->''"It's still '''[[SmartMark real to me]]''', [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvTNyKIGXiI damn it!"]]''
-->-- '''Dave Wills''', the Crying Wrestling Fan
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%% One quote per page, please. Additional entries can go on the /Quotes/ tab.

"Kayfabe" is a carny term thought to have originated from the PigLatin for "be fake", possibly originally by pronouncing it backward ("kay-feeb"). ProfessionalWrestling adopted the term as a reference to the standard FourthWall features of separating the audience from the action. It is meant to convey the idea that, [[SuspiciouslySpecificDenial yes, pro wrestling is a genuine sport, and yes, this is how these people act in real life]]. It is essentially WillingSuspensionOfDisbelief specifically for pro wrestling.

Back in the old days, though, kayfabe was much more; it was pro wrestling's real life {{Masquerade}}. Wrestlers, promoters, and everybody else involved with the business alike resorted to any means necessary to guard the secret that wrestling was rigged, from wrestlers roughing up any reporters who dared ask, "It's all fake, right?" to (alleged) [[KilledToUpholdTheMasquerade death threats]] towards anybody who threatened to expose the secret, through contacts with the Mafia and other organized crime. Heels and faces weren't allowed to travel, eat, or be seen with their "enemies" in public, and changed in separate locker rooms. Wrestlers lived their gimmicks 24/7 and those playing [[WildSamoan Wild Samoans]] or [[ForeignWrestlingHeel Foreign Wrestling Heels]] could not speak English in public if their characters didn't. There are even rumors that some wrestlers would lie under oath in court to maintain the illusion, and some old-time heels tell stories about carrying guns for their own protection from those fans who took it [[SeriousBusiness just a bit too seriously]]. To get an idea of just how important kayfabe was, it's interesting to watch shoot interviews with old-time wrestlers filmed in the modern era, even decades later when everyone knows that wrestling is fake, they often start speaking as if various angles and feuds were real and tend to dance around actually saying that wrestling is staged if pressed (Arn Anderson, now a backstage agent for WWE, is notorious for this).

Naturally, there had always been skeptics that denied pro wrestling's legitimacy from the beginning,[[note]]The well-known ProWrestlingEpisode of the ''WesternAnimation/TheFlintstones'' features Fred Flintstone scoffing at wrestling and asserting that it's fake; this was in ''1963''! and the ''Film/ShadowOfTheThinMan'' was cracking jokes about the pretense in 1941[[/note]] [[note]] not to mention a court case in the *1930's* revealed the inner workings of pro wrestling in the court transcripts [[/note]], but fans widely started to figure out the truth in the '70s (if indeed they ever really didn't know before--with any live TV audience there is a certain amount of kayfabe of a sort going on with them too), and once Wrestling/VinceMcMahon[='=]s [[Wrestling/{{WWE}} World Wrestling Federation]] rose to prominence in the '80s, the secret was out for any but the most die-hard (and thick-headed) fans. And even they finally got it in the '90s, when [=McMahon =] himself revealed it on ''[[Wrestling/WWERaw Monday Night RAW]]''. [=McMahon =] was also forced to break kayfabe when he hosted a tribute broadcast to Wrestling/ChrisBenoit after the wrestler was found dead with his family, which aired a few days after [=McMahon=]'s "character" was supposedly either KilledOffForReal or at least was to be out of commission for a while; a day later, when the details of Benoit's death became known (that he had committed murder-suicide), [=McMahon=] further dissolved kayfabe in a follow-up broadcast in which he discussed the tragedy. Other kayfabe-breaking incidents have occurred during live broadcasts, with the announcers outright referring to "wrestling angles" and "storylines", perhaps most notably the off-camera accident that killed Wrestling/OwenHart during a pay per view broadcast, forcing the announcers to explain what had happened.

Another aspect was legal: steroids. [=McMahon=] had to explain that pro wrestling was ''entertainment'' and ''not'' a "sport", and therefore avoid having real sports governing bodies from investigating. (Not that he didn't have [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vince_McMahon#Legal_trial legal issues]] surrounding steroids.)

