Some of the best storylines in wrestling are the ones that have a layer of realism to them. They're often referred to as work-shoots, and they make fans hesitate and wonder if what they're watching is scripted or not.
Today, most wrestling fans realize that what they're watching is entertainment, but that wasn't always the case in previous eras. Alexa Bliss discussed things getting a little "too real" for some older wrestlers when she joined Alison Is Your New Best Friend.
"There was definitely a point way back when. I remember Terry Taylor, who was a WWE Superstar - he is now a coach in NXT. He would tell us stories of the road, that people would literally throw bottles at our bad guys, would chase them out of the arena and follow their cars because people were so invested in the storylines and what we do. We have to say what we do in the ring is very real, but the outcome is scripted," stated Bliss.
"We were telling stories and we had to embrace that approach. Now, we keep the storylines as real as we can because we want to keep the audience engaged and captivated by what we're doing. Obviously, some of the stuff that we do, you look at the TV and you're like, 'Come on', but we keep it as real as we can because if we're investing in it, we want the audience to invest in it as well because what we do is based on crowd interaction and reaction.
"There was a time when the interaction and reaction was a little too real, so they had to be like, 'Look, these people are people. They're not always the characters they portray on TV. These are actual people that have real lives and you have to respect that.'"
Going along with the talent portraying characters on TV, some of the most bitter WWE rivals are actually the best of friends in real live. Bliss was asked about the social environment of WWE and how the Superstars all relate to each other.
"It's like Thanksgiving at your parents' house 300 days a year. We're all a big dysfunctional family but we all love each other," stated Bliss. "Obviously, when you see someone every day for 300 days, there's going to be a little bit of bickering and arguing, but then, at the end of the day, we're all family and we're all going for the same goal. We all just want to have a good product, and it's a lot of fun.
"Some of my closest friends come from work, and what's nice about it too is the days that we are home, we don't have to see everyone from work. It's nice; it's a really healthy balance, and it's always so much fun because sometimes you're in the ring with your best friend and you are having matches against your best friend. You guys have the match and talk about it after and give each other feedback. It's a lot of fun."
One of the biggest complaints that people have with the wrestling industry is that promotions classify talent as independent contractors instead of employees. That means there are fewer benefits associated with their employment, and Bliss was asked if there's any pressure of her competing hurt or sick due to her independent contractor status.
"WWE takes care of us 100 percent. We are all in a contract, and anything that happens inside the ring, WWE takes care of. Our health is 100 percent a priority; our health and safety is 100 percent a priority in the company," said Bliss who has suffered numerous concussions in the ring.
"Unfortunately, we're living in the middle of a cancel culture where people try to start rumors and make their assumptions of things, and there's never been a time where I've ever felt uncomfortable about being in the ring, or have ever felt forced of being in the ring.
"Even when I was injured, I had concussions, and Vince said, 'Alright, well, we're going to send you to the best specialists there are.' And he did. I saw a concussion specialist and they went above and beyond to take care of me, and I know everyone feels that way."
Bliss is currently involved in a storyline with The Fiend, and she's been a part of many memorable storylines during her career. She was asked if wrestlers are allowed to say 'no' to storylines they don't feel comfortable with.
"We have as much creative input now than ever. Two years ago, I did a body-shaming storyline with Nia Jax. Nia is six feet tall, and she is a Samoan girl, and she is muscular. She has a bigger frame than I have and we did a body-shaming angle, and that was our choice because we wanted to show that bullies never win. I was the one bullying her, and we are both are very big on body positivity," said Bliss.
"We wanted to show that these things really happen in life. We've both gone through body image issues - I've gone through eating disorders. So when we were presented with this opportunity to do this bullying story and angle, we 100 percent jumped on it. This is a real issue. A lot of times real issues aren't talked about, and we're going to act out this real issue and show that when she takes the title from me at WrestleMania that bullies never win. That was our whole goal, and that was our favorite storyline we've ever done. We used real examples, real things, because we felt really passionate about that. That's how our storylines work."
With the coronavirus pandemic, we're living in strange times, and WWE has abandoned taking production on the road for the time being. They've been in the ThunderDome for months now, and Bliss talked about how filming works.
"So I've been home during COVID-19 but we still film every week. We film in Orlando, which I live in Orlando, so it works. We film at the Amway Center every week. We have two shows – RAW films on Mondays and SmackDown films on Fridays. We quarantine as much as we can, but we do COVID-19 testing one to two times a week depending on what show you're on. Once you know you're negative, obviously you can come in," stated Bliss.
"We COVID-19 test the day before television and we have to self-quarantine until television so there's no risk of us contracting COVID-19 in any way, shape, or form, and then, when we're there, we have to wear masks the whole time until right before you go out and perform. They have people cleaning everything 24/7, and anywhere you go, someone wiped it right down. It's been very nice, and it's kind of nice to be home because normally we travel 300 days a year almost, and it's been nice to be home."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Alison Is Your New Best Friend with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.