When Kayfabe Ruled
January 27, 2007 by Josh Watts
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If you missed the wrestling in the days of Kayfabe then you missed the very essence of what wrestling is all about. You can't blame yourself for your birthday, so instead of dwelling on your bad hand lets spend sometime catching you up.
Let's start at the top, the word "Kayfabe" as described by Wikipedia; In professional wrestling, kayfabe (pronounced KEI-feib; IPA: ['keifeib]) refers to the portrayal of events within the industry as real, that is the portrayal of professional wrestling as not staged or worked. Referring to events as kayfabe means that they are worked events, and/or part of a wrestling storyline. In relative terms, a wrestler breaking kayfabe during a show would be likened to an actor breaking character on camera.
Kayfabe is often seen as the suspension of disbelief that is used to create the non-wrestling aspects of promotions, such as feuds, storylines, and gimmicks, in a similar manner with other forms of entertainment such as soap opera or movie. In the past, kayfabe was strongly adhered to in order to preserve the illusion that pro wrestling was not staged. With the advent of the Internet Wrestling Community and the sports entertainment movement in pro wrestling, the maintenance of pro wrestling's backstage secrets are more difficult to keep than they were in earlier decades. Today, kayfabe is sometimes broken to advance storylines, to explain prolonged absences due to legitimate injury, as a tribute to a wrestler, or even for comedic effect.
Unfortunately these days kayfabe is broken much more often than to explain the occasional absence. It is broken in every aspect of "Sports Entertainment". When Vince McMahon admitted that the shows were choreographed and scripted, he effectively killed kayfabe. I know what most of you are thinking " If Mach Man Randy Savage jumped from that high and planted his elbow in your chest you would be dead"! I am by no means saying that we were oblivious to it, we just turned and looked the other way, if you will. I hate to use the phrase "suspend our disbelief" because it has been beaten into the ground. You just believed, though somewhere, deep in your heart of hearts you knew that Randy Savage did not crush Rick Steamboats throat with a ring bell. It was a different era.
In those days wrestling was wrestling. It was not over-scrutinized it was not judged for its "racy" content. The wrestlers were immortal larger than life figures, not people like you and me. There was no internet, no way to be over-informed if you were the average fan. If you were told that Hulk Hogan was in the hospital because the Earthquake broke his ribs, you believed. You did not go on the internet and find out that Hulk needed time off for a knee replacement. They sold it; you bought it.
This was a time when you could actually believe that Kamala was an uncontrollable Ugandan Giant. If they tried to fly that today the first day he appeared on television most of us would go to any of the millions of wrestling websites and find that "Kamala" was actually Jim Harris. Nice information to know but once you know he is a regular guy from Mississippi it kills the mystique. Who needed to know that Brutus Beefcake was actually Ed Leslie and basically got a job to appease Hulk Hogan? I can answer that, no one. When their was a feud it was real. Those guys hated each other. You didn't watch to see if they were going to blow a spot. You did not because you ,as an average fan, had never heard of a spot. It was a fight, if some body missed a dropkick, well, that's what happens. Nobody yelled "YOU F#@$ED UP".
In the days of kayfabe, a steel cage match was the end all be all of any feud. There was nothing left after that. The steel cage was not used to try and get the fan interested in a feud because by that point you could not look away. Not every match ended in a DQ, most were clean pinfall victories. The good guy wins, the bad guy loses, end of story. If a guy won the world heavy weight title, you believed that he was the best. You did not down play his match "because he married the bosses' daughter". Watching wrestling was like walking into a mythical land. Good vs. Evil and the larger than life super-humans would battle it out in the squared circle. Everyone loved Hulk Hogan because he told you to "say your prayers and take your vitamins" jump ahead to Kurt Angle he preached the same basic message but now he is viewed as a whiny, goody two shoes. The fans did not need to know Sting was actually Steve Borden and he had a wife, a family. He was Sting, that was all you needed to know. You liked his music, you liked his entrance and you liked that he always did the right thing.
Obviously those days are gone forever. With the invention of the internet the limits to the information you can find are endless. I enjoy reading about wrestling as much as anyone on here. Though I must admit I miss the days when professional wrestlers were larger than life super-humans and when we, the fans, just believed.
by Josh Watts (Submit your feedback here)..
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