Excerpt from “Wrestling with Masculinity” Message 6: Men are winners

Works-In-Process

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

Message 6: Men are winners

Winning and achievement are part of being a man. This was very apparent even in the contrived world of professional wrestling. Male performers who held the championship title were described as “The Man,” which suggests that masculinity is synonymous with winning and achievement. For example, JR says of Chris

Sex Roles (2006) 55:1–11

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Jericho on an episode of RAW (10-22-01): “Jericho is the man. Chris Jericho is the WCW champion.” Likewise, JR says of champion The Rock: “Man, what matchup, but The Rock is still the man.” (RAW 09-03-01) Clearly, winning and achievement are part of being a man. Holding a major championship title indicates proven masculinity. It is interesting that the same awe does not seem to be applied to female performers who win major championships. Female title holders are not described as “The Woman.” Winning and achievement, therefore, are constructed as masculine not feminine.

International Association for Communication and Sport

Calls

Earlier this week, Karen Hartman, Executive Director of the International Association for Communication and Sport, contacted us regarding their upcoming 2020 conference. They will host this conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, this April, during WrestleMania weekend. They are even hoping to have someone from WWE speak at their conference. Now, we are planning our first virtual symposium for that weekend, and they would be willing to allow any PWSA members who attend the conference to not have to present on that day in order to participate in the symposium. When you submit for the conference, let them know you are also a PWSA member.

What follows, then, is their call for this conference (downloadable version below) — please consider submitting, especially if you are also planning on going to WrestleMania. Contact CarrieLynn D. Reinhard (creinhard@dom.edu) if you have any questions about the PWSA side of this arrangement.

We invite you to consider presenting at the 2020 Summit on Communication and Sport. The International Association for Communication and Sport (IACS) Summit is the only stand- alone conference for communication researchers interested in exploring sport from diverse critical, methodological, and multi-disciplinary perspectives.  The  Summit  on Communication and Sport welcomes submissions from all methodological and theoretical perspectives.

The 2020 conference theme is “Communication and Sport – 2020+” We encourage you to submit papers that confirm, question, or critique the role of communication and sport on the horizon of a new decade. Multiple perspectives are welcome.

Submission Deadline: **12:00 Midnight (US Eastern Time) on Friday, October 25, 2019** Evaluation: All submissions will be evaluated through a blind peer review process.

Decision Deadline: Author(s) of accepted submissions will receive email notification no later than Friday, December 15, 2019.

Author Limits: A maximum of two (2) first-authored submissions from a single author will be considered for presentation. First authors will be used for paneling purposes and are required to lead the presentation of the work.

Panel Information: Research and panel sessions are one hour and fifteen minutes long. Research sessions will be constructed to allow for at least 15 minutes of discussion following the presentations.

Scholars interested in submitting to the 2020 Summit have two options: (1) an extended abstract submission; or (2) a panel discussion submission.

Submission Guidelines

All papers must be original and not simultaneously submitted to another journal or conference. Please submit to: https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=iacs2020

The following paper categories are welcome:

Abstract submissions may not exceed 500 words (excluding references) in length and should be prepared for blind review (clear of any identifying information about the author(s).

Panel discussions must focus on an interactive discussion format, with a clearly defined theme. Submissions must include a title, a description of up to 250 words explaining the focus and rationale, and a list of all panelists’ institutional or professional affiliation.

Top Student Paper: IACS will recognize the Top Student Paper submitted to the Summit. For award consideration, a full-length manuscript must be submitted to the review committee by Thursday, February 27th, 2020. Students may submit an abstract of their work at the October deadline (and this is highly encouraged) though this will not be a requirement.

Recognition of Top Student Paper will be determined by blind review of the submission.

Review Information: There is only one extended abstract submission – there will not be separate review criteria for works-in-progress and completed papers. All should be submitted as extended abstracts and will be judged using the same criteria.

Reviewers will be selected from self-nomination through the submission process. Reviewers must have at minimum a completed Master’s degree in a field associated with the focus of IACS. Reviewers must identify their area of reviewing expertise (quantitative methodology, qualitative methodology, mixed methods, rhetorical/critical).

