Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Pulling Back the Curtain

There are lots of instances in which the kayfabe curtain is pulled back in the wrestling world and the real going ons backstage and at the homes of wrestlers comes into play in the ring and the audience is exposed to it. I do believe that Vince McMahon did something revolutionary by admitting that the business was entertainment. Basically he let the people who don't understand wrestling in, but the fans had always been in. So I think it made them feel like they were finally let in instead of having to know about it and read about it but not be acknowledged. We read about how angry the promoters were that McMahon did that and it is so funny how he would respond to later instances of breaking character and how dedicated he has been to staying in his Mr McMahon character.
I do wonder how the different instances where the illusion had to be broken or was broken unnecessarily would be like had McMahon not done this. The deaths of wrestlers like Owen Hart, Brian Pillman and Eddie Guerrero where always difficult situations and those were times when the public was let into the real lives of wrestlers. Wrestlers were allowed to were Guerrero shirts and say great things about Owen Hart even though they might have had a recent feud with them or they were opposites; Eddie a face, the person saying great things a heel, it is a different situation. There is no more suspension of disbelief, now it is real. But I wonder, what if there had been a promoter that did not treat this as entertainment but instead tried to keep the curtain down and would not acknowledge a death. I don't think that would be the case however, with the internet and all, but the way it is acknowledged would be different. Perhaps only faces would be able to say something nice at the time. I think that situations like deaths are something that the WWE has handled well.
But there are other times when backstage life has spilled over to the ring or vice versa. One of the moments that I have read much into has been the Madison Square Garden incident where Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall broke character. It was not even on TV but McMahon was angry and busted down Triple H to jobber. He did not want to recognize that this would be an emotional moment for the wrestlers and the fans who had cheered for them for years. I can understand that it might look bad but fans knew what was going on. They cheered when it happened! So why punish the wrestlers? It was not bad for business was it? I suppose it might be that the rules were not to break character and it was more about going against Vince than what it would do to the business.
I do believe that with finally admitting that it is entertainment, Vince McMahon allowed the people to become even more involved in the world of wrestling because they could cheer for their wrestler but also cheer, or boo, for the person. Does anyone remember X-pac? Case and point. In the end it ended up making superstars akin to movie stars and sports stars so it was a great business decision in the end.


Anonymous said...

I think McMahon has made a steady journey away from the iron-clad kayfabe of yesteryear, to the current almost exploitive backstage looks we get so often with the documentaries WWE puts out. He has gone from the man who demoted HHH when he and his friends broke with protocol and embraced in the ring, to the guy who makes money by exposing 'the truth' on shows like Confidential and in dvd packages that tend to reuse documentary footage between different wrestlers. Vince is making money, so more power to him. But by pulling the curtain back so often, it basically ruins the 'specialness' of it, the 'forbidden knowledge' feeling that you get, and makes that all-important suspension of disbelief even harder to maintain. While I appreciate the 'truth', sometimes I wish I didn't always know it.

Sam Ford said...

WWE's version of exploiting truth is interesting, though, as the backstage version is always somewhat fictional, though. There is still a line drawn, in that WWE may take a real situation and then dramatize it to some degree. Take Matt Hardy/Edge. That feud was built on something that happened in "real life," but the feud itself wasn't quite "real life." Or take the Bret/Shawn feud that played out backstage and on stage simultaneously, but in very different ways.

Remember the comment I made about Louis Spicolli's death that came from Death of WCW? That was a case where kayfabe was taken too far, when Larry cut a promo on Louis days after his death, just to stay in character.

On the other hand, what about the way WWE has kept Eddie's character in the storylines after his death, i.e. Randy Orton saying that Eddie was in hell, etc.

narwood said...

Just a thought, but as wrestling is meant to be therapeutic, perhaps the most therapeutic resolution to death is not always handing the dead guy a post-mortum halo.

Except for fans it seems it would always be good times - good performances, and what's left of the kayfabe is really just the notion that some stuff really does suck.

Carolina said...

I think Vince got mad over the MSG incident with The Clique because, well, it was defiant. Yes, it was emotional, but he didn't give the okay to do that and therefore someone had to be punished. You could argue why did he have to come down to hard on Triple H because of it, but it makes sense when taken in his perspective. He couldn't just allow them to get away with that, someone had to be made an example of. Had he let that incident slide, then where do you draw the line? What if someone else does the same for a departing friend on another house show? Well, now you can't punish that person because you already let it slide once. Vince did what he did to show people he was in charge, and unless he told you to go out there and break kayfabe, or unless it was a tragedy that occured, you couldn't do what The Clique did. It's a shame Hunter took the brunt of it, but looking on the bright side - had he won the KOTR, then Austin would've never had his "3:16" moment... just food for thought. How ironic is it that The Outsiders themselves inadvertently triggered the chain of events that would lead to Austin becoming wildly popular, enabling the WWE to beat WCW in the end?