Good afternoon! I was pleased and honored to be invited by Sam Ford to be a special guest for this Wednesday's class, focusing on WWE in the 1980s. Back in 1990, I was a senior at Columbia College in NYC, wondering what I should spend a lot of time researching for my religion major senior thesis. I figured that if I was going to spend a lot of time doing research, it might as well be on a subject that interested me. With the help of some sympathetic religion and anthropology professors, I ended up writing "Of Mats and Men: Rituals and Religious Imagery in Professional Wrestling."
This paper focused on rituals and religious overtones in the WWE of the 1980s, as well as the depiction of minorities, women, and "evil" during that time. Based on my thesis, I applied for and was awarded Columbia's Henry Evans Traveling Fellowship, with which I intended to document an oral history of the professional wrestling business. Sam has included some of my interviews from that project as class reading, and you can see the rest of them here:
If you look at the number of video resources and publications used for this class, you'll see that there are few created before 1990. When I tried to get a book published based on my research in 1991, I was informed by a publishing house that wrestling fans don't read. Mick Foley eventually disproved that, and now pro wrestling is being taught at MIT! These are good times indeed for those interested in pro wrestling, and I am looking forward to discussing WWE in the 1980s with you on Wednesday. As you prepare for the class on Wednesday, you might want to think about a couple of themes that emerged to me as I studied this time:
Hulk Hogan as Messiah figure
Role of women from Wendi Richter (Warrior) to Miss Elizabeth (Madonna) to Scary Sherri Martel (Whore)
I'll try to continue to post from time to time as this class proceeds. It looks like there has been a lot of great discussion so far. Best regards, Lee Benaka