You can think less of me if you choose, but since I was a kid, I have been a fan of professional wrestlers. Like anyone with half a brain, I know that the matches are all works. The outcome is planned, and the storylines are all scripted. But the reality is that these men are tremendous athletes who perform amazing feats before millions. You can call wrestling fake, but I perform to think of it as performance.
Recently, the WWE has crossed the line of reality with a storyline involving a wrestler who goes by C. M. Punk. With his real contract ready to expire, Punk and the WWE team have created a storyline which had him insult Vince McMahon and the entire organization of the WWE and then walk out of the company with the WWE Championship.
Punk wrestled on the independent circuit for a long time before joining the WWE a few years ago. He has always been a nonconformist. He’s not muscular; he does not deliver the types of promos people expect; and he lives a “straight edge” lifestyle – one free of drugs, intoxicants and other substances.
What Punk and the WWE have done is to create a storyline that crosses the line from the WWE’s stage to reality. In many ways, it emulates the way Mexican wrestling has long operated with the luchadores not taking off their masks in public and maintaining rivalries and such even when they are not performing. Their lives essentially become performances.
As you can see in this video, Punk has taken his storyline out of the ring and into life.
He invades WWE events, taunting their leaders. He posts incessant tweets on his Twitter account that are inflammatory. He (and the writers at WWE) are extending their wrestling personas beyond the ring and making it a living reality experience.
Give the WWE credit. This is the first time that a form of entertainment like this has spilled out into “real life” and become a phenomenon. Punk was even on the front page of ESPN.com last night.
The wrestling world is in awe. No one has ever done this before.
For me, it raises a serious question. Have we truly blurred the lines of reality so much that we welcome an invasion of our lives by the fantasy characters we see on TV? Are we really this willing to suspend disbelief? Have we become such consumers that it is not enough to simply see these storylines on TV. We must live them?
In a world filled with “reality” television, has television become our reality?