Kayfabe

Kayfabe

In professional wrestling, kayfabe (pronounced|ˈkeɪfeɪb "KAY-fayb") refers to the portrayal of events within the industry as "real", that is, the portrayal of professional wrestling as being not staged or not worked. Referring to events or interviews as being a "work" means that the event/interview has been "kayfabed" or staged, and/or is part of a wrestling angle while being passed off as legitimate. In relative terms, a wrestler breaking kayfabe during a show would be likened to an actor breaking character on camera.

Kayfabe is often seen as the suspension of disbelief that is used to create the non-wrestling aspects of promotions, such as feuds, angles, and gimmicks, in a similar manner with other forms of entertainment such as soap opera or film. In the past, virtually all wrestlers adhered to kayfabe in public, even when outside the ring and off-camera, in order to preserve the illusion that the competition in pro wrestling was not staged. With the advent of the Internet Wrestling Community and the sports entertainment movement in pro wrestling, the maintenance of pro wrestling's backstage secrets are more difficult to keep than they were in earlier decades. Today, kayfabe is sometimes broken to advance storylines, to explain prolonged absences due to legitimate injury, as a tribute to a wrestler, or even for comedic effect.

Origins

Pro wrestling can trace some of its stylistic origins back to carnivals and catch wrestling, where the term "kayfabe" is thought to have originated as carny slang for "protecting the secrets of the business." With money tight, a carny would call home collect, telling the operator their name was "Kay Fabian." This was code letting the people at home know they had made it safely to the next town. The family would then deny the call. This was a method of communicating without paying for the cost of a phone call or telegram.

The term "kayfabe" itself may ultimately originate from the Pig Latin form of "fake" ("ake-fay"), the phrase "be fake", the letters in the first syllables of "character fabrication", or possibly a non-standard Pig Latin form of "fabricate" (or fabrication) in the form of "CA(te)-FAB(ri)" (kayfabe).

The term "kayfabe" has been adopted (and arguably misused by most) by those outside the industry (i.e. fans and some members of the press) with the popularization of, first, insider newsletters, and later, insider information available via the Internet. In modern, popular usage "kayfabe" can refer rather broadly to narrative conventions—like not "breaking character"—which are common in theater. Originally, however, within the wrestling business, maintaining "kayfabe" referred rather narrowly to the socially-enforced demand not to reveal the predetermined nature of wrestling matches and the cooperative aspects of the performances. In practice, this imperative meant that wrestlers, promoters, their families, and others close to the business, were socially forbidden from talking frankly about the nature of their work to fans or the press.

Heels and faces

The characters assumed by wrestlers can be distinguished into faces and heels. Faces, short for babyface, are heroic characters, who enjoy the support of the audience, and who win matches on the basis of their technical skills. Heels are the antagonists, portraying villainous characters, who are generally booed and vilified by the audience. They are not beyond fighting dirty or cheating to win their matches. Matches are usually organized between a heel and a face.

Uses

Relationships

Many storylines make use of kayfabe romantic relationships between two performers. Very often, both participants have other real-life relationships, and the "relationship" between the two is simply a storyline. However, more than once, kayfabe romantic relationships have resulted either from a real-life relationship, such as between Matt Hardy and Lita, or ultimately developed into a real-life marriage (e.g., Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, who married in 2003, more than a year after their kayfabe marriage ended).cite web | url = http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2003560001-2006060325,00.html | author = Lilsboys (The Sun) | title = Matt: I still will not die | accessmonthday = April 12 | accessyear = 2007 |month=February | year=2006]

For years, the World Wrestling Federation presented real-life spouses "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth as a wrestler-valet relationship, with no mention that they were actually married. In 1991, the two began a kayfabe romantic relationship, which culminated in a wedding ceremony at that August's "SummerSlam 1991". The storyline ended a year later with the couple's real-life divorce (and Miss Elizabeth's departure from the WWF).

Tag teams of wrestlers, who may or may not look alike, are often presented as relatives, though they are not actually related. Examples include the The Holly Cousins (Hardcore Holly, Crash Holly, and Molly Holly), The Dudley family, etc.

Moreover, the Von Erichs, despite being a real life family, had a number of peripheral kayfabe relatives, most notably Waldo and his "son", Lance. Additionally, the "Von Erich" name itself was kayfabed; their real family name was Adkisson.

