WWE | Pro Wrestling

The WWE and the Death of Kayfabe

While ESPN was putting on its version of the Emmy Awards on Wednesday night, we all got a chance to see Stephanie McMahon in a stunning dress, looking like she was Hollywood royalty and belonged among the masses of celebrities. But did anyone get a glimpse of the picture being passed around the Internet of the owner of the WWE and Ronda Rousey, who also looked stunning in a black and white dress?

I’m no fashion expert and frankly could not care about who was seen and who wasn’t at a sports award show. What does get me a little heated is the fact that McMahon and Rousey, who not four months ago were standing toe to toe in a squared circle in California at WrestleMania, were chummy and posing for the cameras.

Verne Gagne and Vince McMahon, Sr. must be spinning in their graves right about now. The WWE hammered the final nail in the coffin of Kayfabe a long time ago, but now that looking good and being seen is more important than preserving some amount of secrecy of the business of wrestling, we can honestly say the business we once knew and the “sport” Ric Flair, Lou Thesz and others tried their best to protect has finally died a painful death.

A moment of silence, if you will (thanks, Dusty).

While there has been some degree of disbelief in this business since I was a child, and has been reiterated over and over again as sports entertainment rather than wrestling, the company that has taken away every ounce of competition and has created its own vacuum with monopolization has done it again. The WW has proven it does not matter who stands side by side for a photo opportunity.

Way to go, Vince. You are so desperate to control the camera and media attention, you have lost sight of what you father and other promoters from that era had built as a business shrouded in secrecy.

As Ric Flair once said, some wrestlers would sleep with their titles, because they meant so much to them.

Not anymore, Nature Boy.

Loosely by definition, Kayfabe is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as “real” or “true,” specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or pre-determined nature. Kayfabe has also evolved to become a code word of sorts for maintaining this “reality” within the realm of the general public. Though the general public had been aware of the staged nature of professional wrestling for decades.

Kayfabe is often seen as the suspension of disbelief that is used to create the non-wrestling aspects of promotions, such as feuds, angles, and gimmicks, in a manner similar to other forms of fictional entertainment. In relative terms, a wrestler breaking kayfabe during a show would be likened to an actor breaking character on camera. Also, since wrestling is performed in front of a live audience, whose interaction with the show is crucial to the show’s success (see pop), one might compare kayfabe to the fourth wall, since there is hardly any conventional fourth wall to begin with.

In years past, one tool that promoters and wrestlers had in preserving kayfabe was in their ability to attract a loyal paying audience in spite of limited or nearly nonexistent exposure.

This is hardly the case now that the Internet, social media, snapchat and Twitter have all helped to create a wrestling community that is always ahead of the game. It also does not help seeing favorite superstars hobnobbing with the opponents they just brawled with at a live show or chatting with each other on Twitter accounts.

Wrestlers in the 1970s and early 1980s could not be in the same dressing room together or eat in the same restaurant together or even share the same section of an airplane for travel. They rode the back roads and kept themselves together like a close fraternity or secret society.

That would never happen now that John Cena is dating Nikki Bella and E! Entertainment has an arm bar on Total Divas.

As a wrestling generation slowly fades away, so does the belief that wrestling in some fashion was a cult-like business. Now, it’s high end business with major stakes and an open door that anyone who wants to know anything about the WWE or TNA or ROH can easily access. This wasn’t what I remember to be “wrestling” as Gordon Solie used to call it, but then again, the McMahons have taken away the idea that this is in fact a “sport” and is more entertainment.

I suppose that’s why two pretty women on a red carpet in Hollywood should not mean that much in the grand scheme of things. But to a wrestling purest, it means more than you will ever know.

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