In the days when wrestling books were a relative rarity, this was a reasonable buy. Today it will be of little interest to most fans.
Part of a “Performance Studies” series, this is two for two on the “wrestling academia” checklist: it quotes Roland Barthes’ essay on wrestling, and it devotes little or not attention to the fact that people promote professional wrestling events as a business.
Indeed, most of the book continues along the usual lines: wrestling is a drama, not a sport; there’s a lot of emphasis on masculinity despite men in tight underwear rolling around with one another; the portrayal of women is very simplistic.
A couple of chapters do offer new takes, at least within the context of the academic wrestling essay. One sees Mazer spend time at Johnny Rodz’s gym watching trainees go through their paces, contrasting their training with that of boxers in the same gym who are solely there to learn legitimate combat. Another looks at the growth of the ‘smart fan’ as wrestling became more popular online, and the way some fans refuse to believe anything they see on TV for fear of being ‘worked.’
All in all though, fans of wrestling won’t really learn much from the book, other than to see how some things might look different to the outsider, such as Mazer’s insistence that there’s something homosexual about Hulk Hogan asking Zeus how he’ll feel when the world’s largest arms are wrapped around him…
(This review is of the firsst edition. A second edition is scheduled for release next February which:
preserves the original’s snapshot of the wrestling scene of the 1980s and 1990s and features an up-to-date perspective on the current state of play.