"You're fired!" and "I quit!"

Through kayfabe, wrestlers often quit or get fired, or are said to have been booked to lose a match where their jobs are on the line (e.g., a "loser leaves town match"), only to return at a future time.

However, such "departures" may also be used to advance a feud between two wrestlers. A classic example is the "masked man," where the wrestler (usually a face) who has supposedly lost his job makes appearances at subsequent events while wearing a mask, and then interferes in his heel opponent's matches; eventually, the masked wrestler's identity is exposed by his foe and the feud intensifies. This storyline was used for the Dusty Rhodes/Kevin Sullivan feud during the 1980s and also for the feud between Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan in 2003. Some more recent examples include William Regal losing a Loser Gets Fired match against Mr. Kennedy on the May 19 edition of "Raw" (Regal was actually suspended for sixty days due to violation of the WWE Wellness Policy), The Undertaker losing a TLC match against Edge at WWE One Night Stand where the winner would get the vacant WWE World Heavyweight Championship and Shawn Michaels' eye being 'injured' and making the decision to retire from wrestling.

The "you're fired" gimmick has also successfully been used to repackage a wrestler with a new gimmick.

On the August 22, 2005 edition of "RAW", WWE Champion John Cena successfully defended his title by defeating Chris Jericho in a "You're Fired!" match. Eric Bischoff promptly fired Jericho, and ordered that he be taken from the arena by security. However, Jericho was not truly fired, as his release was a mutual arrangement. The match had been conceived to cover for Jericho's departure from the company, and he eventually returned to the WWE on the November 19, 2007 edition of "Raw" after an absence of just over two years.

On an episode of "TNA Impact!" on December 6, Christopher Daniels was fired in the Feast or Fired match and due to the stipulations it was revealed that Daniels' briefcase contained the pink slip, immediately causing him to be released from TNA. He reappeared on January 24 under the guise of Curry Man, a masked character he has used in New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Breaking kayfabe

There have been several examples of breaking kayfabe throughout wrestling history. It should be pointed out that what exactly constitutes "breaking" is rather difficult to define. It is rare for kayfabe to be dispensed with totally and the events acknowledged as scripted. Often the "break" may be implied or through an allusion (for example calling a wrestler by his/her real name; which is done often) and standards tend to vary as to what is a break. In the WWE during and after the Attitude Era the line between kayfabe and reality was often blurred, while in the time prior to that such as in the Hulkamania era, kayfabe was usually strictly adhered to.

With the growth of the industry and its exposure on the Internet and DVD and videos, kayfabe may be broken more regularly. Whereas in the past it was extremely rare for a wrestler or other involved person to recognize the scripted nature of events even in outside press or media, WWE DVDs and WWE.com routinely give news and acknowledge real life. In the case of the former, it has ostensible adversaries and allies talking about each other, and the angles and storylines they worked and their opinions on them. On WWE.com, real life news is often given which may contradict storylines.

As of late, WWE.com has included an "Industry News" section to their website, which regularly breaks kayfabe to deliver news about current and former WWE superstars, and even going beyond their former policy of not acknowledging their competition, TNA, by posting TNA Impact! and pay per view results on their site. Live events for virtually every wrestling company around the world are also listed on a regular basis, as are titbits regarding wrestlers, such as Nick Hogan's arrest and incarceration, the Ultimate Warrior's return to wrestling and challenging Vince McMahon to a match, etc.

Kayfabe has been broken many times, though it may not always be apparent to fans as seen below. The following is a list of some of the more notable examples.

Montreal Screwjob

The most popular example is the Montreal Screwjob (also called the Montreal Incident) in which Bret Hart (WWF Champion at the time) was going to wrestle Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship. The agreed finish was to have Hart walk away with the title that night and come on "RAW" the next night to give up the championship. Hart had already signed a deal with World Championship Wrestling and still had three weeks after Survivor Series 1997 before appearing on "WCW Monday Nitro". Vince McMahon, fearing that his championship would appear on his rival's TV show, felt that he needed to change the agreed finish without telling Hart. Vince went out and told the ring crew to ring the bell and say Michaels won the championship. Hart, very upset, spat on Vince (later punching him in the dressing room) and wreaked havoc on equipment around the ring. It was long thought that Michaels had nothing to do with the change, but it was later found out he was in on it as well. The incident was recreated several times over the years such as in a storyline to screw Mankind at the following year's Survivor Series. The same finish was recreated on the March 18, 2006 edition of "Saturday Night's Main Event", where McMahon screwed Shawn Michaels in a match with his son Shane in order to build up the feud between the two leading up to their match at WrestleMania 22.

