PWSA Meet and Greet: Karen Corteen

What is your area of research?

I am Programme Leader and Senior Lecturer in Criminal Justice, in the School of Justice Studies at Liverpool John Moores University. You can find my faculty profile here

What led to your interest in pro wrestling and how do you approach pro wrestling from your scholarly discipline?

I watched a wrestling event with my son and some years later we went to watch it again on DVD and we realized that 40% of the wrestlers had died prematurely before the age of 50. This is when I realised that these deaths were not individual they were connected. They were occupational-related deaths.

In my publications I have explored the harmful business of professional wrestling through various lenses namely: victimology, regulation, state-corporate crime, critical criminology, gender and COVID-19.

Are you currently working on any pro wrestling scholarship? Tell us about it!

My chapter on professional wrestling and COVID-19 is due to be published this year. In the chapter, I undertake a qualitative analysis of a timeline public text regarding COVID-19 and WWE’s response to it. Using this analysis I critically discuss how during a life-taking and life-threatening pandemic the then President Donald Trump made professional wrestling an “essential business.” Classifying professional wrestling as an “essential business” meant that events could be continued to be filmed in such treacherous times. While male and female professional wrestlers were having bodily contact that could put them at risk of contracting the virus, the Shareholders met online in order to protect their health and wellbeing. My conclusion is that the WWE’s response to COVID-19 further demonstrates the woeful neglect of worker safety that I have highlighted in my previous publications. It also further illustrates that such harms are a state-corporate crime as state actors provided the justification for and facilitated the corporation to continue to operate during the pandemic.

Do you bring pro wrestling into any of the classes you teach or research hubs that you work in? How do you find it is received or taken up?

In the past I have taught about professional wrestling in the context of sports criminology and critical criminology. It has always been well received as it is something current that the students are aware of. I have had students who are fans and they had not thought about professional wrestlers as workers. I am writing a new module and I will be talking about professional wrestling in the context of sports victimology, and regulation, harm and victimization. 

What is a piece of pro wrestling scholarship that has been generative for you that you recommend PWSA members read?

This is a hard question as so many authors inside and outside of academia have influenced me. Of particular influence is Jason W. Lee and Jeffrey C. Lee’s (2009) “Professional wrestling: Pseudo sport, real death” in Sport and Criminal Behavior. This is the best chapter in the book. Also, a key influence for me is Laura Finley’s article “Examining state and state-corporate crime surrounding major sporting events.” Finley does not discuss professional wrestling specifically, however, the article reinforced and supported my ideas regarding professional wrestling as a state-corporate crime.

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