All research submissions will be reviewed based on the following criteria:

  • Clarity of thesis; definition of problem
  • Theoretical perspective
  • Background; review of the literature
  • Research questions/hypotheses or qualitative/rhetorical argument
  • Appropriateness of methodology

Submission Agreement By submitting an abstract or panel to the 2020 Summit on Communication and Sport, you understand that your submission enters you into an obligation to attend the Summit. At least one author listed on the paper must attend the Summit.

If you cannot be there to present, it is your responsibility to secure one of your other authors to present your work. Please be conscientious that last minute cancellations prevent others from being invited to the Summit to present their work.

List of Topics

  • Qualitative Research
  • Quantitative Research
  • Mixed Methods
  • Rhetorical/Critical

Program Committee

Dr. Ann Pegoraro, Chair IACS

Dr. Evan Frederick, Vice-Chair IACS

Dr. Karen Hartman, Executive Director IACS

Organizing Committee

For conference events inquiries, please contact Dr. Karen Hartman hartkar2@isu.edu or Dr. Ann Pegoraro apegoraro@laurentian.ca

Contact

All questions about submissions should be emailed to Dr. Evan Frederick evan.frederick@louisville.edu

Website for Additional Information

www.communicationandsport.com

Nylons and Midriffs: There’s a Storm Coming (September 24, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs, Reflections on AAW

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

Although many associate the cliched film line “there’s a storm coming” as a bad omen, in the context of the wrestling world at the moment, the storm in question could be stirring positive changes for women’s competition.

The women’s matches at Clash of Champions were for the most part good, and NXT made its debut on the USA Network with an impressive women’s bout. We are so close to All Elite Wrestling’s TNT debut, as well as Smackdown’s move to a new network (FOX) and Friday nights. To top it all off, there is a draft looming for both WWE brands that will shake things up, no pun intended.

Everything is changing, and this critic is trying her best to keep up with it all! For now, I will unpack the most recent pay-per-view and WWE shows of the last two weeks. Starting with the next edition of Nylons, I’ll begin to incorporate the NXT women’s division into the mix.

But until then, let’s talk about things the way we always have; one last time before the storm hits.

The Good
Clash of Champions: Both women’s championship matches were great in their own respective ways. Bayley vs. Charlotte did what it needed to do: establish Bayley as a sneaky heel, and allow her to keep her title as she deserves to. Charlotte didn’t need the win here, and to see her lose so abruptly was refreshing to see, as Charlotte’s matches seem to always progress at her pace.

Image credit: independent.co.uk

And of course, Becky vs. Sasha was probably the match of the night. Despite how I feel about the booking (which we’ll discuss in the next section), the match was entertaining, particularly during the crowd brawl portion of the match. It especially fit Becky’s character, as a brawler who is ready for a fight no matter where the location. Ultimately, it seemed like this match was more of a preview for what these two women can (and likely will) do to each other in Hell in a Cell.

RAW and SD Live: Continuing with Four Horsewomen excellence, the tag match between Sasha/Bayley and Becky/Charlotte was as great as expected. I’ve already sung the praises of these women last week, but I will say that I hope the matches that the four of them have together continue to be treated as special for as long as all of them are in WWE. Because they deserve it.

Also, more generally, I am always glad to be seeing more women’s segments on weekly TV — at least for RAW. But, even still, on Smackdown last week we were treated to a nice surprise in Carmella seemingly returning to in-ring action. I would be very interested to see Bayley wrestle Carmella, as it is a different pairing with styles that I think will coalesce well. Hopefully with the upcoming draft, more women begin to pop up and make their intentions known.

Lastly, while I know I said I wouldn’t discuss NXT, I did want to mention briefly how wonderful that women’s four-way was last Wednesday! So good to see women really vying for victory and performing creative sequences of moves. I find it peculiar, however, that in a match with only one white competitor, that it was she who happened to win. Disappointed, but not surprised, I suppose.