1996 MSG Incident

In the 1996 , real friends Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Diesel, and Razor Ramon broke kayfabe by embracing in the ring at the end of a match between Michaels and Nash. Nash and Hall were on their way to rival promotion WCW, and the incident was a farewell from Michaels and Triple H. As punishment for breaking kayfabe, Triple H was relegated to working lower card matches and was booked to lose to Jake "The Snake" Roberts in the King of the Ring 1996 tournament, having previously been booked to win it. The event had a profound impact on the company overall in later years, as Stone Cold Steve Austin was booked in Triple H's place to win the tournament overall, thus setting the stage for Austin's meteoric rise to prominence in the late '90s.

Hogan/Savage/Miss Elizabeth saga

Sometimes a real life issue that a wrestler is involved in outside of kayfabe will be used as a storyline.

The end of The Mega Powers, the alliance between Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, was inspired by real-life tension between the two men over Randy's valet (and real-life wife) Miss Elizabeth.

McMahon Steroid Trial

In the build up to Hulk Hogan's match with Vince McMahon at WrestleMania XIX, real life tension between the two men following McMahon's steroid trial was added to the storyline to generate interest in their match.

id/Scott Steiner

Shoot comments were a popular tactic of Vince Russo, who would often blur the line between kayfabe and reality. WCW, in its declining years of the Monday Night Wars (a term used to describe the time when the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling were in direct competition), would use real life incidents the wrestlers had as material for storylines, even though they could be seen as tasteless at times. A prime example of this is when Sid Vicious suffered a severe leg break in a match against Scott Steiner from a botched 2nd turn-buckle kick in January 2001.

Mick Foley and Ric Flair

Ric Flair and Mick Foley's real life issues were also built into a storyline, which used the real criticisms of each man against the other in their respective books as fuel for the storyline.

pecial and Tribute shows

In specials and tribute shows, kayfabe is often broken. In the tribute shows for Brian Pillman, Owen Hart, Eddie Guerrero, and Chris Benoit, many wrestlers and officials, including those who had kayfabe feuds with them, spoke in their honor.

Kayfabe and real life came into serious conflict on June 25, 2007, when the actual death of Chris Benoit necessitated an appearance by WWE chairman Vince McMahon on his "WWE Raw" program which aired that same day, even though the character of Mr. McMahon had been "killed" in an automobile explosion on a previous episode. The actual deaths of Benoit and his family led McMahon to appear in person on the episode to establish that he, the person, was alive, although his character was apparently dead, a rare on-screen acknowledgement of kayfabe. He also stated that Benoit actually was dead, and that the episode that was scheduled for that night, which was originally intended to be a memorial to the Mr. McMahon character, would instead be dedicated to Benoit. The remainder of the episode consisted of WWE wrestlers and commentators making non-kayfabe comments about Benoit's life. This tribute was broadcast hours before police announced the circumstances of Benoit's death. As a result, the next night on "ECW" opened once again with McMahon, this time stating that no further tributes to Benoit would be made, and that the episode would feature regular wrestling matches in honor of the WWE itself. The breaking of kayfabe necessitated by the Benoit murder-suicide forced the Mr. McMahon assassination storyline to be abandoned, and it was not until the August 6, 2007 edition of "Raw" that McMahon revived his "Mr. McMahon" character, beginning a new storyline with himself as the central character. He modestly referenced and showed footage of his limousine exploding, and admitted it was fake.

The ending of the "RAW" fifteenth anniversary special featured both heels and faces enjoying a beer together with many WWE alumni. When Ric Flair retired the night following WrestleMania XXIV on "Raw", the entire roster of all three brands thanked him for all he had done as well as former wrestlers such as the Four Horsemen and Ricky Steamboat. [ http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/archive/03312008/articles/longgoodbye.]

