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Steel Chair to the Head: The Pleasure and Pain of Professional Wrestling Paperback – January 13, 2005


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Steel Chair to the Head: The Pleasure and Pain of Professional Wrestling + Ringside: A History of Professional Wrestling in America + The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (January 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822334380
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822334385
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Why do millions of pro wrestling fans spend their Saturday nights watching well-oiled, muscled and costumed men performing in a well-rehearsed stage play in which the winner is decided days earlier? What attracts devotees to this sport? Editor Sammond and a host of academics answer these and many other questions, explaining what they think really goes on inside and outside that ring (for Sammond, professional wrestling resembles burlesque more than sport). The writers, including a professor who wrestled under the name Professor Oral Payne, examine diverse topics: wrestling as masculine melodrama, female wrestling and its fans, the finances of the World Wrestling Federation and more. In a now famous essay, the late cultural critic Roland Barthes contends that the wrestlers are like good and evil gods battling to achieve a form of justice fans can understand. Of course, the writers take the sport much too seriously, exalting it as a cultural phenomenon whose mysteries can be uncovered by using the right academic jargon ("flesh—far from being the seed of meaning from which springs the signifying force of the wrestler, or the match, or wrestling itself—is but a node in a circuit of signification"). Regrettably, such language will limit this collection's audience. 31 b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Steel Chair to the Head is an exceptionally smart and well-crafted collection that will be a valuable resource for popular culture scholars of all stripes. From start to finish, there’s not a weak essay in the book. One of the best anthologies—on popular culture or anything else—that I’ve read in a long time.”—Gilbert B. Rodman, author of Elvis after Elvis: The Posthumous Career of a Living Legend


“The mat is the place where sport and entertainment smack down. This excellent collection of greatest hits and latest memories of wrestling teases out the contradictions of this infinitely frustrating, excessive spectacle of domination and parody.”—Toby Miller, author of Sportsex

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
One thing can be said about this book: it's unique. Not just for the smarts but definitely not for the marks, this book falls into a third category: The curious onlooker who wants to study what wrestling's appeal is, dissect it from ethical, psychological and cultural perspectives, and interpret the results. That's not to say it's bad- it isn't, in fact I find it very interesting. But then again, I know a lot of people who would find it quite boring. It's written by psychology and sociology scholars, after all- but don't dismiss it just yet.

What the book does is examine what wrestling's impact is on the world- the female viewpoint, the way its masculine ideal is marketed, its approval of behavioral tendencies, its sometimes subtle racism, and so on. As stated, it's from more of a journalistic or scientific perspective.

This isn't to say it's not fun. It is, though for one to enjoy it one must step outside of wrestling for a while. The perfect audience for this book is an intelligent wrestling fan who not only has some knowledge of wrestling history but also an appreciation of the business side of things that make it tick- in other words, a fan who enjoys what he's watching but can then turn off the tv, step outside of the role of "fan", and learn more about the gears and joints that keep the industry churning.

I'll give a brief example: The book describes one of the lines of action figures, and how each figure was accompanied by an accessory such as a chair, metal piping, or other object with which to attack an opponent. It's pointed out that huge ex-WCW star Giant is accompanied not by such an object but rather a whole extra figure, small Rey Mysterio Jr.
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By Desiree Alaniz on July 19, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
excellent collection of essays examining pro wrestling as a cultural phenomenon and practice. definetely academic in tone but very readable an accessible.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I can't say I'm a fan, though ever since I read Barthes' essay on French wrestling in the 19th century (which I had encountered prior to reading this book) I have recognized the "sport's" cultural significance, which is not merely due to its popularity. The relationship of this genre of wrestling to commedia dell' arte, and to medieval morality plays, is fascinating and instructive. The editors have done an excellent job of collecting a range of engaging perspectives and have brought these essays, which might otherwise have been lost to history or to philosophy seminars, in an accessible way, to a larger audience.
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