During this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw from Manchester, England, it was blindingly obvious that WWE in their infinite wisdom had decided to turn the volume of the arena microphones to an insanely low level, falsely creating the appearance of a dead audience.

According to Dave Meltzer on his latest Wrestling Observer Radio show, this was because WWE “were afraid of the chants” from a traditionally capricious British crowd. Knowing that they couldn’t control the strong-willed Brits through their booking, the production decision was made to tone them down instead, in order to ensure that any bad reactions weren’t aired back at home in the States.

Not only did they use their silencers, but WWE also piped in fake crowd noise at times to overwhelm the muffled organic response, in particular for the opening segment where they added cheers to make it seem like the audience was predominantly behind Roman Reigns’ heroic decision to turn down Triple H’s duplicitous offer of being his new chosen one. According to Wrestling Observer correspondent Stephen Lyon, the live crowd actually turned on Reigns for this gallant act:

“Crowd desperately wanted Reigns to accept Triple H’s offer of becoming the Authority’s guy and booed heavily when he turned it down. The funny thing was, as much as Reigns was booed, I saw tons and tons of adult males buying and wearing the new Reigns t-shirt, which was by far the top seller at the merch stands. My perception is, at least amongst the crowd I was with tonight, he doesn’t have the same negative stigma that Cena has, but people don’t want to like him as a babyface, they want to like him as a heel (if that makes sense). It’s such a weird dichotomy that the best way to get him over as a babyface is to turn him heel (a throwback to that old Steve Austin/Rock ‘Rebel’ thing, I think).”

This is the conundrum that has baffled WWE for many years: how do they develop a sponsor friendly, kids hero without alienating the adult male demographic in the process that grew up with Stone Cold raising hell? The answer obviously isn’t sticking to their tired formulas and using their production magic to manipulate as much as possible the crowd reaction in troublesome markets to create a safe, homogenized output. Is it any wonder that Monday Night Raw‘s ratings this week sunk even further: when faced with the loss of even more star power due to injury, WWE decided to put on a very paint by numbers show and made it even more sterile by squeezing all the enthusiasm out of the crowd in post production!