On the Progress of Machka and Its Relevance in Wrestling Theory

The image is a sign I made for Rusev when I went to a Smackdown in Phoenix last October. Sadly I forgot it in the trunk of my rental car, but at least I took a picture.

It has been a wild month here at The Spectacle of Excess.

I started this blog two years ago just so I could have a space to shoot my mouth off into the void about wrestling and Shakespeare and Roland Barthes and my crush on Dean Ambrose. But the blog started to get a smattering of hits here and there, and then gained modest notoriety about the interwebs based on a single post going viral: On What Rusev is Saying. I’m not the only person on the internet to translate Rusev, of course, but somehow the search engine gods chose my posts on the subject as the premier source for this tidbit of information when people go a-googlin’ to understand the meaning of Rusev Udrya Rusev Machka, the phrase Rusev yells sternly in Bulgarian at the beginning of his entrance music. People come in search of Rusev knowledge, and some of them stick around to read more of our offerings. It’s why I call Rusev the patron saint-wrestler of this blog. (In case your googling has brought you to this particular post, what Rusev says means “Rusev Hit, Rusev Crush!”)

Well, at the beginning of this month there was a sudden sharp uptick in traffic to the original Rusev post, which was already consistently the number one post for traffic on this blog by a substantial margin. On What Rusev is Saying used to get maybe 50 hits on an average day, with spikes into the 100-200 range on a RAW or pay-per-view with significant Rusev content. But the bar was suddenly raised—there were a couple weeks with off days in the 100-200 range, and spikes in the high 300’s for not only RAW days, but Smackdowns as well. Look how this traffic surge looked on the overall traffic chart:

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 5.54.15 PM

I was busy editing the Russian novel I recently translated as all this was going on, so I wasn’t paying close attention to what Rusev and Lana were up to. I didn’t even notice the surge in traffic for a few days, and when I did I wondered, what the heck? Traffic to these posts had been mostly consistent for over a year. I thought there must have been some adjustment to the search engine algorithms that sent even more traffic our way—a lot of people were searching for “machka meaning” and I discovered that this phrase would pop up as a set search term you could choose in the google search box. I thought maybe “machka meaning” had been only recently codified as a search query, and that this was what caused traffic to grow as it had.

Then I came across one of Rusev’s tweets and noticed what he’d done to his Twitter name:

Rusev had brought Machka up front! He was pushing a #machka hashtag as well. Well then, I thought. That explains it! Rusev making such prominent use of Machka was driving more traffic to our site. I realized he must be saying it a bunch on TV too.

Then just as it looked like the traffic was starting to dwindle back down, Extreme Rules started to ramp up, and the site saw a week of epic days in the high 700’s, and an all-time high day of 881, which overtook a long standing high day in the 800’s that happened for a post I wrote called On Disrespect for Roman Reigns, when everybody got so bent out of shape about Roman Reigns winning the Royal Rumble last year. Then three days later during the Extreme Rules pre-show, Lana got annoyed when interviewer Tom Phillips brought up an #AskRusev question about what “machka” means. “Are you an idiot?” she asked, and suggested that everyone could just go check it out on the internet. “Anything where you go ‘machka’, it comes up immediately.”

And I was all, OMG.

I was drinking margaritas in a bar at the Seattle airport on my way back from a translation thing, trying to stream Extreme Rules on the clunky SEATAC wifi and watching the breathtaking site traffic. When Lana said what she said, EVERYTHING WENT CRAZY. I had trouble accessing the site for a little while. When I could get in to check there were suddenly 300 hits in just a few minutes, and another 700 before I got on the plane. When it was all said and done, the traffic for Extreme Rules looked like this:Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 3.59.06 PMThat huge spike represents the 2,883 people who visited the blog on Extreme Rules day, during which Rusev also yelled “MACHKA!” really loud right at the camera after he beat Kalisto.

It’s too soon to tell where things will level out, but the last few days appear to show a new normal, with daily traffic tallies of 648, 339, 431, and a 910 caused by Smackdown. Remember, I was pleased with 50-100 hit days a month ago. And May isn’t even over yet, but we’ve already skunked our monthly totals hard: Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 4.15.15 PM

Our previous best month was 2,523 hits in December of 2015. We beat that in one day with the Extreme Rules bump. At the time of this writing we have topped 12,000 hits this month. Unreal.

It was our content about Rusev and Lana that originally put this blog on the radar. But at Extreme Rules they personally put us over big time. Hardcore, dude. Legit. This was a real gift to us from the wrestling gods, whether or not Lana and Rusev stopped to notice they were doing something awesome for somebody. The majority of the traffic they are sending us comes strictly to discover factual information about what Rusev is saying, but every day a respectable handful of folks stick around to browse the site and hit numerous other posts, so this gift of mad traffic from the Bulgarian Brute and his lady is internet patronage for which I am truly grateful.

The whole affair is certainly germane to our project of Wrestling Theory here as well. Look, I don’t have the spare mental bandwidth at this time to conjure up a paragraph about the semiotics of Machka, and frankly I don’t think most of you probably have the patience for such chicanery either. But if structural linguistics happens to be your thing, have a little think about the word Machka in terms of this iconic diagram from Ferdinand de Sassure’s Course In General Linguistics (trans. Wade Baskin, McGraw-Hill 1966), for example:IMG_0291

And also, the progress of Machka would be totally relevant in the big kahuna sign-signifier-signified diagram in Roland Barthes’ Mythologies (trans. Annette Lavers, Hill and Wang 1972):

IMG_0288You guys see where I’m going with this, right?

A more thorough study would search the appearances of Lana and Rusev during the substantial spikes in traffic for correlation and causation, and would try to come to kind of conclusion about the semiotic wonders of the whole affair. But come on, who are we kidding here. Wrestling moves too fast for such a thoughtful study, and besides, I’m not on top of things enough to keep the relevant episodes of RAW and Smackdown from dropping off my overcrowded TiVo. So let’s consider this post a mere collection of data about an obscure word’s rise to prominence in a popular culture not its own. And also, let’s file this under Wrestling Linguistics, a topic I’d like for us to start talking about.

On a similar topic, hit me up on Twitter (@andreagregovich) with your thoughts about the poetics of They Don’t Want None. I am captivated by the strange beauty of these words. Namaste.

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