Recently I was reading an article in WWE Magazine about the Apex Predator, Randy Orton. In the article, they asked him about how he felt about his 60-day Wellness Violation suspension being made so public.
This got me to thinking: Has the line between reality and the ring been crossed too far?
Up until the 90s, professional wrestling kept an aura of reality around itself. The men we saw on television were characters. We knew nothing of their personal lives, unless it was inevitable, such as the deaths of Bruiser Brody, Dino Bravo or the Von Erich’s.
They were exactly who they said they were—Junkyard Dog really lived in a junkyard; The Iron Sheik really hated America; Yes, Sgt. Slaughter betrayed his country for championship gold; Rick Martel was really a model and Mr. Perfect was, well, perfect.
But, do we now know too much about our favorite Superstars?
Does knowing that Steve Austin was arrested in 2002 for beating his then-wife Debra taint our image of him in the ring and make him less of a hero? (Onlineworldofwrestling.com) Does Edge become a less funny guy after we learn that he cheated on his wife and destroyed the relationship between Lita and Matt Hardy?
Is it even any of our business that Randy Orton had a second wellness violation?
The sad fact is that avoiding details of wrestlers personal woes may simply be unavoidable.
Until recently, private matters could be kept just that, private. But with today’s 24/7 information culture, every single nuance outside of the ring can be written about, photographed or videoed and shared with millions of people instantly.
Should we know less or more about wrestlers lives outside the ring?
And, this constant flow of information and insight behind closed doors has changed the way we see our favorite wrestlers.
No longer are they the super-human characters we see on television each week. Now they are real people, with real lives and real problems.
And, it goes beyond what the WWE does with wrestlers nowadays, letting them be exaggerated versions of their real selves, or even using their real names. It goes beyond the 30-second backstage Tout videos where, as real as it tries to look, most are still staged and scripted.
For example, if Ric Flair does return to a WWE ring anytime soon, when he walks out of that curtain, he’ll no longer be the 16-time former world champion. He’ll be Ric Flair, the down-on-his-luck former legend who is having such financial troubles that he can’t pay a bar tab, and, according to Shane Ryan on Grantland.com, has had to use his NWA title as collateral twice, has been married and divorced four times and is suffering from alcoholic cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle due to alcohol abuse.
It’s enough to make you wish that when the show is over, it really is over. Is there any way to bring back the larger-than-life mystique of the WWE Superstar?