Pro wrestling as rite of passage, blood sport, postmodern spectacle and homoerotic love fest.
In his first book, a pell-mell race through the strobe-lit arena of professional wrestling in 21st-century America, veteran magazine writer Hackett doesn’t strain to comprehend wrestling’s “berserk logic”; he lets scenes play out, never imposing an authorial dictate about what it all means. Instead of merely interviewing the big names, he spends most of his time with the fans, juicing up what could have been just another outsider’s view of a subculture. Riding to a match with a busload full of raging teenagers, he tries to find out what draws them to this spectacle, and immediately becomes embroiled in the question that the rest of the book tangles with: How can something so patently fake have so much meaning? “They watched slack-jawed in the sincere belief that the wrestlers, who seemed to lead such prodigal lives, were mythic heroes come to life.” Hackett also provides a thumbnail history of the current wrestling scene, from Vince McMahon’s once-invincible media giant WWE (whose executives talk not of wrestling but of “the product”) to the guerrilla brawls of hardcore wrestling, where men are savaged with broken glass and gasoline-powered weed-whackers. He connects wrestling with P.T. Barnum–style showmanship (old wrestlers even have their own pig-Latin–like argot, derived from carny-speak) and outlines similarities between pro wrestlers and drag queens, from the shaving and primping right down to the preponderance of feather boas. Hackett neither damns nor exalts his subject, but comes away from it somewhat enlightened, strangely excited and just a little bit scared. Readers will likely feel the same.
A punch-drunk saga of showbiz ugliness.