What fans come to recognize and interact with as they “get in on the game” and move from “mark” to “smart,” is the play outside the play: first the signs of a hero or villain, then the inevitable failure of the representatives of authority in the ring to assure a fair fight and a just end, and finally that the true power lies in the hands of the promoter whose purchase of a wrestler includes the right to dictate his success or failure. For fans, not only are the stories that are told to them in the ongoing professional wrestling narratives drawn from life, life itself can be read through the structures and understandings that professional wrestling provides. The real contest is not between wrestlers, with whom fans identify, but between themselves as competing experts and, most important, between themselves as consumers and the guys with the money and power.
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