Professional Wrestling, Smarks, and Convergent Media

As part of the project on understanding professional wrestling through the theoretical lens of convergence (i.e. convergent wrestling), I recently wrote out an explanation for how Christopher Olson (Seems Obvious to Me) and I see this concept of convergence being able to describe various aspects of professional wrestling.

Now, being that we are academics, one way we advance our scholarship and our knowledge is by attending and presenting at academic conferences. In order to test out this idea of “convergent wrestling,” we organized two panels that would bring together different researchers whose work on professional wrestling could be considered as using this theoretical lens. We presented the first such panel at the 2015 Central States Communication Association conference. At this panel, I presented this argument for seeing professional wrestling as an example of various convergences, as presented earlier on this blog. Along with my introduction to the idea, several researchers presented their analyses of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), its fans, and its business practices. With their permission, here are these presentations.

The WWE Universe: How divergence can foster convergence in collective identity by Chad M. Wertley, Robert Morris University

The Invisible Champion: Absent elements, CM Punk and the mise-en-scene of the WWE by Lowery A. Woodall III, Millersville University

Tweets, Tights and Telecasting: How the WWE engages its audience through social media by Jack V. Karlis, State University of New York College at Buffalo

A second panel was organized for the 2015 Midwest Popular Culture Association Conference. In the nineteenth episode of The Pop Culture Lens, we have the audio recording of this panel discussion that featured four presentations, each one different from those at the CSCA conference. Each panelist analyzed a different aspect of professional wrestling, and in particular the WWE, in how that aspect relates to the concept of convergence.

  • Christopher Olson (Dominican University) gave the overview of how the true nature of professional wrestling consists of different types of convergences.
  • Jessica Rodocker (Bowling Green State University) presented an ethnography she has been conducting with smarks, wrestling fans that engage in active and participatory fan practices.
  • Chris Medjesky (Defiance College) discussed his analysis of classic WWF feuds for how they represent real world conflicts and thus provide the means by which fans make sense of the world.
  • Kathie Kallevig (Winona State University) uses her fandom of professional wrestling to contextualize her argument for why #DivasRevolution is not the revolution women’s wrestling needs.

You can hear their presentations, and our discussion of them, here:

In his presentation, Chris talks about how numerous independent wrestling federations who have been using the convergent media of today in order to compete with the marketing domination of the WWE. These federations are able to use social media and streaming technology to market and deliver their products to a wider audience. This aspect of convergent wrestling needs more analysis, and here are links to the federations Chris discussed to help someone do that analysis.

As an academic discussion, anyone in the audience of this podcast and blog should feel free to engage in the dialogue about these issues. As we are hoping to do more on this topic, including an anthology collecting these research studies, we are always looking to learn what people think about the idea.

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