So, I’m sitting at work the other day when Robbie sends me a text with a link to WWE’s Shopzone. Interested, I click on it and am met with surprise as I see the new WWE Kayfabe line of t-shirts.
The surprise comes from a couple of different reasons. First and foremost, they stole my idea! I haven’t announced it yet…so I guess this is where it happens…but I’ve been kicking around the idea for opening up a section of K0@2 that sells t-shirts. The idea is to come up with ideas for cool wrestling t-shirts that aren’t specific to any company or wrestler, just cool “wrestling” shirts that I thought I would wear myself. WWE’s Kayfabe shirts, with their generic wrestling phrasing, are basically what I was going to aim for…although, with all honesty, our shirts will be better. I’m actually planning graphics and not just slogans or words, haha.
Secondly, my surprise came from the fact that WWE was selling shirts essentially marketed solely to the Internet Wrestling Community. WWE and the Internet have had this love/hate relationship with each other for a long time, with most of the hate seemingly on the side of WWE, aimed towards us here on the net. Now, there’s part of me that can understand why, as we’re a fickle bunch who will yell for someone to be pushed and then start getting upset with that person the moment that they’re being utilized (see Zack Ryder, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan…now, I’m happy with all three of these examples, honestly, but if you took a poll of most wrestling sites and message boards, you’d think that WWE was doing their damnedest to kill these three guys in the minds of most posters who were clammoring for their pushes all of last year), but that’s a whole other post for another time.
With all honesty, of the 5-6 shirts offered, I’m not really interested in owning them. The phrases are a bit too generic for me. But, the concept interested me, as like I said, it’s something I’m considering doing myself here at the site, so I wanted to look around and see what the concensus of them was. This was a source of even more surprise.
People were upset that WWE was making these shirts.
Most of the arguments were that the terms were insider terms and it was disrespectful to the business to try to offer these as shirts. Thing is, that’s not an argument I can buy. Let’s take a few of them for example…like, the “Heel” one. It’s just a black shirt that says “Heel” on it in white. Heel isn’t really just a wrestling term, though. I’ve heard it numerous other places used to describe an antagonist to a story, or just a generally bad person. Even then, using it just as a wrestling term, how is it really that “inside” when we have Dolph Ziggler plastering it not only on his Twitter handle, but his trunks, shirts, jackets, etc. When one of the “inside” guys is using the term on national TV, it’s not so “inside” anymore.
Another example I see is the “jobber” one. This one is a lot more inside than the “Heel” one, but even then, I’m pretty sure the Rock has been calling people a jobber for fifteen years. Sure, he uses the term “jabroni” but it’s the same thing. I’m also pretty sure I remember a team on the WWE roster that called themselves the JOB Squad, too. Hell, their shirts even had the term “Pin me, Pay me” on the back.
I read a post on Wrestlezone today that said that a lot of the veterans were unhappy with the shirts and to expect them to be pulled from the site shortly. This is ridiculous, and if the call to pull them down doesn’t come from Vince McMahon himself, then in my opinion they should stay up for sale, regardless of what people think.
No disrespect to anyone, especially wrestling vetrans who have helped craft the world and entertainment form that I love so much, but the cat is out of the bag on most of these wrestling “insider” terms. My last two WWE Blu-Ray purchases were the Stone Cold and The Rock documentaries, both of which use insider terms like they’re going out of style. When your wrestlers openly discuss face/heel turns on a commercially available release, then there is no reason to be upset that someone may show up wearing a “I’ve got heat” t-shirt. Especially not in a post-“Pro Wrestling Secrets Revealed” world.
Sure, I get the argument. Kayfabe was a huge deal when most of the veterans started out, and in a lot of ways, this newer generation of wrestlers seem to be getting away from the ideologies of the past. I can even say that when watching this year’s Young Lions Cup from Chikara, I was actually unhappy when the Young Bucks made it a point to play into the fact that they had heat in the WWE because they didn’t shake hands when they entered the locker room. I get that it’s still a sore spot in some people’s minds. However, to paraphrase Mike Quackenbush from his I Want Wrestling podcast appearance, “You can’t make it go away just because it disrupts the way you used to do business in the 70s.” If the cat is out of the bag on the terms, and a dollar can be turned off of them, then it behooves the WWE do to so. At the end of the day they’re a business. Their goal and sole reason for existence is to make money. If Kayfabe shirts make money, then that’s good for WWE, which in turn is good for the business.
If you don’t like the shirts, vote with your wallet and don’t buy them, but don’t villify them for trying something new, and if nothing else, for trying to reach out to an audience and win them over.