Published on July 5th, 2015 | by Pro Wrestling Stories0
KAYFABE in Professional Wrestling
“You know wrestling is fake, right?”“Is wrestling fake?”
If professional wrestlers or wrestling fans had a dime for every time they were asked this question, they would have a bank full of dimes!
It is an honest (and often infuriating) question, often coming from those naive to the business of professional wrestling. As Owen Hart would say to the people asking this, “Yes, every bit of it is fake!”
Which leads us to this next one…
“You know wrestling is fake, right?”
In the words of comedian, Ron Frutches, “Well, no shit it’s fake! What type of psychopath would I have to be if I wanted it to be real?”
To lift the veil on the world of professional wrestling, we need to take a look at the term ‘kayfabe‘. Kayfabe is a wrestling word coming from the early carnival days of wrestling for the word “keep”, originally used as “keep quiet”, or “keep secret”. Kayfabe is often seen as the suspension of disbelief that is used to create the non-wrestling aspects of the business, such as feuds, angles and wrestling gimmicks (or in layman terms, a wrestler’s on-screen persona from their personality down to their attire). In relative terms, a wrestler breaking kayfabe during a show would be likened to an actor breaking character on camera.
In the past, it was common for wrestlers to adhere to maintaining 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. This was due in no small part to feuds between wrestlers sometimes lasting for years, and which could be utterly destroyed in seconds if they were shown associating as friends in public, and thus potentially affect ticket revenue.
With the advent of the Internet Wrestling Community (or ‘IWC’ as coined by fans online), as well as the sports entertainment movement, the pro wrestling industry nowadays has become less concerned with protecting so-called backstage secrets and typically only maintain kayfabe during performances. However, kayfabe is occasionally broken in order to achieve a number of goals, among them advancing storylines, explaining prolonged absences (often due to legitimate injury or wellness policy suspensions), paying tribute to other wrestlers and sometimes for comedic effect with the delivery of insider humor.
There are numerous fascinating stories out there of legends talking about the days when they had to preserve kayfabe in public during a time when it was heavily protected. We will do our best to share some of the best stories out there. As well, we will share the thoughts from legends such as Bret Hart, Ricky Steamboat and Mick Foley where they talk about the evolution of kayfabe and how it is essentially dead today.