The WWE Network is a gift. A beautiful gift from a benevolent god. For a scant $9.99 per month, you can see basically all of the professional wrestling content any major U.S. wrestling promotion has ever put out. And of course, that means you get to behold the glory of pro wrestling fans through the ages.
Some time ago, I happened to stumble into WCW's 1997 "Uncensored" pay-per-view for reasons that are hazy to me now. I went in not knowing that I would soon behold the glory that was all of 1997 wrestling fandom -- and perhaps even a sort of timeless, platonic ideal of what it means to be a fan of anything.
Sandwiched between Ultimo Dragon defeating Psichosis and Mortis' entrance for his match against Glacier, was this absolutely unparalleled pan across the exceedingly 1997 crowd in North Charleston, South Carolina. Because you need to see this crowd pan more than you've ever needed anything else, here is a 20-plus-MB GIF of the entire thing:
Let's investigate this further, shall we? In the spirit of Yankees Fans dot GIF and Pirates Enthusiasts dot GIF is this, the WCW Uncensored crowd of 1997. We shall not be delving into their backstories, because there are so many to deal with. Instead, we shall merely be labeling and identifying each of these wonderful, unique human beings, letting you know what makes them so special.
(Because as the Nitro Fans Tumblr has taught us, WCW fans have always been the most beautiful of all of us.)
1, 2 and 3:
This was 1997. The year I graduated high school. Here are three people who appear to be cosplaying as the living room of Roseanne. You've got a baffled guy who is 95 percent of the way to being Jackson Browne, a kid exemplifying the ubiquitous popularity of the Starter jacket in the 1990s and a woman who is every Torkelson at once.
Please note that almost everyone in the pan at some point throws up the Four Horsemen hand signal, because the Carolinas are now and have always been Ric Flair Country.
4 and 5:
WCW was always Southern wrestling. WWE (then WWF) was always "New York." Southern wrestling was about real heels and dirtbags taking on good old boys and clean-cut, nice, upstanding young men. Southern wrestling was heading down to the arena every week, plopping yourself in the front row and cussing at a guy you didn't like because of his untoward haircut.
That's why this older couple is so gloriously wonderful. They're not with their kids and they're both just happy to be there. They just like going down to the matches and they'd probably been doing it for 20 years at that point. This is the only American love story. Best couple.
6, 7 and 8:
KID ON LEFT: WHOOOOAAAA, I'M ON TV! FOUR HORSEMAN RULE! EAT DIRT, KENNY, Y'BOZO! HI MOM! SORRY I CALLED KENNY A BOZO!
KID IN MIDDLE: Sting's the beeeesssst! The "Kit Cloudkicker" look is timeless and will ALWAYS be cool!
KID ON RIGHT: I'm every kid in middle school from 1991 until 2003!
9 and 10:
Whoa, whoops, no, this might be the best couple, unless that's like his mom or aunt or something. It's wild that Chris Kluwe was in the front row for this show nearly 20 years ago, but here's photographic evidence of that.
400 percent chance that dude drives a 1987 Camaro Z28 IROC.
GAH. This guy appears to be at the show by himself, which is WONDERFUL. I'm also betting he's a successful orthodontist when he's not history's first accidental Juggalo.
This guy is just great. No further explanation required. People, please bring back the leather vest over dress shirt look.
Hey, it's ol' Gummy Joe! I love that guy! Bonus points to David Spade and Samwell Tarly for making cameos over his shoulders.
14 and 15:
The timeless divide of old country vs. new country. Merle Haggard vs. Chris LeDoux. Willie Nelson vs. Jason Aldean. Jeff Jarrett vs. The Roadie. Tale as old as time.
16 and 17:
Aw dang it, maybe THIS is the best couple. Their enthusiasm is wonderful, their shirts are just ghastly and if they truly are a couple, they're rooting for opposite things. Let's just be thankful that wrestling T-shirts don't look like that any more. It was a hell of a time to try and rep for wrasslin' in public.
MOMS LOVE WRESTLIN' TOO, Y'ALL.
19 and 20:
People really just took that "Crow Sting" facepaint and ran with it early, didn't they? "HE LOOKS LIKE THE CROW, BUT WE CAN REALLY STRETCH OUT AND EXPLORE THE MEDIUM HERE."
This look also predicted Jeff Hardy's final form about 10 years early.
21 and 22:
Oh, yes. We have finally arrived at the end, and clearly this is the best couple. Just some denim wrestling fans, wearing matching shirts and hopelessly in love at the Uncensored pay-per-view. I hope they're still together and they're still happy. Because if those two crazy kids can't make it work, what hope do the rest of us mere mortals have?
Thank you, WCW crowd. Thank you, WWE Network. You've given us gifts more priceless than we can express.
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