It feels like, from things written on here and Twitter and so forth, 2014 has been a less than stellar year for WWE. There may have been some bright spots (Seth Rollins' heel work, Daniel Bryan's WrestleMania moment, NXT in general) but most of the time it's been long hours of facepalm worthy booking. But if you've been watching the product with your 10-year-old son then things might have seemed a bit brighter.
To extrapolate on that a bit more; kayfabe is a tricky thing. Announce yourself as a wrestling fan in polite company and you’re generally hit with the "But isn’t wrestling fake?" gambit, which is its own conversation. But part of that conversation is the aforementioned kayfabe, the illusion of truth, what we choose to believe when we suspend our disbelief in front of the squared circle. Kayfabe is a simple concept, it’s one that everyone uses when a child asks you if Father Christmas is real.
"Of course he is," we all nod.
For a child, it is this illusion that makes things all the more magical. Under this you can file The Easter Bunny, magical creatures; all sorts of things that we adults wink knowingly at each other about.
Wrestling slots into this nicely. Sure, the more vocal fans tend to be the smarks, those who know the secret, who bitch about the booking on the internet whilst tuning in every week. But that ignores a large part of the audience -- the kids who believe in what happens in that ring.
To return to my original statement, my son and I were watching the main event of the Survivor Series pay-per-view (PPV). Frankly, we’d skipped through most of the matches in order to get to that big match at the top of the card.
Team Cena vs. Team Authority.
Now, me being one of those smart wrestling fans who bitches about stuff on the internet whilst tuning in every week meant I already knew the result. My son, of course, didn’t because he isn’t smartened up to the business yet. To him it’s real.
An aside: we were watching another PPV a while ago, or maybe an episode of WWE Countdown, I forget. The point is we were watching the match when I heard my son say the following:
"You know, some people at school say wrestling is fake. It’s not fake. It’s real."
We get to the inevitable Big Show turn and John Cena is eliminated. It’s just Dolph Ziggler left, alone against the three remaining members of Team Authority.
Now ignore the daft bits for a moment. Ignore why Luke Harper is there and not part of the Wyatt Family still. Ignore why Big Show has made yet another heel turn. Just focus on Ziggler, barely able to stand, struggling to his feet in order to fight for what's right, which is his job but that's not the point.
The point is he’s alone against three men who want to rip him to shreds.
My son covers his face with his hands. "Turn it off," he says. "I don’t want to watch anymore."
"Why not?" I ask.
"Ziggler can’t win, not against three people," his muffled voice says. I see a tear roll down his cheek.
"Are you crying?" I ask.
He drops his hands and I see his red eyes. "He can’t win," he says.
Right there: total belief. Total, unwavering belief that what he’s watching is 100-percent real. Ziggler can’t win. He’s already been taken apart by Team Authority. I swear that at one point Rusev hit him so hard you could see Ziggler’s soul leave his body.
He can’t do it.
From there it’s a story of gasps and cheers as Ziggler proves that he can do it, despite needing the help of the darkest of angels. By the time the bell rang the tears were gone, replaced by a huge smile.
But for a second there my son was as low as I’d ever seen him, all caused by a heel turn that the majority of the internet have turned their noses up at. Because when you’re young you can have that belief in things; it’s important and, as a parent, it’s something I strive to create for him as often as I can.
Because everyone should believe in Father Christmas, at least for a little while.