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  1. #1
    Senior Member 205 Clive's Avatar
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    [KOTC:R2] Fantasy Is Dying In Our Hunt For The Truth

    All Elite Wrestling will take over the world. Cody, The Young Bucks, and all associated with The Elite are sticking it to “the Fed”. The Revival, Mike & Maria Kanellis, seemingly countless other WWE employees are unhappy with how their careers are panning out. These are but a few of the declarations that have recently made their away around the wrestling pockets of social media, growing arms and legs by the repost. It is not the first instance of the world wide web being used as a breeding ground for a wide array of unfounded reports, and it certainly won't be the last. What is dangerous about these comments, however, is the increasing lack of consideration given to what is fact and what is mere fantasy.

    We are now, more than ever, in a world where an all expanding game of Chinese Whispers is at play. Wrestling news sources, personalities’ interviews, or intentionally vague Twitter posts from underutilised performers. No matter how the gossip comes to be, or whether or not the actual content is accurate, what is initially a whisper becomes paraphrased, contorted, and moulded into a roar. The truth is lost along the way with alarming frequency. The final product regularly results in false verbatim, accepted by perhaps not an overwhelming majority, but a very vocal minority. The problem, however, is that this minority’s voice is growing in volume by the week, as wilder rumours replace the already outlandish ones that came before. The line between fact and fiction becomes exponentially more difficult to determine.

    Why, though, is the necessity to know more about what occurs off screen more urgent than what takes place in front of it? Furthermore, is this compulsion the ultimate reason fans are turning their back on WWE?

    Admittedly, there are other factors that could be to blame for the malaise. On the surface, one could assume WWE’s writing team is stuck in a creative quagmire, brought about by the unnecessary reliance on certain individuals being presented as the focal point of the product, whether they be full- or part-time talent. Other companies, within USA’s borders and even across oceans, are putting out a product that some audiences can latch on to more naturally, immediately conjuring up unfair comparisons to a company that is a different beast entirely. Last, but by no means least, is the emergence of AEW. Although an untested wrestling entity, many who subscribe to the above opinions believe this new venture will secure market dominance at WWE’s expense.

    It may be hard to argue against the above points, but it would be irresponsible not to at least entertain the notion that a certain amount of the criticism directed towards WWE is based upon the voices and words of a select few; an inner circle whose opinions and interpretations of the fictional programming presented to us is heavily influenced by their supposed knowledge of backstage scuttlebutt. For some, whether we want to admit it or not, this is a culture that is eradicating the reason we fell in love with wrestling to begin with.

    As a result, the fascination for what happens behind the curtain, rather than that of the on-screen and in-ring stories, now dominates social media feeds around the world. What seems to have been forgotten is that professional wrestling is, at its heart, a work of fiction. By design, it should be considered in a similar category of entertainment to that of the episodic television drama that not only has us gripped by its characters, stories, and themes, but is also immune to the dense criticism and analysis which WWE is regularly subjected to.

    The disregard for WWE's base intention is not just applicable to present times, but also to moments throughout history. Although firmly rooted in our memories, these events are forcibly dug up and replaced with gossip and hearsay, all done with the purpose of gaining insight into the creative processes of times gone by. Having said that, blame should not just be placed solely on the shoulders of the Meltzers, Satins, and Sapps of the world for this behaviour. There are those in the wrestling industry who adopt a tell-all approach, in the form of increasingly popular podcasts, who should also be held accountable. So, too, should the autobiographies penned by legends of the business who lift the lid on the inner workings of the great machine. These sources of information piece together for us, the consumer, the political and creative jigsaws that were assembled in a time where technology was still in the dark ages, in comparison to today.

    Consequently, a dangerous path has been taken. Classic matches, character arcs, and angles in wrestling history are being revisited with a different and perhaps unnecessary motive in mind. People are now armed with a newfound retrospect with which they were not supposed to approach the product in the first place. Events which some may hold dear to their hearts are no longer safe from scrutiny.

    Although probably not the most infamous of examples, a time that immediately springs to mind is the WWF World Title match at Summerslam 1999; a triple threat between Steve Austin, Triple H, and Mankind. “Mrs Foley’s Boy” would be the one to surprise us all when he came out on top ahead of Austin and Triple H, both locked in the beginnings of a long and bitter rivalry. Mankind’s underdog status won the hearts of many a fan at the start of 1999, and that feeling of joy did not abate several months on. The heartache that followed as he lost the title to Triple H the very next night was a sore one to take for his loyal followers. The story that has come to light since then, however, of Steve Austin refusing to lose the title to Triple H due to a lack of faith in his credibility as a top villain, and using Foley as a go-between to eventually crown The Game, paints a bitter picture of a man too caught up in his own self worth to play ball. This tabloid-esque scandal may be a fascinating insight into the man behind the legend that is Stone Cold, but is this story any better than that of the plucky underdog overcoming the odds? Does this not, in fact, tarnish the legacy of all three men, especially Mankind, who was used as a mere pawn throughout?

