WWE: The Men Who Make Us Forget about Kayfabe
Ever notice how for certain wrestlers, the WWE Universe and the IWC talk as if their on-air personalities are identical to their behind-the-scenes ones? It seems to happen more with popular wrestlers—the men the fans truly want to believe in.
In contrast, we get the opposite with more controversial wrestlers. When Hulk Hogan and Triple H speak, fans assume they are in-character and lying, no matter what they speak about.
This list looks at some of those men whose actions are frequently discussed as if the world of kayfabe has no boundaries.
Ah, Shawn Michaels. I think I stated some time ago that no list on a wrestling topic is complete without him—of any sort. He will end up there or people will complain that he should have been.
When we speak about him refereeing at WrestleMania, what do people talk about? Do people discuss that he seems happy in his retirement? Do people discuss what, from a business standpoint, his role at WrestleMania is? This is where I believe discourse should be directed—topics such as "It makes no sense for HBK to intervene and end the streak, because he is no longer an active wrestler; it doesn't set up any storylines for Triple H or The Undertaker."
No, instead we get discussions about the personal importance of the match to HBK.
Likewise, when folks talk of Ric Flair's retirement, and subsequent return to the business, fans state that wrestling after allowing HBK to retire him is offensive to Shawn Michaels, that it shows disrespect of the kind farewell to the business Shawn Michaels did. Never mind the fact that the two men are, from what one can tell, still friends, having been seen embracing backstage at the 2011 WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
I find it strange that if Shawn does not find it disrespectful, and is not offended, WWE fans are offended on his behalf. Are the feelings of superstars our property at this point? Are we that used to WWE doing what we want them to with their characters?
That's all that needs to be said here.
There is a reason Shawn Michaels is Mr. WrestleMania despite having a consistent losing streak at WrestleMania—pro wrestling is sports entertainment, not competitive sport. Being 19-0 is not the achievement; being trusted by the company for so damn long is what's an achievement.
"It would be an insult to everything he has given to this business to have The Undertaker lose to a young superstar."
Would it, IWC? Would it really be so bad for The Undertaker to personally select and put over the next Hulk Hogan or John Cena? To create something that entertains us in the decades after Taker is gone? A man that might well put over other wrestlers, and create an endless trail of wonderful, gloriously-entertaining matches?
Winning a final match does nothing for the business. Losing it allows The Undertaker's influence to grow ever greater.
Jericho's latest move that gives him a spot here is his near-silent return recently, where he refused to speak for weeks and weeks after he leapt back into the world of WWE.
"Jericho used to be amazing. Now he's lost it. This isn't the exciting, promo-cutting Jericho of old. This attempt at being smart is a misstep; Jericho is not the best in the world. He needs to stop saying it."
Jericho has successfully garnered a ton of legitimate heat, even amongst the smart marks who claim to know better. You guys tried to look at what his behaviour meant about the real man behind the character, his skills as a creative figure. But you were only looking at another layer of the act.
Lots of discussion lately about the WWE's attempts to turn the fanbase against The Rock, and to cheer John Cena.
No one has really looked at The Rock's carefully phrased "I am back and I will never leave you again" speech. That thing might have been legitimate, maybe in his mind. In the mind of Dwayne, he is appearing as often as he can, and that is enough. But the way he phrased it was guaranteed to offend people. WWE must have known this, and so did The Rock. They aren't stupid.
What did it achieve? It garnered a ton of heat. It formed the basis for all of John Cena's anti-Rock promos since then. Why? Because people felt Dwayne was speaking to them, as well as The Rock. Just like Cena says to you guys—he became Dwayne. No, he's still a character, being performed.
Vince McMahon / Jim Ross
This slide is shared—it is for a double act. Vince McMahon and his endless "bullying" of Jim Ross.
JR gets paid for anything Vince McMahon "inflicts" on him. He regularly renews his contract, so he is not tied to McMahon's evil empire by any invisible strings.
But no, everyone thinks this thing is real. Vince McMahon sure hates JR, everyone says.
"He's a commentator; they should not make him take bumps." Yeah, well, if he takes bumps, it is because he agreed to them.
"He fired JR in front of his family!" Even when you point out he was only kayfabe fired, and is now being paid without even having to appear on TV, people seemed to feel this was a big deal, because his family was not warned. I am sure that JR's family did not think he had actually just been fired. Not warning JR just made his shock a bit more genuine—surely no bad thing.
These guys really got you believing the heat between the two of them was real.
I find it interesting to note how many of these figures offend and enrage wrestling fans.
I find that a bit sad, really. Are we so cynical that we never, ever buy into the nice things, but buy into the bad things sometimes?