By Ryan K Boman, Editor in Chief
“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”
– Tom Clancy
One of the great things about pro wrestling as theater is its ability to draw you in. That one moment, where you as an audience member, can get lost in a cavalcade of fire, fury, and maybe even a little bit of funny.
Those of my generation seemingly had the best of all worlds. Most of us were either teenagers, or in our 20’s, when The Monday Night Wars era was at its peak. It’s a time period that we look back upon fondly, because it gave us a boatload of action, along with a little taste of reality. It brushed away the cartoonishness of our youths and embraced the angst of our adolescence.
And, for the first time, it began giving us a look at what was actually going on in the business: All the things that we had wondered and whispered about. Even as there were bloody battles and bitter feuds, there was always at least a slight wink and nod to the camera.
In many ways, it was the end of the innocence
The rise of the internet and the reality TV boom of the 90’s spread to the arena, and storylines started to get darker. Wrestlers began to use their actual birth names, and would sometimes even ‘break the fourth wall’.
In the lead up to WrestleMania 35, WWE has been dabbling in a little reality of their own making. The recent actions of Ronda Rousey – particularly her outright use of the word “scripted” to describe pro wrestling – have many old school fans in an uproar.
For those who may have missed it, the baddest woman on the planet has been rambling to anyone who will listen that while she’s a legitimate fighter, her WWE cohorts are nothing but imposters. In a recent video, she discussed how RAW is a just show, and implied that fellow performers like Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch are nothing more than glorified stunt-women.
The idea behind all this sudden seriousness is to portray Rousey as having ‘gone rogue’, and spitting in the face of a silly, psuedo-sport. It paints a picture that she’s a disgruntled MMA fighter who won’t follow the archaic rules of kayfabe.
So basically, it’s an artificial heel turn designed to look as authentic as possible. And, for an age group of fans who still clings to the idea of ‘keepin’ it real‘, this opens an entire Pandora’s Box of questions.
While we were once intrigued by the Madison Square Garden incident, and used to giggle at the mere mention of backstage heat during promos – we’re not very fond of this modern day version of exposing the business. Recent articles have stated that the older fanbase is more outraged than ever by Rousey’s recent actions, and I think I have an honest explanation for that.
Not only do they resent her as an ‘outsider’ to wrestling, they resent her for trying to work an audience that has already seen this type of thing. We’ve lived through the highest of highs in wrestling, and for a newcomer to try an re-invent the wheel is about 20 years too late.
Maybe the class of 1999 would fall for it THEN. But, not now… Not in 2019.
For a group who was once delivered from the closeted days of kayfabe, to the sunshine of shoot interviews, Rousey’s actions are clearly forced, phony, and more fake than ever. And by no fault of her own, she’s been thrown in to a very plastic attempt to create authentic anarchy.
Our generation lived through a time period where wrestling became bared to reality, and open to the world. As we watched the rise of alternative music, independent films, and social media, we took part in an era that was truly genuine. It’s one that has been has now been framed as wrestling’s Modern Day Renaissance. And, also one that has been romanticized for its unbridled aggressiveness and bare-bones honesty.
Maybe that’s why Generation X is so skeptical of this new dose of reality. Because for 20 years, we’ve watched everyone who followed us try to re-boot what we once eXperienced. We’ve now gone from outkasts to entrepreneurs, and from prom night to parenthood. Many of our attitudes have changed over the past two decades, and our eyes have been open wider than before.
So, when we see WWE try to stage that same ‘wild west’ era by taking it this far? We look down upon the awkward insanity. In an attempt to not ‘seem fake’, they appear more phony than ever. And that’s because you can’t replicate a revolution, and you can’t re-write realism.
If I were WWE or any other wrestling company, I wouldn’t participate too much in the outing of their own product. We fans have always wanted to suspend our disbelief, even if its for just a few hours a week.
Because, as we all know… Reality Bites.