Most of the readings we've had for this class have presented modern pro-wrestling in a weird kind of balance, as a business that succeeds admirably according to modern norms of how businesses should work, but also a business that has its shady side. Egos tend to run amok and screw things up, but egos run amok also help put asses in seats (debatable, but hell, I've got posts to do). The line is drawn very neatly between spectacle and con game, but even when it's depicted in an unflattering light, there's usually been a sense of humor about it.
Sex, Lies & Headlocks seems to break from that trend. The introduction, relatively free of the hand-holding explanation of conventions that accompanies the chapters, retells the death of Owen Hart in a tone bordering on the apocalyptic: "How had the business come to this?" (6) As a dramatic device, it's tried and true--despite all the "once upon a time"s we hear as children, the better stories tend to start somewhere in the middle--and it casts a shadow over the rest of the text. I wonder how differently it might read had I started with chapter 1.
So, a couple things from chapter 1. A number of us, and a number of the authors and performers on whom we've been riffing, have mentioned the mafia-like (mafioso? mafiaesque?) nature of the business during various eras, and Vince McMahon has never been shy about calling the association to mind (one of the book's epigraphs refers to the business/personal binary famously discussed in The Godfather). Scorched-earth capitalism is scorched-earth capitalism, after all. But it's usually employed as something of a metaphor, which is why it caught my eye when Assael (and/or Mooneyham) writes the organization that would become the NWA "sounded an awful lot like a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, but [the promoters] all had friends in high places and wouldn't be afraid to use them if the need arose" (8).
While many of the deals we've read about have seemed at least a little shady, seeing it spelled out in such explicit terms took me aback. It also added a new spin to the WWE-financed documentary on the AWA: these details seem to fall by the wayside, even for the ex-competition. It amuses me to think that the reason the territories fell to McMahon's expansion so easily might not just been complacency from lack of competition, but that this lack of competition only existed because the NWA had been founded with the practical intent of subverting the law: in short, they became vulnerable to competition because they had taken intentional steps to allow this vulnerability.