As a kid, I knew people who would defend the authenticity of WWF; yes that’s how old I am – that WWE was still WWF back in the day. I did not watch it early on with the knowledge that it wasn’t real. Even when I found out that it is fake, I thought that it ought not to be called fake just because it wasn’t real. Would you call a respected actor a ‘fake’? No. Why use it for WWE, then? I prefer calling it scripted to calling it fake. The word ‘fake’ has extremely negative connotations. This is the age of ‘keeping it real’. If something is blatantly not real, transparently scripted, does it automatically become worthy of scorn? Not if you take the time to think about it. To quote the Matrix, “What is real? How do you define real? If real is something you can see, or touch and feel, then reality is simply a set of electric signals sent to the brain.” So something that’s instantly dismissed by some people as ‘fake’ ought not to be judged so quickly.
A lot of people boycott WWE saying that the fights are not real. Yes, WWE is not real. It is devoid of the most important aspect of sports – uncertainty of outcome. That is the most prominent argument used by the detractors of the sport. Those detractors will probably scorn at my use of the word ‘sport’ in conjunction with WWE. But take a moment to consider: although the outcome is scripted, are we privy to the script? Do we know the outcome of the matches we watch? No! Why then are the detractors talking as if having the outcome decided makes it any less of an authentic experience?
Here’s an analogy. If watching WWE fights and having an impassioned reaction to the fights and outcomes are childish, if the fact that the fights are scripted ought to insulate away any and all emotion, then watching a touching movie and crying is even more pathetic by comparison. A WWE fight at least unfolds in real time; however thickly scripted it may be it’s still happening live. In a movie, there are hundreds of takes and movies are still labeled as ‘touching’, ‘authentic’ and even ‘life-changing’. Not to belittle movies, but the same brush ought to be used to colour WWE too. It’s more theater than a fake charade. And the sanctity of theater cannot be overstated. A lot of our rich heritage has been passed on through the theater. Some of the world’s most respected actors such as Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, etc. were Gods of theater. Today’s WWE superstars participate in another theater of sorts, one where the risk of physical injury is higher than many other forms of LIVE entertainment.
When I say WWE is the modern theater, I’m trying to draw a parallel about the dangerous part of yesteryear’s theater days with WWE. Back in the good old days, there was barely any safety net in theater. Potential danger lurked every minute. And WWE is one of the few modern forms of theater in which physical grace has survived and thrived on such a huge scale. It is an art form which deserves its own respect. There won’t be a day when a WWE athlete will be seen as having attained a level of respect as an athlete who throws a touchdown pass in the last minute, or hits a bunch of sixers in one over or wins the MVP. Those are sports where the athletes go out and face uncertainty. That is one curse of the WWE that being a legitimate sport in its own right, it will always come up short in the face of sports where there is competition. And that should in no way demean the image of WWE.
These days sports have lost quite a lot of the sound and positive values associated with them, what with the innumerable betting scandals involving high profile athletes and officials. What they are doing is trying to decide the outcome of the sport by a means other than honest competition. In WWE, the outcome is decided already! That probably makes it the cleanest sport of all. Sportspersons these days go out of their way to promote their image with theatrics. Often it works out well and equally often they fall flat in their attempt to look cool. In WWE, theatrics are a part of the package in a meaningful way as the athletes are also accomplished actors who are groomed in theatrics. That makes WWE drama more wholesome than drama in other sports.
So the next time when you meet a rabid football or cricket fan who derides you for following WWE, nod commiseratingly at their short shortsightedness and try to educate them on the true meaning of sport. And please advise them against using the word ‘fake’.