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Kayfabe Is Dead

I remember when I began watching wrestling again in the mid 90s, my buddies and I would drive down once a month to take in an ECW show at the famed ECW Arena, or sometimes we’d stay closer to home on those rare shows where ECW stayed close to Philly without actually being at the beloved bingo hall. And I remember the one friend of the group had signed up to receive the weekly newsletters mailed to his house so that he could get the (delayed) inside scoop. But I remember it well, the one time we went to the arena for a show, and there were mystery opponents involved and the newsletter had detailed exactly who at least one would be. It was a whole new world of watching wrestling for me, with that curtain ever so slightly pulled back.

As things evolved and the internet blew up, we went from newsletters being mailed out weekly, to web sites and blogs churning things out in a 24×7 cycle. A near constant stream of news and opinions, and a world where everyone wants to know everything about everyone. If kayfabe was taking a hit with the newsletters, and took a major shot with the Kliq/MSG incident? Social media and the internet very well may have completely killed it. Look on wikipedia, and you can pretty much learn any wrestler’s real name, personal information and more. And it’s not exactly like the wrestlers, or WWE, make it too terribly difficult, either. Many wrestlers have Facebook and Twitter and other social media, and while it’s been embraced as a way to reach out to fans, it changes the dynamic. And then WWE embraces another avenue, reality TV, most notably with Total Divas. Anyone who has seen it knows that while you get some of the Divas in character, any time you get Mr. and Mrs. Danielson on screen, he is Bryan. Not Daniel, as WWE fans know him from RAW and other programs.

So, with news of Lana and Rusev’s engagement breaking recently, and Vince McMahon rumored to be not-so-happy about the news getting out, I have one question to ask. Can WWE really be mad about it?

In 1985, it was easy to keep things quieter. The veil of illusion was not impossible to maintain. The internet was just a pipe dream, no one had heard of reality television, and people were happy to just be entertained by guys named Hulk Hogan, Brutus the Barber Beefcake and others. No one cared to know that those guys were really Terry Bollea and Ed Leslie. But now? Now that information is super-common.

And, when it comes to news stories, WWE is still a big name, and the wrestlers are in many cases, larger than life. Someone like Rusev has a hard time going somewhere and not being noticed, and someone like Lana? She attracts attention. Vince might not like it, but his talent will have lives outside of the squared circle, and in this day and age where everything is recorded and everyone has a camera or three on them, it’s exceedingly rare for something to happen that wasn’t chronicled by someone. So, if two wrestlers, or a wrestler and a Diva are an item, odds are it’s going to be known, and by many, quickly. So while Vince had Lana and Rusev on opposing sides of a feud, he also should have known that in real life, they were romantically attached, and planned accordingly. He can be mad all he wants, but unless they were sneaking around and no one knew about their relationship, then he can’t be mad at anyone but himself. And even if they were keeping things private, as much as they are Superstars in the public eye, why should it matter if they want to have some tiny semblance of a private lives?

Even if McMahon and company didn’t embrace social media, the internet and reality television as they have, things like wikipedia and blog sites like this one would have an abundance of news, gossip and opinion about all of his wrestlers. In this era, it’s inevitable. But if he had done, or was doing, his best to maintain that secrecy and mystery around his roster, I could understand his anger over a paparazzi shot blowing up a mid-card program. But he doesn’t try to keep them out of the public eye, so having him-or anyone else in WWE-be upset that their globally recognized talents become a news item? And that news item alters a storyline? That’s just absurd. You can’t push your talents constantly and in every medium known to man, and then get upset when one of those mediums pushes them too, just in a way you had no control over. I suppose, if anything, I am just surprised that it took this long for something like this to happen.

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  • Edynol

    I agree with most of your post. But I don’t believe kayfabe is entirely dead yet. And as for Vince being angry, I think he has a right to be. Yes, SocMed has a large influence in entertainment as a whole, not just wrestling, but it is still possible to keep things secret, as WWE has proven themselves with surprise appearances that no one at all expected. Like when the Rock confronted Rusev last year. Or just about every time Jericho makes a return. The ones who are really killing kayfabe are the talents themselves not showing restraint and corporate employees leaking info for a quick buck.

    The thing with Lana and Rusev, I blame Lana and Rusev 100%. Yes, this storyline has been dragged on because of injuries and such and should have ended months ago, but they still should have kept this to themselves until it was over. I mean, people get engaged everyday. It’s not a big deal. How many Hollywood celebs have gotten married in the past few years without people even having a clue they were engaged? A few. So it can be done and it isn’t even hard. Just keep it to yourself.

    Yes, the IWC knew Lana and Rusev were together, it’s not even news to us. But when they go and blurt it out to TMZ, the whole world knows and our suspension of disbelief is shattered. The fans who don’t follow everything on the internet and the kids who believe it’s all real are now aware of this and whatever investment they had in the story is lost and the kids who believed and saw all this now know everything is staged and may get turned off to wrestling altogether.

    It’s like being told Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Yeah eventually a kid will figure it out as they grow up, but if you’re still just a child and are just told, “hey Santa isn’t real”, it crushes you in a way and you lose that sense of wonder and excitement that is hard to get back. Like for me, I still look forward to Christmas morning. My older sister stopped getting excited about it when she was around 11 or 12. Stopped getting up early and everything and smacking me in the head for waking her up. lol. Why, my jerk cousin Larry told her Santa wasn’t real and showed her the pink Huffy bike my parents got her and hid behind bales of hay in the barn(I learned this when I was around 15).

    But for me, I still get excited for Xmas. Why? My belief and sense of wonder wasn’t utterly crushed like my sister’s was. I still get the small sense of wonder on Xmas morning that I can’t really explain. I still wake up early with my daughter, niece, and nephew. Yeah, I figured it out on my own when I was around 13 or 14 when I started developing common sense. The belief wasn’t stripped away from me, which can have long term psychological or behavioral effects on a person at such a young age.

    But I digress. The thing is, the kids who still believed that were exposed to this could have had their beliefs stripped from them and they may become disinterested in pro wrestling for a long time or maybe forever. This is a worst case scenario, I know, but it’s still there. And it’s Lana and Rusev’s fault for flaunting it to TMZ and the world. If they get punished and reduced to jobber status for a while, I won’t blame WWE this time. It is possible to keep kayfabe alive, people just need to be smart and show some restraint when it comes to messing with current story lines.

    • Dorathy

      Nicely put!

      • Edynol

        Thank you!

  • Fat Owens Fat
  • Fat Owens Fat

    Also as long as Total Divas exists, I don’t think a Divas Revolution is possible with the current crop of women who I now know are all BFFs. Maybe the addition of Kharma, some UFC/MMA women and some legit threat like a female Lesnar can do something as long as they stay off the reality tvs.
    Anyway kayfabe died the day Vince started to dream of turning the pro-wrestling scene into an entertainment or weekly soap opera and especially when he replaced wrestling storyline writers with soap-opera writers who are yet to understand the technical wrestling terms.

  • Alejandro

    Congrats to Lana and Rusev for their engagement. If the storyline concluded with Lana turning on Dolph and returning back to Rusev, couldn’t they at least wait until that happened? Bring kayfabe and reality together in one storyline. But then again who knows how long this storyline would have last. Unfortunately for Vince, HHH and the rest of the wrestling companies, they have to deal with the fact that as long as they try to keep some aspects of kayfabe alive, they always have to deal with the unlimited access to the Internet and social media.

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