It’s been a long time since the WWE and professional wrestling adhered to the old rules of kayfabe. For those unaware of the term, it’s used to refer to the idea that the behind-the-scenes of professional wrestling was something that needed to be protected. That meant, you weren’t going to see faces and heels hanging out. If John Cena and Bray Wyatt were feuding on TV, they wouldn’t be seen together (or else they’d fight).
This was in an era where we didn’t have cell phone cameras, we weren’t able to instantly know results and spoilers and we certainly didn’t have people following wrestlers around in hopes of breaking some big story on the Internet. Still, there’s a lot of potential for this to still work today.
Once kayfabe started breaking down, we had to go the way of the swerve. You know, we’re going to make the public think one thing but it’s not going to be that way! It’s going to be great! We’re going to get one over on the fans! That wasn’t verbatim, but I’m pretty sure Vince Russo said that to himself every day.
The point here is that there are ways to bring a certain mystery and allure back to professional wrestling without having to resort to some of the black hat tactics of the past.
The WWE already does this to an extent, but they’re really, really bad at it. In this era of sarcasm and snark, we can usually tell when people are being genuine and when they’re playing a role. When Summer Rae tweets out that Fandango is still her man, you can understand that we’re all a bit skeptical about it. We’ve seen WWE Divas (I mean, we’ve heard about it), we know that this is the faux-reality kind of stuff they do.
Still, planting stories and planting more real-life kinds of happenings on social media is a good idea if they can execute them properly. One of the best examples of being too good at this was when the WWE did the whole Brian Pillman scenario at his home. Local cops and even television producers freaked out. It felt real and thus for a while, it was real.
Remember when Punk dropped his pipe bomb? We were all glued to our television and we couldn’t wait until the next show, so that we could see if it was real. We scoured the Internet, looking for any kind of sign that it was for real. That angle was done well because it was mostly real.
Planting stories on social media can work the same way. If we caught CM Punk making out with Kelly Kelly and it was produced well on state-of-the-art cameras, the first thing we think is “work.” Now, put it on a shaky camera and ensure that WWE doesn’t even acknowledge it, and suddenly it feels more like a story. It feels real. There are more ways to get heat than the things you do in the arena.
WWE needs to think outside the box and needs to come up with ways to hold onto their customer base. Giving us some more realism has always helped — but they’ve got to do it better than they do now.