Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Kayfabe and the desire to believe
Kayfabe…the reality of professional wrestling. It’s wrestlers staying in character to put on a show. It’s the reality of their gimmicks, their feuds, etc. It’s their portrayal that everything they do in the ring is real.
To truly enjoy professional wrestling, you need to suspend your disbelief in what you are seeing. You need to believe that one man wants to fight another for a specific reason, and this reason can only be settled in the ring. You need to believe that these men are pushing themselves to their human limits for a real purpose, not to put on a fake, choreographed fight. It’s the story of the match that sucks you in and makes you suspend that disbelief. It’s the performance that keeps you at the edge of your seat, waiting to see what will happen next.
It’s not often fans get taken to that place anymore. As a kid, I wanted to believe. Each and every match was real. As an adult, it’s rare when I watch wrestling with the same feelings I had as a child. With the internet, news feeds, twitter, etc., it’s hard to suspend your disbelief and “enjoy” wrestling when kayfabe is broken over and over again. With Wrestlemania coming around the corner, I have been watching more wrestling with the hope that I will once again be able to believe (even for a moment) that what I am seeing is for real.
In the world of Kayfabe, the Undertaker is 19-0 in matches at Wrestlemania. This incredible record is affectionately called “the streak.” For the last two decades, this man has been unbeatable on the greatest stage of the wrestling world, Wrestlemania. Three years ago, Shawn Michaels, largely considered to be the greatest modern day in-ring performer, challenged the Undertaker at Wrestlemania but came up short. The next year, he demanded a rematch and put his career on the line versus the streak. Again, he fought valiantly but lost and retired from professional wrestling. Last year, Shawn’s best friend, multiple time world champion HHH challenged the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. HHH used chairs and sledgehammers to destroy the Undertaker in a brutal match, but like his friend, came up short and lost. HHH walked out of the ring the loser, but the Undertaker was unable to walk at all after the match.
As we build towards Wrestlemania, it has come time for the Undertaker to defend his streak once again. He wants to prove to himself that he is the better man and can beat HHH. HHH wants one more chance to be the man who ends the streak. Shawn Michaels has been made the special referee for the match. Even though he is known as “Mr. Wrestlemania,” Shawn wasn’t able to end the streak. In his quest to beat the Undertaker, he had his greatest failure and lost his career. Is he jealous that his best friend may accomplish the one thing he couldn’t do in his career? Does he want to be the one to help end the streak by any means necessary? Or, will Shawn call it down the line? Will the Undertaker keep the streak alive? Will HHH finally put an end to the Undertaker's reign over Wrestlemania?
Is all of this real? No, of course not, but these men are doing what they do best. They have made me want to believe, if only for a short while, that this match means everything to all three of them. They are fighting over something beyond a championship. They are fighting over their legacy as professional wrestlers.
Only a few more weeks, then I’ll know if the streak ends. Then I can come back to reality…