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CarrieLynn Reinhard Researches Professional Wrestling Culture

Sunday, August 26, 2018

CarrieLynn Reinhard, assistant professor of communication, has been using her summer research stipend to formalize her studies of professional wrestling by creating an international association of academics who share her interest.

Her fascination with professional wrestling stems from the fact that, although the sport is fictionalized and the audience knows all the matches are contrived and the results are determined in advance, there's still many realistic aspects to it. Technically, wrestlers only to appear to be getting hurt. However, the reality is that they often sustain actual injuries.

The blurred lines between authenticity and performance found in professional wrestling also incorporate various aspects of society today, including sexism and racism, the influence of social media, business, and politics. 

Contrary to the stereotypes of wrestling fans, CarrieLynn contends that they are aware of the fact that the wrestling matches are staged. Professional wrestling has such an immense following not only due to the entertaining display of physical abilities, but also because viewers are able to emotionally engage with the narratives of the performances. Essentially, professional wrestling is a more masculine, live version of a soap opera. (Although professional wrestling is gaining an increasing following of women.)

Professional wrestling is also one of the only industries that still remains a monopoly. Although new professional wrestling companies continue to enter the field, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) continues to be the dominating platform within the industry. However, WWE's prominence is slowly beginning to wane as new platforms develop and independent contract wrestlers gain recognition through social media.

"What independent contract wrestlers do in some ways mirrors what Millennials and Generation Z workers have to do, how they have to market themselves and how they have to be freelance contractors with side gigs," CarrieLynn reflected. Essentially, the commodification of oneself is a theme that is both relevant to today's job market and emotionally appealing to many young adults.

The discipline has also become fascinatingly relevant to today's politics.

"You can read about what politicians do, and how they sell themselves, and how they try to create stories and ideas about what reality is. [This is] similar to what wrestlers do," CarrieLynn explained. It is unsurprising, then, that an increasing number of wrestlers have been trying to become involved in local politics.

"Heck, there's been talk about Dwayne Johnson running for president. That's where we're at – The Rock," she said.

A trace of professional wrestling can actually already be seen in the White House, as even the President of the United States was admitted to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013. Also, the current administrator of the Small Business Administration is Linda McMahon, wife of Vince McMahon, CEO of the WWE. 

"There is no truth out there anymore. There is no reality except for the one that you make. We call it a work. As long as you can get people to believe it, that's what matters. And that comes out of professional wrestling," CarrieLynn concluded.