By Tom Cuthbertson, M.D.
The smark. Definitions for the term smark vary; some consider the smarks "fans who know wrestling is choreographed but appreciate it on a higher level", while others consider the smarks "sports entertainment fans who are hardly ever satisfied". When these so called 'smart' wrestling fans gather en masse at a live WWE event, like the crowd we saw assembled last night on Raw, they have the power to either enhance or tarnish the show, depending on which parts of the smark culture they emphasize. Let's briefly look at what smark crowds, for better or for worse, can bring to live shows. And just for fun, I'm going to borrow Daniel Bryan's trademark YES and NO chants to help me.
Yes!: Smark crowds bring excitement
No matter what they're chanting, smark crowds are always loud and proud. Not to sound cliche, they never fail bring an air of energy and excitement to an arena. Unfortunately, this is not a universal skill, as shown by the shamefully silent crowd during the last hour and a half of Wrestlemania. For whatever reason, those fans just would not get hyped for the main events at the show of shows. You will never, ever hear that type of indifference from a smark crowd, and it's arguably better that way. Regardless of what they're chanting, it's better than crickets, right?
No!: Smark crowds can ruin storylines
Pretty much all smarks subscribe to dirt sheet websites on the Internet that give them an insight into upcoming storylines, returns, surprises etc, which can effectively kill the tension at a televised event. The prime example of what I'm taking about happened just over a year ago - the return of Brock Lesnar after eight years away from the WWE. This could have been an awesome moment, but the smarks who were anticipating it ruined the moment with a loud and clear "We Want Lesnar" chant in the middle of a Cena promo. You could tell Cena was getting pissed off with the fans in attendance for ruining the surprise for those who stay away from the dirt sheets, not to mention crapping all over his work, and I don't blame him. Sure, the crowd popped when Lesnar finally came out, but the tension was dead for everyone at home, the surprise spoiled for everyone who was unaware, and a great moment tarnished for the entire WWE Universe.
Yes!: Smark crowds aren't traditional
What I mean by 'not traditional' is that smark crowds don't automatically cheer every face and boo every heel, they don't automatically get behind every meathead and reject every high-flyer. Could you imagine how different the roster would be if that was the case? Not only would guys like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan not be on top right now, but guys like Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart wouldn't be fondly remembered as legends today. Smark crowds have an eye for quality in the talent, and don't necessarily buy into the hype for guys that WWE wants to push, which has a positive effect on the state of the entire roster.
No!: Smark crowds have their own value consensus
In Layman's terms, what this basically means is that just like the WWE has been criticized for favoring big, freakishly strong men as their top stars, smark crowds can themselves be criticized for having a preference when it comes to talent. That's fine, but a smark extremist will tell you that this means there are people you are not allowed to like and people you are not allowed to hate. Sometimes, this mentality can show itself in a smark crowd, where it's not acceptable to cheer for anything Randy Orton does, but smark buzz terms like 'ECW', 'RVD', etc can get chanted with no prompt whatsoever. Bottom line, they may not blindly subscribe to what the WWE is saying, but there's seemingly still a lack of individuality about smark crowds.
So there you have it, a brief look at smarks in your typical wrasslin' crowd. Hopefully this small piece will get you thinking for yourself about how smarks impact live events, as well what they bring to a wrestling fanbase overall, both good and bad. As a thank you for reading this post, I leave you with this opportunity to indulge in your newest guilty pleasure: