Breaking Kayfabe - The Lost Art of Professional Wrestling
by, 09-06-2013 at 02:24 PM (7377 Views)
Hi all, I am a 20+ year avid fan of professional wrestling and a reader of this website for a couple of years now. This is my first blog so bear with me as I am not as knowledgeable as most. In fact, I love reading posts and comments and learning new facts about professional wrestling throughout history. I check youtube videos and have read books of some great moments that I never had a chance to witness myself.
That being said as we enter the reality era of professional wrestling what does the future hold? For the last half century professional wrestling was built on kayfabe. Every great match had the feel that each of the competitors was wrestling for a reason, not just entertainment. No one knew that matches were planned and that the guys were friends in the back. Great spots are a big part of any match, but the best matches are built from a bitter rivalry or the finale of someone finally getting over which puts a smile on any wrestling fans face.
I think back to a few great matches of just the past few years. Flair v Michaels (2008), Cena v Punk (2011), Bryan v Cena (2013), and they all had something very real behind it. It wasn't "fake" wrestling as we all have come to know with Twitter, non-stop interviews, red carpet events and goodness Total Divas (although I do watch this with my wife). Each of those matches had a real fight feel to them. To see Flair retire on the grandest stage of them all even thought it was expected he was going to lose. My wife still remembers to this day when Shawn Michaels mouthed, "I love you," before applying the Sweet Chin Music. To see Punk walk out with the title even with some interference when he may not have had a contract? To see Daniel Bryan at 5'8" whose rise to stardom has been amazing really beat John Cena who did what was really right for business and put him over in the middle of the ring.
There of course is a place and meaning for everything. Kofi Kingston doing an hand stand and preventing himself from being eliminated in the Royal Rumble was definitely pretty cool, but that isn't going to make a 5 star match.
When I watched Total Divas and saw Fandango out of character it ruined him for me or Roman Reigns talking casually to Eva Marie and JoJo in the gym it made me step back a think. Reigns is a member of the ruthless shield and he just hangs out in fitness factories chilling out? The thinking is that how could Tyson Kidd be looked at seriously after he looks like a doofus treating Natalya that way, even if it for TV. Daniel Bryan is like himself in the ring, but watching Nikki Bella drool over John Cena (who I think is one of the greatest ever) hurts his strong character. That is what is wrong with wrestling today.
Remember when Edge and Matt Hardy went at it after there was the real life dispute over Lita? And Hardy put him over. That is the cool part of wrestling, what happens when the 4th wall is not broken (or is it, but we will never know). There is a code that is not broken. That is what sells PPV's and eventually the WWE and TNA need to realize that. I understand big matches can't happen every month like Summerslam 2013, but that can happen more often if we started going back to the days of kayfabe when the line between real and fake were mixed.
The Undertaker is a great example of this and because of it he is one of the most respected workers of all time. At WM29 this year having never attended the biggest stage of them all, I first hand understood the power of his undefeated streak. I wasn't a Taker fan at all until then, it truly changed me forever. You really wondered if CM Punk was going to take him down. If Cena faces him next year, maybe he will be the one? Awesome.
The thing is even at WM (part time era) and for all of the haters who love the attitude era it didn't do long term wrestling any favors. The belts were handed around like candy, the entertainment aspect was obscene and short sided, and now we are stuck with a low fan base because all of those real fans have left. Hulk Hogan didn't become a megastar because he drove beer trucks (Steve Austin is awesome), but because he was an American hero who beat everyone from militants to giants. Everyone wanted to be like Hulk Hogan and I know there will be the John Cena comparisons, but he is a good role model and that is the truth. These days story lines are barely developed and there is no real heat, tell me one guy on the roster other than maybe Del Rio who can generate any real heat. Goodness...Vickie Guerrero, but if they pulled her off for a year and brought her back she would probably be missed and cheered.
And don't say they can't do it. They can do it because Vince has always been a top advocate of free speech. He is looking at the short term, not the long term. I remember when a 3.1 rating would have made the smarks say WWE was over for good. Now it is common for weekly 3.1 ratings on RAW. I watch it every week and love it, but it is practically pathetic.
With all the IWC and dirt sheets it is hard to sneak by sometimes, but the WWE is practically a monopoly at this point and they could be smarter.
Lastly, you can see it today with the Daniel Bryan/Randy Orton feud. Daniel Bryan is the most over wrestler I have seen since John Cena in 2006 and the only way the writers can draw heat is by having Orton cash in. It was a smart move and is making an interesting story line, but no one really has heat against Orton or HHH. Everyone cheers for them and are excited to see HHH and Vince at every RAW. We all know that Bryan is the real face until Cena comes back. That is a real rivalry in the making and you don't need to pick who is the heel and who is the face to make it interesting. It will be THE match to see who is the real face of the WWE.
It is sad to see Paul Heyman and CM Punk succumb to the lack of real story telling. Punk is a great performer and Paul E is pracictally a legend when it comes to managing, but Curtis Axel at NOC. After what happened with Lesnar at Summerslam. That is what happens when you pick entertainment over wrestling.
Bring back kayfabe. WWE is a social media powerhouse. Heels could be imbeded as bad guys and create real long term rivalries where every match is important, not just the one or two every six months.
Make wrestling more interesting again and just like dad and son, mother and daughter watch football on Sunday. They can all pull up a chair and watch Cena v Bryan or Punk v Bryan or whom ever else for the title bout.
That is how you build big ratings and long term fans. Wrestling. Building multiple top guys. We are getting there and it will take time. I am ready for the ride. Let's not continue breaking kayfabe.
Would love your thoughts good and bad.
- The YY