Kayfabe

storylinescripted eventson-screenin storylineillusionfiredscriptedscripted endingstorylinesgeneral manager
In professional wrestling, kayfabe (also called work or worked) is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as "real" or "true", specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or predetermined nature of any kind.wikipedia
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Gimmick (professional wrestling)

gimmickcharacterin-ring persona
Kayfabe is often seen as the suspension of disbelief that is used to create the non-wrestling aspects of promotions, such as feuds, angles, and gimmicks in a manner similar to other forms of fictional entertainment.
When a wrestler acts outside his or her gimmick this is known as 'breaking kayfabe', a term showing pro wrestling's linkages to theatre, where the more common term "breaking the fourth wall" is used.

Professional wrestling

professional wrestlerprofessional wrestlerswrestling
In professional wrestling, kayfabe (also called work or worked) is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as "real" or "true", specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or predetermined nature of any kind.
The practice of keeping the illusion, and the various methods used to do so, came to be known as "kayfabe" within wrestling circles, or "working the marks".

Ring name

ring namesnamering character
Examples of kayfabe being kept even from family members was illustrated in an article describing how in the 1970s, the wife of James Harris (known under the ring name Kamala) was celebrating that her husband had just won a $5,000 prize as he won a battle royal; not realizing that the prize money was simply a storyline or kayfabe.
Ring names developed as a way to allow wrestling performers to hide their true identities from the wrestling fanbase and thus keep kayfabe intact, or because the wrestler or the management consider the athlete's real name unattractive, dull, difficult to pronounce or spell, amusing for the wrong reasons, or projecting the wrong image.

Kamala (wrestler)

KamalaKamala the Ugandan GiantGiant Kimala
Examples of kayfabe being kept even from family members was illustrated in an article describing how in the 1970s, the wife of James Harris (known under the ring name Kamala) was celebrating that her husband had just won a $5,000 prize as he won a battle royal; not realizing that the prize money was simply a storyline or kayfabe.
To preserve kayfabe, Harris wore robes and refused to speak English while in public in Memphis.

Jim Duggan

Hacksaw" Jim DugganHacksaw Jim DugganKing Duggan
There were a few occasional hiccups at the time, such as an incident in 1987 in which police arrested The Iron Sheik and Hacksaw Jim Duggan, supposed rivals in an upcoming match at Madison Square Garden, as they sat together in a car drinking and using cocaine.
After newcomer "Hacksaw" Butch Reed debuted within the promotion, Duggan and Reed had a personal feud for a time over who would be the true "Hacksaw".

Vince McMahon

Mr. McMahonVinceVincent K. McMahon
The first public acknowledgment by a major insider of the staged nature of professional wrestling came in 1989 when World Wrestling Federation owner Vince McMahon testified before the New Jersey State Senate that wrestling was not a competitive sport.
Prior to the evolution of the Mr. McMahon character, McMahon was primarily seen as a commentator on television, with his behind-the-scenes involvement generally kept off TV for kayfabe-based reasons.

Shoot (professional wrestling)

shootworked shootshoot interview
In contrast, something that is not kayfabe, be it a fight or a statement, is referred to as a "shoot". Since then, Daniel Bryan's rivals (notably The Miz and Brock Lesnar) broke kayfabe in interviews and on Twitter applauding his decisions to retire, although their rivalry resumed after Daniel Bryan returned as Smackdown GM, and escalated to a point where Daniel Bryan legitimately left Talking Smack because The Miz did a shoot that got personal.
In order to provide an air of legitimacy, Punk received a kayfabe suspension from the company following the promo.

Randy Savage

Macho Man" Randy SavageRandy "Macho Man" SavageMacho Man Randy Savage
Wrestlers like André the Giant, Roddy Piper, Hulk Hogan, and Randy Savage could work across the entire spectrum and often gain new fans as a result of each "turn".
He also teamed with Lanny to battle The Rock 'n' Roll Express; this feud included a match on June 25, 1984 in Memphis, where in the storyline, Savage injured Ricky Morton by piledriving him through the timekeeper's table, leading to the Express winning by disqualification (though Savage's brother Lanny later said that Morton was not injured in the attack).

