hours of the night. But it’s my word against someone else’s, and don’t believe there is one right answer.
Apparently, when that fan’s father who met Rollins and Reigns and noticed their negative reaction, they noticed that Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman were welcoming to everyone. So the way each superstar acts towards this is unique in some way. Either way, it’s a debate that is likely not going to be settled any time soon. What is your stance?