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.