    There are countless more scenarios almost identical to the above where politicking has influenced WWE’s canon. So many examples are now readily available, they are considered as reference points that enable analysis of the product for reasons other than what was intended that much more commonplace. This is almost certainly how the internet wrestling community’s biggest influencers form their opinions which, thanks to the snowball effect afforded them by today’s technology, is gaining them more believers. A hive mind mentality is taking shape before our eyes.

    An important question to ask, however, is how accurate is this inner circle’s intel today? More worryingly, why are some not questioning the accuracy? Not a week goes by where a report or opinion is accepted as fact and, in turn, the events that transpire on our screens are met with derision, even when what takes place doesn’t fall in line with said report. The resulting consensus is that WWE is at fault regardless. If it is different from what fans expected, it is considered a failure. When it is as forecasted, the product is deemed too predictable. WWE are in a lose-lose situation as a result.

    It is with this unhealthy thought process that fans have latched onto a story that has taken WWE by storm in the form Becky Lynch’s rise from mid-card purgatory to possibly etching her name in history as one of the first women to close out a Wrestlemania PPV. Since Summerslam 2018, Lynch has thrown caution to the wind and laid waste to her peers, in unrepentant fashion, to stand atop the summit of women’s wrestling in WWE. The main reason for her change of tact, as she reminds us on the microphone and online every week, is her frustration with how management play favourites with certain wrestlers. Lynch’s most ardent fans firmly believe that Becky’s rise to superstardom is in spite of WWE. But surely that Lynch has been so dominant these past six months is an indication that Vince McMahon does indeed consider her a top star? She has, repeatedly and emphatically, embarrassed the apparent chosen one, Charlotte Flair. She has looked strong against Ronda Rousey, a wrestler with significant mainstream appeal, not to mention her credibility as a genuine mixed martial arts star in her own right. The perceived narrative that the possibility of Charlotte or Ronda having any hint of momentum heading into Wrestlemania is management clipping Becky’s wings behind the scenes is arguably not the case, as evidenced above.

    What better way, then, than to face the battle between fact and fiction head on, embrace the paranoia that has given these detractors such a loud voice, and use it to your advantage? In storyline, by inserting Charlotte Flair into the Raw Women’s Championship match in Becky Lynch’s stead, Vince McMahon has taken her fans’ worst insecurities and amplified them further. Those with a keen eye, however, can reasonably assume the mounting adversity that Becky now faces is a tool used to make her potential coronation at Wrestlemania that much sweeter, further cementing her as the top star that WWE have wanted her to be from the beginning. Should she be reinserted into the match, of course…

    Admittedly, this occasion of using fan paranoia brought about, in part, by those apparently in the know to further a storyline for the better isn’t a commonly used practice by WWE’s writers. Perhaps this is a flash in the pan. Perhaps a story this captivating won’t be matched again for some time. However, if Vince McMahon and his team of decision makers were to infiltrate the ongoing game of Chinese Whispers more astutely, it could see some good will restored. If the end result has the desired effect, maybe fan resentment will diminish. Maybe the unwarranted negativity towards WWE will wane. Maybe, just maybe, fans will truly embrace the fiction once again.

  2. #2
    HUGE Member TheLAW's Avatar
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    Great work here Clive! Honestly I was just happy to see a column not about death in this round. Lol.

    I simply cannot see AEW coming close to the WWE Conglomerate. Specifically because they are not a wrestling company, yet. They are a PPV Wrestling show amd merchindise company. There are several factors thst go into being a wrestling company for me. One of them is a schedule of events or shows that dont have a 13 month span in between them, and also TV. Until they have those things, or at least tell us they've always had them, they arent changing anything with me.

    I love how every five seconds we're hearing about how someone from WWE is jumping ship to AEW. Wait... No I don't. Its not 1995 anymore and I already heard that story.

    Excellent work here bud. Kept me engaged the whole way.

  3. #3
    Lamb of LOP anonymous's Avatar
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    I’m gutted this wasn’t a column about R Truth after reading the title.

    AEW will be temporarily entertaining then collapse as their owners realize it’s not a big enough financial earner . I really don’t see much coming from it unless it gets a really strong weekly TV show and people actively boycott WWE. I think it will be a reverse XFL though.

    Fans love moaning about the product. See Tito’s readership figures. Negativity is something wrestling fans thrive on and love to discuss. It’s part of our escapism adventure that is wrestling.

    This was good stuff. Good luck.

