The Ten Count: 10 Times Wrestlers did Extraordinary Things to Keep Kayfabe Alive
In Professional Wrestling, questions are always raised of the nature of the business, and what is “real” and what is “fake”. What is important for wrestlers themselves is to keep the integrity of their characters, and ultimately the industry as a whole. With larger-than-life characters putting on pantomime shows, it can be hard for wrestlers to leave the ring and keep up the same level of character. However, history tells us of some quite intriguing stories of stars doing the wackiest things just to keep kayfabe alive, and maintain that fans are in the dark about what goes on behind the curtain.
10:Sandman goes into Hiding
Extreme Championship Wrestling goes down in the industry’s history as one of the brightest, most exciting and innovative promotions. One of the Hardcore locker room’s most iconic was the Sandman. Despite his unorthodox style, unlikely to the taste of most mothers, he was extremely popular and part of that may come down to his passion for keeping the business protected at all times.
In typical ECW fashion, the Sandman was the victim of a lit cigarette to the eye in an “I Quit” Match with Tommy Dreamer in 1994. Keeping with the story that he was blinded, he made sure no ECW loyals in Philadelphia saw him for the next four weeks by avoiding leaving his home.
9:Commitment to Character
Having tag team success around the globe, with 21 titles to their names, Afa and Sika competed in two spells with the WWE during the 1980s. The pair, known as “The Wild Samoans” only communicated through primitive grunts, and their manager Captain Lou Albano.
Hulk Hogan explains in his autobiography of travelling with the duo through New Jersey, that he was arrested for possessing an unregistered gun. He pleaded that he was not from the area, and had no knowledge of the local legislation. Turning to the Wild Samoans, they simply grunted incoherently.
The three wrestlers were handcuffed and placed into custody.
8:Bruno’s Book of B.S.
The all-time greats know the importance of keeping the integrity of the business of Professional Wrestling. Bruno Sammartino is a WWE Hall of Famer with a memorable career lasting just short of 30 years.
His intentions were clear in his 1990 autobiography, he wanted to protect the business from an already extortionate exposure of behind-the-scenes information. His claims were that matches were never pre-determined, and dismissed any possibility of wrestlers blading themselves to give the effect of blood. The two are since accepted truths of Pro Wrestling behind kayfabe.
7:Nikita Koloff forces himself to become Russian
Anti-American heels have always been a successful route for a character, even for American-born wrestlers. However, in order to stay in line with his new alias, “Nikita Koloff” took kayfabe to a new extreme. After learning Russian and legally changing his name, he refused to speak English for a year.
It didn’t stop there – his child’s birth certificate even has his own birthplace listed as Lithuania.
He returned to being an American in 1992, after a stiff clothesline from Vader forced him into retirement as a result of a herniated disk in his neck. Further down the line, he became a Born again Christian in a new life.
6:George ‘The Animal” Steele’s double life
Being a Professional Wrestler is enough of a struggle for many. Being a schoolteacher is enough of a struggle for many. And so George Steele’s ability to balance the two is nothing short of impressive. Not to mention, he led a double life just to keep Kayfabe.
He taught in Michigan under his real name, James Myers, and travelled regularly to New York to wrestle as George “The Animal” Steele, a frightening, threatening individual. Students and friends were all unaware of his second job for 20 years.
5:Chaos in Kuwait
When Vader and the Undertaker appeared on Good Morning Kuwait, they may not have been prepared to have to protect the business from a naïve interviewer.
When questioned about the sport being fake, the Undertaker kept his cool and answered respectfully. Whilst evidently annoyed by the actions of the TV show’s host, The Deadman avoided spending a week behind bars in Kuwait by not reacting like Vader.
4:The Most Mysterious Masked Man
One of the most famous stories of keeping kayfabe comes from the Mexican lucha heritage. A hero to the masses, El Santo’s popularity in the ring gave him opportunities to promote his brand through a comic book series, and even some acting roles in movies.
His commitment to the business throughout his active career, which spanned from the 40’s to the 80’s, led him to make a decision to never be seen without his mask. Santo wore it everywhere he went, and even used different entrances at airport as to avoid being exposed through customs.
The iconic luchador went on to instantly reveal his face after retirement on a Mexican Television show. Eerily, he died only days later.
3:The one and only Mr Wrestling
Aptly named, “Mr Wrestling” Tim Woods proved how devoted to the industry he was after a plane crash in 1975. It was reported in the local newspaper that Johnny Valentine, Ric Flair, Bob Bruggers and David Crockett were in the accident. Woods gave his real name and said he was a promoter.
“Mr Wrestling” was the only babyface passenger, and so detrimental to the integrity of kayfabe it would have been to have knowledge break of him travelling happily with his bitter rivals in the ring. And as speculation amongst fans broke out that he was involved in the crash, he had to either prove he was uninjured or destroy kayfabe.
With such a weight on his broken back, Woods extraordinarily wrestled with severe injuries to show fans that he was not on the plane that crashed. He certainly protected the industry from any doubters… and then along came the internet.
2:Lawler Slaps Kaufman
One extremely famous feud based around kayfabe outside of the ring involved Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman. As a wrestling fan from youth, Kaufman took inspiration from the squared circle to use during his act – he would “wrestle” women who were after a $1000 prize for pinning him.
Kaufman looked to enter the world of professional wrestling further, but after having ideas dismissed by Vince McMahon Sr. he turned to his friend, Bill Apter. One extremely famous clip from a 1982 Late Night with David Letterman saw Lawler and Kaufman’s feud kept within the lines of kayfabe, with Lawler slapping his rival.
1:Raven gets Lucky
As a star of WCW, ECW, WWE and TNA, Raven has most likely milked pro wrestling of all its perks, and why shouldn’t he. Known as Scott The Body in Don Owen’s Portland Wrestling, he was working the classic marriage angle.
Raven tells the story of how the blurred lines of kayfabe led to an attractive woman approaching him the night before his “marriage” and asking to sleep with him one last time while he was not married. Needless to say, it was within his duty as a professional in this instance to keep kayfabe and prepare appropriately for the big payoff the next day.
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