Professional wrestling is not real. Most fans are aware that what they are seeing is pre-scripted and delivered by performers in character.
Despite this familiarity viewers have with the product, there has always been a separation between the fans in the audience and what happens behind the giant, HD TitanTron screen.
As internet access has become more readily available, the separation has narrowed. Full storylines are leaked weeks ahead of time, backstage political struggles are rumored about and now people like me can passively follow the product with ease. But internet-powered proximity to the industry doesn’t equate to closer proximity to the performers themselves.
However, Twitter does.
From the WWE’s John Cena and Randy Orton to TNA’s Mick Foley and retired legends like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels, many of pro wrestling’s most influential performers now use Twitter to connect with fans.
Though most of the wrestlers tweet about the inane aspects of their personal lives, which take place almost exclusively on the road, the connectivity between them and fans creates a new experience – and raises new questions. Fans know that the performer known as Hornswoggle is playing a role in the ring and on television, but when the usually silent man tweets about loving a Toby Keith concert (See Slide #2), it is difficult to determine the reality of it all. Is this all a part of the WWE marketing machine (See Side #3) or is Dylan Post (Hornswoggle’s real name) just boringly updating his followers on his life outside the ring? Are they in or out of character? Are Post and his cohorts even crafting their updates? Or are the tweets being ghost-written by the WWE’s scribes?
From the wrestling promotions’ perspective it does not matter. Even if thousands of fans are following performers who are tweeting about their mundane lives and raising the curtain on the scripted wrestling experience, said fans are still interacting with the brand in a way. But from a fan perspective, there is more to consider. Is theoretically being closer to your favorite wrestler more important than knowing how real that mediated relationship actually is?
The wrestling industry and its performers are still adapting to the Twitterverse and social media in general (See Slide #4), but in a way, a form of entertainment based on a fabricated, detached relationship with its fans is becoming more tangible thanks to a medium that could be just as unreal.