Pro Wrestling is real: Its life thats fake:
The socio-political semiotics of Professional Wrestling
by Brett Ramsey.
On March 29,1987 a world record indoor attendance of 90,873 people packed into Detroit's Pontiac Silverdome. They and countless thousands across the globe had come to see the final act of a classic tale of envy, deceit and blind ambition. The epic struggle between good and evil, the story book blonde haired hero and the hideous monster. The chance to achieve victory over seemingly insurmountable odds. The event was Wrestlemania 3 and the match Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant.
It was as the publicity claimed: What the world was watching. Throughout the 1980s and on into the nineties pro-wrestling reimerged as a major form of popular entertainment. The catalyst for this transition from regional minor league entertainment to a multimillion dollar industry came mainly as result of two men:World Wrestling Federation head Vince McMahon Jr. and Hulk Hogan and in the fine tuning of a formula that had endured since medieval times. Wrestling is an ancient sport the roots of which can be traced back to before Roman times. Many primitive tribes and traditional cultures still use wrestling as an important part of ritual and celebration and wrestling is one of the sports that featured at both the ancient and modern Olympics. In its gentrified amateur forms wrestling is a stable of the college athletics system in the U.S.A. While in Japan Sumo is the national sport. In the west there was once a time of real pro-wrestling. The matches were long, brutal and for the spectator very boring affairs as the two combatants battled for supremacy. Exactly at what time or who was responsible for wrestling's mutation from a genuine sport to today's festival of excess is not known. But from the late 1800s in the carnivals and county fairs across the USA the basic formula for a worked pro-wrestling had been set. Pro-wrestling became a major attraction in halls and travelling shows across the USA and also spread into Europe, Asia and Australia. The formula was simple and universal. The struggle between good and evil, the real life manifestation of the classic passion play. But pro-wrestlings development owes as much to the tradition of Carnival and The Comedia as it does to genuine sport. In his book Understanding Popular Culture Professor John Fiske uses Bahktin's Theory of Carnival to illustrate several concepts inherent in the style and execution of modern pro-wrestling. In the introduction to his book Rabealais and his World, Russian author Mikhal Bakhtin outlined many of the elements of traditional Carnival that can easily apply to modern pro-wrestling. Bahktins 3 main elements of Carnival quoted by Fiske in his book are:
1 Ritual Spectacles.
2 Comic (verbal) compositions, inversions, parodies,travesties, humiliations, profanation's, comic crownings and uncrownings.
3 Various genres of billingsgate, curses, oaths, popular blazons.
In these terms it is easy to see why Fiske would choose pro-wrestling to illustrate his point. Indeed there would be few forms of modern entertainment whose roots can be traced back so clearly to the tradition of the carnival as pro-wrestling. Modern pro-wrestling is all about spectacle. From the elaborate ring entrances of the sports biggest names, the grandiose excesses of their costumes and the stylised battles in the ring, pro-wrestling thrives on spectacle. And in pro-wrestling there is no bigger spectacle than Wrestlemania.
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