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Does WWE Hate Its Universe?

It may sound hyperbolic to suggest that WWE hates its fans, but recently they've done a lot to support such a strong statement. Vince McMahon started this week's historic Monday by telling the WWE Universe that "we're honouring what's most important to WWE; all of you" in the WWE Network launch video. However, the day was ended with quite a different sentiment during the huge Raw. Two fans were ejected from the arena in Green Bay for holding up signs featuring UFC's Ronda Rousey, John Cena, NXT and Randy Savage. It was actually only one fan who'd created the signs, but through kindly lending his Savage sign to the other (due to him wearing a Macho Man shirt) the other fan was inadvertently associated and escorted out also. What WWE didn't realise was that the main fan implicated, Justin Stever, was a member of Blitz Sport and after the incident conducted an interview as a part of their post-Raw panel immediately following the show. You can hear what happened in detail and the nature of all of the signs in the video below (lasting for about the first 20 minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbZk-gl94P0&feature=share&t=30s So what does this mean? A fan that paid $110 for a prime ticket was thrown out of an event for holding up some signs voicing his opinions. Ok, I can understand the uncomfortableness in a sign connecting Cena with "juice", but shockingly the WWE seemed to dislike signs that put over NXT and Macho Man being inducted into the Hall Of Fame! They were not offensive or pornographic in nature, plus they were checked before entering. This behaviour from WWE is oppressive and worrying. Yes, some of the signs challenged WWE and were edgy, but to remove a fan is extreme. What would have been so wrong with simply taking away all the signs and allowing him to finish the show in attendance? I love the WWE, so many people love the WWE, but its recent disregard to fan reactions and feedback should embarrass this mega-sized company. Expressing opinions, controversial or not, is a unique and essential part of professional wrestling. Why so sensitive, for example, about the mention of UFC? Challenging the norm, letting reality merge with the fabrication of wrestling, can create wonderful things such as CM Punk's infamous "pipe bomb" promo that lead him into the WWE stratosphere. There are not many (or any perhaps?!) other forms of entertainment in which it is encouraged for loud direct interaction and disruption with what's presented on stage. This is an essential part of the WWE experience and it's very sad to see fans who embrace this, life-long fans of the business, treated as though they are saboteurs. WWE is a huge franchise. It watches and controls from all television and social media angles, has investors/sponsors to answer to and charity requirements to meet. With all that in mind, are actions against fans justified? Is this a necessary evil in the eyes of the WWE, trying to play ball with so many facets to their company? If so, it means the fans come last. This kind of heavy-handed censorship goes against the character they like to spin of themselves, in which the WWE Universe's voice is heard and paramount. It may be heard, but it's certainly not dealt with positively and fans like Justin appear as a threat. You only have to observe the mishandling of Daniel Bryan for months and the angry reactions to pay-per-views, to see how far devoted fans are being pushed away and disregarded. How long can the die-hard fans last and the casual fans get bored? The downright passion that fans like Justin bring, would usually be a vital ingredient to a show. A welcome addition to a volatile and exciting event within any other era or promotion. Currently it seems that the WWE frown upon these expressions from its loyal Universe and would rather punish you for such behaviour. With the walkout of CM Punk, the scalding of WWE by Mick Foley and the horrendously bad reaction to Royal Rumble (Elimination Chamber too) by fans; it's been a truly difficult month for WWE. The so-called "internet fans" views are now being represented by respectable faces of the industry and the disillusionment in the product has become a sentiment held by the masses, rather than the minority. The Royal Rumble shambles of Daniel Bryan's omission was even deemed newsworthy by the BBC! Foley's tweet summed up the feelings of many in one sentence: https://twitter.com/realmickfoley/status/427649348693147649 WWE are on the path to WrestleMania 30 and I see this as the most important WrestleMania since the very first. With the "hi-jacking" of main event matches commonplace and more to come on the next Raw when it takes place in Chicago, WWE seems to be on a knife-edge. The sure-fire night of rowdy chanting and controversy, in reaction to the absence of CM Punk, is likely to produce more stories such as Justin's. The WWE are absolutely desperate to keep control of their agenda and output, to the degree where they will literally remove you if you don't adhere to what they want. WWE needs to remember that their fans are paying customers and when you buy something faulty, you tell the person who gave it to you. WWE really has something to prove leading up to and at WrestleMania 30, to bring its fans back onboard. Was the WWE's decision acceptable - did Justin deserve to be thrown out? Or is this a disgusting decision? The progression of a company that once embraced a spotlight of vice, blood and shock; now scared of the slightest comment not in their playbook? Let me know what you think of all this in the comments. How would you react if you were confronted and thrown out of a show? Is this heavy-handed tactic good or bad for business? Whether it's "good" or "bad" is perhaps irrelevant - it's the inevitable effect the WWE is having due to often frustrating, out-of-touch and illogical programming of a beloved show. I think much of this article can be summed up with this Mick Foley tweet: https://twitter.com/realmickfoley/status/437801745289609216

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Filmmaker with work being shown at San Diego Comic-Con, Tri-Cities International Fantastic Film Festival in USA and Internationales FilmFest in Germany this Summer. My documentaries and short films have screened at London Short Film Festival (at the ICA), BAFTA, Leeds, LACMA, New York, Cape Town and Toronto. Most recently my dance film 'The Body Canvas' premiered in London's Southbank area at the 'Zealous X' exhibition. I'm a 2012 MA graduate from The Northern Film School as a director and... I'm a major comics and wrestling fan! Currently on Philip K Dick, Hawkeye, Daredevil, Green Lantern, Twilight Zone and Ring of Honour! Tweet me... @PaulEVernon Website: www.paulvernon.weebly.com