“During one broadcast, Jake the Snake captured Macho Man, dragging him into the ring. Jake tied him to the ropes and menaced him with a cobra which sprang and bit him on the forearm. The camera was jostled from side to side by people racing to Macho’s assistance and panned abruptly trying to follow his hysterical wife as she ran in horror to ringside. A reaction shot shows a child in the audience reduced to tears by this brutal spectacle. Yet, at the same, the camera refused to show us an image ‘too shocking’ for broadcast. Macho Man’s arm and the snake’s gaping mouth were censored, blocked by white bars…A few weeks later, the ‘uncensored’ footage was at last shown, during a prime-time broadcast, so that viewers could see ‘what really happened.’
…Such campy self-acknowledgment may be part of what makes male spectators’ affective engagement with this melodramatic form safe and acceptable within a traditionally masculine culture which otherwise backs away from overt emotional display….The plots of wrestling cut close to the bone, inciting racial and class antagonisms that rarely surface this overtly elsewhere in popular culture, while comic exaggeration ensures that such images can never be taken seriously.”
-Henry Jenkins III in “‘Never Trust a Snake’: WWF Wrestling as Masculine Melodrama” (51-52) <x>
Seriously, though, check out the reactions in the audience.