The RAW Reunion was a flaming adult diaper filled with pandering, nostalgia, and analgesic ointment. Legends appeared together with no rhyme or reason. Why did RVD, who is currently working with Impact Wrestling, walk out with Sgt. Slaughter? Did they have a tremendous rivalry in the past or an alliance I’ve forgotten about? I kept a running tally during the show of how many WWE Legends showed up for this overhyped party of the damned. I counted 40. There may have been more. There were some blonde women in catering I didn’t recognize. In fact, I had to get help from a SOTI (Stranger on the Internet) to tell me who Kaitlyn was. I couldn’t place her and the commentary team never said her name.
The best segment was Bray Wyatt appearing as The Fiend to take down Mick Foley with his own move, the Mandible Claw. That lasted, what, two minutes? Three? I didn’t get the timecode. Regardless, it was an incredibly short period of coolness out of a three-hour-long show.
Current superstars were there, also, but who cares? Their matches didn’t have any consequences. No storylines were advanced. The only thing at stake during the entire RAW Reunion were ratings.
Guess what? It worked.
Ratings for the RAW Reunion show were up over the previous week’s program. That greatest hits atrocity was the highest-rated show since the 2018 Superstar Shakeup. Over 3 million people tuned in to Now That’s What I Call Wrestling! That’s an increase of 26% over last week’s show.
Of course, WWE will consider this a victory. The gods only know what Vince is considering in the wake of the RAW Reunion. The Twitter beef between Alundra Blayze and Lacey Evans might be a hint. There could be a match between those two in the near future. Maybe that’s the key! Let’s bring the older performers back, the ones who can still go, because maybe they can get this lame roster of kids over with this tough crowd.
In the sacred name of Gorilla Monsoon, no. That is not the way to save WWE.
You see, I had an epiphany while watching the RAW Reunion. The way for WWE to regain its former glory is simple.
Bring back kayfabe.
Bear with me.
I’m making a point.
The reason viewers love the Legends so much, and the ratings bear out that undying devotion, is because they remember the fantastic storylines those guys were involved in. What made those stories work was the fact that we believed them. We didn’t have any reason not to.
Okay, we might have realized that the Boogeyman wasn’t really some kind of evil earthbound deity. But the dude ate worms, okay? He also snatched that growth of Jillian Hall’s face and ate that, too. It was gross, but we bought it. The company kept the whole thing kayfabe and it was entertaining.
Rationally, we knew that The Undertaker wasn’t digging holes and taking souls. He wasn’t the Grim Reaper. Why would the emissary of death be in a wrestling ring? But the bell tolled. The lightning struck. Taker rolled his eyes back, did the thumb-slash across his throat, and by everything that was unholy, we believed.
Oh, but you can’t do that now. You can’t keep secrets in a world dominated by social media.
Performers can set up secret accounts for friends and family. Good grief, do you know how many Twitter accounts I have? I don’t! I’ve lost count! WWE Twitter accounts can be for wrestling only. Advance those storylines. Let enemies snark it out between each other. But keep it kayfabe. I didn’t need to know that Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch were dating. I didn’t need to know about Shawn Michaels and Sunny, either. It doesn’t matter to me who’s zoomin’ who. How about, instead of a candid black-and-white candid backstage photo where Seth is talking to Becky Bex about kissy-kiss, you give us a decent match?
When performers are feuding, they should not travel together. When I know that wrestlers who are bitter enemies on-screen are best buds in real life, I cannot take their rivalry seriously. This probably sounds a little unrealistic, but this simple trick worked for decades. I think about Kane Hodder, the villain in dozens of horror movies, who stayed away from the rest of the cast during filming. He wanted to be their nightmare, to get the best reactions possible from his cinematic victims.
When the performers are friends in the ring, then they can go to the bar together after a show. Beyond that, nope. Keep it kayfabe. Let us believe it.
Finally, allow the promos to be real. Modern fans remember CM Punk’s pipebomb. We enjoyed Kevin Owens on the mic tearing Shane McMahon a new tax shelter. Those things stand out because they are so rare now. Anything that has the slightest hint of showing a performer’s actual emotions shines likes a new title belt. Do you think all of Ric Flair’s promos were scripted? What about Roddy Piper’s spots or the mellifluous tones of The American Dream? Hell, no. The producers gave those men the microphone and let them go. They hit the beats, got the points across, and wound up with some classics. But even with that amount of freedom, they kept it kayfabe.
It’s not that people love all the old performers. There is empirical evidence that Hulk Hogan is an awful human being. But we do love their personalities. We remember the famous feuds. Mankind and The Rock. Austin and McMahon. They resonate because we believed them. There was no one to tell us those skirmishes, those rivalries, weren’t real. Wrestling might be fanciful, but it needs to be grounded in reality, even if that reality is fictional.
Think about this while you’re writing comments about how outdated this whole kayfabe concept is. One night on RAW, Vince McMahon’s limousine blowed up real good with McMahon inside. It was shocking. It was horrifying. Nobody expected it. It was so real that viewers, including WWE Hall of Famer Donald Trump, complained. How dare they show something like that on live television! The WWE had to put out a statement explaining that Vince McMahon wasn’t really dead. That was good television. It was a tremendous wrestling moment.
And it was kayfabe.
The WWE has captivated their audience before. They can do it again. Kayfabe may be the way back into their demographic’s heart.