Hardcore Holly

Bob HollyBombastic BobThurman "Sparky" Plugg
Examples include The Brothers of Destruction (The Undertaker and Kane), The Holly Cousins (Hardcore Holly, Crash Holly, and Molly Holly) and The Dudley Brothers.
After becoming known simply as "Hardcore Holly" in 1999, he was joined by on-screen cousins, Crash and Molly.

Crash Holly

Mike LockwoodCrashErin O'Grady
Examples include The Brothers of Destruction (The Undertaker and Kane), The Holly Cousins (Hardcore Holly, Crash Holly, and Molly Holly) and The Dudley Brothers.
He formed a tag team with his kayfabe cousin Hardcore Holly, with whom he won the WWF World Tag Team Championship.

WWE

World Wrestling FederationWorld Wrestling EntertainmentWWF
The first public acknowledgment by a major insider of the staged nature of professional wrestling came in 1989 when World Wrestling Federation owner Vince McMahon testified before the New Jersey State Senate that wrestling was not a competitive sport. During the early 21st century, this kayfabe practice has given way to reality in the WWE, largely due to the creation of the reality television program Total Divas where four "legit" (legally binding) weddings have occurred: Natalya and Tyson Kidd, Brie Bella and Daniel Bryan, Naomi and Jimmy Uso, and Eva Marie and her fiancé Jonathan.
WWF broke kayfabe by having television commentator Jim Ross repeatedly tell those watching live on pay-per-view that what had just transpired was not a wrestling angle or storyline and that Hart was hurt badly, emphasizing the seriousness of the situation.

Matt Hardy

MattWoken" Matt HardyBroken Matt
However, more than once, kayfabe romantic relationships have occurred alongside real-life relationships, such as between Matt Hardy and Lita; these real-life relationships may occasionally develop into a real-life marriage (e.g., Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, who married in 2003, more than a year after their kayfabe marriage ended).
The public knowledge of the affair and Hardy's release led to Edge and Lita receiving jeers from the crowds at WWE events, often resulting in chants of "You screwed Matt!", and, "We want Matt!", which meant kayfabe storylines being affected considering that Lita was married to Kane at the time in kayfabe.

Daniel Bryan

Bryan DanielsonAmerican DragonThe American Dragon
During the early 21st century, this kayfabe practice has given way to reality in the WWE, largely due to the creation of the reality television program Total Divas where four "legit" (legally binding) weddings have occurred: Natalya and Tyson Kidd, Brie Bella and Daniel Bryan, Naomi and Jimmy Uso, and Eva Marie and her fiancé Jonathan. Since then, Daniel Bryan's rivals (notably The Miz and Brock Lesnar) broke kayfabe in interviews and on Twitter applauding his decisions to retire, although their rivalry resumed after Daniel Bryan returned as Smackdown GM, and escalated to a point where Daniel Bryan legitimately left Talking Smack because The Miz did a shoot that got personal.
However, Danielson had several dates booked in Europe and Japan, leading fans to believe that the periodical was likely a storyline claim for Danielson's absence during this period.

Jacques Rougeau

JacquesThe MountieJacques Rougeau, Jr.
Another angle of a heel could be approached from a position of authority; examples include Big Boss Man, a corrections officer; Mike Rotunda as Irwin R. Shyster, a federal tax collector; Jacques Rougeau wearing RCMP-inspired dress as The Mountie; and Glenn Jacobs, later to become famous as Kane, as Isaac Yankem, a dentist.
The Mountie began a feud with The Big Boss Man after declaring that he was the sole legitimate law enforcer in the WWF, and on August 26, 1991, he spent a night in prison (kayfabe) after Bossman defeated him in a Jailhouse Match at SummerSlam.

André the Giant

Andre the GiantAndre RoussimoffAndré Rousimoff
Wrestlers like André the Giant, Roddy Piper, Hulk Hogan, and Randy Savage could work across the entire spectrum and often gain new fans as a result of each "turn".
In this storyline, it was said Roussimoff was afraid of snakes, something Roberts exposed on Saturday Night's Main Event when he threw his snake, Damien, on the frightened Roussimoff; as a result, he suffered a kayfabe mild heart attack and vowed revenge.