"Breaking kayfabe", for a pro wrestler, is tantamount to "breaking character" for an actor.

Note that even in the 2000s, when pro wrestling is known to be staged, kayfabe is still a big deal; most wrestling organizations expect wrestlers to maintain kayfabe at all times, and one (Deep South Wrestling, one of Wrestling/{{WWE}}'s farm leagues) levied substantial fines on its wrestlers for breaking kayfabe at public appearances, before it was shut down. This has become more apparent now thanks to most wrestlers having an online presence, as they can now extend it beyond what is seen on camera, playing up their personas and engaging in icy and confrontational conversations with their opponents on the likes of Website/{{Twitter}}.

Some people compare modern kayfabe to Creator/PennAndTeller's tricks which seem to give away the magic's "secret", while actually setting you up for a different, more impressive effect.

Kayfabe can be heavily bent, if not outright broken, by a WorkedShoot.

As a side note, if you happen to know anybody who claims to have been a wrestling fan "back when it was real", unless Willard Scott announces their birthday on ''The Today Show'', they were taken in by kayfabe. By all accounts, wrestling was completely show within 10-15 years after the turn of the 20th century. This was necessary to compete with the emerging sport of boxing, which naturally lends itself to long, drama filled, multi-round fights, whereas a real wrestling match could last about ten exciting seconds, or two boring hours.

The late Wrestling/GorillaMonsoon, one half of the best commentary duo of his era, had "KAYFABE" on his car's license plate.

The night after the ''Exposed! Secrets of Pro Wrestling'' special came out (years after kayfabe was exposed in mainstream wrestling), Wrestling/MickFoley was the only one to try to "restore" kayfabe by claiming "I didn't do so well, last week -- but I was watching TV last night, and the Secrets of Pro Wrestling were revealed to me!" Although Foley was probably just taking the mickey (pardon the pun) out of the ridiculous show.

Conversely, some fans would prefer not to see "real" fighting, and prefer kayfabe. The arguments include:
* If it was real, it would be too disgusting to watch, like boxing or Joe Theisman's {{Squick}} moment on ''Monday Night Football''.
* Real fights tend to be very short, as demonstrated by the UFC or MMA in general.
* Conversely, real fights can bore viewers by going on for the full length of time, ending with a (sometimes controversial) judges' decision. Since pro wrestling is scripted, boring matches ''should'' logically be less common, as no wrestler wants to bore his audience.
* Real fights tend to be visually boring. Wrestling is more theatrical, and requires different skills (including gymnastics and even a little ballet).
* As demonstrated in the NFL, when the injuries are real, the quality of the games slowly degrades over the course of the season until it is not much higher than college games'. Kayfabe allows for (relatively) minimal injuries over a long period of time - or rather, allows professional wrestlers methods for working around the injuries they do sustain in order to keep the matches exciting.
* [[OpposingSportsTeam Unlike genuine sports]], wrestling involves an underlying morality of good vs. evil (or {{face}} vs. {{heel}}) which has been a part of literature for centuries. These are powerful and primordial tropes, and most people find them deeply satisfying. In fact, tropes in general seep in much more easily and clearly in a fictional sport, theoretically leading to more interesting storylines. This is parodied in an episode of ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'' where the kids think wrestling is only about the stories ("W.T.F.").
* Wrestling provides lots of good ol' fashioned, unabashed NarmCharm.

To put it another way, wrestling fans who treat the sport as if what we see on TV is real are not so different than people who talk about soap opera characters like they are real people. All fictional works require some suspense of disbelief to get the audience really connected. The only real difference between that and kayfabe is that professional wrestling extends that fiction beyond the edge of the camera frame.

