While I’m on the subject of wrestling, last night BBC 2 broadcast Gaea Girls, a supposed documentary following the trials and tribulations of a young woman trying to break into the world of professional wrestling in Japan. I eagerly set the video, expecting it to be an enlightened look behind the curtain of the wrestling world in the vein of Beyond The Mat. What I eventually saw was very disappointing and to be honest, also downright misleading.
Take as a given that professional wrestling in all parts of the world – from the theatrical product of the United States to the acrobatics of Mexican luchadores and the technical proficiency of the Orient – is based on the premiss that all matches are worked (that is, loosely pre-scripted – in most cases NOT choreographed – with the end results pre-determined, and the wrestlers performing practiced moves on each other and selling their effects as if they were really hurt or injured) unless it is explicit that they are shoots (or real contests of skill, like Ultimate Fighting – I would say boxing, but it’s all politics now, isn’t it?).
One must also take into account that the viewing public must suspend disbelief when they watch a wrestling show on TV, much like one would watching science fiction. The overall presentation of professional wrestling consists of ‘angles’ (storylines or plot devices) that are in reality not true of course, just like science fiction, but which, to immerse yourself within the entertainment spectacle that wrestling is, you take as truisms. This is called ‘kayfabe’. Exposing the reality behind the scripts and storylines is known as ‘breaking kayfabe’ (this is a relatively recent phenomenon, made much more popular by the advent of the Internet).
Now with this knowledge watching this film (which – unlike Beyond The Mat – let alone did not break kayfabe, it didn’t even acknowledge it) is without doubt a frustrating experience. A great deal of the film showed a trainee in the GAEA Japan dojo, Saika Takeuchi, being brutalised in the ring by her trainers in so-called ‘sparring’ bouts, in preparation for her professional debut. In one scene, she performs a number of running dropkicks in quick succession on her trainer Meiko Satomura (who incidentally made the big time last December by ‘winning’ the WWWA title from the legendary Aja Kong) which seem to have no effect whatsoever. The ‘documentary’ made out that this was because she was rubbish at delivering dropkicks (which was odd since as a wrestling fan of twelve years, I know a bad dropkick when I see one and hers were pretty damn good). What the filmmakers failed (or refused) to recognise was that her trainer was simply not selling her dropkicks. The majority of wrestling maneuvers are desgined not to inflict serious injury, which a real flying kick to the chest would almost certainly result in, which explains why it takes equal effort to make a wrestling bout – one to perform the move, the other to sell it. Wrestling is all about stylised violence, making high-impact combat look good. Takeuchi’s trainer purposefully made her look bad by not selling, which is extremely unprofessional, but the ‘documentary’ made out that Takeuchi was the unprofessional one.
It just got worse from then on. I won’t even bother to get into it, it’s merely more of the same, with the documentary team maintaining kayfabe throughout and ultimately only serving to reinforce the negative perception of professional wrestling in the mass media.
Maybe the makers of this terrible excuse for a documentary thought that no one would care. Hey, I can almost hear them say, it’s only wrestling after all. But do I even need to say that that’s no excuse?