I know that Pro Wrestling isn't very well respected on sites like this. When it comes to hardcore cinema and television aficionados, wrestling is barely above reality television. Still, I grew up watching Raw is War and Thursday Night Smackdown. I've watched epic battles between Triple H and Shawn Michaels, Undertaker and Kane, The Rock and Stone Cold, and DX vs The Corporation.
I still love WWE but I can't help but feel like something has changed. A lot of people feel like it has gone down in quality due to the PG era but I don't think that's necessarily the problem. Yes I do miss the use of weapons, hardcore matches, and blood but I think I could live without that if I could still feel a connection to the plot. I believe Vince McMahon has heard people saying that wrestling is fake for so long that he just started to not care anymore about trying to keep the plausibility of the performance. Now I'm fully aware that wrestling has planned outcomes and all of that but for me that doesn't matter if I can at least believe in the performance of the characters. I don't care about them acting in movies, plenty of people act in different things; you see Will Smith in a different movie every couple of weeks.
I miss the days when I didn't have to think about whether or not The Rock and Stone Cold had legitimate issues with each other because I could just enjoy them pretending they did and beating the crap out of each other. When you're watching a movie you don't have to wonder if the protagonist's actor and the antagonist's actor are really angry with each other because in that particular universe they are. The problem with WWE is there is no alternate universe. This is all happening in real time. I have the same issue with them insisting on having Disney actors say their names before their TV show comes on. You're not Ben Savage, you're Cory Matthews. There's this constant insistence on destroying the barrier between the fantasy and the reality. As someone who has never really embraced reality this bothers me.
A month ago (Sept 21st), the wrestler Paige went on a rant about how her fellow "team PCB" (Paige/Charlotte/Becky) member Charlotte had only won her Diva's Championship because of her father. A tale of nepotism is nothing new for the WWE, Triple H had a whole storyline about how he was the WWE Champion because he married the drunken daughter of the Chairman. However, a sideline comment directed to previous Champion Nikki Bella caused me to pause. Paige noted the "real reason" the Bella twin had been champion for so long. For those who don't know, or like me have nothing more than a passing interest in it, Nikki Bella is currently in a relationship with the current face of the company John Cena.
It was implied that Nikki is riding John's coattails in order to rise to the number one spot in the WWE. Among the WWE fans it's even implied that the only reason Nikki Bella has beaten out previous record holder AJ Lee for the record of longest title reign is because of AJ Lee and husband CM Punk's negative standing with WWE. This is all rumor and conjecture obviously, but my question is, who the hell cares? Imagine for a moment you're watching Scandal and in the middle of a conversation you hear someone make an insulting remark comparing Fitzgerald Grant to President Obama. It would beg the question of what necessity it was to include this reality into a fictional show.
This isn't the first time something like this has happened. There are plenty of controlled and uncontrolled situations where kayfabe has been broken: the Montreal Incident, MSG Kliq, DX invading WCW, the Matt Hardy/Edge situation, to name a few. Still, there was a time when you had to really look for any information about the inner workings of the WWE. You at least had to go on websites such as WhatCulture or WrestlingInc if you wanted to know all the behind the scenes information and you didn't go if you didn't want it but now it's basically just broadcasted out there at all times.
In professional wrestling, kayfabe /ˈkeɪfeɪb/ is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as "real" or "true," specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or pre-determined nature.
That's the wikipedia definition, but to simplify it I've always seen it as staying in character and keeping up with the "in universe" lore. For example, a character being married to another character in the realm of wrestling but not in real life.
The first season of Tough Enough seemed like an interesting look into the universe of the World Wrestling Entertainment. It showed how things worked and how they were trained. I loved watching it because it was like watching a really long episode of How It's Made. Then it ran for 5 more seasons. The behind the scenes look became nothing more than an American Idolesque talent show. Even going as far as having the finale event be on Raw (it probably was on the first season too but my memory of it is sketchy).
Given that, it makes it a lot harder to believe when a person whose whole life story we just went through suddenly comes into the WWE with a persona completely different. I don't know who the Dudleys or Undertaker are outside of the WWE beyond their name. When you did have people later who let themselves be known for who they really were it was people so iconic that it didn't really matter; you had already accepted their characters as the show's truth. You had the shows like Hogan Knows Best where you learned that Hogan in fact isn't actually screaming all the time, or the Wrestlers would show up on tv shows like Punk'd or the Weakest Link.
The lives of the WWE Divas on display. I don't have any problem with the people who watch reality shows, but I do have a problem with reality shows themselves. I don't think it's very good to showcase people who aren't famous for anything in particular other than having money. However, this one like a few others is different. This one showcases people who are relevantly important. The only problem is, I don't care about what these people are doing after the Raw goes off.
Now there are people who do and I'm okay with that too. I'm not saying get rid of the show but what bothers me is when in the middle of an episode of Raw they're telling me about what happened on Total Divas, or making a push for Total Divas. It slowly gets more complicated attempting to separate fictional drama with whatever is going on with the personal lives of these people and it's annoying.
When I turn off Arrow I don't think Stephen Amell is still running around shooting people with arrows, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm completely engaged with the mythos of the show. When you bring in the reality of these actors, that's when the mythos breaks down. That's when I don't feel any connection to the wrestlers, their storylines or their personalities. You want me to believe that Husky Harris is now Bray Wyatt, that's fine, WWE has retconned a character. You want me to believe that Dolph Ziggler is in love with Summer Rae when you just showed me a video of him professing his feelings for Nikki Bella? Not that easy. I'm not asking anyone to live their storylines, I'm just asking not to have their lives pushed on me while I'm trying to enjoy the storyline.
I'm not angry at all kayfabe breaking. There was a time when Triple H of DX, during a comedic back and forth with the Chairman, put up a picture of a baby with his head on it. This was a small nod to the fact that he and Stephanie McMahon were indeed married in real life. It was fun and it was something most of the WWE Universe had known the whole time. It was more of an Easter egg if anything. Half the reason I watch WWE is for the drama and the storylines. When the storylines lose any kind of plausibility that's when it gets reverted back to any other sports show and that's when it loses me because I'm not too crazy about people beating on each other for no reason other than sport.