At the core, we all know that it's scripted, but knowing that doesn't stop you enjoying it. We know that movies and TV shows are "fake" too, but a well told story, particularly one with lots of action, is well received regardless.
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!!Kayfabe In Other Media:

* ''Film/TheWrestler'' explores this and other aspects of wrestling, and goes into the fact that while it's "staged", it's still extremely demanding as wrestlers are essentially doing rough stunt work. They're TrueCompanions as well, when not doing Kay Fabe.
* No-one sees Franchise/TheMuppets unless they're in action - they do their own press conferences and when they [[MuppetCameo cameo in other works]], they're treated like regular people.
** This is much stricter than it used to be. Back when Creator/JimHenson was alive, this was ''usually'' the case, but he wasn't afraid to break kayfabe on occasion; doing UK chat shows with Kermit clearly on the end of his arm while he explained how he did the voices, or ''Series/TheJimHensonHour'' episode "Secrets of the Muppets" (with the joke being that the ''Muppets'' know they're real, and have no idea what this strange bearded man is talking about). It didn't matter; many people who've worked with them have said seeing a Muppeteer doesn't stop the Muppets from seeming real.
** ''Series/MisterRogersNeighborhood'': Carroll Spinney, who plays Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on ''Series/SesameStreet'', was asked to appear on the show (at Fred Rogers' request) in his Big Bird costume before taking it off on-camera and explaining the costume's workings and that the character was fictional. Spinney refused, but as a compromise (which Rogers agreed to), would appear in character only in the show's "Neighborhood of Make-Beleive" segments, and in the regular segments Spinney would talk about puppetry in general. Rogers did get in a few remarks, however, about one of the things about growing up is eventually discerning the difference between reality and make-believe characters. (Indeed, Rogers openly has stated that the characters of the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe" are pretend.)
* Creator/StephenColbert's character on ''Series/TheColbertReport'' was actually a character that happened to have the same name and certain life events as the real Colbert.
* Creator/MileyCyrus's songs and performances centre around a stereotypical off-the-rails-FormerChildStar image, but her interviews constantly reiterate that it's just a persona and she's actually quite well-adjusted (although she does like her drugs).
* Creator/TomBaker, the Fourth Doctor on ''Series/DoctorWho'' kept up the pretence that he ''was'' The Doctor whenever he met fans, and would never be seen smoking or drinking in public to uphold this.
* The Washington Generals are the ultimate {{jobber}} to the Harlem Globetrotters as the constant losers in a fake league that focuses on showmanship rather than actual basketball, in the early days of the exhibition matches, they would even play as several different teams to create the illusion of a whole league rather than just two teams, much like old-school jobbers, who would work as several characters to keep rosters and costs down.
* This practice was used in UsefulNotes/RollerDerby predominantly during the TV era (the 1950s-70s). Modern Roller Derby uses aspects of Kayfabe only to the extent that skaters may adopt [[AlterEgoActing slightly different on-track personalities]]; the action is entirely unstaged.[[note]]In many cases, roller derby is an actual competition without a predetermined (read: rigged) outcome, instead of just being "sports entertainment" (examples of the latter include "Rollergames", and "Rollerjam").[[/note]]
* The actors on ''Series/TrailerParkBoys'' would always appear in public in-character during the show's original run; they didn't appear as "themselves" until the original cancellation. Now with the show back, they appear as exaggerated versions of themselves alongside their characters. While it wasn't that difficult to determine that it was a {{mockumentary}} (it after all has credits listing the actor's real names and the writing staff), it did lead some people to believe it was a real documentary show.
** They still only ''very rarely'' make scheduled appearances as themselves, and typically only in things directly connected to their Swearnet online channel.
* ''Series/HoganKnowsBest'' and ''Series/BrookeKnowsBest'' were, [[Creator/HulkHogan ironically enough,]] rumored to be some of the most heavily scripted "reality" shows every made.
