Loughborough University
Bodies of Work - The Storytelling Art of Professional Wrestling.pdf (7.55 MB)

Bodies of work - the storytelling art of professional wrestling

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posted on 2024-07-03, 08:34 authored by Sam WestSam West

Following the first commercial live wrestling event my company ran, a fan commented: ‘Wrestling is stupid. Long live Wrestling Resurgence.’ It was a flippant remark, I doubt they remember making it, and I am sure they would be surprised to learn how those words have stuck with me. Wrestling is stupid, often embarrassingly so, but it is also very clever and very popular. Despite being an artform that is much maligned and marginalised, it requires great skill, drama and athleticism. Critical, always, is storytelling. Wrestlers have backstories. Independent wrestling promotions are ‘storyworlds’. Matches tell stories in the wrestling ring. These stores are not the work of a single author, they are co-created, by wrestlers, promoters and fans.

This thesis is an exploration of this unusual storytelling art. It shifts attention away from the cultural and economic dominance of global mainstream wrestling companies, such as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and instead, focuses on the grassroots, independent subgenre, active in the UK. The research stems from my own life-long connection to the artform as a fan, a promoter and a scholar. Central is the question, how does wrestling tell stories? Chapter One establishes the parameters for understanding wrestling as a narrative artform and why storytelling is a useful lens for examining it. Chapter Two explores how this artform is the result of over a century of history, with threads running back further through the histories of popular theatre and sport. Building on this, the remaining three chapters take an unprecedented deep dive into key aspects of wrestling storytelling. These chapters focus on the wrestlers, the matches they create and the people that present this to the audience. The overarching argument here is for a new way of understanding wrestling work as a distinct creative practice, which, through the activity of a new progressive generation of athletes and artists, is resisting problematic aspects of the genres past.



  • Design and Creative Arts


Loughborough University

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© Sam West

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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Claire Warden ; Michael Wilson

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  • PhD

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  • Doctoral

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