Morality, commerciality and narrative structure in the professional wrestling text

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    Professional wrestling is one of the most popular forms of entertainment on subscription television platforms around the world. This thesis deconstructed the texts of professional wrestling in order to investigate how the phenomenon functions as a commercial television artefact. To do this, the research project focused on a case study of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and interrogated three specific aspects of the televised professional wrestling product. Firstly, the study identified and examined the functions that the different narrative segments in WWE programming play in the construction of the overall television narrative. Secondly, the pre-existing notion that social justice is the central and organising thematic principle for the narratives of televised wrestling was explored through the close textual analysis of a sample of WWE storylines from the past forty years. Thirdly, and finally, the project drew correlations between the televised texts of WWE and Justin Wyatt’s (1994) model of High Concept Hollywood cinema.
    By means of the qualitative content analysis of over 280 hours of televised professional wrestling, the results of this study suggest three specific findings. Firstly, the project found that there are six underlying functions realised by the narrative segments of the televised wrestling text, and that furthermore, these functions and realisations combine to provide and yet resist the present in the wrestling text. Secondly, the study confirmed that the theme of social justice is the central organising principle of the continuing storylines of professional wrestling and provided a new model for understanding the operation of that theme. However, the study also suggested that social justice is increasingly not the central organising principle of the narratives of the individual matches. Finally, a positive correlation was drawn between the the television texts of WWE and the High Concept of Hollywood cinema suggested by Wyatt (1994). Accordingly this thesis suggests that WWE represents a high concept of professional wrestling which, through increased reaction time to market trends and deeper ancillary product saturation, travels even further than Wyatt’s (1994) original notion.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    Award date1 Apr 2011
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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