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Opinion

Something They Can’t See: The New Kayfabe

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WWE Triple H Stephanie McMahon Motorcycle

It is quite common nowadays for a certain negative observation about wrestling fans to come from the wrestling talent themselves. Not a criticism, more a prevailing observation. With the veil removed and less illusion and mystery surrounding the business, cynical fans will first see the negative in something (an angle, a character, a match, etc.) which leaves the possibility of something being successful or even interesting less likely. This attitude leaves a bad stench that surrounds wrestling discussion, usually living outside of the kayfabe universe wrestling seeks to create. As a fanbase, we can be cynical perhaps because we have to take everything we see and hear with a grain of salt. We cast doubts as to whether things that are promised or possible will happen. That doubt leads fans to treat the business with as much disdain as appreciation.

Getting back to how this affects the perception of fans among the wrestlers, I recently had the opportunity to speak with a performer who, during a match, saw his opponent demonstrate his frustration with the current climate among wrestling fandom. In my conversation with current indy star Mike Orlando, he spoke of how, when he faced Ryback, the former Intercontinental Champion changed the direction of the match simply to out-think fans, clashing the real universe with the kayfabe one.

Talent does love what they do and loves when it’s appreciated as well. At the core of the business, the mark of a successful wrestler is to garner a reaction whether as a face or as a heel. However, in any line of work, when what you do isn’t appreciated it is easy to take issue. So amidst the growing cynicism towards wrestling and the talent from fans, it feels like only a matter of time before the talent lashes out. Clearly, criticism of talent for a ‘poor’ match or a ‘weak’ skill set reflects that at times fans believe they know more about wrestling than the talent themselves. In their defense, it is easy to think that; fans have been widely exposed to what goes on behind the scenes through shoot videos and social media, leading to that the belief that they know more than the talent.

Whether in kayfabe or not, when talent is pushed to a limit, they will look at their mentions on social media and get fired up. For instance, within the past few months, a comment was directed at Cody Rhodes on Twitter suggesting that his brother was ‘nothing’ as a wrestler, when in actuality that couldn’t be further from the truth. The problem is that, from some fans’ perspective, a wrestler is only as good as his or her last match. However, in actuality, their best match doesn’t stop being significant because they don’t have the same rank or stature now than when they did years earlier. From Cody’s perspective, Goldust’s current booking has no bearing on what his past accomplishments, having been an Intercontinental and tag team champion. Goldust’s character pushed the envelope of what was and wasn’t taboo in its prime, tapping into a persona that made a number of people feel uncomfortable.

It is sad to think that our believing we know more than those that are part of the planning, the work, the preparation and the sacrifice to make something effective can lead to us easily and dismissively casting it aside. When it gets to that point, talent is more than justified in pushing back. Sure, professionals are in a position where they should expect to be faced with criticism and have to deal with it. However, the problem is thinking that, when you see their response, you understand their plight and their state of mind when they respond, or what other factors go into their response. In the case of Cody Rhodes, his family was insulted and his brother’s career accomplishments weren’t even acknowledged.

Heels such as Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin are recognized for their rather clever and witty comments expressed on social media. In a number of cases, Corbin has mocked fans for believing they knew more than the Lone Wolf. In these instances, the critics have felt they are justified, maybe because they have watched wrestling longer than the former NFL player. However, in his responses, he is being consistent with his character in the kayfabe universe, while at the same time pointing out the stigma that so many fans are accused of: that they believe they are knowledgeable and informed enough to know who is and isn’t justified to be in their current role. Other performers frequently point out how Corbin has been quite active in wanting to know more about his current profession and is committed to getting better at it. They say he is constantly inquiring about how to improve and what he needs to work on both inside and outside the ring. Fans’ attacks him are ill-informed because they have no idea how committed he is to getting better. Does he get frustrated if things don’t work well? Who wouldn’t, considering it is all done under a microscope?

