Anthology on Wrestling in the Pandemic

Health, Illness, and Injury in Professional Wrestling:
A Special Section of a forthcoming issue of Survive and Thrive

Professional Wrestling Studies Journal Vol. 4

On April 9, 2020, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that declared professional wrestling, among other sports and entertainment industries with national audiences, to be an “essential service.” DeSantis’ order enabled the two largest American professional wrestling companies World Wrestling Entertainment and All Elite Wrestling to work out of their Florida production headquarters despite intermittent stay-at-home orders across the state.

While other national entertainment organizations like Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association postponed or canceled 2020 season games, pro wrestling CEOs Vince McMahon and Tony Khan implemented procedures almost immediately that ensured the weekly television programming and special events (i.e., pay-per-views) on which their products were built would move ahead more or less unabated. While the on-air product underwent a significant overhaul and arguably suffered from the restrictions imposed by Covid, the pro wrestling industry stands as an intriguing microcosm of the anger, vitriol, and incredulity that surrounded cultural discourse of the virus.

As with many forms of live performance and entertainment, professional wrestling relies on the physical and the intimate: traditionally, wrestlers need close physical contact with one another to execute their moves and matches — thereby developing their characters and storylines — and engage their live audience in their performances. Yet, at many points during the pandemic, physical touch was discouraged and the live in-house audiences typical (some might dare say necessary) of pro wrestling events were banned.

Professional wrestling during the pandemic raised and continues to raise questions about essential labor, physical and social distance/proximity, risk, and “the need for entertainment” in times of crisis. Alongside these discussions, promoters like McMahon and some wrestlers through social media channels engaged in debates, both explicit and implied, regarding the very nature of the pandemic and whether Covid constituted a crisis at all. The pandemic represented a unique moment of collision between the spheres of social commentary, politics, and entertainment that have so often been exemplified in professional wrestling.

This anthology aims to examine pro wrestling in the pandemic to bring into relief issues and questions about art and entertainment, industry, communication, sociality, labor, precarity, bodies and physicality, and care under the uncertain conditions of late capitalism and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

We invite submissions from across disciplines on topics including but not limited to

• Labor and industry during a pandemic
• Safety and care of wrestlers, industry workers, and fans
• Bodies and disability
• COVID-19 misinformation and vaccine hesitancy
• Social movement (Speaking Out, Black Lives Matters)
• Genre ruptures, shifts, and continuances (wrestling with no fans, cinematic matches)
• Fans’ experiences
• Digital commensality and social media
• Political economy of major and indie pro wrestling promotions
• Creative and platformed economies, including merchandise and ecommerce
• Ethnographies of pandemic wrestling

We are seeking 10-12 chapter proposals. Proposals should include 500 word descriptions of the chapter, with a 250-word abstract summation that could be submitted with the book proposal. Additionally, proposals should include the contributor’s 100-word bio.

If you have already written an essay on this topic and would allow us to submit it with the book proposal, then please let us know. While completed essays will be considered, the author will still be required to submit the documentation listed above. No previously published essays will be considered.

Final chapters would be 6500 words, including references (citation style to be determined
based on conversations with potential publishers).

Proposals are due August 31, 2022

Proposals and questions should be directed to Lowery Woodall:

Tentative timeline (dependent on publisher):
• First drafts: December 31, 2022
• Internal peer review process: February 28, 2023
• Final drafts: April 30, 2023
• Submit manuscript to publisher: June 30, 2023


Recent commentary has focused on the declining health and lack of access to health care among professional wrestlers (e.g. John Oliver’s commentary here:  Hired as contractors, not employees, and so often denied benefits (from health insurance to retirement), professional wrestlers become, as they age, tragic:  celebrities in their prime for their physical prowess, as they age, they launch gofundme pages to cover the costs of essential medical care.

This special section of Survive & Thrive: A Journal for Medical Humanities and Narrative as Medicine, cracks open the full spectrum of questions about health, illness, and injury among professional wrestlers.  

