Front cover and front matter (editorial board, table of contents, and editor's note) from inaugural issue of the Professional Wrestling Studies Journal
In November 2016, Donald Trump became the first member of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Fame to be elected U.S. president. His exalted status within the professional wrestling company was the result of a series of appearances on WWE’s global television programming, highlighted by a storyline feud with company chairman and CEO, Vince McMahon. This article examines the relationship between McMahon, WWE and Trump’s 2016 electoral success. It uses McMahon as a case study to argue that he and Trump share a political and cultural lineage that highlights the significance of professional wrestling beyond being a form of popular entertainment. McMahon was directly linked with the pursuit of political power during the 2010 and 2012 Senate campaigns of wife and former WWE president and CEO, Linda McMahon. Though the campaigns were unsuccessful, Vince McMahon’s relevance to U.S. politics emerged throughout the 2016 presidential race. Trump’s rhetoric, demagoguery, strongman leadership, machismo and nationalist ideals created a post-truth political spectacle that resembled professional wrestling. This fusion of politics and professional wrestling took McMahon’s brand and persona to the highest level of politics in America.
Keywords: media; Vince McMahon; entrepreneurship; Donald Trump; politics
This paper examines the relationship between disability, debility, and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) media texts such as “Don’t try this at home” public service announcements in order to interrogate the “early death” phenomenon that has pervaded the professional wrestling industry in recent decades. Through its production of images of disability, largely only through a paradigm of spectacular in-ring injury, WWE veils the ways in which such productions produce debility in its performers. Drawing from Jasbir Puar, debility addresses long-term and taken-for-granted wearing down of subjugated groups, a concept which, as seen in WWE, is tied to the expansion of corporate profits. WWE, in pursuit of greater profits, disappears its production of debility behind a veil of public relations messaging and limited disability representation that relies upon the reification of hypermasculinity and compulsory able-bodiedness in its performers.
Keywords: debility; disability; hypermasculinity; WWE
In the world of American professional wrestling, cultural performance has traditionally been used and reinforced for the sake of developing characters and stories that bring fans into the arena or into the mass audience of television and online viewers of wrestling shows. Historically, some of these cultural performances have constituted a xenophobic cultural space where people of color and foreigners are typically given the role of the villains, or “heels,” while white performers of domestic origin are typically given the roles of the heroes, or “faces.” These cultural performances enact racial, gender, and political ideologies that reproduce hegemonic relations of power. This study focuses on the career of African-American wrestler James Harris and the evolution of his cultural performance as “Kamala” to illustrate how ideologies of race and colonialism intersect to reproduce historical and evolving stereotypes in U.S. popular culture. Using content analysis, I examine a selection of performances that represented turning points in the career of Kamala, including the creation and introduction of the character to regional audiences in Memphis wrestling in 1982 and his introduction to national audiences with the World Wrestling Federation several years later. Additionally, Kamala is examined using Schudson’s five dimensions for determining the strength of a cultural object to gauge the extent to which Kamala can be viewed as a cultural object.
Keywords: performance; colonialism; exotic; authenticity; culture
In 2018, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) produced and aired two live pay-per-view wrestling events in Saudi Arabia. This article looks at the political economy behind the production of these two wrestling events. What is not widely known is that these pay-per-views are part of a state-sponsored, ten-year agreement between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and WWE, under the umbrella of a large economic development plan known as Saudi Vision 2030, launched on April 25, 2016, with the aims of reducing the country’s reliance on oil while liberalizing its economy through the developments in infrastructure construction, recreation and tourism. By focusing on the role of sport mega-events in the context of generating a “nation branding legacy,” this article investigates the limitations of WWE’s presence in Saudi Arabia as an effort to promote economic growth and social change.
Keywords: cultural diplomacy; nation branding; sports spectatorship; consumerism
Platt, Tyson L., and Aaron D. Horton. "Toward a More Objective Understanding of Professional Wrestling: The Multidimensional Scale for the Analysis of Professional Wrestling (MSAPW)." Professional Wrestling Studies Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, 2020, pp. 73-90
The quality of professional wrestling matches has commonly been evaluated using the five-star system popularized by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer newsletter. Though useful for describing match quality in casual settings, the scale is insufficient for academic analyses of the perception of match quality. The present article proposes a multidimensional scale for evaluating professional wrestling across the dimensions of spectacle, in-ring technique, in-ring difficulty, storytelling, and spectator engagement. Each dimension is explicitly defined and can be assessed using an 11-point scale, which allows researchers to better understand how professional wrestling viewers interpret match quality. The scale can also be weighted in a manner that allows for comparisons across different categories of professional wrestling viewers. Information on the application and analysis of the scale are discussed.
Keywords: professional wrestling; pro wrestling; combat sports; fandom
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