Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Keeping Kayfabe

          Reading the very beginning of the first chapter of Drawing Heat, I immediately became intrigued by the secrecy and mysticism of the wrestling world. If you were a cog in the machine of wrestling, then you were allowed to know the ins and outs. But if you were not, it all (intentionally) remained a mystery. Freedman tries to interview some of the head honchos in the business and is unsatisfied by the results. Their responses seemed scripted, their physical appearance staged. They seemed to rattle off the answers they always gave. Because they were the answers they always gave. Just like the first rule of Fight Club, kayfabe is wrestling's first rule. A rule that should never be broken.
          Granted, this was the 80's and I'm sure the veil of mystery was a bit more opaque then. But there's still a great deal of charade today. When I was interviewing Jason, I could tell he was being careful with his words. And even after the interview, there were certain things he wanted me to go back and take out and rephrase. He had an image to maintain and a veil to keep up. Fans may know certain truths about wrestling and certain aspects of the business are understood by all to be a facade, but everyone still goes along with it. Wrestlers and managers and fans alike maintain kayfabe. Everyone does their part to treat the spectacle as if it were completely real and true. It's an unspoken understanding. And it's part of what makes wrestling so fun and exciting to watch.

4 comments:

Sam Ford said...

And, if all wrestlers have is their character and themselves...if that ultimately defines who/what wrestling is...then great damage can be done to their career through damage of a single character, in a way that "actors" in other genres/realms don't have to necessarily concern themselves with, or at least not in the same way...

Gary said...

One could draw parallels of the secrecy and mysticism of professional wrestling to other groups in our society, such as the Masons, or even the Mob. It seems no subgroup in society wants to give up its secrets, that which makes them whole. Freeman, discouraged with the typical expected answer of the head honchos / promoters, went to the fans to get answers and information.

michael richardson said...

I wonder how much of the necessity surrounding kayfabe is just based in it's history. At this point not only has everyone at least heard that wrestling is "fake," but wrestlers do break kayfabe on occasion (like the video the Real Americans made distancing themselves from the views of their characters) without catastrophic results. Nowadays it seems more like macho tradition to be stoic and mysterious than necessary for business.

Timothy S. Rich said...

Characters are in some respect an investment and to undermine the disbelief in a character that works could be career suicide. Few wrestlers seem to be able to reinvent themselves completely (or be handed a great new gimmick).

Although the end of kayfabe makes it more acceptable to distinguish the character and the person, I would argue that wrestlers still have an incentive to act in ways that would protect this investment. That may be playing the jerk in public to interjecting "real" interviews with lines that simply promote storylines.