Fiction and Reality in WWE’s Professional Wrestling

For fans of professional wrestling, we certainly have had periods where we believed what was happening in the wrestling arena was real. Punches, kicks, and blows from objects such as chairs, steps, and tables, are genuine.

In fact, sometimes we have to see wrestlers bleeding after being repeatedly attacked by this object. Wrestlers will feel excruciating pain when they get an attack from their opponent. Even so, they continued to fight because they didn’t want to lose. Not only that, we also believe that the character of the wrestler is true as it is. Those who get cheers are good characters and are loved by many people (protagonists). While the wrestlers who are mocked are wrestlers who have various bad qualities (antagonists).

And generally, the protagonist will stop the antagonist, by wrestling in the arena. If the protagonist wins the match, cheers of joy will be heard from the audience. However, if the antagonist wins, especially by means of cunning, it is not uncommon to hear derision and hateful blasphemies against the wrestler.

Unfortunately, as time goes by, we realize that what happens in professional wrestling is engineering. Starting from the wrestler’s name, the wrestler’s character, to the victories that occur in the arena. These are all part of a script devised by the creative team, and the wrestlers only need to follow the directions that have been prepared.

Like it or not, the fact that professional wrestling is a fabrication is true. But is there really no reality in professional wrestling? Is everything “fiction”?

Getting to Know “Kayfabe”

To answer the questions above, we must understand that professional wrestling is a form of the entertainment industry, like music, movies, or TV series. Despite being a martial arts sport, professional wrestling has significant differences in the purpose for which it is held.

If someone is involved in the world of martial arts to win trophies or medals, the person who takes part in the world of professional wrestling has the goal of entertaining the audience. There is a “code of conduct” which must be followed to achieve the target. This “code of conduct”, is kayfabe.

Put simply, kayfabe refers to how wrestlers “act” to show that what is happening inside them is a reality. For example, in contrast to attacks launched by MMA fighters, neither punches nor kicks that wrestlers bring to their opponents or they receive from their opponents are allowed to injure themselves or their fighting opponents.

Instead, the wrestlers must “sell” (in English it is “sell”) any attack they receive from other wrestlers, and make the audience believe that they are really fighting each other.

Apart from the technicalities of grappling, kayfabe also applies to stories and characters for wrestlers. They must be able to deepen the character they live, in accordance with the direction requested, for the benefit of the narrative.

A wrestler is not allowed to be seen with other wrestlers who are currently having a fight in the arena, because it can spoil the story that has been formed by the creative team.

Apart from competing opponents, kayfabe is also used to make wrestlers injured, break a wrestler’s contract, and even give a partner. Most of them are not real, and are only used for script purposes only. An example is 2 wrestlers John Cena and Randy Orton, who are often involved in stories of hostility, but are best friends in the real world.

Some wrestlers also use their characters when interacting with fans, whether in the arena or even outside the arena. Although not a mandatory thing to do, wrestlers do this as a form of professionalism in their work. Some of them are also quite extreme.

Wrestler Shawn Michaels insulted the Canadian city of Montreal, for having a long history and not wearing with the city’s hero Bret “The Hitman” Hart. There are also wrestlers with the stage name “The Undertaker” who often refuse to conduct live interviews from television, because it will damage the image of the character he plays.

Taking Off Kayfabe

Kayfabe is indeed used to maintain the confidentiality behind the scenes of the professional wrestling industry. However, in the modern era, kayfabe is more often used for story purposes in the wrestling arena.

Wrestlers are allowed to remove certain kayfabe when they are off work. Every so often wrestling fans see real reality shows from the wrestlers they have seen in the arena. Fans have realized very well that the character they display in the arena is not the same as their reality in everyday life, and they didn’t mind seeing the other side of the wrestler.

Even though they have been given the freedom to let go of kayfabe, it doesn’t mean they can act casually, especially when it comes to narration. If that happens, generally the wrestlers will receive punishments such as harsh reprimands, fines, or the momentum of a wrestler will be turned off. Worse, a wrestler could be fired just for removing the kayfabe.

Wrestler Matt Hardy was fired from WWE for deleting a photo of himself with female wrestler Lita on his website. Both of them are currently undergoing a love story, both in the arena and in the real world. Apparently, Matt Hardy did this because he learned that Lita was involved in an affair with wrestler Adam “Edge” Copeland.

It can be concluded, as long as the wrestler takes off the kayfabe at the right time, there will be no problems for him, fans, or the company. However, there are times when the creative team uses a true story outside the wrestling arena, and uses it as a narrative in the ring.

Many fans prefer stories like this, because according to them stories like this seem more organic and real. Returning to the discussion of firing wrestler Matt Hardy, it didn’t take long for WWE to reinstate himself, and create a narrative of true events with Adam “Edge” Copeland. As a result, it is one of the most loved stories by many fans.

Kayfabe’s Illusion

Events such as Matt Hardy, Lita, and Adam “Edge” Copeland, are not the first time this has happened in professional wrestling, and certainly won’t be the last.

Stories such as Becky Lynch’s hiatus due to pregnancy with her first child, wrestler The Miz’s anger towards Daniel Bryan for being frustrated by WWE’s treatment of him, and one of the most famous among professional wrestling fans, is the “Pipebomb” of wrestler CM Punk to WWE owner Vincent McMahon as well as superstar John Cena, for similar reasons to The Miz. The incident was true, and was applied to a story script in the arena. And like the story of the first 3 people, this story is a story that will continue to be discussed among fans.

Every time an event like this happens, many fans find it difficult to identify whether or not the fighting between the wrestlers is involved. Almost everything that happens in the wrestling arena, everything is determined by the script. However, what happens when the script provided is taken from events in the real world? This returns us to the question “is everything in professional wrestling fiction?”

The illusion of kayfabe makes the boundaries look blurry. Sometimes we are fooled about the dispute between the two wrestlers that looks genuine, but turns out to be purely from the script and the wrestling’s acting skills. On the contrary, like the examples above.

And this is what makes professional wrestling still in great demand. This entertainment media offers a unique narrative and cannot necessarily be recreated using other types of entertainment, such as films or animation.

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