Friday, September 24, 2021

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A Londoner’s Eye: The Mystique of Wrestling vs the Internet

All of the opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Diva Dirt as a whole.

Diva Dirt caused a little stir on Twitter yesterday, and by “little stir” I do mean little (more of a teacup tremble than 8.0 magnitude earthquake on the Richter scale), yet this brief interaction sparked the inspiration for a wider debate in this column. You see, independent wrestler and one half of the SHIMMER Tag Team Champions, Courtney Rush, was a little unhappy it seems by a tweet of ours inviting readers to vote on whether they felt the Beth Phoenix injury on Raw was an angle or legitimate. Mimicking the style of our tweet, Ms Rush responded: “Reader Poll: Wrestling’s mystique – kill it completely or play along?” The response struck me as a little odd; in all of my near five years as editor of this here site I’d yet to encounter a talent hit back with that particular argument, and wondered if such wrestlers were just mythical creatures. I began to think, “Where do I stand on this?”, but the more thought about it, the less it was about where I stood on the issue, but whether the issue still existed in 2012?

The irony of this exchange taking place on Twitter, on the Internet, wasn’t lost on me. After all, the fact this conversation was even taking place suggests how different the wrestling landscape is today compared to the days of yore. I imagine those piss-and-vinegar wrestlers trekking from territory to territory would scoff at the idea of Twitter and the Internet. If fans and websites discussing whether Beth’s injury was an angle is killing wrestling’s “mystique”, as insinuated, shouldn’t we consider Twitter and the Internet as a whole as killing wrestling’s mystique? The fact this conversation was taking place on Twitter surely added to this Dexter-ing of the mystique, no? The unprecedented, cosy interaction Twitter affords between fans and their favorite celebrities can be seen to harm their “specialness”; for example, you wouldn’t have dreamed to be able to tweet Elvis Presley, but now you can tweet Rihanna in an instant and get response (disclaimer: response not guaranteed). In wrestling, where storylines are/were (you decide) considered sacrosanct, this level of interaction poses an issue: How “in character” do you need to be? How “out of character”? Should you be on Twitter in the first place?

The teacup tremble of a stir started with Beth's injury.

In 2012, most wrestlers can be found on Twitter or Facebook because it’s a way to promote themselves, gain bookings, hawk their wares, and even plug their Amazon wishlists. I don’t see anything wrong with any of that personally–I’m kind of a Twitter junkie and have a wishlist, too. But for the sake of argument, I would suggest that all of this, too, is in direct conflict with the so-called “mystique” of wrestling, however, most wrestlers are perfectly happy to use Twitter and Facebook for the aforementioned uses.

Of course, that is to say that this mystique even exists in the present era. Most fans above a certain age are surely aware that Kelly Kelly isn’t a performing monkey whose sole reason for existence is to come out to the ring when “Holla, holla” hits–she’s a real person with a life just like the rest of us. Fans surely know that, right? (I hope.) Furthermore, if you’re a fan on the Internet (and if you’re reading this, then you are) and follow Kelly Kelly on Twitter, then you are just as capable of Googling her. One quick Google search will show you that Kelly Kelly is in fact Barbara Jean Blank. Additionally, the profession’s top company itself is obsessed with Twitter and trending topics; this allows the audience to be more part of the product than ever. Not to mention WWE’s own constant kayfabe breaking by simultaneously acknowledging Triple H as a character, as well as the company’s COO under his real name, Paul Levesque. So, just how much of a “mystique” can there really be?

In this exchange between Diva Dirt and Ms Rush, several of the wrestling rabble chimed in–most typically supportive of their peer (one even cheerleading for Rush as if she were the best thing since sliced bread–okay, hyperbole, but it’s my story! #CreativeLicense), but one person strayed from the pack. SHIMMER’s Nicole Matthews became my tag team partner in spirit, tweeting: “Knowing the process of something you love is fascinating. That’s why the lives of artists of all types is researched. Does the fact you know Picasso’s place of birth, or the process behind his work make him or his art less interesting?” I agree. Personally, fake or real, Beth’s injury would’ve made me admire her–it doesn’t take away from the actual product. If it’s an angle, great job; real, what a trooper! Nicole added, and I think this is most important, “I don’t think fans/websites should censor their thoughts.” Agreed again. In this case I’d suggest it is Beth’s and WWE’s obligation to create mystique around her injury, not anyone else, and by all accounts, Ms Phoenix is doing a fabulous job at convincing people of her affliction.

At the end of the day, my personal belief is that discussion — whether it kills this elusive mystique or not — can only be a good thing. In this particular instance, our teacup tremble of a stir has created more discussion about Beth and her injury than there might have been. That gives a woman in wrestling more publicity, and puts her more in the consciousness of the fans than she might have been four days after Raw aired. I personally believe that is a good thing.

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