The basic idea that I came away with from reading the first few chapters of Steel Chair to the Head and Ole Anderson’s Inside Out was the drastic change that has taken place in the industry of professional wrestling. Ole Anderson, recalling wrestling in the ‘60s and ‘70s, would never tell anyone that the business was fake. Vince McMahon, on the other hand, blatantly told the fans that “wrestling is all phony,” which really “ticked off” Ole Anderson at first(Inside Out, 85). What caused the shift in wrestling from mostly shoots (according to Anderson) to McMahon’s “sports entertainment”— requiring in-depth plot and action scripting— that we know and love today? Laurence de Garis (mentioned in Steel Chair to the Head, 12) thinks that the “mainstreaming” of wrestling “signals the decline of the form as craft and the disempowerment of wrestlers as workers,” though I doubt that a single phenomenon can aptly point to the change. Now, wrestlers are “commodities,” according to Sammond. They have their own products that they are trying to sell (literally or figuratively): action figures, t-shirts, personal/sexual appeal, storylines.... For the most part, they are as expendable as the action figures they resemble.
I really like how this phenomenon is explained in the passage on page 24 of Steel Chair to the Head: in a wrestling match, the audience couldn’t care less about “the rise and fall of fortunes”—who is winning or losing the match in that moment—but instead expect “the transient image of certain passions”—anger, jealousy, lust, greed…. The wrestling fan is not really interested in the outcome of a match, but in the sum of the passions that led to that moment. This is shocking at first, and I imagine that many would argue against the statement—that they really do care that Brock Lesnar beat John Cena at Summerslam, for example—but those two competitors could be replaced with any other face and heel combo, built into a similar rivalry, and still draw the same fan reaction. It’s not based on who’s fighting or who wins. It’s about the emotion, the drama—the passion.
...and apparently about acrobatics...