Yesterday I wrote about how I feel the best thing for “kayfabe” would be to redefine the term – separate the actual human beings from the characters and the storylines. It’s one thing to hypothesize about these things. It’s something else entirely to put it into practice. So let’s talk for a minute about the logistics of big change in WWE.
It’s not like it’s never been done before. WWE is measured throughout its history by big changes: going from The New Generation to The Attitude Era, moving away from a TV-14 rating, turning FCW into the NXT brand. It’s not impossible for WWE to drastically change its image. It just takes a lot of work.
When writing any sort of work of fiction, whether it be a novel or a script or a comic book, the greatest advantage the author can have is knowing their characters inside and out. Many writers craft intricate character charts with personalities and backstories so they know exactly how their character would behave in any particular situation. This presents that dreaded phrasing that someone is behaving “out of character”. That should never happen in WWE unless there’s an explanation – someone is possessed by a demon or put into a desperate situation. Creating characters for the WWE that are separate from their actual human counterparts would require a lot of imagination and a lot of work – on the part of both the creative staff as well as the performers themselves (who one would THINK would be consulted for this process.)
Once the parameters of everyone’s in-ring characters are defined, you could put them in any number of scenarios with ease. From there, the writing staff should go about creating the kinds of stories people can identify with – the kinds of stories that people tune in week after week to watch. In the Attitude Era, the storylines involving the blue collar Steve Austin and his ruthless boss Vince McMahon resonated with people. What sort of stories are resonating with TV audiences right now – stories of survival against insurmountable odds? Love stories? Stories of betrayal? Stories of inner struggle? Pretty much everything falls into one of the four basic types of conflict, but finding the right one for your audience takes some nuance.
Keeping a wrestler’s real life out of the ring is also important. Did it work for Edge and Lita? Sure. But I don’t think it worked for Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt – bringing Reigns’ real-life daughter into the storyline proved to be pointless and overly suggestive. (NOTE: I, personally, think any storyline that even implies a grown man is going to kidnap someone’s young daughter is in VERY bad taste and isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. /rant)
“But J!” Yeah, I know where this is going. “Some of my favorite wrestlers only became my favorite after I learned something about their personal life that they shared in the ring! They went to the same Wrestlemania as me when we were kids! They also had a troubled youth! They went to the same University as me! I know these people.”
I think this is where the plus side really is. Being able to separate the individual from the character creates more opportunity. Should Emilia Clarke be disinvited from participating in charitable organizations that benefit children just because she’s naked a lot on TV? No. Of course not. And being able to distinguish a wrestler from his character could be beneficial to the performer in terms of their opportunities outside of the ring. There’s a strange stigma, which I never really understood, that goes with being a wrestler. Perhaps if the format for the TV products were more closely related to actors performing on scripted TV shows, it wouldn’t be as such.
But there’s still one hurdle to jump. After making such a drastic change to the product, someone, somewhere, is going to ask “wait, why are Triple H and Paul Levesque suddenly two different people?”
And someone is going to have to say “because wrestling isn’t real.”