Everybody basically understands how professional wrestling works. The burly, spandex-clad men in the ring are not really trying to cripple one another, but rather create the illusion of violence through an elaborate pantomime.
It’s a rough way to make a living, mind you, and injuries are common — but they’re almost never intentional.
Wrestlers don’t always pull their punches, though. There’s an unwritten rule in the wrestling business that says if an overzealous fan invites himself into the ring, the proverbial gloves come off.
Wrestling fans are expected and encouraged to cheer, boo, and even hurl the most vile of insults imaginable at the men in the ring. Getting all up in a wrestler’s face — whether in the ring, at the bar or out in the parking lot — is, on the other hand, practically a request for a real-life smackdown.
Even if you remain in your seat at a wrestling show, it’ s a good idea to keep an eye out for flailing limbs.
Here are 10 fans for whom wrestling was hardly fake.
Don’t touch Sabu’s headscarf
Sabu is one of the craziest wrestlers ever. Legit. His body is completely covered in scars from wrestling in barbed wire and broken glass.
He is, to put it another way, not the kind of guy whose fancy headscarf you should try to steal.
Jeff Jarrett defends his TNA turf
The bad guys of wrestling — the heels, in the parlance — do their damnedest to incite fury among the fans. It’s their job. Sometimes they do it a little too effectively.
At a TNA Wrestling show, Jeff Jarrett seemed to be goading one masked fan to hop the barricade and try his luck in the ring. The moment the fan obliged, Jarrett nailed him with a right cross that didn’t need an accompanying loud stomp to make it seem more brutal.
Y2J and the angry mob
Chris Jericho is one of wrestling’s great antagonizers. When he’s portraying a heel, which is roughly half the time, he can elicit hatred like practically almost no one else. Most fans are able to separate his nefarious ring schtick from real life. But not all of them, apparently. As Jericho was leaving an arena in 2009, several fans called him a “disgrace to Canada” and started pushing him around. So he pushed back. Hard.
Don’t try to unmask La Parka
The luchadors of Mexican wrestling are fiercely devoted to the masks that represent their identities. When a luchador is unmasked, it’s a big honking deal. That’s why La Parka was more than a little miffed when a fan attempted to do an impromptu unmasking at ringside. Moments later, the fan was probably wearing a mask of his own — an icepack and some gauze.
CM Punk decks fan
This one got a lot of attention last year, partly because it happened on live television in front of millions of fans, and it happened to involve the most popular wrestler in the world at the time. Much like the Kennedy assassination, the tape has been viewed over and over again to determine where the shove came from, and whether the wrong guy suffered the punishment.
Fan shoves Eddie Guerrero off a ladder
Ladder matches are inherently dangerous. The last thing a wrestler needs when climbing a tall ladder (in a wobbly-floored wrestling ring), is some wingnut hopping in the ring and pushing over the ladder.
Eddie Guerrero was suitably pissed off, and delivered some serious punches in retaliation.
Doink the Clown vs. Crazy Guy
It’s hard to know whether this is the original Doink from WWF, or whether this is one of many imposters to portray the creepy clown gimmick at rinkydink wrestling shows around the country. What is certain is that this footage is just depressing. Apparently the fat schlub in the clip (not Doink — the other one) didn’t appreciate getting squirted with a water gun, so he confronts the clown. Nothing much happens, except for a kind of pathetic surrealism.
Chairs may be closer than they appear
So you might want to stay seated.
Referee to the rescue
When a crazed fan jumped into the ring during a WCW match, legitimate badass Dean Malenko just kept wrestling. He figured the scrawny referee could take care of the uninvited interloper, and he was right. Commentator Bobby Heenan took great joy in watching the referee choke out the fan: “The smallest referee in the world just took him down!”
For the love of God, don’t mess with the seven-foot-tall 400-pounder
A word of advice: if you ever meet a legitimate giant at a bar, don’t harass him. Paul “Big Show” Wight was just trying to enjoy a drink one night during his WCW tenure, and a fan with a deathwish tried to pick a fight. It didn’t end well for the fan.
BONUS: Beware of the “cheap seats”
Especially if you’re a fatty.