Professional wrestling is a soap opera with violence. But what makes it so popular, even with grown men?
He comes up with five reasons, the third of which is wrestling’s construction of “legend” … including one legend about a Giant:
These men are larger than life not only in physical terms — Andre the Giant was billed as seven foot four and 520 pounds — but also in legend.
Before WrestleMania III, folklore had it that Andre had never been defeated nor been body slammed. Neither was strictly true, but the crowd, captivated by this titan of a man, was willing to take his legend at face value.
It took another titan, Hulk Hogan, to lift the behemoth above his shoulders and slam him to the ground. Hogan solidified his legend in that ring and all wrestling fans know the narrative.
Alas, poor André, I remember Hulk Hogan’s body slam well.
“Wrestlers, who are very experienced, know perfectly how to direct the spontaneous episodes of the fight so as to make them conform to the image which the public has of the great legendary theme of its mythology. A wrestler can irritate or disgust, he never disappoints, for he always accomplishes completely, by a progressive solidification of signs, what the public expects of him…. What is portrayed by wrestling is therefore an ideal understanding of things; it is the euphoria of men raised for a while above the constitutive ambiguity of everyday situations and placed before the panoramic view of a univocal Nature, in which signs at last correspond to causes, without obstacle, without evasion, without contradiction.”
- Roland Barthes, “The World of Wrestling”, Mythologies
Roland also notes that “what wrestling is above all meant to portray is a purely moral concept: that of justice”. Roland points out that “in America wrestling represents a sort of mythological fight between Good and Evil (of a quasi-political nature, the ‘bad’ wrestler always being supposed to be a Red)”.
On that note, this is the Hulkster’s response to the recent UK riots, after a lifetime within the black-and-white world of professional wrestling:
“Y’know, it doesn’t really matter if Hulk Hogan’s over there bodyslamming all the youth like I did Andre the Giant but, at the end of the day, we need to grab these kids, shake them, and say ‘Stop! Regroup! Just look at yourself in the mirror…. Is this what you want the mirror image of your life to be? Is this what you want your destiny to be?’ … Now it’s time to change directions. Even if the state has to step in and really focus on getting these kids back on track. But, you know what? I will do anything because I love my UK Hulkamaniacs.”
- Hulk Hogan, on Richard Bacon’s BBC radio show, per OK! Magazine