Photographer Sebastiaan Franco explores the world of European Pro Wrestling, and discovers what ‘kayfabe’ means in that sporting universe.
In the world of wrestling, ‘Kayfabe’ is the term for portraying events, relationships, and rivalries between opponents as genuine. Photographer Sebastiaan Franco has been following pro wrestler Rob Eeckhout since 2015, and explores the world of European Pro Wrestling through photography.
Professional wrestling became popular in the UK in the seventies, and in the US in the eighties – in Belgium, it was revived in 2003 with the founding of the Flemish Wrestling Force (FWF). Over the next decade, multiple organizations such as the Pro Wrestling Alliance (PWA) were launched. In 2015, Franco contacted Steve Van den Bergh, the founder of the PWA, who in turn put Franco in touch with pro wrestler Rob Eeckhout. Only a few days later, Sebastiaan travelled with Rob to one of his shows and has been following the pro athlete on a regular basis on his tour through Europe ever since, capturing events both on and off stage.
Gradually, Franco became intrigued by this project because of the high level of entertainment of pro wrestling: “This is the summit of live entertainment. Pro wrestlers construct their own character and background story after which they train to bring this character to life on stage. Rob Eeckhout is, for example, known in the ring as Rob Raw where he forms a tag team with his partner Rex Rage. The characters of pro wrestlers create stories which provide a recurring theme both within one show, and throughout multiple shows. It is the athletic tension that exists around these storylines that is so appealing to the audience.”