* The cast of one of the original modern reality shows, ''Series/TheOsbournes'', prided themselves on the fact their show was not scripted like most of the ones that followed. However, ''The Osbournes'' is a large reason why most of them ''are'' now, since filming in this style took a lot more time (and money) to get enough usable footage.
* It's an open secret that a lot of ''Series/TheJerrySpringerShow'' is staged and many of the guests were actors playing roles (some come back several times as different people!), but it doesn't stop people from watching it.
* On his podcast, Creator/AdamCarolla interviewed an actor who talked about all the "True Story" bio pics he appeared in as [insert fallen star here]'s drug dealer.
* {{Music/GWAR}}'s members never did interviews out of character (or costume) for many years.
* In their early days, {{Music/Fozzy}} did the same. At the very beginning (back when the band was called Fozzy Osbourne), Chris Jericho used the name [=Moongoose McQueen=] for his singer persona, and [="McQueen"=] and Jericho would talk each other up but deny being the same person.
* Mick Foley's second book ''Foley Is Good!...And the Real World is Faker Than Pro Wrestling'' was all about pointing out instances of this.
* ''Magazine/WeeklyWorldNews'' never once ran a disclaimer or otherwise indicated they were a parody, even though some articles they printed were potential grounds for libel lawsuits.
* At Ride/DisneyThemeParks, kayfabe is very strictly enforced. As far as every--''every''--cast member is concerned, that ''is'' Mickey Mouse, that ''is'' Cinderella. The characters never break character, and they're quite careful to make sure you never see two Tinker Bells at once. [[note]]For example, if you're on line to meet Queen Elsa, the line is likely to end in a large waiting room--then one group at a time will be taken from the waiting room to the actual audience chamber where Elsa is waiting. There might be four audience chambers, each with its own Elsa, but the kids-of-all-ages will never know.[[/note]]
* A staple of many, many radio shows (and now podcasts) is to have characters that are treated as real people, but in actuality are just characters, among other "theater of the mind" tricks.
** No-one involved in ''Radio/ImSorryIHaventAClue'' will ever openly acknowledge that Samantha doesn't exist (Humph once explained to a fan that Samantha was real, but Colin Sell wasn't, and this was happily accepted), there is no laser-display board and, above all, that Mornington Crescent is anything other than a well-known game with a storied history and clearly defined rules.
** Also, two episodes of ISIHAC are recorded in a row. However the chair and teams will act as if the second episode is a week after the first as this is how it sounds to the radio audience. Similarly, panelists on ''Radio/TheUnbelievableTruth'' have called back to jokes or topics from 'an earlier recording' or 'some time ago' instead of half an hour earlier that afternoon.
** Long-time fans of ''Bubba The Love Sponge'' have figured out "Ned" doesn't actually exist, but a voice done by one of the show's crew (and is played by his father at live appearances). Officially, they insist he's real, however.
** "Willy" on the Creator/ChristopherTitus podcast is just a voice Titus does; he's admitted it elsewhere but they treat him like a separate person on the show (he's since retired him due to some UnfortunateImplications and Titus revealed he was made up).
** Creator/LarryTheCableGuy got his start this way, as comedian Daniel Whitney would call into various radio shows across the country playing Larry. The character took off, and most never knew he was playing a character, and even now most assume Daniel is really Larry.
** Similarly, Adam Carolla got his start in radio calling into ''The Kevin and Beane Show'' playing Mr. Birchum, a surly and jaded high school wood shop teacher. Although many fans assumed he must be a character, his [[TheCastShowOff genuine knowledge of carpentry]] kept others thinking he was a real person. At public events he would acknowledge it was just a character if people asked.
** Speaking of, one of Adam's podcast regulars is Deaf Frat Guy, a FratBro with a hearing disability. In reality he's a comedian named Josh Gardner (who isn't deaf or in a frat), but he always appears in character. Most fans of course have figured out he's not real, since he's been playing this character since Adam's radio days and would now be on his tenth year or so of college.
** ''WebSeries/TheNeedleDrop'' has Anthony Fantano and Cal Chuchesta. The fact that they're the same person in a PaperThinDisguise is acknowledged absolutely nowhere in Anthony's online presence.
* The members of ''WebVideo/DeagleNation'' went several ''years'' without ever breaking character in public, even when people called them on the phone, to the point where up until a fluke accident gave it away it was commonly believed to be real. Even after it became known that the videos were staged, Jace and Tyce continued to post on forums and blogs and make videos in-character, and several communities continued to play along as though nothing had happened.
