Most people who have grown up in the 90s know of the WWE, or World Wrestling Entertainment. The entertainment brand currently sees more than 3.3 million viewers weekly, so it still boasts a serious amount of fans today. But a lot of non-super fans are unaware of how it all works.
Many know of that age-old debate on whether or not the wrestling is ‘fake’ or a real performance. While yes I believe it is a completely fabricated performance, the answer lies somewhere in the middle, kind of.
Total Divas, a reality show on the E! network, sparked my interest on getting down to the bottom of this. My friends and I have spent countless hours dissecting which part of the girls’ wrestling performances were completely fake, scripted or just part of the show.
The whole thing was particularly confusing for me because I know of some diehard fans that are willing to fight to death if you ever exclaim that the WWE shows are fake. Most of them are aware that yes, it is a guided performance, but the word fake really gets to them for some reason.
And for those of you who don’t know, Total Divas is a reality show that follows the women of WWE. So once I was hooked on the show I just had to know what the deal is INSIDE of the ring. Since they seemed to just skip over discussion on performances quickly, I couldn’t tell how much of a charade it was or how it all went down.
So I looked into it and here’s the gist of it.
It starts out with a storyline created by writers at the WWE. They decide who is the good guy, who is the villain and a general outline of how the match is going to go.
For instance, in one episode of Total Divas the Bella twins had an argument on the reality show, and Nikki was beyond delighted because her given storyline was to betray her sister Brie in the ring. (In actual reality the fight as whole was likely organized by producers of the show too, but on-screen the in-the-ring betrayal is what is fabricated, and happened to coincide with ‘real life.’)
The refs are a key part of the match and do more than just keep score; they guide the performance. They are the communication between the guys behind the scenes and the wrestlers. Using earpieces, producers at the WWE instruct them on how to guide the scene and where the action should go through hand signals. These refs are also watching to make sure everything goes as planned and that no one is hurt or seriously injured. The guys in the back will lead the match based on these factors, what is happening in the ring, and also how the crowd is reacting.
Years ago, wrestlers would stay in character in and out of the ring to keep up the illusion of it all. Today it’s a little hard to keep up that appearance and it is widely accepted that these are characters.
But the fun goes on and getting to see the great women from the ring on the outside as well makes the spectacle even more exciting and appealing.