Episode 10: Professional Wrestling!

This time the gang heads to Newark to see WWE Smackdown live! This is the first time any of them have seen professional wrestling live, and the most wrestling any of them had ever seen in their lives.

Why? Professional wrestling, love it or hate it, is massively poplular. With over 300 events per year and 36 million viewers in 150 different countries – people love professional wrestling! And the history of professional wrestling – goes back hundreds of years to Bunkum, Ballyhoo, sideshows, Punch and Judy shows, even Commedia Dell’arte! It pops up in the 40’s in the USA, Mexico, and Japan. It’s part of the beginnings of the history of television!

Gorgeous George in the 1940s Gorgeous George in the 1940s

While various leagues existed across the US, World Wrestling Entertainment eventually consolidated them and now hosts events across the world and airs them on television – they even have their own subscriber based cable channel.

“The WWE is the AFL of wrestling”


wrestling demographics

Check out the stats on the popularity of wrestling at the Indeed Wrestling blog.

Memphis Wrestling TV Show:

Memphis Wrestling Full Episode 08-14-1982 Nature Boy Ric Flair vs King Jerry Lawler. Watch Rick Flair play the heel.

Key Wrestling Terms

Heel (or the Villian) – In professional wrestling, a heel (also known as a rudo in lucha libre) is a wrestler who is villainous or a “bad guy”, who is booked (scripted) by the promotion to be in the position of being an antagonist.13 They are typically opposed by their polar opposites, faces, who are heroic or “good guy” characters.

In order to gain heat (with boos and jeers from the audience), heels are often portrayed as behaving in an immoral manner by breaking rules or otherwise taking advantage of their opponents outside the bounds of the standards of the match.

Face (or the good guy) – In professional wrestling, a face, babyface is a heroic or a “good guy” wrestler, booked (scripted) by the promotion with the aim of being cheered by fans.1 Faces, traditionally, will wrestle within the rules and avoid cheating (in contrast to the heels that use illegal moves and call in additional wrestlers to do their work for them) while behaving positively towards the referee and the audience.

Not sure about wrestling?

Read THE WORLD OF WRESTLING, from Mythologies by Roland Barthes – yes, Barthes “got” wrestling.

Want to watch some movies instead? Here’s two videos that can help you understand

Watch: Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling – “A case study of longtime WWE superstar, Triple H, to explain why wrestling is an epic example of storytelling at its best.”

Wrestling Isn't Wrestling

Watch: Beyond the Mat-Pro Wrestling Documentary – “A heartfelt documentary focusing on the lives of professional wrestlers and how their sport is not fake.”

Beyond the Mat - Pro Wrestling Documentary

Wrestlers we talk about

These are really worth checking out.


Since recording, we’ve learned Rusev was Russian last year – his intro videos included images of Putin – and changed to Bulgarian in 2015.


Rusev Entrance Video

Bo Dallas

Bo Dallas Bo Dallas – The most inspirational wrestler. ALL YOU GOTTA DO IS BO-LIEVE!

WWE 2K16 Entrances: Bo Dallas

The New Day

The New Day uses the "power of positivity"... sort of? The New Day uses the “power of positivity”… sort of?

Rolling Stone calls The New Day WWE Wrestlers of the year – “The two-time tag champs have transformed from preachy dreck to a source of constant entertainment as duplicitous positive-energy evangelists.”

Lucha Dragons

The Lucha Dragons The Lucha Dragons – Acrobatic mexican wrestlers with an asian motif

Roman Reigns

Roman Reigns does The “Superman Punch”

Roman Reigns Superman Punch Roman Reigns Superman Punch

Tyler Breeze

Tyler Breeze takes selfie's in the ring before and after the match Tyler Breeze takes selfie’s in the ring before and after the match

WWE Tyler Breeze entrance with (Summer Rae) 2015

Jack Swagger

Side note: “Fox News and various right-wing commentators including Glenn Beck claimed that Swagger and Colter’s characters were a mockery of the Tea Party movement meant to “demonize” the Tea Party”. Read more.

The USOs

Kevin Owens

Kevin Owens Kevin Owens – not necessarily the most “athletic” looking guy.

Kevin Owens

Vince McMahon knocked out

Vince McMahon lies knocked out Vince McMahon, COO of the WWE lies knocked out on stage by Roman Reigns

Concepts we address in the show


Berthold Brecht

“If you took everyone in every Walmart and put them in a stadium, you’d have a wrestling audience.”

“This is the future of socialism right here.”

Relax – not everything needs to be perfect and the show will go on!

Repetition – have we underestimated it’s power?

Billionaires for Bush as wrestling heels!

Billionaires For Bush

Teaching, versus offering an opportunity to learn.

Women Wrestlers as a sign of progress


“Wrestling teaches how to exist in a diverse society.”


Pop Culture Salvage Expeditions Minecraft Episode – we learn about Minecraft, but as Joe McKay points out in his letter, we didn’t actually play it. And being the player is important.

How do you include participation, change, and criticism without burning out?

Top 3 Pop Culture Picks

Lambert – Lip Sync Battle with LL Cool J

Dwayne Johnson's "Shake It Off" vs Jimmy Fallon's "Jump In The Line" | Lip Sync Battle

Dwayne Johnson shows Jimmy Fallon how to Shake It Off by performing the Taylor Swift hit. Jimmy hits back with a Harry Belafonte classic “Jump In The Line”.

Pat – Christmas! And we debate whether to keep Christ in or out of Christmas. Duncombe is for out, but not for the reason’s you’d expect.

Duncombe – Buying a gun. Yes, Duncombe bought a gun. And it was depressing.

Radio Lab Rhino Hunter – “Back in 2014, Corey Knowlton paid $350,000 for a hunting trip to Namibia to shoot and kill an endangered species.  He’s a professional hunter, who guides hunts all around the world, so going to Africa would be nothing new.  The target on the other hand would be. And so too, he quickly found, would be the attention.”

Steve Lambert, Patricia Jerido, and Stephen Duncombe Steve Lambert, Patricia Jerido, and Stephen Duncombe

Check out more examples of artistic activism on our site, c4aa.org and actipedia.org.

Music: The Reigning Sound, “Stick Up for Me” courtesy of the Free Music Archive

The Pop Culture Salvage Expeditions on iTunes and wherever you get your podcasts.

More on the Center for Artistic Activism at artisticactivism.org, Stephen Duncombe at stephenduncombe.com, Patricia Jerido on Twitter, and Steve Lambert at visitsteve.com