There’s been a recent renaissance in the world of expressive wrestling fans in the past few months. Instead of hand-made signs focusing on a favorite wrestler or proclaiming that a local friend sucks, everyone seems to be bringing signs about their opinions on video games and crowd shots suddenly resemble a sea of GameFAQs forum signatures.
How did we get here?
As both a nerd and someone who pays too much attention to what wrestling fans bring to events, FanFyte have politely asked me to type up something to explain this recent phenomenon and get some sweet nerd clicks while they’re at it.
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The trend was ushered in by a man who we will dub Nerd Sign Guy until a better name comes along. He doesn’t appear to have any social media account promoting himself, which in the world of Frank The Clown, Green Shirt Guy, and That Guy With Long Hair Who Brings His Mum To Every Episode of Raw is kind of refreshing.
He was by no means the first person to start dragging video game discourse into wrestling signs, but the sheer volume of Nerd Sign Guy’s effort has definitely been the catalyst to spur on other nerds to grab a few sharpies and A3 sheets to show the world that if you get five nerds together, you’re going to sixty opinions thrown around. But in the interest of fairness, here’s a fan getting a LOCALIZE MOTHER 3 sign on camera at WWE Money In The Bank 2017.
He started popping up with his small army of opinions in 2017 and tended to sit at the entrance ways of WWE, AEW & Impact shows which, enabled him to get the most visibility for his Music Video to Subterranean Homesick Blues’ level of commitment. They’d generally be nonsensical references to gaming or wrestling, such as BRING BACK TEKNO TEAM 2000 and YOU MUST DEFEAT SHEN LONG TO STAND A CHANCE.
Honestly, I found him a tad annoying during this time as he reminded me of Matt Striker’s commentary: rampant subject dropping just to prove he knew a thing. Nerds can sometimes be their own worst enemies when it comes to expounding with topics no-one’s asked about. Plus, who hasn’t heard about Street Fighter in 2017? Anyway, I think he knew this and decided to bring a sign about me at Impact Wrestling’s Homecoming and I suddenly appreciated his effort and commitment.
I mean, paying good money for prime seats and having to write down your sworn enemy’s name in fine ink while carrying it for several hours? Respect where it’s due.
That aside, It wasn’t until he started giving his opinions on certain RPGs that he had nerds reaching for PrtScr and 911.
Alright, insulting a beloved gaming franchise that’s only sold around 32 million copies worldwide, that’s fine. Goofy can take it and Square-Enix have enough problems to be worrying about (like what happened to that Legacy Of Kain sequel?)
Alright, insulting a beloved fighting game character who refuses to stay dead, that’s fine. He’s too busy starring in Tekken 7 to worry, plus the “fans/fawns” pun is pretty good.
But at Clash Of The Champions 2017, Nerd Sign Guy would record his first hit single.
Look, you can come at Donald Duck and Raging Storm and those fanbases may notice it and frown, but Final Fantasy VIII fans are different. From day one they’ve been having people yell in their ear that it’s not as good as VII, Squall is unlikable, the Junction system sucks etc. and etc. and etc. Almost-forgotten YouTuber Spoony got the most attention of his entire career when he criticized a game that sold over 9.6 million copies worldwide and generated just as much praise as he did criticism. So a guy using his expensive wrestling seats to tell the world that Square’s fever dream sucks had a much different affect.
On March 4th 2019 this sign popped up on Monday Night Raw:
I like to think the fan with The Man shirt is seeing the sign behind him on the Titantron and is raising his fist to show his support. YEAH FINALLY SOMEONE SAID IT he thinks. SAY SOMETHING NOW he yells.
One month later at the April 2nd 2019 episode of Smackdown, Nerd Sign Guy said something.
FINAL FANTASY 8 IS FILTH.
Someone joined in the Triple Triad a month later at the May 1st edition of Raw and decided to drag in FFX-2 to the debate. I’d write something about that game being fun until you grow up and move on in your life, but I’m a wrestling fan in his thirties so I’ll move on.
Because of nerds like myself screenshotting photos of this wonderful game of obnoxious tennis, the Final Fantasy VIII Wrestling Sign Story gained more notice in the wrestling bubble. It was further expanded when Hangman Page took a rest on the outside during his match at AEW All Out 2019 and seemed to look directly into one person’s opinion on Final Fantasy Tactics.
There were a few more signs here and there about various RPGs (mostly FF) but then COVID hit and like the second half of Twin Peaks Season Two, nothing much happened. I like to think the combination of forced seclusion and depressingly awful wrestling built up this pressure among a lot of nerdy grappling fans. People around the world were realizing that having opinions on video games are only good if you can share them with the world, and there’s only so much serotonin that Twitter can produce.
So when AEW were finally able to have fans at their shows again, the heavens opened up and tiny opinions came spilling out.
This is just a selection of the signs caught on TV or photographed by other fans at the returning AEW shows. Many video-game loving fans were more than happy to hold up their viewpoints with the intention of summoning agreements or arguments from the worst corners of the internet.
The original Nerd Sign Guy had no choice but to return and reclaim his throne like Sugar Ray Leonard un-retiring to sort out Marvellous Marvin Haggler. On August 11th AEW Dynamite, he didn’t disappoint, bringing a wonderful array of signage including ALADDIN FOR SNES IS INFERIOR (which I furiously agree with and will forever defend Nerd Sign Guy for).
The Wrestling Nerd Sign Outbreak received even more attention when someone brought a sign supporting influential FGC YouTuber Maximilian Dood’s campaign to #FreeMVC2.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 has of course been denied re-releases on any modern console because of Marvel being worth considerably more than when Capcom used their license in the late 90s, so fans have to resort to letting companies know “hey it’ll be worth it if you paid them what they’re asking, honest!” Support like this hasn’t changed anything yet but we at least know Capcom are “aware” of the trend, no thanks to cool people like the above bringing signs to wrestling shows that have absolutely nothing to do with the FGC. Since then there’s been a rise in requests for certain fighting game characters to be buffed (made less strong), remasters of Fallout: New Vegas, and to politely play Disco Elysium.
I didn’t want to spend the entire article thinking for all these cool dudes so I messaged Twitter user Dak City about why he chose to bring the particular below sign to AEW’s Grand Slam event.
“The only character left that I really wanted added to Smash was Master Chief. I had to have my voice heard, especially in case we got some nerd like Sora instead.”
Uhhh, well sorry about that Dak.
As I type this up, the trend of nerd signs appears to not be slowing down. Even when AEW ran Arthur Ashe Stadium, which had a no-sign policy, Dak was able to smuggle the above opinion in. The movement is currently expanding into other companies including mega-indie GCW…
…at Living Colour’s set during Riot Fest 2021…
…and even that little New York company you may have heard of.
Where the trend will probably die a horrible, horrible death if those kind of thoughts are being shown on camera.
One of my favorite little bits of Garth Ennis’ Preacher is the brief story of the failed astronaut Jonny Lee Wombat. After getting rejected by NASA, Wombat gets his rocks off by using his nearby fields to plough an enormous message that can only be viewed by orbiting astronauts. It’s his only way of communicating with the spacemen above him as he’s able to listen to their disgust via his radio equipment, with his story concluding with him hearing the exact moment the latest astronaut spots his message, with the disgust in his voice delighting little Jonny Lee.
Whenever I spot a new sign in the crowd, I think about Wombat and his closing remarks summing up his behavior:
Will people stop bringing nerd signs to shows? If they do, it’ll be because they’ll have moved onto expressing different opinions on films, comics or music. In which case I just want to say that I’ve been Maffew, and Ride The Lightning is better than Master of Puppets.