The Bad
Clash of Champions: My main issue with Clash was the booking of the RAW women’s title match. Particularly, what they did with Sasha Banks. I know Sasha has returned and proven herself to be a nasty, chair-addicted heel. But, Sasha is and always has been a cunning heel, meaning that she uses her wits to create advantages for herself in the ring. It doesn’t make sense for Sasha to sneakily use a chair in a match, only to brazenly throw one into the ring just minutes later. Why would a heel throw a chair into a match in front of a referee’s face? The scenario is a lose-lose: if Sasha uses it, she is disqualified and Becky wins/keeps her title. If Becky uses it (which she did), Sasha wins by DQ, but does not win the title.

Image credit: uproxx.com

Why would such a strategic, forward-thinking heel like Sasha endanger her chances of victory for a few moments of cathartic abuse toward Becky? Win the title first!

Not only this, but I felt that Sasha was booked pretty weak in this match. Outside of a few flurries of offense in the ring, Becky was fairly strong both in the ring and during the brawl in the crowd. Then, she beat down Sasha with the chair after the match was called off.

The two will wrestle again at Hell in a Cell, but Sasha must win this match to keep her credibility intact. That match will be the test of what, if anything, has changed with the way WWE sees The Boss.

RAW and SD Live: In the last two weeks, two things jump to mind for this section.

The first is the tired cliche of the female bully. Mandy Rose is back to her old tricks, insulting her opponents’ attractiveness based on subjective standards of beauty. She recently called Nikki Cross “ugly,” and in addition to that simply not being true, it further proves that WWE’s writers (or executives, ahem Vince) believe that calling a woman ugly is the most heinous thing you can do to ruin her self esteem. And further, that a woman’s inherent value rests on her beauty.

And while they are unfortunately correct (as women largely still feel societal pressure to be pretty), that does not make Mandy’s heel persona any more palatable. If we’re to believe that the competitors of WWE, in kayfabe, believe that they are competing in a legitimate sport, why would a woman’s attractiveness have any bearing on her self-worth? Maria Sharapova could call Serena Williams ugly until the cows come home — but that won’t stop Serena from whooping her anytime they compete against one another.

Image credit: WWE.com

I am glad that Nikki got the one-up on Mandy so hopefully this “feud” can end. In short, I just want the women to be less petty to one another. Honestly, who cares how you look when the name of the game is beating the crap out of your opponent?

The second item is the tag team match between the members of the 4HW. Now, I know what you’re thinking: That match was fine!

I know it was. It was more than fine. It was great.

Why then, was it not the main event?

This match was the only one truly hyped prior to the week’s RAW. We were convinced to tune in because of it. ESPN published a beautiful interview with all four women ahead of this marquee match at Madison Square Garden. All four women have the talent and charisma to carry a main event, as all of them at various points in their respective careers have.

Image credit: WWE.com

But their match was stuck in the middle of the show. Why? Because the men in the back decided that an MSG show needed to end with Stone Cold cracking open a few cold ones with the boys. A masculine end to a show in WWE’s “spiritual home.” I’m yawning.

As much as any child of the Attitude Era loves Stone Cold, I found myself disappointed that WWE slighted their four biggest female stars that deserved a main event for a giant men’s tag match assembled on the actual show itself. It would have been subversive to finish a show in such a historic setting to WWE’s history with women. I think it would have been symbolic to how far the company has come. But even when the stars can’t shine any brighter for the women, the men will still more often than not get the last word.

The most annoying part of all is that by pimping this tag match so far in advance of the show, and actually pulling mainstream media into the mix, WWE proved that the women often times are useful only insofar as they give the company cheap PR. They were good enough to hook viewers in, but not to reward with a main event spot.

I hope that one day the Horsewomen get the main event spot they all deserve, together.

The Thorny
What I want to talk about in this section is something I’ve been trying my best to avoid week on week, hoping maybe it would disappear if I ignored it just hard enough.

