MAIN EVENT AT CASTLE DANGER
#3 – Do Shoots Matter?
The internet collectively losing its mind several times in the last few weeks have been the result of whether or not something has been a shoot. The debates raging back and forth seem to carry with the new evidence coming forth one way or the other, at least part of it from a section of the community that claims they haven’t been worked in years, but that’s not really the point I’m getting into here. Whether we’re talking MJF’s storyline and promo, someone’s injury being real or not, whether something they said on a podcast was a shoot or not, it’s put me in the position of… Well… Not so much wondering whether or not something is a shoot or not, but whether or not it actually matters either way.
That is not to say that what wrestlers do in-character and out isn’t important, I want to make that absolutely clear. But to say the lines of reality have blurred together with the product would be as old as Michael Cole explaining how to download an app 43 times in one episode of television. I don’t know if kayfabe is so much “dead” as it is adapted to the reality of the era and all the technology that comes with it. The old shoot-style “I’m gonna put you in a headlock and show you how fake it is, brother” doesn’t work in this day and age, so what options are left?
With the WWE Network and social media having brought access into what goes on behind the curtain and what people are like outside of it, the business has been doing its best to adapt to the times. One major company’s primary directive has been letting people into reality, but only with the brand logo’s Charles Atlas Seal of Approval, including twitch streams and Twitter handles. The other major company in America has seemingly allowed their talent not only to create their own narratives, including the words they say during promos or how they stare at a television like an actual human being, but to construct their digital reality to coincide as such.
In anthropology, one of the basic concepts of change and human progress is that there are mostly two roots of change: environment and technology. The wrestling business has changed because of technology, and may have altered the environment in which it takes place substantially. For the longest time, wrestling was what took place during the television show, and occasionally when one figure would be interviewed on daytime television, a guest appearance on SNL, or as a special guest on another fictional television show. What this access has brought is not only a more constructed and extended universe, but the ability to use the environment and technology to construct a new one altogether.
It’s no secret to a certain section of fans that spoilers, rumors, and other information can be found on the internet. That’s why we’re on this site right now, after all. I remember being aware of sites like this as far back as 1999 when I was reading Tito, so that concept itself is not a new one, relatively speaking. But the accessibility and the instantaneous nature of it has exponentially increased, to the point that I don’t know if a self-aware company like AEW could exist in any other generation of wrestling, at least to the extent that it is.
When one side of the equation changes and advances, the other must either adapt or be left behind in obscurity. For many years, WWE was trying to figure out what to do about rumors, leaks, spoilers, and whatever other information we’ve looked up on sites like this. What if the adaptation has been to “work” whatever a “shoot” might be into the rest of the programming? I’m sure it’s not a new idea, and I’m sure I’m not the first one to write about it, but it stands to reason that using what people assume to be a shoot can enhance what takes place within the work, or be a part of it entirely.
If you know a certain section of the fanbase is up on the hot tea, if you know they’re going to believe things they read on certain internet sites, it would seemingly make a lot of sense to use that against itself. If people think they’re getting shoot information, why not work that into a storyline for the show? Each side of it is helping one another to adapt to the times. This couldn’t be done when only a sliver of the fanbase was participating in such information sharing, but nowadays, it may be the strategy of the future to do so.
To take MJF’s recent internet information saga funtimes machine as an example, it’s still undetermined if it was a work, a shoot, a work that became a shoot, a shoot that became a work, or a round robin double blind elimination tournament in which one must defeat the other enough times to starve the other out and win the Hunger Games or something, I don’t know enough about most movies to complete that metaphor. But if the whole thing was a work, regardless of other aspects of the storyline, I’d say it pulled off its goal; using the internet to advance a storyline and make people think they were in the know when they were being worked the whole time.
I don’t have any inside information. I probably have less than most people writing columns like this one, but the whole point of illustrating these examples and adaptations is the title of the column that I’m asking: Does it matter?
We’ve passed the stage where kayfabe mattered, mostly. What was a shoot used to be either when someone went into business for themselves in the ring, or when they sat down for several hours in front of a curtain and told all. The latter has changed quite a bit, as now that can just happen on any podcast or YouTube show, but the line of what is in-character and what is not may not be as clear as a lot of people have thought. If something that seems like a shoot is part of a storyline, if something that is legit a shoot is part of an in-character storyline, does it matter whether or not it is if it becomes part of what is referenced on television?
What we saw in AEW, instead of blurring the lines between kayfabe and reality was blurring the lines between work and shoot in a way that may have been quite deliberate in its execution, much to the dismay of some who were not in on it. I suppose it then becomes the question of how those who want the information change to distinguish those lines if even they are being worked as part of the storyline. I can’t say for sure, and I also can’t say for certain whether or not if something is a shoot matters. What I can say is that the meanings of those concepts may have forever been altered without us even realizing it, and at the most utter basic level of our wrestling fandom, isn’t that what we want most of all? To suspend our disbelief, even for a few minutes, and get completely caught up in the story?