We are glad to make these resources available for anyone in the wrestling community who might find them useful. These are entirely free of charge thanks to the generosity of our speakers. While we are delighted for training schools, companies, policy makers and individuals to use them, we ask that they are not used for any corporate purposes and that due acknowledgement is given to the creators of the resources. We would love to hear from you if you find these useful.
In June 2023, the team co-hosted the Concussion in Professional Wrestling: Building a Better Understanding event at Loughborough University with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Professional Wrestling.
There are two films which capture the talks. Relevant materials, such as powerpoint presentations (either in downloadable format or embedded), are included below.
Here is a selection of publications from the various team members. URLs are included and, where possible, the resources are made available open access. Please feel free to get in touch with authors should any further information be useful to you. We welcome these documents being read and used by members of the wrestling community as long as due acknowledgement is given.
‘When was the Last Time that You Heard of Ian McKellen Blowing out His Knee? The Performance and Practice of Risk in British Professional Wrestling’, Survive and Thrive (2023): https://repository.stcloudstate.edu/survive_thrive/vol8/iss2/6/
Professional wrestling has a poor record of caring for athlete-artists’ health and wellbeing. The data gathered through the Health and Wellbeing in Professional Wrestling project aims to confront this issue. During the data collection process, we noted that interviewees’ reflections shifted the meaning of terms and ideas associated with wrestling but, until now, not fully understood. One such concept is risk. Wrestling has been criticised for being too risky by parents’ groups and teachers, and not risky enough by those who dismiss it as fake and phony. This article recognises that such miscomprehensions of wrestling risk have broader implications: an absence of suitable medical support, a lack of appreciation for its artistry, performing dangerous moves without professional training, and more. In order to comprehend wrestling risk in this deeper sense, this article reads it through the notion of edgework. Wrestling enables a reimagining of edgework more generally through the real-not-real spectrum, and as collaborative rather than competitive endeavor. There are broader implications here, then: a study of wrestling provides a model for comprehending the health and wellbeing benefits and challenges of contemporary risk. Finally, the article asks what difference this more nuanced and multifaceted version of risk makes to future innovations in wrestling health and wellbeing.
‘Concussion in professional wrestling: agency, structure and cultural change’, Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health (2023): https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2159676X.2023.2175898
ABSTRACT: In this article, we utilise the social dynamics of concussion in professional wrestling to examine and critique calls for cultural change as a solution to the crisis of concussion in sport. Drawing on interview data from wrestlers, promoters, referees and healthcare providers in UK professional wrestling, we illustrate the experiences, attitudes and subcultural norms exhibited in relation to concussion. Despite increasing concerns that brain injuries present unique risks to long-term health, wrestlers continue to embody a culture in which pain is ignored, and ‘playing’ with brain injury is linked to notions of masculinity and wrestling identity. We further explore the organisational features of wrestling, which facilitate and compound these risk-taking behaviours, and conclude by identifying the structural-cultural causes of concussion in wrestling. In sum, economic precarity encouraged risk-taking behaviours, while the ‘free agent’ status of many wrestlers obviated the potential for any continuity of healthcare or paternalistic protection. Moreover, changes to the dominant performative character of wrestling led many to undertake increasingly risky moves, and the serial nature of character development and the centrality of interpersonal negotiations in workplace practice threw precautionary attitudes into conflict with self-identity and social reputational concerns. We therefore conclude that existing public health interventions designed to address concussion in sport, and particularly the concept of cultural change, need to diversify from predominantly medical and psychology-based models and embrace more holistic, structural conceptions of culture.
‘Professional wrestling, circus, avant-garde and the radical participatory body’, Circus and the Avant-Gardes (2022)
ABSTRACT: Professional wrestling first emerged with the advent of nineteenth/twentieth-century music hall, fairground and, indeed, circus. This liminal sport-art is rarely read as avant-garde practice, however, and for good reason given its continued association with mainstream global capitalism and its awkward history of rightist politics, misogyny and racism. This chapter proposes an alternative narrative, analysing the subversive performing body as a connective nodal point for the disparate histories of circus, the avant-garde and professional wrestling. Approaching the (specifically British independent) contemporary professional wrestling as embodied, collaborative, avant-garde exhibitionism destabilises definitional readings of wrestling and enables new categorisation as a contemporary performance practice with similarities to drag and burlesque. Grounded in historiographical research, yet impacted by the author’s practice-based experience, this chapter makes a case for an integrated rereading of circus, the avant-garde and professional wrestling by focusing on the radical, participatory body.