Body Drop: Notes on Fandom and Pain in Professional Wrestling by Brian Oliu

September 14, 2021

This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those looking for a literary approach to pro wrestling it’s worth checking out.

Most wrestling books which don’t take a “traditional” approach to the business/artform come at it from an academic perspective – all Barthes references and homoeroticism. Purely literary takes on wrestling are rarer, with The Dead Wrestler Elegies the highlight so far.

Body Drop brings together a collection of Oliu’s short pieces, many previously published in a host of literary magazines and outlets. They are for the most part not straight pieces on wrestling, but rather Oliu reflecting on his own life and experiences while framing it in, and comparing it to, the wrestling world.

It’s an approach that takes full advantage of the often contradictory and brain-crunching blurring between fiction and reality in pro wrestling, a business made up of both real and illusory pain, where anything can happen but ritual is everything.

The parallels and connections vary immensely in degree. One chilling piece tells the story of Chris Benoit while purposely redacting every mention of his name, while Oliu draws a direct connection between the portrayal of Yokozuna and his own experience of being overweight at school. At the other extreme, a few pieces seem to have no connection to pro wrestling beyond their title.

Linking the pieces together to structure the book, Oliu includes a series of brief notes explaining how pro wrestling really works. While presumably aimed at unfamiliar non-fans, it’s striking to read these and realise how much the long-term devotee simply takes for granted as normal behaviour.

It’s more a series of meditations and cultural explorations that uses pro wrestling as a framing device than it is a book about pro wrestling as such, so this won’t be for everyone. For those who enjoy such writing, however, a wrestling fandom will bring an added level of appreciation and insight that Oliu rewards with understated references to the business and its characters.

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Disclosure: The publisher provided a review copy.