There has been an ongoing storyline between Maria Kanellis (Bennett) and her real-life husband, Mike Kanellis (his actual surname being Bennett). Over the last several months, Maria has been written to essentially degrade her husband by “emasculating” him. I put emasculate in quotes because I personally do not believe a man can be emasculated — the word implies that masculinity is taken away, presumably when someone does not allow a man to dominate in any type of relationship. A man being knocked down a few pegs metaphorically is something that many men in life should embrace more, as doing so is something that women are asked to do everyday, often multiple times, by men themselves. Women are expected to exercise daily the traits of humility and vulnerability, things that society have coded as somehow inherently feminine, and in turn emasculating if men should be forced to practice them by someone else.

As fans, we are supposed to interpret this dynamic as Mike being pathetic, weak, and emasculated. Conversely, we are supposed to read Maria as a praying mantis, a Medusa who gets off on asserting dominance over men. Sometimes, this portrayal can be interesting, as long as it doesn’t go too far.

But as Maria berates Mike in the ring, tells him he isn’t a man, and generally embarrasses him in front of thousands of people, I’ve finally decided what we are watching is not entertainment. We are watching abuse. That is what Maria is doing to Mike.

Image credit: cagesideseats.com

Maria is emotionally and verbally abusing Mike in every interaction with him. She dangles love and affection in his face only to snatch it away if he does not meet her expectations. She talks down to him for seemingly no reason. And we’re supposed to be laughing at Mike, but I have yet to see any person “get” the joke.

Especially for a man who has battled addiction with such vulnerability outside of the ring, it seems like a sick joke by WWE to subtly weaponize his real-life vulnerability against him in a storyline.

It would be one thing if WWE were critical of this in-storyline. If they used the word “abuse” and named Maria as an abuser, there would be a point to this. WWE is not doing this though, and are fairly uncritical of how Maria treats Mike as part of a larger behavioral pattern. Instead, it seems like the storyline is meant to make both husband and wife unlikable: Mike playing the role of “cuck,” and Maria playing seemingly a power-hungry feminist who we are supposed to see as masculine herself.

And ultimately, I just…feel sorry. For all involved. Both of them deserve better than what they are being given. You have to wonder the price that WWE paid to keep them, and if the Bennetts see that price paid as worth it in the end.

Abuse is abuse. Let’s not normalize or minimize it because a woman is the perpetrator.

***

The storm watch is now on! I have to re-wire my entire brain to accept four different weekly wrestling shows into my TV viewing schedule. Double the wrestling to work with, and hopefully double the rewards.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Excerpts from Mazer, “The Doggie Doggie World of Professional Wrestling”

Works-In-Process

 

At its worst, a wrestling performance is an oversimplistic display of male bravado and vulgar social clichés. But at its best, wrestling is a sophisticated theatricalized representation of the violent urges repressed by the social code, of the transgressive impulses present in the most civilized of people. Most of all, wrestling activates its audience through a series of specific strategies. Instead of leaving passive onlookers in the dark, the wrestlers, through their play, make spectators an integral and essential part of the performance. (Mazer, “The Doggie Doggie World of Professional Wrestling”)

Is It Terrible or Terrific? We Needs a Better Way to Talk About Professional Wrestling

Works-In-Process

 I gave it four stars.  You gave it two and a half stars.  Fair enough.  It’s just our opinion, right?  Well…sort of.  While it is true that match rating is a subjective process, that does not mean we cannot understand it.  Too often, subjective behavior (especially as related to art) is either reduced to its simplest form, in which many of the interesting aspects of the phenomenon are lost, or treated as an enigma that cannot be studied empirically. But if we understand match rating as a form of behavior, we can define the parameters of that behavior in order to better understand what people mean when they rate matches.  The problem is not the behavior, it is the tools that we use to study it.  Simply put, we need better tools to understand the experience of watching and appreciating professional wrestling.

