POLITICS AND POWERSLAMS – REACTIONARY NARRATIVES IN PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING

by Chris Jarvis

CW: sexual assault, racism, ableism, violence, sexism, suicide, murder, mental health

Professional wrestling is big business, and there’s none bigger than the monolithic World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). In 2015, its revenue totalled over $650 million dollars, whereas the second largest promotion in the world – New Japan Pro Wrestling – saw a comparatively paltry $30 million. WWE is a cultural and economic behemoth, with profound power and influence wrapped into its carefully crafted and tightly managed brand. Its most successful exports go on to become major cultural icons – film stars, stand up comedians, talk show favourites. WWE alumnus Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the world’s second highest paid actor with a barrage of accolades to boot. Dave Bautista has followed in the footsteps of the ‘People’s Champion’, with a major role in the third highest grossing film in 2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy. In 1999, Mick Foley published the first instalment of his autobiography – Have a Nice Day – which shot to the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list.

Given the sheer scale of WWE’s operation and the wide reaching influence of its product and performers, it comes as little surprise that the company has built an extensive corporate social responsibility marketing operation. John Cena has granted more ‘wishes’ for the Make a Wish Foundation than anyone else. In 2015, WWE heirs apparent Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque and Stephanie McMahon founded Connor’s Cure, a charity dedicated to researching pediatric cancer, after 8 year old WWE fan Connor ‘The Crusher’ Michalek tragically passed away in 2014. Most recently, programming of Raw and Smackdown were interspersed with fundraising vignettes for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Given the sheer scale of WWE’s operation and the wide reaching influence of its product and performers, it comes as little surprise that the company has built an extensive corporate social responsibility marketing operation.

Beneath the shimmering veneer WWE have created, though, lies a murky and unpleasant history. Continue Reading

BEYOND THUNDERDOME: FORECASTING THE APOCALYPSE THROUGH WRESTLEMANIA 33

By Jack Brindelli

Spring 2017 – America and the world suddenly seem to teeter on the brink of self-destruction. Suddenly that isn’t hyperbole, or premonition, that is our day-to-day reality. After handing a Conservative majority government the keys to Brexit, US voters rose to the challenge of out-doing British stupidity in spectacular fashion, electing a Cyril Sneer impersonator as their Commander in Chief. Who saw that coming? Well, everyone knows I love telling people I told them so – and last year I did tell you so. One year on, I’m back in the Norwich Radical to continue my own personal streak. The signs were all there to be read, if you knew where to look – and well, if you don’t know where that is, let me spell it out for you! As WrestleMania goes, so goes the nation.Continue Reading

THE EMBARRASSING GRANDDADDY OF THEM ALL – 5 MATCHES, 5 WAYS WWE NEED TO CLEAN UP THEIR ACT

By Jack Brindelli

Falling viewing figures, shoddy box-office returns, and major scandals including a number of Hall of Famers ranging from racism to murder have hit the company hard since WrestleMania 31, last year. As we prepare for what could be a make or break ‘Mania in Texas, let’s take a look at the key bouts at the world’s biggest Sports Entertainment event, to see how they reflect the internal fissures in the WWE universe – as well as society at large.

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I AM BECOME THE EATER OF WORLDS: BRAY WYATT, UNDERTAKER, AND THE AMERICAN NIGHTMARE

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by Jack Brindelli

Wrestlemania is here – and I have a challenge for you. I dare you to watch. I literally dare you. Yes, that’s right, WWE, ‘make-believe fighting’ if you really must label it that, where grown men and women play-fight on television for the entertainment of billions worldwide. “But Jack,” I hear you cry, “You’re a culture writer for the Norwich Radical! Surely you know better than to revel in such uncultured pastimes?!”

Now, in order to refute that, I could go into a lengthy and tedious history of the marriage between art, philosophy and combat. I could talk to you about wrestling in the world’s first democracy of ancient Greece, at the dawn of western civilisation. I could talk to you about the ancient Eastern martial arts that inspired Bruce Lee to greatness. I could reference Roland Barthes famous essay on the subject if I wanted. I could, but frankly, I don’t fancy pandering to the inherent class-snobbery behind suggesting wrestling is a ‘lowly’ distraction.

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