* As depicted in ''Film/ManOnTheMoon'', Andy Kaufman was fascinated with wrestling and decided he wanted to be the {{Heel}} wrestling women. He and Jerry Lawler collaborated, and the two fooled everyone, and we mean ''everyone'', with some hardcore Kay Fabe. Even if you knew Andy was faking it, he was uncomfortably realistic in his sexist persona.
* The world of Flonyard in ''Anime/DogDays'' seems to ''run'' on Kayfabe. Battles are non-lethal, thanks to the locations in which they are held, and the various warriors and important characters are treated like idols, getting interviews and giving concerts on television. No ill-will tends to arise between nations who hold battles.
** The daring(and quite real) kidnapping of the Biscotti Princess is candidly televised and presented as though it were a story event similar to those seen in wrestling.
* Comedians who strike it big doing a character, such as Pee-wee Herman and Larry the Cable Guy, will almost always do interviews and appearances in character and receive billing as their character's name rather than their real one.
* In ''Film/ShadowOfTheThinMan'', Nick and Nora attend a wrestling match. When the man running it says that they are in for a great match, Nick quips "How do you know? Were you at the rehearsal?". Later on they leave while the fight is still going on, with one wrestler in a painful looking hold and groaning with discomfort. As she passes the ring, Nora tells him that she hopes he gets out of it okay. The wrestler stops groaning and thanks her for her concern in a perfectly normal tone of voice.
* In ScrewballComedy ''Film/NothingSacred'', Wally takes Hazel to a wrestling match. He starts talking about how it's all phony and scripted, and then starts riffing on how New York is full of phonies.
* In ''Webcomic/MenageA3'', [=DiDi=] has her first experience with professional wrestling and, being TheDitz, takes it completely seriously. Her behaviour after the match confused the hell out of Roxie, the wrestler she had befriended earlier, until Roxie realized that [=DiDi=] was legitimately angry at her for the FaceHeelTurn she pulled in the ring. She tried to run with it and play up her character... for all of 10 seconds until [=DiDi=] [[InelegantBlubbering started crying]], then she decided that she had to come clean or risk getting fired.
* On one episode of ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'', the kids take a field trip to a pioneer-themed living museum set in 1864, where the actors are under '''''no''''' circumstances allowed to break character until the second their work day ends at 5:00, even if they are held at gunpoint by a group of robbers demanding the code to the mine shaft tunnel so they can use it to escape from the police (a door locked by a keypad doesn't exist in 1864, you see). It took Stan getting into a character of his own and rephrasing the question in a way the actors were allowed to answer it to defuse the situation.
** Another episode featured actual professional wrestling and a real wrestler getting angry that they were getting more publicity. He eventually outdoes them when people think he's creating his own narrative.
* ''{{Website/Cracked}}'' compiled [[http://www.cracked.com/article_20029_5-insane-true-tales-wrestlers-refusing-to-break-character.html a couple of lists]] of [[http://www.cracked.com/article_20029_5-insane-true-tales-wrestlers-refusing-to-break-character.html various times wrestlers took Kayfabe]] to nigh-insane levels, including fans accusing a woman of being a murderer because her opponent died in the ring.
* ''Film/KayfabeAFakeRealMovieAboutAFakeRealSport'' is a mockumentary about the professional wrestling business. The wrestlers know that no one believes what they're doing is real, but they nonetheless do their best to put on a good show, never breaking character even in the most ridiculous moments.
* ''VideoGame/PokemonSunAndMoon'' has Incineroar, the final evolution of the Alolan Fire starter, Litten. It's a Dark-Type, based on a professional Heel wrestler and fights extremely dirty in battle, even attacking the opponents' trainer. However, true to it's ''pro wrestler'' theme, it's not deliberately malicious and is all an act. Out of battle, it maintains its act, but actually [[JerkWithAHeartOfGold enjoys the admiration it gets]], [[FriendToAllChildren especially from children]].