  4. #4
    Member #25 SirSam's Avatar
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    Love this piece man, it is an idea that I hold close to my own heart. Peaking being the curtain may be a little intoxicating but I feel like it is ultimately toxic to our wide eyed fandom and breeds something far more cynical. I suggested that on a recent main page column and one of the responders said people are only into backstage news because what is in the screen sucks but I just don't buy it, people do it because it gives us a feeling of being 'in the know' but ultimately I believe it really limits the product. The proliferation of backstage news and how it influences a vocal part of the fan base is one of the reasons we seem sick for eternity with The Authority as hell managers because it is one of the few storyline they can do that will reliably draw the kind of negative reaction which is necessary to truly launch a hero.

    Of course I'm a massive hypocrite because I could just choose not to pay any attention to it and in an ideal world I would soley engage in the fiction. However it is next to impossible to engage with the online fan base without at least having a foot in the backstage news and as you pointed out so often those conversations are dominated by the more inflammatory reactionary culture. Sadly it is not just wrestling that is grappling with the fact social media tends to reward those with the most inflammatory opinions, just look at the mess that is western politics right now.

  5. #5
    This is really a great piece 205 Clive, the theme is treated superbly and with excellent use of the past and present examples. I especially liked your analysis of the 1999 SummerSlam main event, given what the dominant narrative is about that event, and what it could be if we weren't so focused on the backstage drama. I'm someone who doesn't use social media at all and I still find it difficult not to let the rumors and reports intrude in my enjoyment of the product. I also thought it was excellent the way you describe our paranoia about what we see on screen, we want so bad to know the intentions of the company before we can simply give in to the stories presented. Very thoughtful analysis and important call for us to fully embrace the fiction.

  6. #6
    You know who I am, but you don't know why I'm here
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    I thought this was tremendous and a really good example of stepping up in a tournament environment's deeper stages. Incredibly engaging topic that was presented with a smooth flow in well-written fashion and made excellent use of its assigned topic. You OK with me posting this to the MP?
    Author of The WrestleMania Era book series, author of The Doctor's Orders columns on LOP since 2010, LOP Columns Hall of Famer, former host of The Doc Says podcast on LOP Radio (2013-2018), former LOP Raw and WWE PPV Reviewer (2006-2007), and former LOP Smackdown Reviewer (2004-2006)

  7. #7
    Senior Member 205 Clive's Avatar
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    Evening, Doc. Wow, this was unexpected. I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as you did. I'm more than happy for it to go on the MP.

    To all - I'll wait a couple days to touch on all your feedback. But I have read the comments so far and they're appreciated.

  8. #8
    yeah this one blew mine out of the water.

  9. #9
    Thanks ever so much for this column Clive. There is good ways and bad ways for someone to live his/her fandom. Your thoughts are well written and very engaging. I love it when I read a column that forces me to think about my own fandom.

    Story time : Two years ago, I was naively watching WrestleMania 33 with my Mom. She loves wrestling too, but she doesn't know (or want to remember) everyone's music and all. She just appreciate what's in front of her eyes and that's that. So, we were enjoying the show, when the time for the triple threat tag team match came. Our hosts, The New Day, came out to announce a fourth team. I look at her, and we both thought it was going to be themselves.

    But it wasn't... When the Hardy Boyz music hit, my brain needed 3 or 4 seconds to catch up, but when he did, ohhh man. Tears rolling down my cheeks, jumping in front of the tv and screaming oh my god, oh my god. And then, I looked over, my Mom was staring at me like I was crazy or something. She had no idea who they were, she had no idea it was one of our favourites team to my sister and me... She surely thought I over-over-reacted, but I didn't care. This was my genuine reaction to the returning Hardy Boyz.

    I could never EVER have gotten this emotional if I had been on Twitter/Facebook that day, where there was many rumors of their return. It would've ruined the surprise, and my reaction. Every year, there is something to light up the IWC, huge spoilers or incredible rumors, when comes January. Everyone has seen someone in the area of the show. The more I think about it, the more I think nowadays WWE are using social medias to steer us one way or another. You feel powerful as a fan when you have an idea of what is coming, but the plans change so often that most of these "real rumors" never become reality.

    Most of the time, I just wait to see what will happen and judge the past instead of trying to guess the future!

    Yay for the historian, I guess!

  10. #10
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    Really enjoyed this Clive. It's perhaps one of the better columns I've read from you; seemingly jumping out of your comfort zone with a really in-depth look at a topic. This was one of the best column of the round for sure, and a thoroughly engaging read. Great job!

