In what All-American sport can skin-tight spandex be worn and women flaunt giant biceps, while brandishing names such as Disco Inferno or Manna the Headhunter and still are adored by a mass audience? Why, in wrestling, of course. The dramatically choreographed sport entertains an audience of violence-starved fans who covet moves, such as the coined “People’s Elbow”. In fact, wrestling rises emotion from almost every viewer the industry draws in. Whether the emotion is intrigue, or pure disgust, this form of entertainment relies on the audiences’ reactions, nonetheless.
In this day and age, an industry has been built based on wrestling as a revolutionary form of mass culture entertainment. Polan explains how mass culture is essentially the regime of content, theme, the formulaic regularity of simple explanatory myths, an art tied to the gives of an everyday world (169). Even though some individuals may have reserve to whether wrestling is art or not, the sport certainly “finds an emotion resonance in the genre’s audience” (Polan 167). Wrestling’s main motive is to reach a large-scale audience, and the sport relies on a predictable audience and appealing, symbolic entertainment.
Truly, without the hundreds of fans that swear allegiance to wrestling, there simply would be no sport. The wrestlers go about entertaining the masses with outrageous matches and just a tough of cheesy drama. As proof of this, Putterman states: Most sports begin as games that the press and public then overlay with their own wish-fulfillment fantasies in order to turn the game into melodrama. Wrestling begins with the situation and characters of melodrama and then, through our devices, turns them into a game (189). Just imagine a rival wrestler calling out a demand of the favorite wrestler.
Perhaps this is a challenge for the world title. The entire narrative that pursues causes a conflict between the wrestlers, thus a match ensues to declare the champion. Of course, these contrasting views are merely role-playing on the part of the wrestlers, but this drama grabs and twists the emotion of the audience. In fact, this is a form of manipulation the crowd to empower a certain wrestler, or group of wrestlers. Thus, the wrestlers and the industry can then decide exactly how to keep the fans hooked to the sport, as well as attract new viewers.
Clearly stated, wrestling is a play off the emotion of the audience to form the actual sport of wrestling. Along with this, wrestling appeals to a mass audience to form a foundation for the sport. One may question the authenticity of the actual match moves. And if they are fake, one may wonder who wants to watch that? The World Wrestling Federation, or WWF, presumably choreographs the moves and drama prior to the show. Yet, the matches are designed exclusively to entertain the masses. The audience always yearns for the mishap, or an unexpected blurb of mayhem to excite a wrestling match.
After all, wrestling is designed to please the audiences’ eyes, but it is still a dangerous sport and accidents do occur. For example, Stone Cold Austin fractured his backbone in a match when the “Power Bomb” was performed. This put Austin out of wrestling for several moths, yet he returned promptly to the WWF after he healed. In parallel, such a congregation exists known as the Extreme Championship Wrestlers, or ECW. Even though these moves are choreographed they contain a different breed of entertainment.
In this form of wrestling rules fail to exist, anything goes, and the bloodshed is real. Just one example of the ECW match includes using barbed wire wrapped clubs to fight. Indeed, this is harsh and perhaps insane. However, the ECW and WWF are similar in their quest to produce extreme entertainment for the audience and they do not fail. Therefore, the audience wishes to see violence and action, which is exactly what they are served by the entertainers. The wrestling industry realizes when the audience receives what they want; they stay hooked to the game.
All of the moves and pain provide the desire to entertain and be entertained. Yet, the audience does not entirely rule wrestling, for the sport captivates its fans with deeper icons. Ironically, wrestling is a metaphor of a society and its government only blown a bit out of proportion. For example, who can deny the dictatorship of the favored wrestler? The “particular favorites will no doubt relate to your own individual style and taste”, but the entertainers must lure the audience to their side (Putterman 192).
When the leading wrestler has gained the favor of the majority of the crowd, he is then chosen to rule over the audience and the wrestlers. As in actual society, other wrestlers who scheme to steal the spotlight for their own, constantly threaten the leader’s reign. Clearly, this is an idealized form of power and government. However, though mostly men participate in wrestling, males are not the only symbol of dominance in the sport. Over the years, women have graced wrestling with their performances.
Such a group of dominant women were the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, or GLOW, who set a path for all female wrestlers known today. Within GLOW, the symbolic and ever-constant battle of good and evil exists in wrestling. As Putterman explains the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling as split into two opposing groups: The ‘good girls’ are brave and tough and fair; they play by the rules and rely on the referee to maintain order. The bad girls bring their favorite weapons into the ring (everything from billy clubs and nunchaku to spears and buzz saws), backbite, rabbit punch, throw sand, and use black magic.
Victory is the only form of honor for the bad girls and the infliction of pain is its own reward. But the way that all of this is played out constitutes one of the most complex and subversive expressions of good vs. bad morality portrayed in popular culture… (190). Yet another symbol of wrestling is within the wrestlers themselves or the hard bodies. Wrestling is a sport that requires a sleek, strong body to be a champion. Of course, viewers see their own image in the form of the perfect body. Thus, the male and female audience relate to the fantasy of a perfect body.
On the surface, wrestling creates “a world of unending schoolyard arguments between characters who are simultaneously representing interpersonal, national, and international attitudes”, but symbolizes so much more (Putterman 194). Clearly, wrestling is in existence for the show business, but relies on a mass audience to create the sport of wrestling. The money and fame come merely as seconds in wrestling, for the audience must be entertained. Thus, the wrestling industry’s ability to bend the audiences’ sediments with every move is a raw example of mass culture entertainment.
There is no doubt that wrestling is effective in controlling its audience, for it consists of all the elements that embody mass entertainment. Do not let the acronyms fool you, for wrestling is an up-front form of mass entertainment that has no shame and does not try to hide what the sport is all about. So, keep watching, continue to be entertained, even attend a match, and remember that the sweaty, emotion soaked crowd is much more unpredictable than the actual match. That’s the effects of entertainment, baby.