Steel Chair to the Head: The Pleasure and Pain of Professional Wrestling

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Nicholas Sammond
Duke University Press, Jan 13, 2005 - Social Science - 365 pages
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The antagonists—oiled, shaved, pierced, and tattooed; the glaring lights; the pounding music; the shouting crowd: professional wrestling is at once spectacle, sport, and business. Steel Chair to the Head provides a multifaceted look at the popular phenomenon of pro wrestling. The contributors combine critical rigor with a deep appreciation of wrestling as a unique cultural form, the latest in a long line of popular performance genres. They examine wrestling as it happens in the ring, is experienced in the stands, is portrayed on television, and is discussed in online chat rooms. In the process, they reveal wrestling as an expression of the contradictions and struggles that shape American culture.

The essayists include scholars in anthropology, psychology, film studies, communication studies, and sociology, one of whom used to wrestle professionally. Classic studies of wrestling by Roland Barthes, Carlos MonsivŠis, Sharon Mazer, and Henry Jenkins appear alongside original essays. Whether exploring how pro wrestling inflects race, masculinity, and ideas of reality and authenticity; how female fans express their enthusiasm for male wrestlers; or how lucha libre provides insights into Mexican social and political life, Steel Chair to the Head gives due respect to pro wrestling by treating it with the same thorough attention usually reserved for more conventional forms of cultural expression.

Contributors. Roland Barthes, Douglas L. Battema, Susan Clerc, Laurence de Garis, Henry Jenkins III, Henry Jenkins IV, Heather Levi, Sharon Mazer, Carlos MonsivŠis, Lucia Rahilly, Catherine Salmon, Nicholas Sammond, Phillip Serrat, Philip Sewell

 

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Contents

A Brief and Unnecessary Defense of Professional Wrestling
1
The World of Wrestling
23
WWF Wrestling as Masculine Melodrama
33
Real WrestlingReal Life
67
El Santo versus the Skeptics on the Subject of Myth
88
Wrestling Politics and Identity in Mexico
96
WWF Smackdown Assaults the Social Body
132
Female Wrestling Fans Online
167
Is RAW War? Professional Wrestling as Popular SM Narrative
213
Race Masculinity and Latino Professional Wrestlers
232
Muscles Money and Market Discourse in the WWF
260
Wrestling with Theory Grappling with Politics
295
Growing up and Growing More Risque
317
Glossary
343
Contributors
345
Index
347

The Logic of Professional Wrestling
192

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About the author (2005)

Nicholas Sammond is Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Babes in Tomorrowland: Walt Disney and the Making of the American Child, 1930-1960, also published by Duke University Press.

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