Keyfabe Should Be More Dead
I’ve run into a lot of discussions on the WWE recently, and the discourse around it is split in a lot of ways. Obviously some people, myself included, aren’t very happy with the way it’s being run currently, I’d say recently, there were a few final straws for people. Between James Ellsworth basically winning the first ever Women’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match, the state of 205 Live, or breaking up Enzo and Cass, there seems to be no end to the things the WWE will do that either make no sense, or are drama grabs in the worst of fuckin ways.
I’ve been upset with the product for a damn good while now and have all but given up, but what happened the other day was a perfect encapsulation with whats wrong with the WWE currently.
Now that’s not too surprising, but it’s a lot worse than just being out of touch I think.
Talking Smack was one of the most successful things on the WWE Network, and has some REALLY compelling things going on with it. For around 15 to 20 minutes every Tuesday night, Talking Smack would come on and we’d get to see interviews with WWE wrestlers that felt… real. They were usually still in character, but they felt a lot more genuine. They’d joke with Rene and Daniel Bryan, or sometimes they’d get so heated that they’d have the promo of their fucking lives like with The Miz. It was prime entertainment, and put Smackdown Live on the map because it has a lot more realness when it came to it’s wrestlers than Raw did.
Vince McMahon, having somehow never seen the show in his life apparently, came in last Tuesday, saw Talking Smack for the first time, and said “What do you mean there’s no script?! Cancel this show!”
And so Talking Smack was cancelled. Right then and there. No fair trial, no second thought, nothing. It’s just gone now. Well, sorta. It’s still gonna happen after Smackdown special events, but even those are gonna go away eventually because he wants to phase the show out completely.
Wrestlers aren’t allowed to go off the cuff. They aren’t allowed to get themselves over on their own character and speaking talents. They HAVE to have it done through a rigid script and unless going off script nets them INSTANT rewards, they get punished for doing so.
Yet Vince will also tell his employees to “Reach For The Brass Ring”. To make their success their own. To make themselves stars in a setting where your outcomes are already decided for you. As far as he’s concerned, if a wrestler doesn’t get over, even if they’re planned to lose every time they wrestle, it’s their own fault.
Lets change gears real fast.
I’ve been watching a lot of New Japan Pro Wrestling recently. Something I noticed with it is that while the drama is still there, it’s simplified down. There isn’t as much like… straight up convoluted and weird drama for the sake of getting rises out of people, and more things based on the matches themselves. Nothing feels throw away. Nothing feel like it has less meaning than another, and the company seems to reward wrestlers going off script and doing things on their own terms, and there’s no better example of this than The Bullet Club.
The Bullet Club, especially under The Elite, Kenny Omega, Nick and Matt Jackson, have made a name for themselves as heels, and gotten themselves over even AS heels. People LOVE the bullet club as much as they like to hate them, and they play it up. They embrace the side of wrestling where people understand that they’re just characters. They take it and turn it on it’s head. They have a youtube show for themselves that is in between just goofing around and doing silly skits, and legit setting up new story lines for themselves, and within the club itself.
And people fuckin love it. They love that these bad guys are just goof ass people. They love that they can see Kenny Omega at fighting game Tourneys and just have him do silly stuff, while also being one of the faces of NJPW (As in, one of the big names, not like… the term face.)
Kayfabe is dead to them 24/7.
Kayfabe is only dead 20/5 for the WWE, and the lines of it are getting more and more blurred in ways that don’t make any sense.
The current storyline is that Jason Jorden is somehow Kurt Angles illegitimate son, and as such, is now on Raw, meaning they broke up one of their most athletically and fluid tag teams, American Alpha, for an ACTUAL soup opera style storyline, and I can’t FUCKING BELIEVE IT. They broke them up because they didn’t know what do with them, and because they couldn’t make a name for themselves without being punished, this is where we’re at now.
The idea that wrestling is a serious thing, and that the rules of it have to be kept in place and respected are long the fuck over, and we’re seeing other wrestling shows find success through not trying so damn hard to make everything a twist. Not trying so hard to make everything HAVE to revolve around the absolute drama of everything,
Hell some are doubling down so hard that it wraps back around. Lucha Underground’s kayfabe is so strong that they might as well just have it be a cartoon because stupid, ultra unrealistic shit is happening in it all the time. Actual super powers and wrestlers getting killed off in the story is just the tip of the iceburg. Again, it’s embracing the silly side of wrestling, and pulling it in. There’s no way people can misunderstand it as anything but a scripted show because of how fucking wild it is.
WWE is sitting ugly in the middle of these two extremes, and it is not fucking working. It’s working for SOME people, because they lean more towards the bullet club way of doing things (See: The New Day) and some that lean more towards Lucha Underground (See: Bray Wyatt) but the normal ass normal men in the WWE, and a lot of the women, get swept under the rug WEEKLY because they don’t know what to do with them, and won’t let them do their own thing.
And now the one show that actually did let them do their own thing is gone.