Thirteen-thousand fans pack an arena in anticipation of big fights, championship bouts, and a whole lot of drama. The cheering melts to boos as a blonde woman takes the stage, curvy and intimidating, the kind of character you’d expect to see James Bond meeting at a cafe in Kiev.
“Foolish Americans,” she begins in a painfully fake Russian accent, prompting a "U-S-A!" chant from the Chicago crowd. She rips into them, speaking at length about America’s crumbling empire, declaring Russia the Earth’s sole superpower and Vladimir Putin its greatest leader.
This is Lana, the ravishing Russian, and she is berating the Americans, foolish though they may be, in order to hype up her associate Alexander Rusev, the Super Athlete. He’s an imposing figure, roughly the size and shape of a refrigerator, and he’s waving the Russian flag around as if attempting to swat invisible bald eagles. He will face off against Big E, a somehow even larger man, waving the American flag with equal ferocity.
This particular World Wrestling Entertainment match, see, isn’t just a couple of greased up guys pretending to fight: It’s America vs. Russia.
Professional wrestling, everyone knows, is theater. Its finishes are predetermined, its storylines are scripted, and its characters are a product of a team of creative writers. But “fake” remains a dirty word in professional wrestling fandom. This is because professional wrestling, in many ways, isn’t fake. The performers are real people and wrestling is their job, and WWE is a real company that makes a lot of real money. No, Rusev and Lana aren’t actually out to prove Mother Russia’s dominance over the United States, but what they do is real in the same way that the individual plot of a film might not exist, but the film itself exists.