Have you ever read Roland Barthes’ Mythologies?  If you are interested in academic studies of professional wrestling, your answer is probably a resounding “yes” (index fingers in the air).  It’s beautiful writing and critique, but as a passionate wrestling fan, it is also…missing something.  Let’s not forget, the term “fan” is short for “fanatic”.  While enthusiastic, Barthes by no means appeared to be a professional wrestling fanatic.  He was a scholar interested in the interesting and often paradoxical cultural phenomenon known as professional wrestling.  But, at times, his analysis in “The World of Wrestling” seems entirely disconnected from my experience as a fan.  Part of that can be attributed to the time (1957) and place (France) of the writing.  His experiences are entirely valid but bear little resemblance to my experiences as a modern pro wrestling fan. Would his critique be different if he instead watched NJPW’s Dominion 2018? Perhaps somewhat but probably not in a truly fundamental way.  His interpretation is based on a casual interest in professional wrestling rather than that of a devoted fanatic.  So, can we compare his interpretation of a match to mine?  Probably not with a five-star system that attempts to describe a complex, interconnected series of events involving sport, spectacle and fan engagement with one of 21 fixed categories. 

Even if we assign the exact same star-rating to a match, we do not know if our rating was based on the same parameters of judgement.  It is important to recognize that interobserver agreement and reliability are not the same thing.  Interobserver agreement refers only to an agreement between two observers regarding the occurrence of an event.  For instance, I may assign a match three stars while you also assign the match three stars.  Does this mean that we had equivalent viewing experiences?  It is possible that the experiences are equivalent, but it is also possible that we had vastly different experiences while viewing the match that led to similar match ratings.  Perhaps I found the moves performed in the match to be simplistic and sloppy, but I greatly enjoyed the underlying story and dramatic build to a climax.  Conversely, you found the execution of moves to be crisp and relevant to the narrative of the match, but you observed little evidence of investment by the live audience.  As a result, we both assigned the match three stars, but our three-star ratings have very different meanings.  The point is evident: while any two viewers may assign similar ratings to a match, the underlying experience contributing to those ratings may be vastly different.  A reliable scale must not only ensure that similar observations lead to similar ratings but that the assigned ratings are equivalent in meaning.

The purpose of this post is not to disparage the five-star system so often (but incorrectly) attributed to Dave Meltzer.  It has served as an incredible tool for describing our experience of professional wrestling.  But as Meltzer has often acknowledged, it was never intended to be an objective or authoritative indication of match quality.  Instead, it is a shorthand tool that allows fans to efficiently communicate the level of enjoyment (s)he experienced from watching a match.  But as a tool for the empirical investigation of professional wrestling fandom, it is insufficient.  The five-star system fails to get underneath the rating.  Consider this classic example: Meltzer gave Hogan vs. Andre from WMIII a dreadful negative four-star rating, but the match is venerated as one of the greatest moments in wrestling history by many WWF/WWE fans.  How could they be so far apart?  While we can speculate (e.g., Meltzer values in-ring athleticism, whereas WWF fans value spectacle), we cannot truly know the answer given a star rating.  The tool quantifies the aggregated experience of watching the match, but it does little to clarify why that experience occurred. 

What is the solution to this conundrum?  Ultimately, we need a better instrument to empirically investigate the experience of viewing professional wrestling.  We need an instrument that better clarifies the why of the professional wrestling experience.  With better tools, we can better understand professional wrestling viewing as a behavior and begin to understand the variable underlying that behavior.  Not only will such an instrument allow us to understand the factors that contribute to the evaluation of match quality, it will allow us to better understand differences between professional wrestling fans and fans of other sports and entertainment mediums.  Such an instrument should clearly identify and define aspects of pro wrestling matches. Such an instrument should provide guidelines for how users should quantify their experience.  Such an instrument should include anchor points from which deviation can be understood.  Such an instrument should be as objective as possible in order to allow for more meaningful comparisons.  Pro wrestling viewing is and always will be a subjective experience, but that does not mean that we cannot move toward a more objective understanding of the phenomenon.

“Why America’s Hooked on Wrestling”

Works-In-Process

Passages from “The operational aesthetic in the performance of professional wrestling” by William P. Lipscomb III

In “Why America’s Hooked on Wrestling,” Leland observes that the popularity of wrestling extends beyond the live and televised events to consumer merchandise:

 

The WWF’s home videos routinely rank No.1 in sports, its action figures outsell Pokemon’s and its Web site is one of the first outlets to turn streaming video into profits. The autobiographies of two WWF wrestlers, Mankind (Mick Foley) and the Rock (Dwayne Johnson), are currently Nos. 1 and 3 on the New York Times best-seller list. Add in revenue from live ticket sales, pay-per-views, platinum- selling CDs and a new theme restaurant, all in turn promoting the shows and each other. (47)

In short, professional wrestling has become a floating signifier popular enough to be applied to most any product and in turn consumed by the public.

