The question came up while viewing 'The Rise and Fall of The ECW' of whether we would be afraid to attend an ECW match. I would say yes to this question, for two reasons.
First, the energy of the crowd and the dynamic between the wrestlers and the fans seemed really chaotic and borderline(...or not) dangerous. The fans were amazing to watch, being so completely behind the product and involved in its production. What surprised me most was the complete removal of distance between fans and performers. While we see grandiose, wide aisles and expansive stages in the WWE matches from that time that keep a certain available distance for the performers to use in creating dramatic effect. In the ECW matches, we saw Sandman standing practically on top of his screaming fans. yelling and spitting beer on them. The whole concept of the fans bringing their own weapons to offer for the matches is supremely irreverent in these days of metal detectors and bag checks at any major event. The fans were so engaged with the playing of violence, and so close to it, that I would be terrified to have gone to and ECW match, for fear of getting my ass kicked by a fervent fan as much as by the wrestlers.
The second reason why I would be scared to attend an ECW match is that the cohesiveness of the fan base, their seemingly incredible standards for involvement and consistent passion-- I doubt there can be a casual ECW fan. It does have a certain cult quality to it. There is a definite feeling of exclusivity/ fan pride and doubt of outsiders in wrestling in general. This seems like it would be amped up in the ECW.
The wrestlers all seemed to really appreciate this level of engagement with the fans. I wonder how different it felt to perform in matches with the fans so closely knit into the action. I also wonder if fans ever got really hurt. Has anyone been to a match who could reflect on their experience there? (Sam and Josh, I'm sure, have been to many...) Is the performance of the fan we've discussed before more or less conscious in this supercharged audience atmosphere?