At Issue: Professional Wrestling

April 3, 2019

Part of a series that covers everything from Anti-Semitism to UFOs, this is designed to be a research tool and study guide for social studies students.

It’s an anthology, which brings the benefit that you get a slightly wider range of viewpoints than usual in such books (including entertainment and sports writers alongside professors) but the drawback that some pieces are extremely short and have little substance.

Most of the topics here that aren’t part of the usual academic coverage of pro wrestling are both brief and blindingly obvious to any wrestling fan: in short, promoters have power over whether wrestlers are featured, wrestling at the turn of the century had some violent and sexual content, and backyard wrestling isn’t safe.

The more traditional topics don’t bring much to the table either. One essay is based around the idea of pro wrestling being an anti-sport and a terrible moral example for kids because rulebreakers prevail: while it’s true that wrestling is based on a very child-unfriendly premise (disputes should be settled by violence), heroic babyfaces overcoming the odds with skill and effort rather than shortcuts is still, in theory, the basis of the business.

Another essay tries to make the case that wrestling is a form of political protest against political correctness and authority; if you are impressed by phrases such as “narrative phantasmagoria” this is the one for you.

Overall this falls into an uninspiring middle ground. There’s not enough insightfulness and specialist knowledge to make it relevant or interesting to a wrestling devotee. On the other hand, there’s nowhere near enough depth, analysis or evidence for somebody who chooses to approach wrestling from a philosophical or academic standpoint.

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