The 5 Star Truth: The Land of Make Believe

Mike Steele


Last week I left you with my thoughts on WWE’s recent upswing, including the shoot vs. work hysteria among other things. I said I would be coming back with a sequel and here it is. I have to tell you, I almost didn’t write this one because I’ve been listening to ’50s Doo Wop songs for two days now and it’s just hard to be negative at all when listening to such euphoric tunes. But, I convinced myself that I wasn’t simply being negative, I was being analytical. I have presented my positive side, now I must present the negative side, which isn’t that harsh anyways. So here it is. Enjoy, learn, think!

Click Here to Read ‘Reality Check’

Of course I have already told you that I have been amazed by the shoot vs. work contrvoversy, which surrounds Matt Hardy mainly, but I also think that there is a huge risk to all of this. There is always a huge risk to anything worth doing and this is no different. I am concerned for the security of wrestling’s future how ever, with the direction that WWE is going with this. Matt Hardy’s situation is the biggest, but not nearly the only example of this entire controversy. Just recently, Vince Russo told his side of the story about the Bash at the Beach fiasco. He described how it was all a work, even on the wrestlers backstage, but it went horribly wrong. Well, it went wrong besides Hogan misunderstanding the whole thing because Russo didn’t give him a phone call. It went deeper than that. It wasn’t even effective with the fans. Why? Because they weren’t as knowledgeable as they are today and they were clueless. When kayfabe is being broken, it needs to be done for a good reason. That reason should be to play to a certain crowd, to give a wink at certain fans. Those fans being us, the internet wrestling community. That is why the Matt Hardy controversy works so well and WCW couldn’t make it work properly. When you think about it, WWE already knew that all of this would work. They had to know that fans would cheer for Matt Hardy, especially at Madison Square Garden, and it played out so well from there. But, even today it’s taking a dangerous step.

WWE constantly breaks kayfabe. Take guys like Al Snow for example. He goes from a complete nutjob to being a down to earth commentator who can think rationally and analyze the product. More over, when Tough Enough came into play, he didn’t just teach the wrestlers the moves, he gave them “gimmick” training and taught them how to fake taking punches. That’s just terrific. Way to give the fans mixed signals about wrestling. To me, even though it should be common knowledge that wrestling is fake, there should always be an area of mystique and larger than life feeling with wrestling. But as soon as you spoon feed the facts to the fans, they aren’t so impressed. It’s like going to see a magic show. If the magician showed you how to do every trick before he performed them, you wouldn’t be in shock, but if he hadn’t shown you, you would be floored and wouldn’t stop talking about it on the ride home. On television recently I heard Triple H tell a wrestler that something he did was gimmick infringement. The word gimmick shouldn’t even be used on television. Every character should be portrayed as truly being themselves when they step into the ring, especially the more extreme characters like Kane and Undertaker. Undertaker should never, and hopefully will never, be shown backstage in his street clothes having a casual conversation with another person. That would totally kill his persona in the eyes of fans. In ECW two wrestlers who constantly feuded were shown backstage casually talking to eachother as the camera strolled by on the way to focus on something else. That was a significant event and the fans definitely took notice and tried to figure out what was happening. It’s fine to show someone going through a transition of personality, but to totally show the contrast of their gimmick and what they really are like is going to be damaging. Although it’s illogical to think that Undertaker goes to the airport dressed like that and rarely speaks and doing segments like that answers a lot of questions that should be answered, it answers them in the wrong ways. It’s fine to try to make a wrestler’s character as thorough and as well thought out as possible, but it’s just stupid to fill it with out of character, gimmick damaging crap. Another occurence that is very similar is when they have a wrestler hanging out with random women, then they show their family and they are suddenly Mr. Perfect Husband and Mr. Perfect Dad. Then later they go back to showing them flaunting women around and the commentators make no mention of their family. When Dean Malenko was stalking Lita, they made no mention of his wife. When DDP was stalking Sara, they made no mention of his wife. When DDP turned face, his wife appeared on WWE television. But when they were being bad, their responsibilities disappeared. Finally this pattern was broken how ever. With this Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey feud, Guerrero’s family came out, trying to stop him from his bad behavior. Maybe I’m just too anal about certain things. But I’m a columnist, so I pay attention to EVERYTHING and examine it. Always have, always will. It’s my nature.

I was channel surfing today and I came across Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, an old children’s television show that I hadn’t watched in over 12 years. I stopped and watched for nostalgia purposes, and also to find out what my young brain found entertaining back then. But I was suddenly struck with an idea. Mr. Rogers has this litte trolly on a track that he gives personification too, as it were a thinking and feeling being. He sends the trolly to “The Land of Make Believe” or whatever he calls it. The Land of Make Believe features a few real people dealing with little hand puppets. There is usually a story based in a small setting that is like a little kingdom with various characters. What interested me though was that Mr. Rogers acknowledged that it was all pretend, yet the story was carried out as if it were real and the puppets were living, breathing beings. That is precisely what the WWE does. The commentators host SmackDown, but right in the middle they show a real interview with a wrestler on Jimmy Kimmel Live where he talks about his character. Again, that is sending mixed messages to fans about how they should perceive the product. As was said before by another columnist, who would want to watch a movie where all of the sudden the actors start talking about the script and how they’re going to do the next scene? Wrestling is entertainment, whether you like the term Sports Entertainment or not. It’s escapism. In no way do I wish to watch reality television right in the middle of a scripted show. Although, many sitcoms do inside jokes which are winks to their knowledgeable audience. But with wrestling it gets more complicated and more dramatic. We’re talking about glory and history, not a 4 year sitcom with one family involved being the center of the universe.

