On the 17th of September, 2011, people of New York City took to Zucotti Park to participate in the first ever protest of a certain breed (second if you include what happened in Kuala Lumpur). For those who may not know the origins of this movement, do you recall the “We are the 99%” slogan? Do you remember the worldwide protests calling for the large concentration of wealth distributed among the 1% to reach some form of flat distribution?
On the 10th anniversary of the re-opening of Wall Street trading just six days after the September 11th, 2001 attacks, Occupy Wall Street began.
On March 10th 2014, a new Occupy protest emerged in the city of Memphis. Instead of the streets of New York City or St. Andrews Square, or even outside of the Norwegian Parliament, this protest took place in the centre of a WWE wrestling ring. Headed by Daniel Bryan, a disgruntled worker who had been held down time and time again by Triple H and the authority; a worker who had suffered long enough and decided to take action.
The Yes Movement was in full force.
On an episode of Monday Night Raw, Bryan took to the ring to air his grievances and address the public apology he had received earlier that night from Stephanie McMahon. In what was an energy-driven promo segment, Bryan announced that after months of being excluded from the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture and receiving the label as a “B+ player”, it was time he “Occupied” Raw. With that said, a couple of fans entered the ring wearing Daniel Bryan t-shirts. As they jumped up and down and high-fived Bryan, more started to fill the ring.
Then more scattered around the ring.
Then it became crystal clear what Daniel Bryan’s motives were. After the ring was filled entirely with Daniel Bryan supporters, and even more completely surrounding the ring, Bryan announced that he was taking over the show and he would not let go of his grip of the show until he got what he wanted; a match with Triple H at Wrestlemania.
We all know what happened next; Triple H and Stephanie McMahon came down, some back-and-forth work between Bryan and The Authority, a Damien Sandow appearance and finally, a Wrestlemania match confirmed between Daniel Bryan and Triple H. A stipulation was even added that Bryan would be entered into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Wrestlemania IF he could beat Triple H earlier that night.
In other words; after the way the crowd re-acted at Royal Rumble and throughout the RAW episodes since, it was WWE’s way of saving Wrestlemania.
One question remained on my mind: the people who crowded in and outside of the ring — who were they? Hired workers and staff members? Independent wrestlers from Memphis? Or were they actually fans, randomly selected and given the opportunity to get the chance of a lifetime and enter a WWE ring with Daniel Bryan?
The answer? Yes, they were fans. Most of them, anyway.
Last Word On Sports got the chance to speak with one of the fans who was selected. An HFBoards user (“sobrien), at 26 years old was a wrestling fan reborn heading into his first ever WWE experience. Here’s what “sobrien” had to offer us as insight to the night that he’ll remember for a very, very long time:
Hi sobrien, and thank you for doing this with us. First off, when did you find out you would be part of the Occupy Raw group?
When we walked in the front door, we were randomly selected by a WWE official or Arena employee and given an exclusive access wristband and told to go to a certain section to get a shirt now, then return to be at that section again at 8:45 CST. We saw the shirts and thought we had an idea of what would happen. We weren’t very close.
How were you selected?
Randomly, upon entering the arena. After the fact, I was somewhat surprised many of the participants were 20-40 year old males, especially with the potential of alcohol consumption becoming a safety or control issue.
What was the process, from being selected to getting to the ring? What took place between those times?
We were told to meet at the specific meeting spot at 8:45 CST, until then we were able to enjoy the show from our purchased seats.
Did you get to meet Daniel Bryan before the segment?
Nope! We had no idea what was happening until about minutes before heading out onto the floor.
Did you get to meet any other superstars while waiting to make your way out?
When we walked by the “break room” and saw Miz, Big E, and Batista enjoying the show and some refreshments, we knew this was something bigger. After them, Paul Heyman walked past us in the hallway. We all shook hands with referee Charles Robinson, and were about 50 feet away from the locker room as Christian, Randy Orton, Big Show, and Sheamus came in and out. Sheamus and Show greeted us from afar, Christian and Orton played the heel. When we were about to walk out of the tunnel, Michael Hayes rushed passed us as well. So did we “meet” any of them? No, not personally. But we saw plenty, and it was still incredible!
Was the group told to act a certain way/any rules given?
Yes, as we were heading down we couldn’t do YES chants, had to stay organized, couldn’t run, etc. etc. Mostly safety precautions until they told us not to take our phones out once we get into the ring…which is when we found out what we were going to be doing.
Was the group told exactly what would go down during the segment?
Not at all. Even when they told us we’d be in the ring, they never mentioned anything about Triple H coming out or any of that. Never mentioned how long of a segment it’d be. Hell, they never even said whether or not Bryan would remain out there with us for the whole segment!
Did you think there would be any surprises? Kane coming out, for instance.
We really didn’t know what to expect. Once we all piled in (I made it ringside during the commercial break) and the 2nd half of the segment started, I realized that Triple H and Steph and potentially Kane would be coming out, just based off what Bryan was talking about. But honestly everything was a surprise to us, everything exceeded our original expectations.
Once the segment was over, how did Daniel Bryan embrace you all?
He was on the far post and I was standing next to the near post, but my friend who I attended the show with, as well as his family were standing on the steel steps right next to Bryan. Once the segment ended, he was the first one hugged by Bryan.
What was it like getting a front row seat to Daniel Bryan and The Authority going back and forth?
It was so loud down there, and so exciting that I couldn’t completely understand what was being said. As a reborn wrestling fan, it was absolutely incredible. This was my first ever WWE event and I got to do this! I heard enough to know that Triple H accepted Bryan’s match at Wrestlemania 30, as well as his add-on stipulation, but I didn’t hear much of the dialogue between the three, not even Steph’s banshee rant!
We at Last Word would like to thank HFBoards user sobrien once again, for giving all of us some insight on the events leading up to the fans running out to the ring. For a first ever experience, not too many people can say they got to stand in the break-room of the arena, get noticed by a few of the WWE talent and get to stand inside or around the actual ring, much less be there with Daniel Bryan.
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