How Socialism Will Change Pro Wrestling
Pro wrestling has a long, proud tradition of political insidiousness towards leftist thinking.
Where even to begin; there’s union-busting, pushing steroids on workers, covering up evidence of chronic head trauma, an industry standard of “freelance contractor” status that deprives workers of healthcare, and an emphatic drive to profit from caricatures of whomever is displeasing the bourgeois at the time, whether it’s communists, Black activists, LGBT people, Muslims, or just civil servants.
(To say nothing of WWE’s political and financial support of Donald Trump. Really. I don’t want to. Trump is merely the most recent [and most successful] of a long line of conservative political entities that have benefited from adjacency to the wrestling business.)
Given that history, and repeated assertions by industry insiders that wrestling is too focused on making money to have unions, let alone exist within a socialist political apparatus, those of us who are leftists and wrestling fans are tasked with an uphill and unenviable task of trying to reconcile aspects of ourselves that have long been at class war with each other.
I am, at my core, a wrestling fan. All else about me has proved ephemeral; born in Philadelphia, now live in Oakland; raised an Air Force serviceman’s son, now a lady and a communist (where are my comrades from the Socialist Feminist Caucus?).
When I’m near a wrestling ring, I feel a reverberation, a humming within, almost like my soul (if it exists) is a jug being blown to a beat. I think this is what people who are religious experience sometimes? This is why I label all photos of tweet with the simple label “church”.
I believe wrestling can exist in a socialist future, and is worth fighting for.
I’ve expounded on some ways wrestling would be changed under socialism below.
An important caveat: for reasons I will divulge in the points themselves, there is no cohesive vision for what a post-capitalist America will look like, so these should be seen as individual possibilities and not a unified slate of changes. Also I suck at economics.
1. A Revival of the Territorial System
I think the most optimistic idea of an America post-capitalism is the replacement of the nation-state with a confederacy of communes engaging in free association with each other based on mutual aid. I say this because 1) I’m an anarcho-communist, and 2) I’d rather leftists who want to live in totalitarian societies just go do that, far away from me, instead of us wasting our victory on an endless civil war over who gets to renovate the last Chuck E Cheese in Poughkeepsie.
With that in mind, it’s unlikely a “national” company like WWE could exist in such a political climate. Some communities might have retrofitted their big stadiums into housing and/or community centers. Other communities won’t have a way to pay a visiting performer in money.
As endearing as the picture of Dolph Ziggler accepting a well-made hat and a few hot meals as payment for traveling to Lindsborg, Kansas might be, it’s a hard sell.
Regional, localized wrestling communes, with talent and politics reflecting the communities they represent, will replace the tiered system of unofficial “major” and “indie” promotions that we have now.
Your children will know the joy of 20 regional companies all trying to cash in on the most recent Mad Max movie by giving their blandest guy a hockey mask and spikes. This will steel me during the grueling parliamentary process.
2. Longer Careers, Shorter Title Reigns
Without promoters trying to match the considerable overhead involved in touring, renting out arenas, etc, wrestlers in a socialist society will not likely be whittling their knees down wrestling multiple shows a week. They’ll probably be too busy; your heavyweight champion might also be on the production committee of the local bakery.
Most will pursue wrestling as a passion or hobby instead of as a “career” in the traditional sense. So, if your local wrestling troupe is full of part-timers or performers with more rudimentary skills (more on that below) your shows will likely have shorter matches or more tag matches (since that’s what you tend to do with older or less-experienced wrestlers), both of which are easier on the body long-term.
It’ll mean, yes, fewer, if any “superstars”. Wrestling’s “legends” are themselves a product of the bosses. Without the boss class, wrestling promotions/troupes will be run democratically, either because they are a source of income and therefore a means of production, or because it’s a hobby and no one’s gonna want to do if they have to lose all the time.
This could lead to titles, if these promotions choose to have them, changing more often, as elections dictate. It could even, gasp, mean everyone in a region becomes a champion at one time.
I know, I know. It sucks when people’s efforts are validated. Those mean communists. Just let it out.
3. Replaced By Rasslin’
Wrestling styles, at least in America, have followed a particular pattern of plagiarism.
WWE sees people in the indies are doing a certain thing, and then they buy up as many as they can who do that style, thus reframing that “indie style” into a facet of the WWE style, and forcing the talent that gets left out of these shopping sprees to form something different to compete for the attention of fans, who’ve come to expect that degree of specialized wrestling skill.
My Dad, who grew up watching Dusty Rhodes in his prime, would be blown away by the “flippy shit” of Will Ospreay or Ricochet; some fans my age are already starting to get bored of it.
We’ve come to accept a certain acceleration of diversity in wrestling driven by market forces that won’t exist under socialism. So, you’re gonna see a lot of brawling and rasslin’ in some of these communities, and unless the wrestlers we have now tour the regions and teach their skills to people across the country, the local style of wrestling where you are will be based on what wrestlers ended up settling down where you were.
I don’t believe in exiling people from communities because they don’t share your politics. That said: if Randy Orton shows up in your commune, it’s not necessarily counter-revolutionary to just pretend the whole town is out searching for turnips or some shit until he leaves.
4. The Revolution is at Ringside
Traditionally, people who could pay more, or had VIP status, sat at ringside. But if you have a society built specifically to avoid some people having more money at their disposal than others, who gets to sit at ringside?
I’m sure every commune will have their own answer; the “matching shoes and medals” variety of leftist will reserve it for party officials, democratic socialist communes will probably reserve them for the workers who maintain the building or the wrestling troupe itself.
I like to hope that, if we let “from each according to their ability to each according to their need” be the guiding principle of all we do, then the people who need it— kids who still think it’s real, seniors, people with disabilities — will get those spaces.
And not just for wrestling shows, but for sporting events, movies, concerts — if I allow myself one nugget of magical thinking in this exercise, let it be that we can one day be a society that prioritizes the “best seats” of any public space for those who need it, not those who can afford it or got there first.
5. It’s Still Gonna Suck For Awhile
Just because we have better politics doesn’t necessarily mean all of us in the big tent of leftism are better people. There will still be racist, sexist, homo- and transphobic gimmicks in wrestling, even under socialism.
It’s important to remember the work of rectifying the ugliness that our patriarchal, capitalist, imperialist society has programmed in each of us does not stop at just overthrowing said system. We have to confront those thoughts and behaviors in ourselves to build the kinder, more compassionate world we want to from the ruins of capitalism.
Part of that rebuilding will involve a fair amount of capricious, bitter caricatures of capitalists getting piledriven through our catharsis. Coming to the ring, from Uber Headquarters, “START UP” STAN SUCKERBERG
Also, many (probably most) wrestlers are prominent right-wingers, and so it’s very likely they’ll hold out on sharing wrestling with a communist society out of sheer spite. They’ll either retire to little mountain forts and point guns at us when we stop by to make sure they still have running water or emigrate to wherever capitalism still exists. And a purist fandom will arise now, as there is today with people staying up very late to watch live New Japan events, of people foregoing socializing to watch Cody Rhodes wrestle Kane in New Zealand.
And you’ll go “it’s like, real wrestling over there, not the soft-ass mainstream stuff you get at your commune. Why’d you all lock up your guns after the revolution, anyway?”
And I’ll look you dead in the eye and go “So you couldn’t work me into a shoot.”
Thank you! Drive safely.
If you’re a wrestling fan and really, really hated this, please contribute to my Kickstarter for a Marxist cooking show so I can ruin food instead of wrestling.