Nylons and Midriffs: Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse (September 9, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs, Works-In-Process
A backstage photo of the Four Horsewomen at WWE Evolution. Image credit: jimdrugfree.tumblr.com.

Well, well, well. The more some things change, the more they stay the same.

The Four Horsewomen are finally clashing all at once on WWE TV, and I, like many fans, feel like a kid in a candy store. The four most beloved and polarizing women in the company will be facing off in pairs for the first time since they were all called up to the main roster, next Sunday at Clash of Champions.

There are many good nuggets to get into this week, but underneath those morsels, I still feel that something is missing. We’ll get into what I think that somthing is in a bit.

The Good
For those that may not know, the Four Horsewomen — or 4HW as many internet fans abbreviate — are not an actual stable. Unlike the original Four Horsemen in WWE (Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson, and Tully Blanchard), the Four Horsewomen are simply the four women that, in their NXT days, fans hailed as the cream of the crop of the women’s division. Given Charlotte Flair’s obvious connection to the original group through her father, she carries on the legacy of the name with a new feminine energy. She is joined in this elite class of Superstars by Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Becky Lynch.

While they have almost all feuded at some point in their WWE careers, WWE was careful for years to keep them separated by the two brands. And, if they were to feud, they were sure to not have the two feuds going on at the same time.

But the planets have finally aligned, and Sasha Banks’ return has landed her back in the title picture to challenge Becky, simultaneous with Charlotte challenging Bayley.

These feuds land here in the “Good” section because, simply put, any combination of these women together create magic. On the mic, in the ring, it doesn’t matter — seeing all four of them vying for women’s gold at one time is just a reminder of how talented and unique each of them are. There’s something about their chemistry that just makes their feuds with one another feel personal. They gel together, and that makes their interactions so satisfying to watch.

The cherry on top of this is Bayley’s heel turn. I like that WWE is allowing continuity in their characters by allowing history to dictate a Superstar’s actions. In storyline, as long as Bayley is friends with Sasha, there wouldn’t be any reason for Bayley to stay babyface when her best friend has turned evil. Especially given the context, Bayley was slighted in the same way Sasha was back at WrestleMania. Just because Bayley chose to stay on TV in the months that followed doesn’t mean that her wounds from that night have healed.

Image credit: Sasha Banks’ Twitter (@sashabankswwe)

The writers are recognizing that Bayley and Sasha are two different people who will ultimately still act different ways in the same situation, but that their bond won’t be destroyed by this fact. If you think about it, that is one of the truest signs of friendship. Some of the most interesting relationships are not those where the two people are the same, but those where the two people are starkly different from one another, so as to compliment each other’s qualities.

With all of this in mind, I am excited to see the women’s title matches at Clash of Champions, as well as the tag match announced for tonight’s RAW pitting Sasha/Bayley against Charlotte/Becky. It seems like the writers are pulling out the red carpet for these ladies; here’s hoping they have long-term plans in mind.

The Bad
Thinking about Bayley’s heel turn, the one negative thing I can say about it is that I almost wish it didn’t have to be connected to Sasha in any way. I think both Sasha and Bayley could have used the space from each other after their often-disappointing run together in 2018. Sasha and Bayley can stand alone, and for Bayley in particular I think we were finally starting to see a fire in her belly as a face that had been long distinguished. I think Bayley could have continued being that valiant babyface and build her own name outside of Sasha. Meanwhile, Sasha could have continued to solidify herself as a trifling heel outside of Bayley’s cookie-cutter persona.

While I ultimately like their rekindled alliance, I do think it needs to be short-lived. Shoving their partnership down our throats is what made both of them stale in the past. We need a fresh take on them as singles competitors so that they may reach their fullest potential in that avenue. Even if their partnership is leading to another run with the women’s tag belts, I do not trust WWE to be able to multitask in focusing on both their singles and tag team identities.

