Back when fans were allowed to fill out arenas at full capacity for professional wrestling shows, fan signs were a staple of the programming.
However, over the last 20 years on WWE programming, fans signs have become less common and noticeable. There have often been stories about security removing specific signs at wrestling events for a variety of reasons. Examples could include that the sign promotes a rival wrestling company or disparages a top babyface in the promotion.
Back in 1995, WCW President Eric Bischoff decided to take a similar approach and remove specific fan signs that did not align with WCW's creative storylines or programming at the time.
During a recent episode of Eric Bischoff's 83 Weeks Podcast, the former Executive Director of Friday Night SmackDown admitted that the decision to remove certain fan signs was entirely his. Eric Bischoff was also quick to state that, in hindsight, it was probably the wrong decision:
"It was my decision, Turner didn't have any influence; they could have, but that didn't happen. WCW was about as autonomous an operation as it could possibly be. At least, it was for 1993, '94, '95, '96. It started to change, but for that 3 or 4 [year] period of time, we were very autonomous. We had very little influence, control, concern, or communication from anybody from Turner Broadcasting unless we did something really f***ing stupid." (h/t Wrestling INC)
"Looking back, I think it was the wrong decision. WWE has probably followed in my footsteps of wrong decisions in some cases. I think the fact that there's such a strict ban on signs in WWE is one of the reasons it's lost some of its energy. When you let fans express themselves, when you let them come in and tell you how they feel, cheer on their favorites, take shots at people that are not their favorites, that's part of the fun. When you take the fun away from the crowd, it definitely affects it." (h/t Wrestling INC)
Eric Bischoff on changing his mind about fan signs during the Monday Night Wars
Continuing to discuss the use of fan signs in WCW, Eric Bischoff revealed why he changed his mind about removing specific fan signs during the Monday Night Wars in the late 1990s.
Eric Bischoff stated that he would grab signs from fans as he walked to the ring on episodes of WCW Monday Nitro. Eric Bischoff explained that this was an attempt to show the viewers of Nitro at home how much of a party it was to the live fans in attendance at the show in comparison to Monday Night RAW:
"You'll notice that when Nitro came along, I reversed my decision and started encouraging signs, so much so that I would grab signs that I found entertaining and walk to the ring with them, showing them to the camera because I knew they would get a lot of attention. I wasn't necessarily doing that because I loved the sign so much, but it was my way of communicating to the audience that when you come to Nitro, it's a party and you can bring your sh** and have fun." (h/t Wrestling INC)
"I know sometimes the signs are a pain in the ass and people do things and write things that are inappropriate, or go against the creative grain, but that's the fun of it. That's what makes wrestling fun. Just like tailgating made football fun." (h/t Wrestling INC)
What are your thoughts on fan signs at professional wrestling shows?