At the start of Wrestlemania, we deal with what's real and what's "real."
Wrestlemania XXX takes place Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and I've been covering it for The New Orleans Advocate with a preview yesterday with Hulk Hogan and Daniel Bryan, and a story about the business of Wrestlemania today.
Wrestling has always called into question what's real, and even though the WWE now has "entertainment" as a part of its name, that only solves the winning/losing side of the equation. We know the "superstars" aren't actually wailing the hell out of each other, but if it's done right, that's not obvious. The aggressor gets the attention, but it's the person getting crushed who sells the beatdown that makes it all convincing. The WWE walks the line so finely that Vegas offers odds on Wrestlemania matches.
Thursday night, the WWE, Drew Brees' Brees Dream Foundation and Boys and Girls Club of America held a fundraiser for their Superstars for Kids charitable initiative, and many of the superstars and divas walked the red (actually purple) carpet. The Miz did it garrulously, largely in character, while others were were at least dialed down. The Big Show is genuinely big as is Mark Henry; otherwise, most were shorter by a couple of inches than I expected. Rey Mysterio is even smaller than he seems on television - maybe 5'4", 5'6" at the most. He came in his dress mask.
The WWE's Total Divas is the second-highest rated show on the E! Network after Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and in interviews The Bella Twins have talked about how you get used to the cameras and forget they're there. As I was leaving, I saw Ariane - Cameron of the Funkadactyls - outside with her boyfriend with a camera, a light and a soundman forming up around them. Do they really get used to that?
Earlier in the week, I attended an exhibition basketball games featuring Special Olympics athletes to draw attention to the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, and the Bellas coached one team while Titus O'Neil (who's also really big, particularly in the upper body) coached the other. The WWE is one of the founding partners, and afterwards I talked with Nikki and Brie Bella about the reality of a WWE reality show.
The shooting is done approximately three months ahead of the air dates, but the company blurred that timeline when it scheduled a Natalyia/Summer Rae match last Monday on Monday Night Raw sparked by a three-month-old slap that aired last week on Total Divas. The show presents the divas as soap opera stars, and the stories and editing presents the woman as characters, then they have their in-ring characters.
The show has "really helped with our characters," Brie Bella says. "For so many years, we're just The Bella Twins! Identical, talk the same - everything. Total Divas has allowed the audience to see how different we really are. We have brought that into our WWE characters."
According to Nikki, "It's nice that we can bring the real life of what Total Divas is and bring it with our characters into the ring."
Even there, reality isn't always real. Brie acknowledged that there are episodes where she plays a smaller part because she didn't react in story-friendly ways. "Drama bring in the raitings, and I'm so not that," she says.
For more photos from Superstars for Kids, visit the My Spilt Milk flickr page.