There is nothing else to do but wait and see how things turn out between the pair of them.

The Thorny
There isn’t much Thorny for this week, but similarly to last week, I am still left wondering where the rest of the women outside of the title pictures stand. With Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss as women’s tag champs, we are seeing those titles more on TV. We even got a setup for a match between the champs and long-standing tag team Fire & Desire, or Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. And that’s good…I guess. I personally would rather see the Kabuki Warriors challenge for the titles as they were supposed to in the past, but I suppose forward is still a direction for these titles.

Image credit: f4wonline.com

I am glad to see Sonya and Mandy being pushed as a no-fuss tag team. The writers have seemingly tossed any dissention between the two out the window, and the two are now simply a tandem. Their finishing move also looks super rad.

I still feel a pang in my stomach, though, and it is for the women that still go unseen more often than not. Carmella, Ember Moon, Naomi, Asuka, Kairi Sane, Paige, Lana — all missing.

Image credit: WWE,com

Not only this, but the only women of color featured regularly on WWE TV right now are Sasha Banks and Bayley (assuming the good possibility that she is Latina). I won’t even count Zelina Vega, because we don’t see her client Andrade on TV as much as we should, so in turn we are deprived of her as well.

I want the other women to feel worthy even if they are not contending for a title. Although on the whole it is becoming less common, male characters are still allowed to feud or even exist on TV without a title being the central conflict of their interactions. You have storylines like those with Roman Reigns, Rowan, and Daniel Bryan, and characters like Elias who entertain us. The men have King of the Ring to keep them occupied. Why can’t the women be seen for no reason at all, just like the men are?

Women will not ascend to equity with the men if their presence is only allowed when they have a “reason” to be there. Women can exist to take up space. Women’s stories don’t need a reason to be told. They can just be told.

***

I was discussing with my husband which of the 4HW would be each of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. My choices were: Charlotte as Famine, Sasha as Pestilence, Becky as War, and Bayley as Death. He had Charlotte and Becky switched, but I’m curious: who do you think embodies each of these divine prophecies?

I am looking forward to seeing which elements will conquer at Clash of Champions.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Excerpt from “Wrestling with Masculinity” Message 5: Men are not whiners

Works-In-Process

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

Message 5: Men are not whiners

As the classic adage “real men don’t cry” suggests, men are expected to exercise emotional restraint, to keep their emotions in check, and to avoid displaying any public show of certain emotions. In short, men are not whiners or cry babies.

There were abundant examples of this masculinity message throughout the WWE programs. On an episode of Smackdown (10-11-01), for example, Kurt Angle throws a temper tantrum after losing a match. Commentator Tazz declares: “You talk about your sore losers here. Crybaby! I’m begging Angle to take it like a man!” Here, Tazz suggests that to be a man means to exercise emotional restraint. Men are not supposed to complain or whine about losing.

In a similar example, announcer Michael Cole comments that Christian, a young male performer, has “got to stop whining about things” and “get in the ring and bust butt” (SD 02-21-02). The message here is two-fold: Not only are men not whiners, but they are expected to be physical rather than emotional.

Moreover, emotional restraint as masculine was empha- sized when The Rock shows that he is above getting all worked up over Hogan’s deliberate verbal jabs. The Rock agrees to pose with Hogan, and tells him, “The Rock (is) being a man. A picture for your son. No problem.” (No Way Out). The Rock’s message, through his actions and words, is that keeping one’s emotions in check is the manly thing to do.

Not only are men not whiners but they are expected to accept defeat gracefully. Real men are not sore losers. This is best illustrated by an example that pits the masculine response against the feminine response. After losing to their

father in a Winner-Takes-All match, Shane and Stephanie McMahon respond differently (RAW 11-19-01). Shane readily accepts defeat: “You won and I lost. I lost to the better man.” Shane simply leaves the ring, and announcer JR remarks: “Shane’s taking it like a man. He lost, he’s leaving.” In contrast to her brother, Stephanie is emotion- ally dramatic. She cries, blames her brother for everything, and asks for her father’s forgiveness. She is literally carried, kicking and screaming, out of the arena. Here, masculinity is constructed in opposition to femininity. The message revealed through the different responses is that men accept defeat gracefully and bow out, whereas women whine, complain, apologize, and blame others. As JR aptly captures with his remark, men do not give in to emotions but accept things and move on.

