Professional wrestling, more than any other sport, erases the faint line between truth and imagination. In Breaking Kayfabe, the debut novel of ‘semi-retired pro wrestler’ Wes Brown, wrestlers are skilled performers, ‘learning to fall’, embellishing their characters, guiding their audiences towards climax and denouement. Yet they remain athletes: their brute muscularity is real. Relentless training and preparation are essential, even if the outcome of each fight has been decided in advance. A flair for in-ring histrionics is imperative; likewise an enthusiasm for sustained rivalries and bitter personal animus. Dedication to the artifice comes to the detriment of healthy habits and loving relationships.
Brown captures this social world in a fluent voice, creating what is effectively a work of autofiction. We see the protagonist, also named Wes, negotiate his wrestling lineage, excessive drinking and complex macho identity. Kayfabe is a ‘code of honour’ requiring ‘heels’ and ‘faces’ (bad and good guys)