Professional wrestling is an unsporting sport, a theatrical entertainment that is not theatre. Its display of violence is less contest than ritualized encounter between opponents, replayed repeatedly over time for an exceptionally engaged audience. To watch wrestling and write about its performance is to attempt to come to terms with the significance of a highly popular performance practice as it intersects, exploits, and parodies the conventions of both sport and theatre. Rather than simply reflecting and reinforcing moral clichés, professional wrestling puts contradictory ideas into play, as with its audience it replays, reconfigures, and celebrates a range of performative possibilities. Beyond its spectacular elements, professional wrestling is an athletic performance practice, constructed around the display of the male body and a tradition of cooperative rather than competitive exchanges of apparent power between men as directed by the promoter. The fight is fixed, in the squared circle as in life.
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