  11. #11
    The Brain
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    I always struggle with a column that tries to dictate how fans are supposed to engage with wrestling. I certainly roll my eyes on a nearly daily basis at fans who are, in my opinion, too engrossed with backstage intel and never seem to be satisfied, but I find these fans typically easy to ignore. I can see the connection you’re making between Becky Lynch and these kinds of fans, I suppose, but fans of the past have reacted similarly when choosing favorites. In 1983 there was no more popular wrestler in the AWA than Hulk Hogan, but Verne held back from putting the title on him, despite “we want the Hulk” chants being deafening even in matches Hogan had no part in. There was no dirtsheet to tell fans the secret news, real or fake, at the time, fans were just excited and wanted their favorite to succeed at any cost, and I think that's the true heart of these big fan reactions we often see now. I think fans are more than willing to go along with WWE regardless of the backstage reports, as long as they are engaged by the story they are seeing. For another example, look at the universally positive reaction to Kofi Kingston’s story this past Sunday. WWE told a story that people could relate to, and the fans engaged 100%. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. Your writing is typically strong here Clive, but I can’t say I found myself very convinced by your arguments!

  12. #12
    Senior Member 205 Clive's Avatar
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    Thanks to all for reading.

    Law - Yes, it's been quite a death heavy theme this round! The AEW stuff is a strange one. So much has been said about a company that is still very much in the embryonic stages, that it's hard to not take all the aggressive positivity with a pinch of salt. Glad you remained engaged throughout?

    Nony - firstly, I'm sorry this wasn't an R-Truth column!! I'm happy to discuss the bad creative of WWE. It does exist. But it's when people's takes are based on pure conjecture that irks me the most. It's something that sadly, and is very prominent on social media today. Thanks again

    Sirsam - it can indeed be intoxicating. I'll hold my hands up and admit I listen to those tell-all podcasts. I read those autobiographies. But as for the right here and now scandals? No thanks! With the response you received from your main page post, that person might well feel that the tv sucks. But how much of their opinion is influenced by the toxic social media? Is it too hard today to differentiate between that, and what is simply "bad" creative?

    RProf - thank you for the kind words and for different reasons. I feel this culture has become quite the feature in today's world. I'm hoping that if one person takes my points and reevaluates their stance, I've done what I intended to do. Thank you for the technical praise also.

    Cathe67 - that was a great story about how you reacted when the Hardyz came out. Thanks for sharing! And yes, I think WWE are using social media to keep kayfabe alive, which is no easy task when you think about it!

    Jacob - we just don't know how the cookie will crumble, as is evidenced from more recent judge feedback. We shall see!

    Rob - thank you so much. This was a break for the norm for me. Stepping away from character analysis and the world of kayfabe was risky on my part, but I'm glad I committed.

    Mizfan - I completely respect your stance on the matter. I had feeling that the argument I put forward would at least be somewhat divisive. And you have given great examples. Kofi's story has been a joy to see unfold. I would love to ignore the thought processes of some on social media, but that retweet button is used and abused by many! If I wasn't able to convince you of my argument, I'm still appreciative of the technical compliments.

  13. #13
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    You brought your A-Game to this tournament. I think you came very close to knocking this one straight out of the park.

    I’ll start with the not-so-positive, simply because there is very little of it, and because I want to expand on the “very close” comment. There did seem times in the first half of the column where the writing, though at a high level, threatened to edge a little close to the area of…I don’t want to say “dry”, but perhaps a little too close to “textbook”. A couple of times I slipped in my engagement with the discussion. But that ceased quickly. The writing in the last two thirds was downright page-turning, and absolutely on point as far as I am concerned.

    How quickly will we take the behind-the-curtain “truth” over the “stage truth”, even though the latter is prepared for what this entire business should be – entertainment? Do we like sinking our teeth into that which we consider “sacred” knowledge? Is it even that sacred anymore? And how much truth is there to it, anyways? Brilliant use of the topic here, Clive, and you’ve got my mind whirring even more in this avenue. The media in which we discuss these “backstage truths” inherently offers the megaphone in which you coined the Chinese whispers turn into shouting. I love that analogy. The other day, I read that Ronda Rousey allegedly asked Becky to hit her with the crutch as hard as she could at Elimination Chamber. I’ll admit, the first thing that popped into my mind was, “OK, that’s badass”. But quickly thereafter, I thought, “Wouldn’t I enjoy my entertainment more if I didn’t think that any other ass-whooping on WWE television isn’t somebody hitting their opponent as hard as they could?”

    Your example of the change in interpretation of the SummerSlam 1999 events from seeing what was on the screen and then “knowing the truth” gave me a brief stirring of memory to a column penned by Prime Time a couple of years ago. I believe it was called “The Devil’s Greatest Trick”. It too delved into interpretations in wrestling, and I am a big fan of anything in that avenue.

    I thought this column began really well, with the bold sentence about AEW and then the unearthing of your true intentions around that statement. I thought it flowed well into your climax of the Becky Lynch example. You really built the column well to that point, as it combined elements of the hive mind you referenced, of the Chinese whispers turned into a mob shouting, and even of the multiple interpretations you alluded to in the SummerSlam 1999 paragraph. What a great way to funnel historical examples and a general idea into arguably the hottest topical happening of the current day.

    Excellent work!

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