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Professional Wrestling and Audience Needs *K*

I am going to start marking which articles are geared towards workers in general with the *K* mark on the title. This denotes that the article is for those who understand kayfabe.

Why are characters in the big leagues not drawing like they did in the last generation? 

It's more simple than you think; the advent of the information age has completely wrecked the original concept of kayfabe. 

Not only that, but we are completely changing as a human race. Concepts of good and evil have changed, and what you could have gotten away with in the 20th century can no longer comply with the "Snowflake Society" of the 21st. In order to try and crack the code on which direction Professional Wrestling should go, we have to look at what has been popular on television and other methods.

In this article series, I am offering my point of view on where we can go, what to keep from the original formulas and psychology, and other systems which might be able to replace them.

What shows have fans willing to riot for? In the last few years, two come to mind; Game of Thrones and Walking Dead.

What do they have in common? They are complicated, hit the viewers in the gut by killing off beloved characters, and their characters are realistic.

Here are the three things people want in the 21st Century; Attention, Intimacy, and Relatability.



How do we catch the audience's attention? There is a great reason why Bray Wyatt took off the way it did; not only did he capture the attention of the crowd, but their imagination. The average attention span of a human being is now around 7-8 seconds. How does this factor into complication?

Think of the Firefly Funhouse as a pachinko machine of hints and Easter eggs. That, and it is one of the only gimmicks in Professional Wrestling history that rewards people for paying attention to the continuity of a wrestler's career. People crave looking for those "dings". Look at video games and their secret asides. Because these other mediums offer Easter eggs and continuity rewards, our society is being programmed to look into those little details. Complication in Game of Thrones and Walking Dead consists of foreshadowing, but the downside to these series is that you need to watch things from the beginning in order to fully appreciate the experience.

This is why binge watching series is so popular and even finished shows like Game of Thrones are still popular. You can watch through them all to see what you missed.

Look at all the theory videos to the Firefly Funhouse! Look how Bray builds on Easter Eggs and cryptic messages to add the insanity. They tried to do that with Liv Morgan to a degree, but it just didn't quite hold as well because the writers shifted directions very quickly.

If this is to be replicated in the indies, they need to choose only one wrestler to be the "complicated" wrestler. Too much complication will get rid of the main audience. The complicated wrestler will reward those who pay attention to continuity. That worker needs to play it like Disney plays adult jokes. Make it so that the children find it a funny moment, but the deeper meaning can be caught by the smarks and reward those who have seen past matches of the workers involved.



No, I am not talking about romance angles.

Why does Game of Thrones and Walking Dead get the views it has? They have Gwen Stacy Syndrome. Killing off beloved characters in order to raise ratings and shock value by ripping out the hearts of the fans. I am old enough to remember the old Spiderman comics for the Gwen Stacy death. For those of you who played Final Fantasy 7 for the first time, Aeris is also an example. Gwen did it first, though. Walking Dead makes it's money by the tension of knowing that people can die at any time for any reason. They even have an after show to show that it was just an actor.

When you do it sporadically, it gives the last wound time to heal before you rip it out again. 

If you do it too often, like in most horror films, the audience gets desensitized to the death. Sometimes they enjoy it like that.

If you do it in mass amounts (I'm staring at J.K. Rowling and the 7th Harry Potter book), then it leaves the audience bitter about the series.

What does this have to do with Professional Wrestling? 

The death of a loved one is something everyone experiences in their lives. It hits them in the heart. 

Professional Wrestling has a hard time using the "death" card unless the character is supernatural in nature. You can't play the death card in a place where you can still see the wrestling perform in another promotion. What Professional Wrestling does do in order to keep people in the seats is keeping things relatable to its audience. This is also the one thing that the Indies has over the big leagues. The wrestlers remember your names. They can go to the back rows and slap a high-five or goad them with insults. In a huge arena, it is hard to get hands on with the fans unless you take the match to them in a brawl. Even then, it's limited.



This ties in with Intimacy as it is the reason people can feel emotion towards a character. Unless your character is a supernatural character, the only way people feel invested to a gimmick is if they can relate to it. The Undertaker was over the moon for years, but it wasn't until we saw his humanity that he became legendary. He had a family once. He had a brother who was manipulated into destroying him. It's why Stone Cold became legendary because everyone has needed to face a boss they didn't like.

Empathy is the key to drawing crowds. The more you learn about people, the more your product can cater to their needs. This is why Sociology is just as important as knowing business practice. Even if you make off the wall gimmicks like demons or undead, having something they can relate to is what tugs their heartstrings.

This is why I hate slasher films. I have no idea what it is like to get my head cut off. 

You get some of those guys in NXT that work the hand locks, and I get nightmares about the time I got my thumb stuck in the car door after it slammed. 

Now, heels have to be clever with themselves. Just yelling insults at them or screaming at the top of your lungs at them just doesn't scare the kiddies like it used to. They get that crap every day from school or from their parents. In this instance, there is such a thing as "too much" relatability. I have been critical of Seth Rollins in the past, but whomever came up with using the corner of the steps to gouge someone's eye out needs a raise. We all have gotten something caught in our eyes in our lives, but to have steel rammed into it? That'll make you wince!

That fine line of being superhuman and human gets crazy because of the popularity of the flippy worker. Wowing them with Matrix moves is great, but not for the entire card. It takes years off of your life and career. If you do flippy, then if someone misses or gets connected with one of your epic moves, selling it like it was a catastrophic attack is important! The people can't relate to guys who just get up for the next spot, because they output all of this energy to try and one up one another and there is little payoff if they don't get cold-cocked by failing. 

Back in the old days, wrestlers sold the hell out of closed fists. Why? It was realistic.

Yes, you can be daredevil, but doing a flippy spot should be the new "closed fist". The more you put into a spot, the more that the one that gets the short end of that spot needs to sell.

I want to stir up some conversation so that people can come to new conclusions about how the Professional Wrestling industry is run. What I believe the people need from other shows ties hand in hand on how to rewrite Professional Wrestling. Since it first aired during the territory days, it has also been a TV show. Maybe looking at other TV shows will show us an answer.

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Sarah Whitaker
Sarah Whitaker

From American Idol, to the Professional Wrestling Industry, I am an eccentric adventurer hoping to change reality between my spiritual views, and my knack for solving problems.

The Kayfabe Manifesto
The Kayfabe Manifesto

A manifesto is a declaration of intentions, usually having to do with politics. I don't claim to be the end-all be-all of Professional Wrestling, but I have views that I want to share in order to make people think of ways to evolve the craft.

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