Wrestling is quite similar to theatre, with its plots, characters, and excessive dramatics, plus the extra athleticism, of course. Wrestling tells stories, of David and Goliath, of underdogs and kings, of heroes and villains, or, in wrestling terms defined: faces and heels (or, the third variant of a combination of the two: tweener). One major appeal of wrestling is thus not only the impressive athletic event but also the theatrics around it. Who is fighting? Why are they fighting? What is the story behind it?
Wrestling is a performance, catered to entertain its viewers, and is totally subjective.
Many people refer to wrestling as if it was like any other sport, e.g. baseball or basketball – but neither of those has kayfabe. Kayfabe is the most important key to pro-wrestling.
While in other sports, the case usually is “may the better one win”, wrestling is predetermined, speak: it is clear who is going to lose and who is going to win.
As Guillermo Rebollo Gil says: “Pro wrestling isn’t about winning or losing. Regardless of how successful a record, or how lengthy a title reign, no performer has ever really won a pro wrestling match.”
Wrestlers don’t portray their “true” or “real” persona in wrestling; they portray a certain character, that may be similar to them, or even the total opposite.
It is important to distinguish between the real persona and the character they play; this line, however, often blurs.
There are still fans insisting on kayfabe being strictly instated 24/7; others don’t mind the lines being crossed from time to time.
Especially with social media nowadays, it is a task to act in kayfabe all the time. Some are dedicated to it and try to uphold it as much as they can.
This is, however, where social media comes drastically into play…
Social media has made many wrestlers available to their fanbase; they can interact with their stars and support them. Big wrestlers often have a huge following, reaching from 100k people into the millions. Such interaction is very nice, and can strengthen the connection betweens fans and wrestlers.
Sadly, there is a downside to it, too. Some followers themselves forget the certain blur between the true persona and a character, and not only often offend and hurt the real person behind a wrestler, they also do the same to other wrestlers, fans, or people disliking their favourite star. Such dedication can sometimes lead to followers taking the tweet of their favourite wrestler as an invitation to flood another person’s mentions, insulting them, or straight up bullying them.
Sure, more often than not, wrestlers do not intend for people to get attacked over a simple tweet.
Social Media Presence
However, they should be very much aware of their social media presence and the power they have online.
If they reply to a small account or quote-retweet them with negative feedback, some of their fanbases come running to hate on that person. Out of this wrestler criticising a person becomes several people commenting on hateful and vile texts.
While the blame there of course is mainly on that certain fanbase, the wrestlers do have an important role in it: they can choose to not reply and ignore it.
If a wrestler themselves posts something hateful or vile, it is often defended with kayfabe.
“They are a heel!”
“Grow up, this is their job!”
“You’re just a sensitive snowflake!!!”
It is frankly baffling how much bigotry is defended and tolerated in the fandom. There is a line between being a heel or being a straight-up jerk that uses their platform to put others down, often in a derogatory way. From using slurs to being racist to being an abuser to being a nazi, you can always find someone defending it, because maybe they are a good wrestler, or they met them once and they were nice, or they are just as bigoted as their idol.
Idolizing An Immoral Idol
No person is perfect. No wrestler is perfect. But they shouldn’t be put on a pedestal and expected to be someone they simply cannot be. They are just as human as we are. They can make mistakes or have wrong opinions. They can also grow. They are not the perfect idol to accept everything from, to follow them blindly.
In all of the fandom dramatics, it is often forgotten that wrestling is merely a performance for our entertainment. It is not more important than people’s well-being. Disagreements exist everywhere. Instead of unintentionally exposing people online to heaps of harassment, wrestlers and fans should keep in mind that the block and mute buttons are also freely available.