Tag team

tag team matchteamedteaming
Tag teams of wrestlers, who may or may not look alike, are often presented as relatives, though they are not actually related.
In kayfabe, this made it difficult for challengers to prepare for their upcoming title fights since the challengers didn't know exactly who they were facing.

The Holly Cousins

The HollysHolly Cousins
Examples include The Brothers of Destruction (The Undertaker and Kane), The Holly Cousins (Hardcore Holly, Crash Holly, and Molly Holly) and The Dudley Brothers.
Hardcore, who had debuted in the World Wrestling Federation in 1994, introduced his on-screen "cousin" Crash Holly on August 16, 1999.

Big Boss Man (wrestler)

Big Boss ManBig Bubba RogersThe Big Boss Man
Another angle of a heel could be approached from a position of authority; examples include Big Boss Man, a corrections officer; Mike Rotunda as Irwin R. Shyster, a federal tax collector; Jacques Rougeau wearing RCMP-inspired dress as The Mountie; and Glenn Jacobs, later to become famous as Kane, as Isaac Yankem, a dentist.
Boss Man took time off TV to sell his (kayfabe) injuries, eventually returning and having a series of matches with Nailz in the latter half of 1992.

Feud (professional wrestling)

feudfeudedrivalry
Kayfabe is often seen as the suspension of disbelief that is used to create the non-wrestling aspects of promotions, such as feuds, angles, and gimmicks in a manner similar to other forms of fictional entertainment.
Traditionally, most promoters wanted to "protect the business" by having wrestlers act in character in public, and thus further convince the live audience that the feuding wrestlers really did hate each other and looked to outdo each other.

Breaking character

break characterbreaks characterbroke character
In relative terms, a wrestler breaking kayfabe during a show would be likened to an actor breaking character on-camera.
In 2008 the night Ric Flair retired on WWE Raw, numerous wrestlers broke kayfabe, including Edge, Randy Orton, Paul "Big Show" Wight, as well as The Undertaker broke character when they sobbed and hugged Flair after the show.

The Miz

Mike MizaninMike "The Miz" MizaninMiz TV
Since then, Daniel Bryan's rivals (notably The Miz and Brock Lesnar) broke kayfabe in interviews and on Twitter applauding his decisions to retire, although their rivalry resumed after Daniel Bryan returned as Smackdown GM, and escalated to a point where Daniel Bryan legitimately left Talking Smack because The Miz did a shoot that got personal.
When Mizanin actually attempted to make his debut on the April 21 episode of SmackDown, he was in storyline banned from entering the arena by network executive Palmer Canon who told him that he had been "cancelled" before having security escort him from the premises.

The Kliq

Kliq1996 WWF Madison Square Garden "Curtain Callbeing close friends
In the 1996 MSG Incident, real-life friends Shawn Michaels, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Diesel (Kevin Nash), and Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) broke kayfabe by embracing in the ring at the end of a match between Michaels and Nash.
At a time when professional wrestling organizations worked to maintain the illusion of storylines and characters, the Curtain Call marked the first time that such high-profile performers had so publicly broken character, forcing the WWE and other wrestling organizations to begin acknowledging the scripted elements of their programming.

Brock Lesnar

Bork Lazerlawsuit
Since then, Daniel Bryan's rivals (notably The Miz and Brock Lesnar) broke kayfabe in interviews and on Twitter applauding his decisions to retire, although their rivalry resumed after Daniel Bryan returned as Smackdown GM, and escalated to a point where Daniel Bryan legitimately left Talking Smack because The Miz did a shoot that got personal.
Leading up to the match, in the storyline, Lesnar broke The Undertaker's hand with a propane tank.

Open secret

openwell known
While the scripted nature of professional wrestling was an open secret it was not generally acknowledged by people in the business.
Kayfabe, or the presentation of professional wrestling as "real" or unscripted, is an open secret, kept displayed as legitimate within the confines of wrestling programs but openly acknowledged as predetermined by wrestlers and promoters in the context of interviews for decades.

Hulk Hogan

Hollywood HoganHollywood Hulk HoganHogan
Wrestlers like André the Giant, Roddy Piper, Hulk Hogan, and Randy Savage could work across the entire spectrum and often gain new fans as a result of each "turn".
During the show, Randy Orton kayfabe flirted with Brooke and later attacked Hogan in the parking lot.