Three Questions About Wrestling

  1. In a world where one of our primary obsessions is finding narrative consistency in seemingly random events - be they sports, politics, or life - why do we look down on a genre that begins with the presumption that those threads do exist and are important? There is at least as much terrible in the world of wrestling as there is good, but that's a detail of execution. Most objections to the genre are rooted in the conceptual conceit that a story that feels "honest" is more important than a "real" outcome. But in how many other walks of life are we willing to accept that conceit?
  2. Why is wrestling considered a "low-brow" genre? Again, bad wrestling is and will always be bad, but good wrestling is a genuine thrill that engages on multiple levels. To dismiss the horror genre as "trashy" just because a lot of horror films are really bad would be to deny that a masterpiece like Psycho has genuine artistic merit. So why are we so eager to dismiss wrestling as some sort of illegitimate form of entertainment simply because some of it is hard to watch? Is there no room for nuance in our opinions of different forms of entertainment?
  3. As an industry, why did professional wrestling experience tremendous consolidation despite not necessarily being a business that benefited obviously from economies of scale and scope? The twenty-year wave of consolidation that began when Vince McMahon took over his father's company was the product of an aggressive business strategy that successfully leveraged emerging media, not an industry tendency towards natural monopoly. But McMahon began from a position of weakness, not strength, and his success hinged on a number of risky bets that ultimately swung in his favor. It's a fascinating business case, and one that should get a bit more attention in studies than it does - because, of course, wrestling is too "low-brow" to be considered a serious business. More to follow.