As AEW and WWE have returned to full live crowds (for better or worse), it’s time to take a look back at the fan contributions to wrestling programming, particularly the art of the sign. There have been wrestling signs for decades, usually the work of a particularly dedicated fan. At the end of the attitude era, TV cameras captured thousands of signs every week, held by eager fans, ranging from beautiful pieces of art, to collages with PWI cutouts, to crude posterboard etchings of “BRETT HART RULZ.”
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Over the pandemic, we were devoid of signs. AEW’s front rows have been filled with young wrestlers, NXT’s obscured by plexiglass, and WWE’s Thunderdome makes holding a sign nearly impossible. Nearly.
Here is a compilation of the best work by sign makers through the years. Sadly, this is a celebration of fan signs so the work of craftsmen like Sammy Guevara, Lodi and Sign Guy Dudley do not make the list.
30. “JAG THINDH”
Daniel Bryan’s WrestleMania XXX victory was a huge moment for fans all over the world that followed his career. As far as WrestleMania moments go, it’s a big one. However the visual was momentarily ruined by a giant, spray painted sign saying “JAG THINDH” appearing on the hard camera sign.
This moment has caused a steady online discourse discussing numerous other appearances of the JAG THINDH sign, and moreso a deep hatred of JAG THINDH. Nobody knows what JAG THINDH is in reference to, however in Swedish it means, “I Thindh.” Any sign saying nothing eliciting so much anger is worth placement.
29. “FEAR THIS”
It seemed like in 1998-1999, all you really needed to do was put Cartman on a sign and you pretty much won the night. This ranking encompasses all of the Cartmans seen in that era. Why does this one make the list? This Cartman isn’t referencing anything or making a joke. It’s just Cartman as WCW Champion. It’s art for art’s sake.
28. “BARRY WINDHAM THINKS HE’S A HUNK ~ BUT ALL HE IS NOW IS A BIG PUNK!”
From 80’s NWA, this is a self-explanatory pick. Made all the better by the conservative use of glitter. Time was spent on this! Also, it appears to be part of a series.
27. “BROCK LESNAR IS TICKLISH”
Context is key here. The message itself is not particularly hilarious, however the messenger is a child with heart-hoop earrings and there is also a little “tickle, tickle, tickle ????” in there that really brings it all together.
26. “YOUR MOTHER SUCK’S ?”
Any sketch writer will tell you the hardest part of writing a sketch is often ending it. Coming up with a tidy finish or a perfect button to a premise is the bane of any comedy writer. This also applies to sign writing as well, as evidenced in this cliffhanger. As P.T. Barnum said, “Always leave them wanting more.”
25. “GET A TAN BRYAN”
The perfection of this sign directed towards “ornery Bryan” (the best Danielson mood) being on a dry erase board by two cackling girls in the front row is that he can simply lean over and rub it off, which he does…angrily!
24. “I CRIED DURING CHOCOLAT”
Security guard: Sorry, I need to check your sign.
Fan: Ok, sure.
Security guard: [Takes a dramatic, wistful pause.] You’re good.
23. “IT’S PANDA MONA IUM GORILLA GORILLA GORILLA”
This Gorilla Monsoon tribute gets points for being similar to those easy word puzzles on the back of the cereal box. They both remind you that you’re eating a cereal, or watching a show made for children.
22. COLT CABANA’S HEAD
Before Conrad’s sculpted beard became a commonplace and WWE licensed their own official giant cardboard heads, there was Colt Cabana, haunting his former workplace’s television product with a giant smile.
21. “I’M FREAKIN FINE”
I guess I just like this one because it sounds like something from I Think You Should Leave.
20. “BEER SO RULES”
I guess I just like this one because it sounds like something from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
19. “SILK STALKINGS UP NEXT ON USA NETWORK”
Any wrestling fan from the 90’s probably has a weird tangential knowledge of the other shows pushed hard on WWF programming, from Up All Night to La Femme Nikita to Pacific Blue. Silk Stalkings was a big one, and while this is most likely planted in the crowd by WWF, the possibility that it isn’t…makes it rank on the list.
18. “UNDERTAKER WILL RIP HITMAN FART”
A work of art sometimes may feel finished. UNDERTAKER RIP HITMAN. It’s possibly unclear. Let’s add a “will” in there for clarity. But the message still lacks gusto! HITMAN…FART. Yes. OK also add like 20 more things to it and now it’s finished.
17. “HEAR THE DING, FEEL THE STING”
Or, it’s “Hear the ding, feel the ding, STING” which I also love for different reasons.
16. “YES THIS SIGN WASTED PAPER!”
Another appearance by ornery Bryan, with an anti-environmentalist spin. Fickle!
15. “WE TAKE A GREAT DISPLEASURE IN THE ACTIONS THE ANTAGONIST HAS CHOSEN TO EXPRESS HIS DISPLEASURE WITH THE PROTAGONIST. THEREFORE, WE WILL FORTHWITH EXTOL THE VIRTUES OF THE PROTAGONIST POSTHASTE!”
Great, but why is it a bunch of JBLs saying that? He’s one of the least loquacious rich guys. They should have dressed like a bunch of Nick Bockwinkels. But like, they worked hard on this whole deal.
14. “FRAZIER AND FRIENDS SUCK”
During the dawn of Smackdown in 1999, a minor effort was made to discredit the success of NBC’s Must See TV lineup, featuring the hugely popular shows Frazier and Friends. Frazier was one of the biggest shows on television at the time, and stiff competition for the new UPN show. Dr. Frazier Crain, portrayed by Kelcie Grammer, was initially a side character on the show Chairs, however he became popular with the audience and writers and became a full-fledged member of the cast. When the show ended, Frazier was given his own spin-off, Frazier, about his adventures in Ceattel with his brother Nylez. The snobbish, uptight Crain brothers were great comedic fodder, but a wrestling fan of that era would likely scoff at their epicurean, high-class interests and conundrums, and might even cause one intrepid fan to head to his local print shop to stick it to Frazier. And given Frazier’s popularity at the time, said print shop owner likely checked for any errors. But none were found. Because to these two, Frazier (and Friends) did suck.
