Monday, May 8, 2017

Kayfabe Police, Arrest This Man

Regardless of whether it's contributing to dorks criticizing wrestling, maybe Keller should leave Strowman alone
Photo Credit:
Jared Followill plays bass for the alt-rock band Kings of Leon, whom you may know for the song about flammable coitus and how road head is just the best. He's also the member of the band who had a pigeon shit in his mouth on stage. Well, he finally regurgitated that shit on Twitter Dot Com last night with the following take:
One could go the "obvious point out hypocrisy" route and remind everyone that no form of art celebrates arrested development the way rock 'n roll does, but honestly, given that Twitter's collective only way of proving someone "wrong" is by pointing out hypocrisies. Besides, it's not like Followill is even original in his criticisms. Rapper Joe Budden fired a tweet out recently along the same lines, proving that no matter what the milieu, White musicians are always stealing from Black ones.

Obviously, wrestling is not the only form of entertainment that is meant initially for children that is consumed by a wide swath of adults worldwide. One could argue the fact that sports are a multi-billion (trillion?) dollar industry not just in America alone but across the globe speaks to things kids do for fun on the playground being monetized for grown-up consumption. Add in the popularity of fantasy television shows, movies adapted from comic books, and 18-and-over animation, and millions of adults consuming and loving pro wrestling should seem like par for the course. Yet, if it's not some musician with fading popularity dissing the graps, it's the host of a podcast discussing a show like Breaking Bad or the host of a NBA recap show or a talking head shock sports radio host whose biggest claim to fame is carrying on a racist feud with John Wall spewing shit. It never fails to start an intersectional flame war between wrestling fans and people who don't like wrestling, one that burns like a California forest during drought season compared to the matchlights in the same vein that surround the other kids-entertainment-for-adults arguments that pop up from time to time.

The question to ask is WHY wrestling seems to attract these attacks when other media don't. Why do fans of Game of Thrones seem content to shit on pro wrestling as "fake" when their show contains way more CGI and is a lot more hostile to women (and for anyone in wrestling who knows how hostile towards women it can be, that's a goddamn feat)? I don't have the answers, but I do have a hunch, and that hunch revolves around the cult of kayfabe. Back in the olden days of the graps, back before Vince McMahon Jr.'s CARTOON TOMFOOLERY exposed the business and made everyone hip to insider lingo, kayfabe was as treasured as gold. Even if people were in on the gag as far back as the '30s and '40s if some accounts are to be believed, wrestling companies, workers, and promoters pretended like hell that everything was on the up and up. While that dynamic has been completely turned on its head, partially out of a misguided attempt to earn a buck (Thanks, Vince Russo!) and partially because holy shit, do you know how impossible it is to keep that charade up in the age of overgrowing exposure and social media, many people still want to keep the magic alive. I don't know the numbers of their ranks or how many people are like me and say "Yeah, I know it's fake and I don't fucking care, eat my asshole," but those who attack it don't care about the apathetic dorks like me who are okay with kayfabe not so much dying but evolving into something like that of a television show.

The problem isn't so much that people blur the lines and want to believe everything is or should be real. Again, kids do that all the time, and wrestling, like Wu-Tang, should be for the children. The problem is when dipshits who work in reporting the business like Wade Keller turn into the kayfabe police and demand that wrestlers adhere to their characters all the time or else be reprimanded in some way. Keller's obsession with maintaining old kayfabe has manifested itself in his haranguing of Braun Strowman, the first chance WWE has had at creating a legitimate crossover superstar that it'll actually get behind in full force since John Cena or even The Rock, for having a personal Instagram account that is linked to his Twitter (the horror!) or having a public profile on Tinder. I mean, only a wrestling rumor monger would want to deny the Monster Among Men to get a little action in the boudoir as reward for his massive feats of strength. The number of fans for whom Keller speaks is way too out of balance to ignore. I mean, he legitimately takes tips from Twitter tattletales and turns it into A BIG ISSUE. At least when Dave Meltzer scorches the earth on Twitter, it's for constructive things like WWE... lying about... attendance figures? Nah, forget it, that's awful and contributes to this "taking itself too seriously" thing too.

Far be it from me to contribute to a form of victim-blaming because yelling at the people whose favored artform is being attacked is counterproductive. I mean, everyone has a thing they defend, and honestly, if anyone, be it a washed-up rockstar or a dork with a podcast that looks to analyze a television show (no matter how "prestigious" the show is), attacks what they love, the natural response is to flood around it like white blood cells turn into antibodies to protect an afflicted area of the body. I will never totally be opposed to someone defending the graps to clueless outsiders because fuck them, wrestling is cool and shit. But I think housecleaning is in order for those within the fans' ranks who cling to this notion that everything in the ring is real all the time, and how dare you call it fake, no matter how obvious the work is. Folks like Keller need to settle the fuck down and realize that, say, Strowman and Roman Reigns being seen in proximity of each other visiting Italian landmarks on off-time doesn't take away from the story in the ring, because the story in the ring should be all that's needed to keep attention. If your belief in their feud is shattered because they aren't brawling all over the Roman Coliseum1, then maybe wrestling isn't for you, much like if Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey being friends in real life makes you not believe in the antagonism between Tyrion and Cersei on Game of Thrones, televised drama might not be your bag.

Of course, the criticisms about wrestling will never go away. Ever. If no preferred form of entertainment had people critiquing it, then that form of entertainment would be the first in history without its detractions. However, dorks like Budden and Followill will always seem emboldened to go after wrestling because they see a contingent trying to convince people that the fantasy is real. Or maybe not. I could be wrong. I mean, wrestling has been stereotyped as entertainment for hayseeds and rednecks for decades now, and thanks to Donald Trump winning the presidency, attacking the poor has never been more in vogue than it ever has been than right now. Maybe the hipster adoption of wrestling as this "cool" thing will solve a lot of problems, and those like Followill will be drowned out by advocates like Andrew WK and WrestleMania 33 pre-main event performer Pitbull. But honestly, folks like Wade Keller will always continue to be annoying as shit. My advice to anyone in wrestling fandom is to see Keller's constant pearl-clutching over the death of kayfabe as a cautionary tale of how to be as a fan/reporter rather than as one for the "death" of the industry.

1 - That being said, WWE definitely should have filmed a segment of them fighting in the Coliseum, not for kayfabe purposes, but because it would've fucking OWNED.