We often watch talent through a small lens, but our perspective needs to be broadened because all these performers are constantly striving to, ultimately, become more successful at entertaining the paying public. And when they elicit a response from you, they ultimately have struck a chord. Whether they are liked or not, they are committed. One of the most polarizing wrestlers in WWE is, without question, Roman Reigns. It is, of course, easy to question, challenge, jeer or cheer a character that fills a great deal of television time, and on-screen Reigns doesn’t try to play up either the cheers or the jeers. He simply tries to remain in character, a character that is far from heelish, despite what at times appears to be the kind of heat that should be bestowed upon the most despised villain. However, when talent breaks character, for instance on social media, it is simply because the outpouring of criticism they receive isn’t rational or justified. This became apparent when Reigns commented upon the belief of certain fans that he didn’t ‘sacrifice’ enough. Reigns pulled no punches as he highlighted how he has spent countless days, weeks, and months away from his family, how his sacrifice goes beyond the ring. Is this kayfabe? No, it’s very real, but it plays into his kayfabe character. He has the support of management because they know he is committed to being better. And he is eliciting a reaction, and for that he really should be commended, not condemned. The same could be said about John Cena, who has faced the same love/hate reaction that Reigns does, in his case over the past decade. While Cena has endured criticism for a lack of character change, moveset, and for being ‘super,’ he takes it all in stride. He acknowledges the criticism but states that the fans’ passion is always welcome. However, what if that passion was perceived as being disrespectful?

There will be a contingent of fans that will no doubt say that they are justified in criticizing how they see fit that they pay for the product so they are free to share their views. And we couldn’t agree more, but what tends to be forgotten is that unless we have stepped in the ring, taken a bump, attempted to generate a reaction with everything we say and do, then we in all fairness we can’t see what they see. Our awareness of what goes into a match is limited to what those in the business have made us aware of, and even that will vary depending on whom the talent is and their unique experiences. Anyone that has seen a film that lifted the veil to show what happens behind the scenes in wrestling has seen that the sacrifices they make are real, whether that is watching Mick Foley receive 25 shots to the head while handcuffed or seeing another wrestler pulling shards of glass from his skin. Their commitment truly is unparalleled.

During the 1980s and earlier, fans exposure to the truth behind the kayfabe was minimal at best. They jeered or cheered, but it was much purer; there wasn’t a need to know the truth or the need to try to outthink what we were watching as if they were predicting the end of a suspenseful movie. Fans today want to know something before it happens, yet they also love the element of surprise. Their rather critical nature is rooted in the abundance of information they are exposed to on a day to day basis. They believe they know more because things they believe to be truthful are widely shared.

However, what if everything we believed to be the reality of things, wasn’t? What if everything fans had been made aware of was a deliberate effort to reinforce the belief that fans of today do ‘know it all?’ Part of the breaking of kayfabe is to stay a step ahead of those in the audience, and those watching on some form of a device. In reality, it doesn’t break kayfabe at all, but establishes a new one.

Some talent are doubtless insulted, but not because audiences are tougher to convince or more particular about what they like or don’t like. Rather, it’s completely justified to be insulted if someone tells you they know better what you have committed your life to better than you do. It is much like the child that believes they know more than their parent, or the employee that feels they know more than their employer. You can’t claim superior knowledge when you aren’t walking in the shoes of those you are watching. Is questioning what we watch, when it has to do with what happens in a match, justified? Truth be told, no, not really. The talent are given parameters of what to do, and the decision of who wins or loses isn’t something the talent needs to be chastised about. And in the end, more than likely they know something we don’t. That, is their new kayfabe.


Feel free to follow me on Twitter @TheMarcMadison and Instagram @themarcmadison

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The Wrestling News Hub Magazine Podcast to include interviews with ROH top prospect tournament entrant, Curt Stallion, Sebastian Suave, Ring of Honor’s Frankie Kazarian, “All Good” Anthony Greene, ‘The Green Machine’ Mike Orlando, Josh Briggs, ROH top prospect finalist John Skyler and current rising Ring of Honor star Flip Gordon.


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Opinion

AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns

With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

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With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.

With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.

1. Johnny Gargano

Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?

WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen  the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.

2. James Storm

This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.

Watch your Money and your Alcohol.

Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”

3. Big Cass



Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.

Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.

4. Bronson Reed



The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.

Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?

5. Bray Wyatt

And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.

To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.

– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!


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Opinion

King’s Greatest Hits Of Jeff Hardy

As he battles his demons, Chris King looks at some more positive moments in Jeff Hardy’s career!

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I’m sure by now you’ve heard the disturbing news that former WWE superstar and recent AEW signee Jeff Hardy, was arrested again for multiple charges including a DUI.  Hardy has had a hard and tragic road of recovery throughout the years in multiple wrestling promotions.