A break which is apparent but not acknowledged

In the ring as in theater many scripted things can easily go wrong, either due to wrestler or equipment error. Like theater, these are often covered-up and not apparent to fans. On some occasions mishaps have been brought into sharp relief due to the circumstances or actions of individuals, making the mistakes obvious.

*In the 1995 Summerslam ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship, Shawn Michaels twice fumbled in his attempt to retrieve the belt, the second time very obviously, forcing his opponent Razor Ramon to lay down for a lengthy period of time, far greater than what is normally associated with the bump that he took.

*At SummerSlam 1997, in another Intercontinental Title Match, a reverse piledriver administered by Owen Hart to Steve Austin resulted in a serious injury for Austin. He was clearly unable to move for several minutes and eventually only did so with great difficulty. Owen Hart's concern was apparent to all. Austin was scripted to win, and Owen taunted him and the crowd for a while until Austin rolled him up for a weak pin and the win.

*In October 2007, John Cena battled Mr. Kennedy on an edition of "Raw". During the match, Cena injured his shoulder while executing a hip toss on Kennedy. For the duration of the match, Cena visibly favored his shoulder and arm. After the match, Randy Orton (then in the middle of a feud with Cena), attacked Cena, eventually performing his finisher (the RKO) on him while on top of an announcing table. WWE worked Cena's real life injury into the Randy Orton/John Cena feud storyline, stating that Cena's shoulder was injured due to the RKO (and not that it was injured during the match with Mr. Kennedy).

*In June 2008, at the One Night Stand PPV, Triple H battled Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing match for the WWE Championship. At one point during the match, Orton was supposed to attempt an RKO on Triple H, which was then supposed to be countered, resulting in Orton being thrown over the top rope to the floor. Yet as Orton hit the floor, he suffered a legitimate broken collarbone, and as he was writhing in agony, Triple H could be seen discussing with the referee and the EMTs whether or not to continue the match; it was obviously decided to conclude the match early, so Triple H took out his signature sledgehammer, and proceeded to hit Orton in the head with it, thus finishing the match.

*Bret Hart once talked about a match against Dino Bravo he was meant to win; during the match, Bravo threw Hart into a barrier outside of the ring and injured Hart's ribs. Without letting Bravo know, Hart battled on and was in severe pain. When he was thrown back into the ring, he did all he could to win the match without giving away his injury.

Other

On the May 5, 2008 edition of WWE Raw, Roddy Piper mentioned Santino Marella's recent DUI arrest on Carlito's Cabana.

Certain storylines can also be ended due to a kayfabe event. One example of this happening was on the June 23, 2008 edition of WWE Raw when Vince McMahon finished giving away $1,000,000 as part of his Million Dollar Mania. After giving away $500,000, the left hand part of the stage collapsed and Vince tumbled to the ground. After he got up, a monitor fell on him, which resulted in all of the Superstars that were in the ring and several people from backstage running in to help him, which made it feel like it was legit. Vince also was heard referring to Triple H by his real name (Paul).

torylines becoming real life

Some efforts to promote kayfabe have resulted in real-life consequences.

While working as a booker for WCW, Kevin Sullivan was involved in a wrestling feud with Chris Benoit. He booked Nancy, his wife both on-screen and off, to leave his character for Benoit's. Sullivan insisted that the two should travel together to preserve kayfabe for the general public. This resulted in Sullivan's wife legitimately leaving him for Benoit when the two developed a real-life romantic relationship during their time together. Nancy married Benoit in 2000.

Brian Pillman developed the "Loose Cannon" persona for himself while in WCW in 1996, conspiring with Vice President Eric Bischoff and booker Kevin Sullivan. Pillman's gimmick was based entirely on straddling the fine line of kayfabe. He would engage in oncamera actions that seemed to be unscripted, even to the other performers, and even breached kayfabe protocol when he addressed Sullivan on air as "bookerman." In the ultimate act of turning fiction into fact, Pillman convinced Sullivan and Bischoff that their storyline "firing" of him would seem more legitimate with the physical evidence of a release form. They faxed an actual WCW contract termination notice to him, complete with his name and the proper signatures, in order to preserve kayfabe.

ee also

*List of professional wrestling slang
*Fourth wall
*Trade secret
*shoot

Notes

References

* [http://www.doubletongued.org/index.php/dictionary/kayfabe/ Word Origin Citations]


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