Since Royal Rumble 2020, I’ve been enamored by watching wrestling highlights. In my youth, I was a devout follower of the WWE/WWF. Back then, it was one of the few things I was allowed to watch despite its “TV MA” rating. My stepfather, despite being pretty strict about what media I could consume (due to being in the church), was a wrestling fan growing up so he had a soft spot in his heart for my youthful enthusiasm.
It was the Attitude Era and wrestling was filled with fun storylines, gratuitous violence, and the best wrestlers to ever do it: Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Kane, Undertaker, Triple H, etc. Recently, the Royal Rumble witnessed the return of Edge. His return brought tears to both his eyes and mine and for once I was glad that the Youtube algorithm brought this completely out of place recommendation to my feed.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I’ve watched this clip over 25 times. Growing up, Edge wasn’t my favorite wrestler, in fact, he was my favorite wrestler, Jeff Hardy’s antagonist. With that said, he was seminal to my adolescence and I feel just like the older millennials in the crowd seeing his entrance.
For me, what made the Hardy Boyz, and specifically Jeff Hardy, so fun to watch was their death defying stunts. Any match they were in could easily be career ending. Their shtick required high flying, body destroying, acrobatics. Jumping off of the top rope, mid air somersaults off of ladders, and taking bump after bump from other “extreme” tag teams. Now, obviously wrestling is “fake” insofar as the outcomes are predetermined, but I don’t care how “fake” it is, doing a Swanton Bomb off of a 20 foot ladder hurts like a mother fucker. This is of course what makes watching The Hardy Boyz so engaging. Their antics broke kayfabe just enough to further reinforce the kayfabe.
Much like the WWE, in order to get twitter engagement, you need to create a hyperreal persona. Each post, another iteration, sharpening and honing the character you’ve created. This persona ends up behaving much like a wrestler’s gimmick. Aspects of your true personality begin to bleed into the character. Overall, it’s still a gimmick, but it will not resonate unless there’s a air of sincerity. As your account begins to grow, breaking kayfabe becomes a carnal sin.
If your brand resonates, you will have detractors. Depending on the reader, you may be the Heel (bad guy) or the Babyface (good guy), but at the end of the day, you must not break kayfabe. All accounts participate in kayfabe. It’s the only way for your brand to grow. You start off in the void, tweeting to absolutely nobody, but eventually, you end up in a “faction” or corner of twitter. You interact and you hope for some of that sweet dopamine. Eventually, you get a response or two, so you continue down this path. Before you realize it, you’ve become a brand. You’ve enter a corner of the twitterverse and for better or worse you’re a character in the drama unfolding. Your gimmick/character thus requires a motivation and there must be a definitive enemy. It doesn’t have to be as explicit as I’m making it, often this arises naturally–especially when you’re a facef*g (a non-doxxed account by 4chan vernacular).
If your account is using your actual likeness, you tend to behave increasingly in alignment with your irl political or social behavior. There isn’t much room to deviate from this. Typically, this amounts to tech/business types, celebs and verified journos virtue signalling about their political leanings. Here and there, they might post a fun meme, but nothing too racy. Every once in a while, they’ll make a very tepid political take and publicly denounce an anon account that demostrates wrongthink. To continue the use of wrestling industry slang, the facedoxxed would be considered “babyfaces.”
In wrestling, the babyface is the good guy character. Historically, these characters were clean shaven and The Company does everything within their power to make them appear to be morally upstanding within their storyline. They’re usually the premiere rising superstar in the company, and their storyline is written to make them a role model deserving of the World Championship Title. They are being groomed to be the face of the company by Wrestlemania.
In contrast, there is the infamous anonymous anime avi, pepe/groyper, based roman statue account. These accounts speak their mind or push the boundaries of acceptable discourse. Pseudo-anon accounts veer the furthest away from their actual meatspace personality. Many groypers and racist anime characters are just office workers, trapped in the wage cage, trying to let off steam in the increasingly politically-correct corporate environment. Thanks to the wonders of HR they can’t speak their mind and they feel stifled, so they take it to twitter, youtube comments, 4chan, etc. These account act outside of the bounds of “correct” social behavior. They say what you’re not supposed to, they dunk on journos and “bluechecks,” and in many ways they resemble what is referred to in wrestling as “the Heel.”
The Heel does everything they can to be villainous. The point of the Heel to be booed upon entrance. Everything the heel does wrong, by contrast, makes the babyface look that much better. They interfere in matches, beat up the babyface outside the match, fuck with the babyface’s girlfriend or personal items, etc. Whatever the writers can come up with to raise the stakes leading up to the fated match between the face and the heel. Within the twitterverse, it’s much the same thing. The groypers make jew jokes, and N-towers, they suicide by @-ing Jack and saying the n-word. Whatever they can do to make you boo or jeer the anon miasma.
All parties are just participating in kayfabe, playing their role to the T in order to make the game of twitter that much more fun. I know that the Heel amongst us, are aware that we’re playing a part, but it makes me wonder of the bluechecks and face accounts recognize their role within kayfabe? Are they self-aware? As they iterate, are they choosing to accept the hyperreal or are they being swept along?