What I found absolutely fascinating about Campbell’s Professional Wrestling: Why the Bad Guy Wins, was his comparison to the wrestlers and politics. This ties in with Tim’s blog about the foreign menace, but with a somewhat different spin, that of America’s foreign and domestic policies and how wrestling capitalized on this.
Campbell mentions Jeffrey Mondak found that wrestling popularity cycles peaked during periods when political events encouraged feelings of isolationism and nationalism (p. 128). During periods of isolationism, we had wrestling villains who came from Russia and Japan such as in the 1950s when Americans had a bitter taste in their mouths about WWII.
During the bombing of Libya, and the Beirut hostage crisis, and the Cold War, nationalism was brought forth, and The Iron Sheik vs. Sergeant Slaughter matches were extremely popular.
Another example of Campbell’s philosophy is in 1992, when our economy was a major concern of Americans, as well as domestic affairs. Again the evil villain was the Japanese super-sized Yokozuna. Wrestling fans were subconsciously blaming the Japanese for being a key player in the economic trade wars, such as steel price dumping during this time frame. Yokozuna was well primed to even use a sneak attack on Jim Duggan (his opponent) by throwing salt in his face, punishing him with a banzai drop, and covering his body with the American Flag. Of course, Duggan was played as the American working hero and a family man, and felt he let down his country.
Another example was Kamala, the Ugandan Giant, who initially was a heel, but became the babyface when American helped free Somalia from savage warlords. Campbell mentions how wrestling promoters choose their heroes and villains from simplified interpretations of American foreign policy (p. 130). These analogies are just classic.