Excerpt from “Wrestling with Masculinity” Message 3: A man confronts his adversaries and problems

Below, some notes about gender in wrestling, from “Wrestling with Masculinity: Messages about Manhood in the WWE” by Danielle M. Soulliere

Message 3: A man confronts his adversaries and problems

A further message revealed through the programs was that men are confrontational. To express this less violent form of aggression, male performers confronted each other and their problems in a variety of ways.

There were several examples in which manhood entailed confronting an adversary. During an episode of Smackdown (08-03-01), Kurt Angle tells rival Stone Cold Steve Austin to “face him like a man.” This suggests that being a man means confronting your adversary. In the context of professional wrestling and elsewhere, a real man faces his opponent. Similarly, announcer Michael Cole asserts that being a man entails confronting your adversary and competing physically: “Well, Booker T demands all this respect, wants to be (WCW) champion again. Why doesn’t he be a man and get in the ring and face The Rock one-on- one at Unforgiven?” (SD 09-04-01) Announcer JR also suggests that confronting your adversary is a necessary part of being a man. He says of Booker T: “He should come out of the closet and fight Austin like a man!” (RAW 12-17-01) Not only are men expected to confront their rivals, but they are expected to settle things physically through competition or fist-fight.

Men are also expected to confront their problems. When Debra tells Austin that he needs to go out to the ring and confront the fans about his recent violent actions against Kurt Angle (SD 09-04-01), she is suggesting that part of being a man is to confront personal issues. Austin further reinforces this message when he tells the Memphis crowd: “Stone Cold Steve Austin has a problem, he looks that person right in the eyes, and he settles that problem, because I’m a man’s man.” (SD 09-20-01) Clearly, manhood involves confronting one’s problems as well as one’s adversaries.

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