Not too long ago, Hardy walked out on WWE after they were rumored to have offered the former world champion to go to treatment for his substance abuse issues. Hardy refused and said that he was better but, as we saw the demons are still lurking and got the best of him again.

I have seen some nasty comments and even some distasteful memes about the AEW superstar and felt compelled to go against the grain. Instead of kicking a man when he’s down, I’m going to put together a greatest hits for the “Charismatic Enigma.”

Jeff Hardy & The TLC Match

Everyone can say that Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon helped innovate the iconic ladder match and you are right, but Jeff Hardy and his death-defying stunts changed the concept of the match forever. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian and their iconic TLC match should have their wing in the Hall of Fame. The risks all six superstars took for the adoration of the crowd could have ended all of their illustrious careers. In the words of Vince McMahon, It’s such good shit!

Jeff Hardy Earns The Undertaker’s Respect

On the July 1st, 2002 episode of Monday Night Raw, Hardy delivered the performance of a lifetime nearly winning the WWE Undisputed Championship from The Undertaker in an incredible ladder match. The young up-and-comer was faced with his greatest task yet, challenging for the most prestigious title in sports entertainment. Hardy showed that without a shadow of a doubt he deserved to be in the main event scene, but came within minutes of defeating Taker. At the time of the match, Hardy was still finding his footing as a singles competitor and earned the respect of the champion and legend.

Swanton Bomb From The Heavens

When I think of the daredevil Jeff Hardy, I can’t help but think of this one crazy-as-hell stunt. At WWE One Night Stand 2008, Hardy faced off against the juggernaut Umaga in a falls count anywhere match. This match was so insane as both superstars fought into the parking lot. Hardy is one of the craziest and bravest superstars, hit a Swanton Bomb off a damn stage truck onto Umaga. It’s one of the wildest things you’ll ever see.

Hardy Wins The WWE Championship 

In 2008, Hardy finally made his way to the main event title picture alongside partner Triple H. HHH was Hardy’s mentor in some sort of way which led to the daredevil achieving his lifelong dream of becoming WWE champion. At the 2008 Armageddon pay-per-view, Hardy would face HHH and longtime rival Edge in a triple-threat match for the title. In what was a great match between all three superstars, Hardy delivered a Swanton Bomb to Edge to win the illustrious championship.

Straight Edge Problems For Hardy

The following year, Hardy found himself in the way of young-up-and-comer CM Punk who is looking to make an example out of him. Punk had won the Money in the Bank briefcase for the second year in a row and took advantage of Hardy to win the world title. What started as mutual respect between both superstars changed drastically, when Punk started throwing jabs at Hardy for his drug and substance abuse real-life issues. Punk would form his infamous stable known as the Straight Edge Society. This is a very underrated feud and you should go back and watch it in its entirety. The promos are gold.

The Hardy Boyz Return To WWE

Both Matt and Jeff Hardy found success in multiple other wrestling promotions including Ring of Honor, and TNA during their time away from WWE. Both brothers were struggling with their vices and made poor life choices but straightened up their act over the years. In 2017, the Hardy Boyz would face longtime rivals The Young Bucks in ROH. The following night the adored tag team would make their incredible return to WWE at WrestleMania 33. Matt and Jeff would be named the final team in the Fatal 4-way ladder match for the Raw Tag Team Championships. The pop these two received was insane and very much deserved. They would go on to win the match and win the titles to capitalize on their momentum.

Jeffery Nero Hardy Makes AEW Debut

From 2017-to 2022 Jeff Hardy would find himself pigeonholed in the mid-card title picture. He would have feuds with a plethora of superstars including Samoa Joe, and Randy Orton. Orton and Hardy had a nasty Hell in a Cell match back in 2018. Earlier this year, Hardy was seen running around after the 24/7 Championship, which was disappointing to see. After being genuinely unhappy in WWE, Hardy would make his AEW debut on the March 9th episode of AEW Dynamite. Hardy would come to the aid of his brother and longtime partner.

This week news broke that Hardy had been arrested for multiple charges including a DUI. While it’s easy to beat a man while he’s down, how about we uplift and try to encourage him to get the help he needs.

As a longtime wrestling fan, I have the utmost respect for Hardy and wish him the best of luck in his battle with addiction.


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