There is a match that I absolutely love from the promotion Game Changer Wrestling. It was a bold risk on behalf of the promotion and does an excellent job highlighting the effect the crowd has on a match. But more than all that, it’s not really a match at all. In case you are unfamiliar, I am talking about the match between the Invisible Man and his brother, Invisible Stan. It is a silly match, an extremely dumb match, and the whole thing is just one giant joke, but the match does an amazing job highlighting some of the things which makes wrestling stand apart as a medium.
For those unable to watch the match at the moment, the match is between two pretend invisible men with Bryce Remsburg officiating. Throughout the match Bryce does an excellent job telegraphing to the audience what these invisible men are doing. The two ‘wrestlers’ trade chops, they jump off a balcony, they trade pin attempts. All of this is done by Bryce as he reacts to punches, leans back and forth, gets in arguments with the wrestlers, and tries to protest some of the more dangerous moves.
This by itself is pretty impressive in so far it’s really simply a one man show. But the really interesting part is that with all of this body language from Bryce, all of this pantomiming, gestures, and reactions, we understand exactly what is going on between the two invisible wrestlers. Through a mix of Bryce’s skills at conveying the invisible men’s actions and a shared understanding of the language of wrestling, we grasp exactly what is going on all of the time.
This shared language is not necessarily hard to understand, either — most of what happens in the match is extremely clear to non wrestling fans. Bryce motioning that the two are going to jump can be understood by anyone. Bryce pretending to push one of the invisible wrestlers and getting into an argument with them is not hard to understand. Sure, there are some things non-fans will miss, for instance Bryce about to throw up the X to stop the match. But for the most part anyone can understand the match.
The referee does a great job, but the audience reacting to these events as if they are actually happening is what truly makes this match special. One of the many fun things about wrestling is this call and response that wrestlers have with fans.
What exactly do I mean by that? Well, simply that there are certain chants which are chanted only after or during a specific thing happens. Sometimes these moments can have both parties vocalizing them, for instance the New Day saying ‘it’s your boys the…’ to which the crowd responds ‘NEW DAY!”, or the crowd yelling along with the Usos about paranoia or their penitentiary.
But the more interesting examples are the call and responses where the call is a move or sequence during a match. A perfect example of this call and response would be that of Daniel Bryan’s Yes Kicks, where the call is Daniel Bryan kicking someone and the response from the audience is a resounding ‘YES!’. Or the famous ‘yay/boo‘ chants while wrestlers trade blows.
One of my favorite forms of this call/response to do is yelling ‘wwwoooooaaahhhh’ louder and louder as someone runs the ropes or something similar (as best demonstrated by Strowman’s shoulder tackle). These call and responses are such a staple of wrestling that they are now used for comedic effect, such as in Orange Cassidy’s kicks.
It is these interactions that are kept up in Stan vs. Man, making the match such a treat to watch. The yay/boo chants as the two invisible men punch each other again and again give the match a strange sense of authenticity. The fans counting along as Bryce slaps the ground for pins makes the match feel just that much more alive.
Of course, it’s not just these more rigid call and responses from the crowd, but the overall energy in general. Boos and cheers, the crowd falling down as the invisible wrestlers plunge off the balcony, chants, and excited yelling all throughout the match absolutely make it a treat to watch despite there being no one actually in the ring.
In Joseph Montecillo’s video on the match, he discuss this dynamic. That the match works despite most aspects of the match working actively against it. The crowd doesn’t merely “save” the match — the crowd puts it in a whole other category than most matches. One where the metafiction of the match is enhanced more so than any other wrestling match due to relying on the one meta device in wrestling: the crowd.
The crowd in large part is able to help make this match what it is due to these call and response chants. The fact that some wrestling chants have a certain explicit moment when you use it helps give the fans structure lets them know when to chant something. These chants allows for them to help build the narrative of the match. If ‘yay/boo’ chants didn’t exist, it would be harder to communicate the back and forth punches. If it wasn’t custom to count ‘1, 2, 3’ along with the refs during pinfalls, we would just see Bryce slapping the mat without that punctuation added on to each slap.
Sure, cheers and boos help to a certain extent, but it is these call and response interactions that fans have for specific moments which truly elevates this match. Or really any match for that matter.
In an era where fans are limited to videoing in or stadiums are at 10% capacity, it’s hard to remember sometimes what wrestling with actual fans feels like. This match is a good example of just how much an impact fans can have on an event, especially since the fans are doing a lot more of the heavy lifting than normal. It speaks to the power of suspending your disbelief and just enjoying something. And it highlights just how a medium such as wrestling is special and unique.
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