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Evaluate of Skilled Wrestling: Sport and Spectacle


Sharon Mazer. Skilled Wrestling: Sport and Spectacle. Second Version. Jackson: College Press of Mississippi, 2020. Pp. 198. $30 paperback.

Reviewed by Łukasz Muniowski

From the start of her e book, Skilled Wrestling: Sport and Spectacle, which was initially printed in 1998, Sharon Mazer makes it clear that she is only a vacationer on this planet of wrestling. She is not at all a faithful, lifelong fan. Nor did she fall in love with the athletic performances and easy, but emotionally partaking, storylines. As an alternative, Mazer took an tour from “severe” scholarly work in an effort to discover wrestling past its notion as a contemporary morality play. Nevertheless, she quickly obtained hooked and within the conclusion to the second version of her e book admits that she certainly turned a fan.

College of Mississippi Press, 2020.

There isn’t any want to enter element about wrestling’s dualistic nature. It’s not thought-about a sport, as who wins the given competitors is secondary. But, the game nonetheless requires the performers to not solely look the a part of skilled athletes, but additionally carry out unimaginable athletic feats. The performative facets of wrestling usually are not restricted to matches, as it’s the context which makes them so particular. The dialogue of what’s actual and what’s faux, which is an important a part of Mazer’s e book and is kind of frequent data for the common wrestling fan, enriches the understanding of the spectacle. It’s not only a mere distinction between the realness of the efficiency and the fakeness of the end result. As an alternative, Mazer argues {that a} wrestling match doesn’t require a suspension of disbelief, however precisely the alternative––figuring out the realness within the faux.

The excellence between faces and heels––or heroes and villains––doesn’t have to use to how the wrestlers are outdoors the ring. There are quite a few compilations {of professional} wrestlers breaking kayfabe and appearing in accordance with the scenario. This consists of stopping mid-match to assist an injured opponent or smiling to a younger fan. In reality, being the heel requires extra work. These wrestlers usually are not merely permitting themselves to be hated, however inviting the hate, making the great guys look higher within the eyes of the followers. Understood that manner, heels are extra firm males than the faces. Whereas wrestling exhibitions are all concerning the group of followers, who share the understanding that the contests are staged, the group of wrestlers is what makes wrestling so partaking. A heel’s keen capacity to make the opponent look higher makes them extra essential to the general affect of the efficiency. The followers want any individual to boo simply as they want any individual to cheer for, which corresponds with the understanding of wrestling as a contemporary morality play or a cleaning soap opera, as one of many principal characters within the Netflix’ collection GLOW loudly notices.

Loosely primarily based on the Glamorous Women Of Wrestling promotional run, the present takes one thing supposedly manly and inverts it, proving that wrestling could be female as nicely. The notion of femininity, or reasonably non-masculinity, is one other problem that Mazer tackles in her e book. The duel between the wrestlers––exhibiting their lovely, chiseled physiques as they continually contact one another––is meant to be devoid of sexuality, however this works solely on the floor degree. Beneath there’s a fixed battle by which each performers attempt to emasculate each other. This doesn’t apply to feminine wrestlers although. As seen by Mazer, “[W[hile women in wrestling are free to act as men, what they are, ultimately is not men,” (117). Women inside and outside the ring serve as affirmations of heterosexual masculinity. Outside of it, women are the targets of wrestler’s advances, with male wrestlers proudly presenting their bodies as they make eye contact with female fans. Inside of it, women are supposed to present their own bodies for the pleasure of the male audience, affirming the heterosexual masculinity of the men in the stands.

Mazer’s book serves as an important artifact of the Golden Era of cable television wrestling. While she does not explore in the depth the competition between the WWF and the WCW, her observations are valid into the present day, as she explains the cultural relevance of wrestling and the status that it once enjoyed. Although wrestling is no longer as popular as was during the 1990s and 2000s, crowds still gather to see athletes perform in a version of a live-action ballet.


Łukasz Muniowski received his Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Warsaw. He is the author of Three-Pointer! A 40-Year NBA History (McFarland, 2020), Narrating the NBA: Representations of Leading Players after the Michael Jordan Era (Lexington, 2021),and The Sixth Man: A History of the NBA Off the Bench (McFarland, 2021)

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