Recently, there have been contradicting mixtures of shoots and works. I think that the WWE is starting to get carried away. HBK showed a clip of Hogan on Larry King Live. In that clip, Hogan was in full blown kayfabe mode, talking about the heat between he and HBK and Larry King even asking him questions from a character point of view. Then HBK starts “shooting”, talking about Hogan doing the same crap for 20 years and being WWE’s protected golden boy. He said that there were a lot of people backstage with headsets on throwing fits at what he was saying. While I understand how they were staging a supposed work, it just didn’t look good. It took away from the aura of the feud. Instead of it being showman vs. showman, it’s going to be money making egotistical millionaire vs. money making egostistical millionaire and instead of it being big persona vs. big persona, it’s going to be petty brat vs. petty brat. It also does too much to show the weakness of Hogan’s character and the fabric of Hulkamania. While Shawn Michaels is busy shooting, Hogan will most likely show up on RAW in character mode and do the same old “I’m coming for you brother!” stuff, which normally is great, but won’t be effective this time. “Waking up the fans” can do harm sometimes. Fans want to see a clash of their favorite characters, not a clash of two toddlers fighting over a toy.

In the end, I think that doing too much “shooting” is creating too many questions for casual fans and marks. It leads them back to the internet, which the WWE is trying to counteract. It forces marks to turn into smarks. It forces them to lose their glitter eyes which make everything in wrestling seem perfect and wonderful. Some of you make think that’s a good thing, but I wish that I could look at wrestling that way again. I don’t care what I’ve learned or how much more I’ve discovered through the internet, nothing can take the place of watching The Rock vs. Triple H and being totally sold to their characters and not caring what they were really like in real life or thinking about any of their flaws. I miss not being anal I suppose. I started out with questions too. I’d hear rumors from friends that Kane used to be another WWE character called Isaac Yankem and that Triple H and Chyna were really dating. It tooks years later to venture to the IWC, but I was constantly reading RAW magazine before then, trying to take whatever little facts or truths they would choose to provide me with. But I’d give anything to go back, to look at a match with those enthused and not so critical eyes. Eventually, too much real shooting and fake shooting as well will backfire on WWE. Some fans will stop watching, being too confused and not caring for the overly complex storylines. Other fans will start to investigate, such as fans did with the Montreal screw job, and they will find information and become more knowledgeable about wrestling, becoming critical of the product, perhaps turning to other promotions instead, i.e. thousands of fans on the internet right now. Then again, maybe it will be dangerous enough to attract more indy fans, who usually look for things that are out of the norm and rebellious. What it all boils down to when doing something innovative and risky is, you have to learn the rules so you know how to break them properly (Thanks Gelman! He’s my Creative Visualization teacher. I am attending a Graphic Design trade school right now). Otherwise, you’ll leave fans disillusioned, frustrated, and turned off, hence why Eric Bischoff sweeps the floor at WWE headquarters now. And that’s the Reality Check for WWE.

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I would just like to say that WWE needs to stop copying me! Not too long ago I made a background for a graphic and then WWE.com started using a background very similar to it. Before that I made a “Grand Theft Eddie” cartoon for my site and then all of the sudden they had a Grand Theft Auto themed T-Shirt. Last week I put out my Reality Check column and then under a thumbnail of HBK spoofing Hogan’s Larry King interview the caption said “Reality Check”. I’m just teasing about them copying me, but those things always get frustrating. Take a look for yourself:



My Background



WWE’s Background



My Cartoon



WWE’s Shirt

I didn’t get a screenshot of the caption, but believe me, it was there and it weirded me out.

Anyways, it’s plug time.



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I put a semi-retarded cartoon up this week, featuring none other than Tatanka. TheWrestlingCrossfire, recorded by Douglas Nunnally is up on the site now after a 4 month absence. Doug is giving away a free Ring of Honor DVD so you’ll have to listen to the show to find out how to get your hands on it. Also, we’ve been doing Live Pay-Per-View Coverage regularly and successfully for a few months in a row now. Before we could only do them every so often. They are definitely popular now and we get them done 10 minutes faster than any other site. They’re also a lot more interesting because they aren’t just results, they are live reviews as well. So join TheWrestlingVoice.com for live coverage of SummerSlam August 21st! Just click the link above and navigate through the site to find the cartoon, audio show, and live coverage information.

Hopefully I’ll be bringing you a new column before SummerSlam. I just remembered that I have now been officially writing columns for 2 years now. I can’t wait until I can truly be called a “veteran” in column writing. I think that being a veteran takes 4 or more years really. Well, here’s to 2 more years!

-Mike Steele

mikesteele@thewrestlingvoice.com



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