The 5 Star Truth: The MacGuffin

Mike Steele


The MacGuffin: the device or plot element that catches the viewer’s attention or drives the logic of the plot.

As I was watching a documentary of Alfred Hitchcock, I took notice as he explained the concept of the MacGuffin, the object in the movie that everyone in the story wants, but no one in the audience gives a damn about. In his movie, North by Northwest, an excellent spy film that I had the pleasure of watching on television the other day, the MacGuffin was a small artifact filled with Micro Film. In Pulp Fiction which was directed by Quentin Tarantino, it was the suitcase of which the contents of were never revealed but was admired by everyone in the film who saw it. But to the audience, it meant little to nothing and was forgotten about by 99% of the movie goers.

In wrestling, though it may be blasphemous to say, the MacGuffin is any championship belt. The WWE Heavyweight Championship is a title in itself, separate from the belt, but directly associated. The belt doesn’t need to exist, it’s a symbol. It’s shiny and carries with it great esteem and prestige. It’s what every wrestler and even every fan wants. But not really. It’s just a belt. If you gave the belt to someone and said that they owned it but were still not considered the Heavyweight Champion then it would be meaningless. It’s the actual title that matters. The belt could just as well be a trophy or a T-Shirt that says, “I’m #1”. To be recognized as the best and the absolute number 1 person on the roster and in the world is what every wrestler dreams of. Holding the belt is just a luxury.

Without the existence of the actual title of being 1st place on the roster there wouldn’t be as strong of a purpose to compete. People generally like to compete for a score, for points. Students won’t do an assignment unless they are receiving credit for it that goes towards their grade in some way. Recently on the forums I co-own, TheWrestlingAsylum.com, we added an arcade with a bunch of addicting games like Tetris, Pacman, Asteroids, and so forth. As soon as I became the highest scorer on a game I wasn’t so compelled to play any more, unless I felt that I needed to get a better score before someone dethrowned me. The title of being #1 brings on the spirit of competition, the drive that makes everyone want to do the best they can. It’s why a win/loss record matters, it’s why wrestlers practice cutting promos over and over again, it’s why wrestlers learn new moves, it’s why Kurt Angle is practically begging to be in the main event on a regular basis. More than likely if there were no ranking system of any kind Kurt Angle would have retired after his first neck injury in WWE. When a wrestler wakes up in a hotel room in a place far from home, feels sore all over, has to travel again, and has to repeat the process all year round, he or she might ask themselves, “Why bother?”, and the answer is, “Because I want that gold”. But it’s not about the gold, it’s about being on top.

Aside from the championships, there are a few other MacGuffins in wrestling. In a ladder match, the Money in the Bank Ladder Match at Wrestlemania 21 for example, a wrestler has to beat down his opponent(s) long enough to be able to climb the ladder and reach for that prize. Sometimes it’s a championship belt, sometimes it’s a suitcase full of money. But the money means nothing to the fans. It shouldn’t even mean anything to the wrestlers involved as usually it’s substantially less than what they would earn per year, even from a storyline point of view. When Edge won the contract for a chance at the Heavyweight Title, the suitcase that he received with stapled paper inside meant nothing. He carries it around as a reminder that he has that No. 1 Contender spot in his hands. It’s a symbol of his “almost” main event status. The suitcase alone isn’t a reflection of his gimmick and serves no purpose other than as an equalizer at times. The fans don’t give a second thought to Edge’s MacGuffin, except to remember what it symbolizes.

If you take notice of the current feud between Ric Flair and Triple H, which has resulted in a match at Taboo Tuesday, you will also notice that Flair’s Intercontinental title is not on the line. In this instance, the MacGuffin is completely out of the picture. The focal point is meant to be the literal place as the wrestler in the spotlight that Triple H is seeking to take from Flair. The fact that the title is not on the line actually makes the feud more significant. It shows that there is more than a title at stake during competition. It reveals an entire new truth to the theory of the MacGuffin, but also resolidifies it, as the intensity of the feud would be far less significant if there was no #1 spot for Flair to stand in through all these decades. The MacGuffin plays an indirect but very important part in this particular instance and shows its true power in wrestling competiveness, from a storyline point of view anyways. I won’t get into its significance in terms of real life scenarios backstage in the business.

The MacGuffin is both irrelevant and highly relevant to the drive in wrestling storylines at the same time. It serves as a reason and advocation for every wrestler to lace up his/her boots. It gives purpose to every storyline and feud, even in a feud with no title involved. Each wrestling match is a step forwards of backwards to the title for one of the competitors. The MacGuffin’s influence in wrestling history is astonishing considering a championship belt is just leather and metal slapped together to look pretty, nothing truly useful. A wrestler’s quest for glory is often guided by a symbol of greatness rather than a system of rankings and win/loss records. How funny that something so highly regarded is only a representation of the true prize in wrestling. That’s the MacGuffin for you.

-Mike Steele

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