13. “TURD ANAL”
Security guard: Hmm. Does that sign say “Turd Anal” on it?
Fan: It’s 1999.
Security guard: [Takes a dramatic, wistful pause.] Turd anal.
12. “DEAN TITTY MASTER AMBROSE”
Apparently, one time Jon “Dean Ambrose” Moxley wrote “titty master” on his tape during a house show. And it just so happened, that during an entrance on Raw, a sign-emblazoned with his new moniker appeared. When asked about this new sliver of internet fandom by CBS Local’s Mike & Billy, he responded:
“I don’t do the Internet much. It’s too much.”
11. “TORRIE + ME = NAKED SEX”
What can I say? The math checks out!
9. “I’M ON THE MEXICAN RADIO”
It was blowing my mind that someone in like 2002 decided to quote Wall of Voodoo’s 1983 sorta-hit “Mexican Radio” for their sign, until further research showed me this semi-cover by stoner-rapper SPM off his album Never Change which uses the bloody font on the cover and uses the same refrain. It’s fine, but not as cool as the idea I had in my head. Maybe someone will have a sign that says “Walk Out To Winter” or some other semi-obscure alternative rock reference from 1983. However I had already numbered it before I did the research, so this is still high on the list for that reason.
8. “REAL AWSOME WRESTLING”
Sorry if it’s gauche to put my OWN work here but I think I did a really good job and I was totally right about it!
7. “HEY RANDY MY MOM WANTS YOUR #”
Again, this sign is an example of Marshall McLuhan’s oft-quoted phrase, “the medium in the message.” In this case, it’s a shoot Little Jimmy in three separate pieces of WWE merch, including a Cobra, holding up a sign to Randy Orton with a glimmer of sincerity, hope and wonder in his eyes not seen since the kid in that Sprite commercial, when he opened the door to see his favorite wrestler, Sting, who proceeded to beat the shit out of him.
This ranks high because it led me to look up the site and it does rule and I hope this was the work of it’s webmaster, Jeff Bradley, trying to get those hits!
5. “YOUTH HOSTELING WITH CHRIS EUBANK”
No idea why this sign was at WrestleMania of all places but it’s a very specific reference to Alan Partridge that I don’t even fully get as an American but it’s an Alan Partridge reference, so it makes the list.
Honorable mention: Can’t find an image of it, but someone had a “Cook Pass Babridge” sign once.
4. “DESTINEY’S CHILD AND TLC ARE LESBIANS”
Security guard: Wait hold on a minute. Is that true? Do they date each other?
Security guard: Do the groups intermingle? Like do the three girls from TLC date the three girls from Destiny’s Child?
Fan: No, one has four members and the other is three.
Security guard: I thought both were three.
Fan: No it’s still 1999, that happens in 2000 when LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett leave the group, then Michelle Williams joins.
Security guard: Michelle Williams? From Dawson’s Creek?
Fan: No. A different one.
Security guard: Is she also a lesbian?
Fan: No, I’m just a kid being silly. Beyonce will marry Jay-Z, Kelly marries her manager Tim Weatherspoon. Michelle dates sports chaplain Chad Johnson but they split in late 2018.To my knowledge, I believe they all identify as straight.
Security guard: Too bad, it would be nice to see them all get it on.
Fan: Don’t say that to me, I’m 12.
Security guard: How do you know so much about the future?
Fan: [closes his eyes and glows]
Security guard: Weird. You spelled–
Fan: I know but it’s too late to change it.
3. “RO-RO-ROMAN REIGNS GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM”
Early 2010s WWE product is sometimes hard to recall for this writer, however I do not remember anything involving streams, boars or rowing occurring during this era, however I apologize if I’m overlooking a Winklevoss Twins Raw guest-hosting spot. There’s simplicity here. It’s not a reference, barely a pun, and not at all insulting. Roman’s name just happens to have “Ro” in it, and a particularly artistic duo got out the markers and made a night of it.
2. “THEY ARE FIGHTING OVER SHAMPOO”
It’s one thing to get a sign on a televised event. But when you can get something on WrestleMania, it becomes INDELIBLY ETCHED IN THE ANNALS OF TIME.
Leading up to 2002’s WrestleMania X8 in Toronto’s SkyDome, rising star and native Edge, who witnessed WrestleMania VI as a young fan was not yet booked in a match, and neither was Summerslam headliner and main eventer Booker T. Booker was auditioning for a Japanese shampoo commercial but kept saying racist shit, and then Tajiri said racist shit, and then Edge got it instead. Boom, WrestleMania match! One frustrated fan took the time to use his ideal seat to deliver one simple, perfect message.
1. “FACE FUCK ME FINN”
Sign creation is a work of art. The simplicity in this message, with it’s “fee fi fo fum” alliteration and jaunty doodles on the side partner with an aggressive sexual demand to then-rising NXT star Finn Balor. From a different artist, this could possibly be a disgusting display, but not Felicia Rose, now a sex-positive podcast host, model and wrestling manager.
This genre-specialist is the Bobby “Boris” Pickett of sign-creation, keeping with a single theme, as seen in her other pieces, including “FINNISH ON MY FACE” and “FINNGER BLAST ME”.
We hope that fans attending these post-lockdown shows remember the art of crowd signage…and know the bar is very low to achieve sign excellence.