Something from the Triple H interview with Stone Cold Steve Austin shed some (blinding) light on a topic that’s really started to bother me.
Kayfabe truly is dead. And it sucks.
Now that probably sounds really weird from someone who covers all the inner workings of pro-wrestling for multiple websites but I’m starting to miss the mystery it all. Sure newsletters have been around for decades but news has never been as readily available as it is now. I realized how ridiculous these culture has become when I was sitting for hours at a computer staring at my news feed waiting for the newest rumor or announcement to appear so I could post it on the website as soon as possible. That’s not what I grew up loving about wrestling.
In the 90s, during the Monday night Wars, the newest rumor or signing became almost more important than what was happening on our TV screens. We all wanted to know who the next person to jump companies was going to be. But we were more interested in seeing how this new signing was going to change the on air product and didn’t want to know how much they were getting paid or what their “spot” would be. No, we wanted to know if they would get into a fight with our favorite superstar or if they were going to join our favorite faction. Our desire for knowledge was driven by our love for the stories that were being told. Unfortunately during this time, the internet became readily available to millions of people worldwide and with it came an open look behind the curtain. Gone were the days of surprise debuts and shocking returns. Of mysterious characters and unbelievable storylines. Ushered in was an age of developmental territories, contact negotiations and “creative decisions”. It became hard to distinguish real news from planted rumors made by the companies themselves. It became less about championships and more about who likes who backstage. Pushes, “spots” & talent relations all were more important than how good Monday night RAW was as a television show. Screw being entertained on Monday when you’re able to complain about WrestleMania plans 5 months before the show happens. When the biggest wrestling company in the world hosts a worldwide interview about the inner workings of the company, it’s time you pull the reigns back in.
I don’t know how I’ll manage it but I need the mystery back in my pro-wrestling. When I host a podcast, I want to talk about the stuff happening on-screen and not worry so much about all the other bullshit that goes into running a wrestling company. Give me compelling stories and meaningful title matches. Entertain me every week for three hours Monday night and make me want to pay money for a pay-per-view. Imagine if Sting debuted before doing all of that media for a video game. How big of a shock would it have been if WCW’s “franchise” appeared, without fanfare, to stop the evil villain? What if The Rock returned at the Royal Rumble without telling everyone he was in Philadelphia. Wrestling used to be heart pounding. Imagine the lukewarm reaction the Ultimate Warrior would have received if it was revealed on Twitter that HE was the one who was going to challenge the Honky Tonk Man for the Intercontinental Championship. Or if Instagram leaked that Edge was going to cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase on John Cena at New Year’s Revolution. Some of the greatest moments in WWE history would become a footnote in just another pay-per-view. That type of rush has been nonexistent in the so-called Reality Era. If you have an internet connection, huge returns and shocking twists are spoiled for you whether you want them to be or not. And most of the time it’s by the WWE itself.
Triple H and Vince McMahon may long for the time when the fans weren’t monitoring their every move but yet they promote “behind the screen” specials any chance they get. It’s time to start turning off some of the cameras and start shining the spotlight back on the ring. Teach your audience to suspend disbelief again. It’s what has worked for generations, long before television. If you want an audience to enjoy your product, put some of the magic back.
Hell it works for Disney.