Wrestling is pre-determined entertainment, something its fans have come to accept ever since the demise of ‘kayfabe’ during the 1980s. Its scripted nature can help make it entertaining in a way ‘real’ sports rarely match.
At its best, professional wrestling is high drama as well as an athletic showcase, and like any good play, movie, or novel it has the power to make us forget we’re watching a story at all. The very best wrestlers know this, and are as much actors in a stage play taking part in the ring as they are athletes. The WWE is in the business of stories – if it wasn’t, everything it produces would be the XFL.
When wrestling makes us suspend our disbelief it can bring out our emotions, confound us with an unexpected turn, or get us thrumming with tension. It’s not easy to achieve, and plenty of the WWE’s wrestling storylines fail to engage the part of our brain that doesn’t care about whether it’s ‘fake’ or not. But sometimes, for a few glorious moments, we forget about the scripted promos and backstage politics.
Sometimes, wrestling makes us believe.