Brechtian Acting Theory in Professional Wrestling
- Live theatre can be an exhiilarating experience. Theatre illicits emotions like happiness and elation--rarely to never. But more often than not, the theatre creates a swirling tempest of rage, anger, and pity for the actors’ wasted lives deep within the heart of the viewer. There is one thespian troupe that comes to mind which, unlike most all others, is adored by millions and uses varying visual tapestries of stage acting methodology to create a response: The WWE.
At first glance it would seem like professional wrestlers are students of the classic Stanislavski actor’s method or even a modernist William H. Macy school of thought. However, the more one watches, the more one sees the true Bertolt Brechtian nature of the squared circle and the people who occupy it. The theatrical 4th wall is ripped down like a poster written in heartless jock font saying “winneroftheSAT luvs fagz” on the outside of his high school locker. Wrestlers frequently employ Brecht’s idea, the Verfremdungseffekt, in which they purposely make things strange. What ensues is an alienation with the audience--the audience then fully realizing that what they are watching is indeed a theatrical event and not something hoping to pass itself off as realism.
I have compiled a list of strange Brechtian things to watch out for the next time you watch WWE because I assume all of you are lovers of theatre and professional wrestling. These are things that make me feel alienated.
Green Poison: Most commonly used by Japanese wrestlers such as Tajiri, this toxic green poison is stored in the mouth. When the match seems to be going in favor of whoever Tajiri is wrestling, he will secretly spit about one liter of nickelodeon green poison onto that person’s face in a manner unseen by the referree. The referree will continue to not notice that Tajiri’s opponent’s entire face and upper torso is covered by said poison. Sadly, this green poison, when in contact with the sensitive mucous membrances near the eyes causes searing unending pain, blindness, and a fluttering nystagmus. In some cases, such as the case of WWE Diva Nidia, the poison will cause you to take a one month leave of absence, and when you return you will have bigger breast implants. This same biohazardous green poison never kills Tajiri. Bertolt Brecht would applaud.
Lazy Stagehands: As much as I am pro-union, the stagehands that the WWE uses are notorious for leaving their tools just laying around under the ring. It’s the weirdest thing though! The tools are never rope spinners or canvas stretchers. Often, they leave the darndest things sitting there like iron sledgehammers, 2x4s wrapped in barbwire, steel chairs, garbage can lids, kendo sticks, cinder blocks, and chainmail sacks filled with thumbtacks. The space under the ring is no place to forgetfully leave such dangerous objects. While the untrained critic might think that the stagehands should get their shit together, Brecht and I would probably be clapping modestly.
The Missed Manuever: How many times have we seen someone like Chris Benoit leap from the top turnbuckle with the full intention of delivering an earthshattering flying headbutt only to watch someone like Triple H roll out of the way of the devastating manuever? It’s like the sun rising in the morning or my neighbor stealing my New York Times--It happens daily. It’s safe to assume that if the flying headbutt connects, the average person’s neck would snap like a pretzel rod. However, when Benoit misses he usually is seen laying unconscious for several minutes until he is rudely grabbed by an opponent and beaten more senseless. 2-bit theatre goers might call out, “This is a mockery of all things true!” But a student of Brecht would call out, “Bravo! Bra....vo!”
A.D.D. Referree: The referree is a bastion of order in a world of chaos. They try to do good. Some say they try to do well. Referees, like me and some of you, have only two eyes with which to see, 10 fingers with which to count, and one arm with which to slap the mat. Technically they have two arms. However, often the poor referee is thrust into what seems like a poorly acted Three’s Company episode. The ref fails to hear something--like the ringing of a chair to a skull, he might misunderstand the situation at hand--like the wrestler making the pin is really the twin brother of the legal man and therefore not allowed to be in the ring, and refs get easily distracted--one tag team partner might threaten to walk into the ring meanwhile his partner is punching their opponents in their penises. A ref can’t always be expected to watch what’s going on, even though that’s clearly what he gets paid to do. A realist might cry, “Reinstate the replay in wrestling!” Or, “Let’s use a dual ref system!” Brecht would cry, “Those are good ideas!” However, Brecht would never constrict his actors to such dull and dreary contraints.