It should be noted that despite expectations of emotional restraint, there were emotions deemed acceptable for men to display, primarily the active emotions of anger and frustration. Male performers were frequently described by the announcers as “angry,” “livid,” “seething,” “furious,” “irate,” “mad,” “enraged,” and “hot,” as well as “frustrated.” Also, male performers frequently expressed emotions of anger and frustration during the 2-h shows.

There were several poignant suggestions that the emotions of anger and frustration “naturally” lead to aggression and violence, the primary hegemonic masculine traits. For example, after Triple H assaults Christian backstage, announcer Michael Cole points out the “anger and frustration in the eyes of Triple H” (SD 01-24-02), and suggests that these emotions are the root of Triple H’s aggression. Likewise, commentator Tazz remarks that Austin is “so mad” that “he’s going to hurt somebody” (SD 09-04-01), again a suggestion that anger and aggres- sion go hand in hand. Moreover, the suggestion that aggression is a natural outcome of anger and frustration is exemplified by Cole’s remark that “the Dudley Boyz have been frustrated and ticked off since losing the Tag Team titles to Spike and Tazz” (SD 01-17-02) as a way of explaining Bubba Ray and D-Von’s violent attack on the two in the arena parking lot.

Although men should exercise restraint with respect to emotional displays that are considered more conventionally feminine (e.g., crying, hysteria, whining, complaining), they are encouraged to express emotions of anger and frustration, which complement the masculine trait of aggression and violence.

Wrestling and Disability: David “Silento” Rodriguez

Works-In-Process

Professional wrestling studies has yet to fully engage the turn toward disability studies in the humanities and social sciences.  Publications like Disability Studies Quarterly and professional organizations like the Society for Disability Studies do broad-based research in disability studies.  Many disciplines engage subcommunities of scholars who do research in disability studies — for example, colleagues of mine do work in composition studies and disability studies here.

Nonetheless, within the history of wrestling, there may be a place for disability studies — and in drawing from that lens, we might draw attention to a significant figure in the history of pro wrestling.

Below, find an article from Wrestling Revue about David “Silento” Rodriguez.

 

“Silento” was popular enough, fans wondered whether his deafness was “a gimmick,” but all accounts I can find say no.  According to Jimmy Wheeler,

David Silento Rodriguez was both deaf and mute. Inspite of this set of circumstances, Silento wrestled for at least 16 years (’59-’74) throughout the South and into Mexico. He won at least nine championship matches which included defeating Dick Steinborn for the Rocky Mountain Heavyweight belt and defeating Rocket Monroe for the Gulf Coast Heavyweight belt. He also won the NWA (Group) Jr. Heavyweight Championship three times and the Gulf Coast tag belts twice (once with Ramon Torres and once with Bobby Fields).

Other deaf wrestlers found success in the era of the territories, according to Caleb Smith:

There have been a few deaf wrestlers in the history of wrestling. David “Silento” Rodriguez was of Latino background from Monterrery, California, and rose to be a high mid-card wrestler in Texas. Alan Kilby, a deaf-mute from England, was a successful mid- and light-heavyweight in the 1960s. “Silent” George Hubert started wrestling in the 1950s and kept going on and off for another 40 years. Harry Kendall and Colin Williamson were another couple of Brits who were deaf. Fans of Maple Leaf Wrestling in the early 1980s remember Silent Brian Mackney getting bounced around.

Among the fan community, there is appreciation for “Silento” and for other deaf wrestlers, some of whom are active in the indies today, at the Facebook community Deaf Wrestling Alliance.  Perhaps this community of fans might be a place to begin investigating professional wrestling from the perspective of disability studies.