A Blurring of the Lines: Kayfabe vs. Reality
by, 05-22-2012 at 10:43 AM (6011 Views)
Hi everyone, Dr. Death here with another Blog, it's been awhile since I posted a blog and I thought we'd take a look at the reality and kayfabe lines in pro-wrestling, where and when they cross and why. Over the years we have seen many storylines come and go, some based entirely on a kayfabe (or imaginary/scripted) incident, and some based on an actual reality (or real) involvement. So, what does kayfabe stand for and how did the term start? Let's take a look.
Kayfabe - Although the original origin of the "kayfabe" term is lost in antiquity, there still remains 2 widely popular beliefs in the wrestling world as to it's inception.
1. Back when pro-wrestling was seen only in carnivals, "carny's" used the term as a code for "protect the secrets of the business", along with making collect calls home for a "Kay Fabian" letting family know that they have made it safely to their destination without having to pay for a telephone call.
2. The more popular belief is that "kayfabe" is actually a form of Pig-Latin for "be fake" or "only in the storyline" when it came to pro-wrestling performers.
Knowing this enables us to see past what's real and what's not in the storylines we see today. Many times are wrestlers told to not break kayfabe when out in public, this was especially true in the past so as to not give away that the wrestling industry was scripted. Nowadays with the world of the internet, smarter fans, and DVD releases, it's not as important for wrestlers to hold kayfabe in public. The uses for kayfabe are many and usually are used to tell a story in order to "hide" any real life event in that particular wrestler's life. Things such as relationships; injuries; being fired; and a wrestler quitting are usually used in a particular wrestler's storyline kayfabe wise so that they can take time off to heal; spend with their families; re-invent their character; or even pursue some other line of work just to take a break from the rigorous travelling schedule that the pro-wrestling industry demands of them.
There have been several examples of breaking kayfabe throughout wrestling history. It should be pointed out that what exactly constitutes "breaking" is rather difficult to define. It is rare for kayfabe to be dispensed with totally and the events acknowledged as scripted. Often the "break" may be implied or through an allusion (for example calling a wrestler by his/her real name) and standards tend to vary as to what is a break. In the WWE during and after the Attitude Era, the line between kayfabe and reality was often blurred. One of the most recognizable "blurred" broken lines of kayfabe into reality was without a doubt the infamous Montreal Screwjob.
I won't go into detail about this match except to state that McMahon and Shawn Michaels screwed Bret Hart out of the then WWF Title. This resulted in Hart spitting on, then punching Vince McMahon. This storyline was so blurred between reality and kayfabe that it set the wrestling world on it's ear, and even set other wrestlers to arguing if it was real or part of the storyline. Another more recent example is the infamous "pipe-bomb" by CM Punk on RAW before he won the WWE Title off John Cena @ MITB 2011. The breaking of kayfabe into reality in this instance was done during Punk's promo which you can see here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Is9SdaC-X8.
In the tribute shows for Brian Pillman, Owen Hart, Eddie Guerrero, and Chris Benoit, many wrestlers and officials, including those who had kayfabe feuds with them, spoke in their honor. In Owen's case, the show has garnered a reputation as one of the most memorable Raw episodes in history, and has even been labeled "Raw is Owen" by several wrestling fans. Kayfabe and real life came into serious conflict on June 25, 2007, when the actual death of Chris Benoit necessitated an appearance by WWE chairman Vince McMahon on his Raw program which aired that same day, even though the character of McMahon had been "killed" in an automobile explosion on a previous episode. The death angle was scrapped, as was the regularly scheduled Raw program. Instead, a tribute to Benoit was broadcast. However, the circumstances surrounding the death of Chris Benoit and his family led McMahon to also appear in person on the ECW broadcast the following night as well, making the last mention of Benoit's name on WWE television.
An example of a kayfabe storyline that actually turned real is the relationship of Woman -(Nancy Benoit) and Chris Benoit brought about by a kayfabe storyline involving the Kevin Sullivan and Chris Benoit feud. Woman was actually married to Kevin Sullivan during the start of this feud, and in the storyline Benoit takes Woman away from Sullivan, afraid to break kayfabe, Sullivan ordered his wife to travel with Benoit at all times which eventually lead to a real life divorce from Sullivan and the marriage of Nancy and Chris Benoit. Talk about real life heat for a feud. Wow, these two did not like each other as what was supposed to be kayfabe turned real for all involved which also lead to the intensity of Sullivan's and Benoit's matches in which they were legitimately trying to hurt one another.
So what are we to believe in the storylines today? Most generally they are kayfabe, every once in awhile things turn real and creative tries to capitalize on the moment. We could spend hours debating and analyzing real life fights that break out backstage, or feuds that spill over into storylines, but the one fact that remains the same is that in pro-wrestling today the blurring lines of kayfabe vs real life are becoming more and more frequent in order to keep the "smarks" on their toes. Wrestling entertainment is falling rapidly as these lines blur more often and with each passing it becomes harder to tell the difference. Every wrestling promotion uses these blurring tactics to try to gain viewers. So what's real and what's kayfabe? I'll let you decide, but remember - sometimes it's better not to decide as alot of the entertainment value is lost in the separation of the two.