2:00-2:55: “The SpiderBaby Observes Kayfabe in the Modern Era of Sports Entertainment”:

Recognized by OUT Magazine as America’s first openly gay professional wrestler, Terrance Griep, who takes to the ring as Tommy “The SpiderBaby” Saturday, has been featured in The Advocate, Fanboy Planet, First Comics News, Lavender Magazine, and Pride Source, among dozens of others. He has appeared as a guest on many television and radio broadcasts, including Coast To Coast AM, which is heard in over 600 markets.

On the Midwest independent wrestling scene, The SpiderBaby has wrestled for over twenty companies and held nearly twenty championships, both in the tag team and singles divisions. City Pages recognized him as its only Wrestler of the Year (in 2009). The International Gay Outdoors Organization has named him one of the Nine Toughest Gays in America. (He hastens to add that no actual Gays were harmed during the compilation of that list.) The SpiderBaby also appears as a guest star in two super-hero comic books written by his less interesting alter ego.


What is kayfabe?

Writer/wrestler Terrance “The SpiderBaby” Griep explores professional wrestling’s mercurial, money-magnet core: kayfabe (carny for “be fake”). Being fake is deciding the most advantageous face to present to the public, within the arena of combat and beyond.

A generation ago, promoters and performers were certain that the fans would not be entertained if they knew (for certain) that the in-ring spectacle to which they bore witness was not on the up-and-up. Professional wrestling therefore presented itself to the world as a sporting event, as unscripted as baseball or badminton. Kayfabe during that era served as a swear-on-my-children’s-eyes-but-utterly-false claim of legitimate, in-ring competition. In furtherance of this universal distortion, the wrestler was expected to become—constantly, permanently—his or her in-ring character.

When professional wrestling took its territorial model to a national scale, promoters and performers were certain that the fans would not be entertained by the unsustainable ruse of legitimate competition. Professional wrestling therefore transmuted into sports entertainment.

Kayfabe during this current era identifies its product as a high-impact magic show delivered within a stylized central stage. Although kayfabe is the topic of debate among modern practitioners, today’s wrestler is expected only to become the leader in a dance between the entertainer and the entertained, co-creating a shared surreality rather than dictating it.

What’s more, notes Griep, modern kayfabe has become an art form unto itself, one that has in some ways outgrown sports entertainment. Whether it’s a Fortune 500 corporation internally debating its newest brand, or or 14-year-old farmboy deciding his Twitter handle, kayfabe is everywhere.

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