Section 1:  Media Effects of Professional Wrestling as Theatre for Health, Illness, and Injury

  • How does the theatrical dimension of professional wrestling, or “kayfabe,” project images of health and injury among professional wrestlers?  What are the effects and impacts of those images on the public and on kids?

  • How does the aging of professional wrestlers shape our image of aging as a process?  (This can include the health challenges of retired wrestlers, the absolute refusal of Rick Flair to retire, ever, and the middle ground of aging wrestlers who come out of retirement for appearances and sometimes matches as supplemental income.)

Section 2:  The Real Experience of Health, Illness, and Injury among Professional Wrestlers 

  • How do real injuries affect the careers and lives of professional wrestler?

  • How do the unique conditions of employment faced by professional wrestlers (whether as contractors for national promotions or as gig workers in local pr wrestling promotions) affect their health and wellness?

Submissions can include peer reviewed research, autoethnography, creative writing (including literary essay), and interviews with real professional wrestlers.  

Submission Deadline
September 30, 2022:  Deadline for abstracts for preliminary acceptance and feedback;  you do not need to submit an abstract prior to the December 25th, 2022 deadline.

Submit to David Beard @
December 25th, 2022:  Deadline for Completed Drafts

Submit to: <>
Summer 2023:  Projected Publication

Submission Requirements

“Submissions” may include text, video, audio, or image files that express the aims and scope of the journal. Submissions cannot have been previously published, nor be forthcoming in another journal or book (print or electronic). If you have concerns about the submission terms for Survive & Thrive: A Journal for Medical Humanities and Narrative as Medicine, please contact the editors.


About Survive and Thrive: A Journal for Medical Humanities and Narrative as Medicine 

Survive & Thrive: A Journal for Medical Humanities and Narrative as Medicine aims to provide opportunities for sharing research, artistic work, pedagogical dialogue, and the practices of medical humanities and narrative as medicine. One of the primary aims of the journal is to bring medical humanities and narrative medicine to patients, survivors, and caregivers. Its emphasis, therefore, is on patients and survivors and their needs, and while aware of and supporting professional medical education, the journal is most concerned with an audience broader than an academic audience. We encourage physicians and others in the medical profession to practice Narrative as Medicine by submitting their work, especially when it encourages them to be artists – visual, performance, and literary. The scope of the journal is eclectic in that it considers all the disciplines of medicine and the humanities while focusing on their relationship and the needs of survivors and patients.

Also see: <>

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Editorial Contact Email: David Beard,


The Professional Wresting Studies Association invites original scholarly articles and book reviews for Issue 4 of the Professional Wrestling Studies Journal. A peer reviewed and rigorous scholarly publication, we welcome work from any theoretical and methodological lens that expands our audience’s understanding of professional wrestling past or present as a cultural, social, political, and/or economic institution.

Article Submission Guidelines

All articles submitted must be original scholarly work and free of identifying information for blind review. Written articles should be submitted as Word documents and no more than 8,000 words, inclusive of a 200-word abstract and a reference list. MLA citation style is required: articles not written in MLA style will be returned. Any images not belonging to the author(s) require copyright clearance. Articles will be converted into PDFs for publication, so hyperlinks should be active. For multimedia productions and experimental scholarship, please contact Chief Journal Editor Matt Foy ( to verify length and proper format in which to send the piece.

Book Review Submission Guidelines

The PWSA invites detailed and insightful book reviews of scholarly and popular texts. Book reviews should be no more than 750 words in length and must be written in MLA style. Please begin all book reviews with the following information:

LastName, FirstName. Title. Publisher, Date. ## pp. $xx.xx pbk/hdc.”

Please submit articles and book reviews to Matt Foy @ by October 29, 2022 for full consideration. For more information on the Professional Wresting Studies Association and the current and past issues of Professional Wrestling Studies Journal, please visit


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