I've been reading a bit about wrestling in the past couple of days. I found If Destroyed, Still True, (great name) which has a lot of information about wrestling, among other things, through Fraggmented. (Have I mentioned Fraggmented? I should, sometime. It's a really great blog; talks a lot about status quo, and storytelling engines, absolutely vital concepts.) And Websnark had a post about the Chris Benoit . . thing, and there was some information about wrestling in general in that.
It's fascinating. I knew professional wrestling was "fake," and that there was some kind of good guy/bad guy thing, but I hadn't realized the complexity of it. Managers, interference, ongoing story-lines; it's not just a win/lose thing, there are all these shades of distinction, the difficulty of victory, the kind of interference. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it's a wealth of detail I'd never properly intuited.
Particularly, it occupies this interesting space between reality and unreality. It's set-up, but everyone knows it's set up. That's part of the point. It carries conventions of the fictional experience--"What are they going to do next?" rather than "what's going to happen next?"
This has certain advantages over the real. You can be somewhat certain that, whatever does happen, it'll be interesting. (Or, at least, you have someone to vent at if it's not.) There's a certain sport in reading the author's mind, figuring out the intent behind actions and what's coming up. There's a level of detail, of interaction between levels, that can't be present in an un-manufactured storyline.
But then, in the case of wrestling, it's not completely manufactured. People get hurt, people die: reality controls the story. No fiction is completely manufactured; even writing carries the fingerprints of the author, reflects the forces acting on the author. But wrestling isn't just indirectly influenced by reality, it directly confronts reality, molding it into something different, sometimes stranger.
And, ultimately, "the point of the stories is to create a context in which the wrestling matches "matter." And that's all. The stories are the means, the wrestling is the end." (J
It's similar, somehow, to what I discussed a few days ago about fictional characters interacting with reality. In some ways, it's a mirror image of that phenomena. One has fictional characters acting like they're real. One has real people acting like they're fictional.
That's true of all acting, but most acting doesn't have people being hit over the head with chairs. Wrestling seems to have its own place on the continuum.
A couple of twists: Vince McMahon is both in charge of it and a character, which is it's own separate universe of weird. And, of course, Japan has a truly bizarre take on the sport.